Humankind has been sailing the sea for as long as we have been around, so it is no surprise that there are as many nautical superstitions as barnacles on the hull of the Black Pearl. In a pre-GPS, pre-weatherfax, pre-Satcom seafaring existence, sailors created their own code of behavior, governed by superstition.
Here are 13 nautical superstitions, many of which persist to this day:
1. It's unlucky to start a cruise on a Friday. This is one of the more universal nautical superstitions, believed to be rooted in Christ being crucified on a Friday. Also, you should never start a voyage on the first Monday in April, more Biblical mythology, as this was the day that Cain slew Able.
2. Bananas on board are bad luck. At face value, this taboo doesn’t make much sense, but it has been said the reason for this is that crew could slip on a banana peel left on deck and fall. But why would you throw a banana peel on deck when you could throw it overboard? The more likely explanation involves lack of pesticides. Prior to being able to spray stalks of bananas with commercial-grade pesticides, sailors would bring entire ecosystems of insects, bugs and spiders on board with their fruit that would bite and infect the crew.
3. Throwing stones into the sea will cause great waves and storms. But banana peels thrown into the sea are good luck?
4. Coins thrown into the sea as a boat leaves port is a small toll to Neptune, the sea god, for a safe voyage, but a stone thrown from a vessel putting out to sea ensures she will never return.
5. Church bells heard at sea mean someone on the ship will die. The Hanson brothers heard at sea means someone needs to update their iTunes account.
6. Flowers are unlucky on board, as they could later be used to make a wreath for the dead. Today, not having flowers on board is considered unlucky, it means the boss’ wife will think you aren’t doing your job.
7. Women on board make the sea angry; although a naked woman on board will calm an angry sea. This accounts for naked figureheads (and deckies’ collections of Maxim and FHM magazines).
8. Redheads bring bad luck to a ship, but you can get around this by speaking to the carrot-top before he or she speaks to you.
9. Cutting your hair or nails at sea is bad luck. If you buy this one, we’d hate to see you and your crew at the end of the season.
10. Never step onto or off a boat with your left foot first. Either foot can be unlucky if the captain catches you boarding with your shoes on.
11. Tattoos and piercing are said to ward off evil spirits, hence sailors’ love for ink.
12. Saying the word “pig” on board is bad luck. Not having enough bacon for the crew is even worse luck.
13. Pouring or spilling wine on deck will bring good luck on a long voyage. May we suggest a nice crisp Sauvignon Blanc; don’t waste the Champagne.
Any more superstitions you can add to the list?