Nautical Superstitions

20 Mar Nautical Superstitions

Sailing has been instrumental in the development of human civilization. The earliest representation of a ship under sail appears on an Egyptian vase circa 3500 BC.   • Vikings sailed to North America approximately 1000 years ago. • Advances in sailing technology from the 15th century onward enabled explorers to make longer voyages into regions with more extreme weather and challenging climatic conditions. • Further improvements in sails and equipment enabled the West to colonise many parts of the world causing maritime trading to flourish in the 18th and 19th century. • Ships are still the primary means of transport for trade today and have long been significant with regards to fishing, transportation and warfare.   The deep history and affiliation man has with the sea has led to many nautical superstitions – lots of these are still upheld by modern yachtsmen and women today!   Here are some of the most widely recognised nautical superstitions:  
  • It is unlucky to take Bananas on board.
  • You should never set sail on a Friday.
  • It will bring you good luck if you through a coin in the sea.
  • Tattoos and piercing are said to ward off evil spirits.
  • Saying the word “pig” or “rabbit” on board is bad luck.
  • Black travelling bags are bad luck for a seaman.
  • Avoid people with red hair when going to the ship to begin a journey.
  • Never say good luck or allow someone to say good luck to you unanswered.
  • Avoid Flat-footed people when beginning a trip.
  • A stolen piece of wood mortised into the keel will make a ship sail faster.
  • A silver coin placed under the masthead ensures a successful voyage.
  • Disaster will follow if you step onto a boat with your Left Foot first.
  • Pouring wine on the deck will bring good luck on a long voyage.
  • Throwing stones into the sea will cause great waves and storms.
  • A stone thrown over a vessel that is putting out to sea ensures she will never return.
  • Flowers are unlucky onboard a ship.
  • Don’t look back once your ship has left port as this can bring bad luck.
  • A dog seen near fishing tackle is bad luck.
  • Black cats are considered good luck and will bring a sailor home from the sea.
  • Swallows seen at sea are a good omen.
  • Dolphins swimming with the ship are a sign of good luck.
  • It is unlucky to kill an albatross.
  • It is unlucky to kill a gull.
  • Handing a flag through the rungs of a ladder is bad luck.
  • Repairing a flag on the quarterdeck will bring bad luck.
  • Turning over a hatch will cause the hold to fill with seawater.
  • Cutting your hair or nails at sea is bad luck.
  • Church Bells heard at sea mean someone on the ship will die.
  • When the clothes of a dead sailor are worn by another sailor during the same voyage, misfortune will befall the entire ship.
  • If the rim of a glass rings stop it quickly or there will be a shipwreck.
  • Never say the word “Drowned” at sea.
  • The feather of a wren slain on New Years Day will protect a sailor from dying by shipwreck.
  • A ship’s bell will always ring when it is wrecked.
  • A shark following the ship is a sign of inevitable death.

 Dolphins taken on a yacht delivery

At Halcyon Yachts we don’t tend to be too superstitious – I personally have a black sailing bag, always take lots of bananas and regularly set sail on a Friday… I have to say though, seeing a dolphin at the bow does always feel special!

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1Comment
  • Blake Anderson
    Posted at 06:38h, 06 April Reply

    I think to getting so much superstitious is also not good for anyone. After all they are just some predictions.

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