Friday, July 15th, 2011
Very Superstitious: 13 Sailor Superstitions
Seafaring is one of the world's oldest occupations, so it is only natural that in
times where inexplicable events have happened, superstitions have played a major
role in providing reasons for their occurrence.
The uncontrollable nature of the sea has given way to many a nautical lore, each
one as curious as the next. So plunge in if you dare, and discover 13 common sailor
1. No Bananas On Board
Aside from their peels causing many comedians to trip and fall down, bananas have
long been thought to bring bad luck, especially on ships. At the height of the trading
empire between Spain and the Caribbean in the 1700's, most cases of
disappearing ships happened to be carrying a cargo of bananas at the time.
Coincidence? Perhaps. Another theory suggests that because bananas spoiled so quickly,
transporters had to get to their destination much quicker. Fisherman thus never
caught anything while bananas were on board. Another danger caused by monkey's favourite
fruit fermenting so quickly, was that in the heat of the storage hull, bananas would
produce deadly toxic fumes.
A final theory on the perils of bananas at sea (though there are tons) is that a
species of deadly spider would hide inside banana bunches. Their lethal bite caused
crewman to die suddenly, heightening the fear that banana cargo was a bad omen.
Many boaters continue to avoid bananas at sea, some even avoiding banana smelling
sun tan lotion.
2. No Women on Board
Women were said to bring bad luck on board because they distracted the sailors from
their sea duties. This kind of behaviour angered the intemperate seas that would
take their revenge out on the ship. Funny enough, naked women on board were completely
welcome. That's because naked women "calmed the sea". This is why ships' typically
had a figure of a topless women perched on the bow of the ship. Her bare breasts
"shamed the stormy seas into calm" and her open eyes guided the seamen to safety.
3. Son of A Gun
Image Source: Hampshirecam
Male children born on the ship were referred to as
"son of a gun" because the most convenient place to give birth on deck (if
you weren't too afraid of having a woman on board) was on the gun deck. Having a
male child on board was a sign of good luck.
4. No Whistling on Board
Mariners have long held the belief that whistling or singing into the wind will
"whistle up a storm".
5. Red Sky At Night...
"Red sky at night, sailor's delight; red sky in the morning, sailors take warning"
the old saying goes. A red sunset indicates a beautiful day to come, while a red
sunrise indicates rain and bad weather.
6. Deathly Lexis
At sea, some words must be strictly avoided to ensure the ship and crew's safe return.
These include obvious ones like "drowned" and "goodbye". If someone says "good luck"
to you, it is sure to bring about bad luck. The only way to reverse the curse is
by drawing blood, so usually a good punch in the nose will do.
7. Beware of the Lurking Shark
A shark following the ship is a sign of inevitable death.
8. Welcome the Lurking Dolphins
Dolphins swimming with the ship are seen as a good sign.
9. Don't Sail On These Days...
Don't Sail On Thursdays, Fridays, the first Monday in April or the second Monday
- Fridays: Fridays have long been considered unlucky days, likely because Jesus
Christ was crucified on a Friday.
- Thursdays: Thursdays are bad sailing days because that is Thor's day, the
god of thunders and storms.
- First Monday in April: The first Monday in April is the day Cain slew Abel
- Second Monday in August: The second Monday in August is the day the kingdoms
of Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed.
Superstitious sailors believe that the only good day to set sail is Sundays.
10. The Pirate's Look, is a Look For Me
A pierced earlobe on a sailor meant that he had sailed around the world or had
crossed the equator. Superstitious sailors wore gold hoop earrings because
they believed it brought good fortune. Some believed that the gold possessed magic
healing powers or that it served as a protective talisman that would prevent the
wearer from drowning.
Tattoos were also seen as lucky. Seafarers would usually tattoo a nautical star
on their bodies as the North Star represented a signal that they were nearing home.
Cutting ones hair, nail trimming, and beard shaving were seen as big no-nos.
11. Don't Change the Name of the Boat
luck to change the name of the boat. Boats develop a life and mind of their
own once they are named and Christened. If you do rename the boat- you absolutely
must have a de-naming ceremony.
This ceremony can be performed by writing the current boat name on a piece of paper,
folding the paper and placing it in a wooden box then burning the box. After, scoop
up the ashes and throw them into the sea
12. Pay Your Dues
Seamen that hadn't paid their debts were blamed for storms and any other misfortunate
events that would occur on the ship.
13. Avoid Gingers
Red heads were thought to bring bad luck to a ship if you happened to encounter
one before boarding. However, if you speak to the redhead before they get the chance
to speak to you, you're saved.
In order not to kill our luck with this post we've added one more superstition…
Lucky 14: Don't Kill an Albatross
Seabirds were thought to carry the souls of dead sailors and it is considered bad
luck to kill one. However, it is considered good luck if you see one.
These are just some of many nautical superstitions. What other superstitions have
you come across in your seafaring experience?