Very Superstitious: 13 Sailor Superstitions

Ahoy Matey!

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 superstitions.

No Bananas on Board
Bananas are evil
Image Source: YouThink.com

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.

No Women on Board

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

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

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

"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

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

Lurking Shark

A shark following the ship is a sign of inevitable death.

8. Welcome the Lurking Dolphins

Lurking Dolphin

Dolphins swimming with the ship are seen as a good sign.

9. Don't Sail On These Days...

Don't Sail on These Days

Don't Sail On Thursdays, Fridays, the first Monday in April or the second Monday in August.

  • 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

The Pirate Look

Image Source: FOX

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

Don't Change the Name of the Boat

It's bad 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 [Source].

12. Pay Your Dues

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.


Avoid Gingers

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?

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