13 Nautical Superstitions – Sail+Leisure
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13 Nautical Superstitions

by Simone Balman
Nautical superstitions

Given that today is Halloween, boat enthusiasts may find the following myths and superstitions interesting:

  1. To name the boat with a word ending in “a” is bad luck.
  2. Avoid people with red hair when going to the sea to begin a journey.
    Red heads bring bad luck to a boat, which can be averted if you speak to the red-head before they speak to you.
  3. Whistling – One widespread and universal superstition forbids whistling anywhere on board for that matter. Whistling on board will raise a gale, hence “whistling up a storm”. The only exception to this rule was for the cook, as the rest of the crew then knew he wasn’t stealing the food if he was whistling while cooking.
  4. It is bad luck to name a boat after an engaged woman  – this will make the ship jealous.
    It’s bad luck to change the name of a boat. but if you have to: write the soon-to-be-exorcised name on a piece of paper, fold the paper, and place it in a small cardboard or wooden box. Burn the box. Scoop up the ashes and throw them into the sea on an outgoing tide. If you live on a lake, do it at night and only during a new moon. River dwellers should send the ashes downstream.
  6. A black “sea bag” is bad luck for a seaman.
  7. Women onboard a boat distract the crew and place her in peril. (probably true)
  8. Tattoos and piercing are said to ward off evil spirits – for sailors to wear gold hoop earrings was good luck
  9. It’s good luck to spit in the ocean before you sail.
  10. Pouring wine on the deck will bring good luck on a long voyage.
  11. Horseshoes on a ship’s mast will turn away a storm.
  12. Swallows seen at sea are a good sign, as are dolphins swimming with the ship.
  13. It is unlucky to start a cruise on a Friday.
    This is the day Christ was crucified on.
    *The reluctance of seamen to sail on a Friday reached such epic proportions, that in the 1800s the British Government decided to take strong measures to prove the fallacy of the superstition. They laid the keel of a new vessel on Friday, selected her crew on a Friday, launched her on a Friday and named her HMS Friday. They then placed her in command of one Captain James Friday and sent her to sea for the first time on a Friday. The scheme worked well, and had only one drawback … neither ship nor crew was ever heard from again. HMS Friday is an urban legend and believed to be false

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