Superstitious? No, but I Never Sail Wearing Different Socks
Even the most resolute pragmatists amongst us still hold onto superstitions, seven years bad luck for breaking a mirror, fingers crossed that the weather will stay decent (?), worry about seeing single magpies, lucky or is it unlucky to see black/white cats crossing your path, et al. Certain sports personalities always wear the same socks for every game, hopefully they have them washed from time to time?
Historically, sailing and boating people have their superstitions too, some very arcane (and non-PC – never allow a woman on board a ship as it is very bad luck!), one can think of many sailing ladies who can rubbish that one and rightly so.
In the ‘days of sail’ simply changing the name of a ship was considered unlucky and could only be done by decommissioning it and recommissioning it with due ceremony. Even then many sailors would not sail on the renamed ship.
Having a tattoo is currently very popular, however, sailors of old would have a Rooster and a Pig tattooed onto the soles of their feet in the belief that these animals would save them from drowning by showing them the way to dry land. NB. Many sailors feared going into the water because they could not swim.
Bananas were meant to bring bad luck, bad news for crews of ships carrying bananas as it was believed that the ship would founder and be lost.
Eggs too were treated with great fear; the shells were beaten to powder for fear of attracting the Devil, who would use the half shells to sail in.
Good news for red headed people, they were very popular on board as they were deemed to bring good luck, the crew of a ship would go to great efforts to speak to them otherwise the luck was reversed – bad luck!
People with flat feet were bad luck too.
There were words and sayings that incurred bad luck too, the words drowned, and goodbye and good luck were worrisome. Women never said either of these when their men folk went off to sea for fear of ‘putting the hex on them’.
Speaking of land-based things was bad luck too animals such as pigs, foxes, rabbits and cats to name but a few. Speaking of ‘Church’ was considered scary too.
Whistling was believed to result in bad weather – whistling up the wind, attracting stormy weather.
Fridays have long been considered unlucky days, probably because Jesus Christ was crucified on a Friday – Good Friday.
Thursdays are bad sailing days because that is Thor’s day, the god of thunders and storms.
The first Monday in April is the day Cain killed Abel.
The second Monday in August is the day the kingdoms of Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed.
Superstitious sailors believed that the only safe day to set sail is Sunday.
Don’t Kill an Albatross, seabirds in general were believed to carry the souls of dead sailors and it is considered bad luck to kill one.
But it is considered good luck if you see an Albatross (and rare).
Luckily many of us believe in 21st Century science and technology and rely on common sense to keep us in good order. Rather than rely on luck careful planning, good seamanship and safety first will provide greater assurance, as will learning your craft from professionals and carrying those lessons with you wherever you sail.
God speed and fair winds.