13 of the Weirdest Nautical Superstitions

28 October 2022 By Rubi McGrory
Credit: iStock

Rubi McGrory has 25 years in yacht galleys and more than 150,000 miles at sea. Aside from culinary creations, she does art, design,  illustration, and curates custom tablescapes. Follow Rubi’s culinary shenanigans on Instagram 

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 of the weirdest nautical superstitions, many of which persist to this day...

Always step onto a boat with your right foot

Rumour has it that stepping on board with your left foot brings bad luck for the journey ahead. That said, either foot can be unlucky if the captain catches you boarding with your shoes on.

Pouring wine on deck will bring good luck on a long voyage

May we suggest a nice crisp Sauvignon Blanc; don’t waste the Champagne. Unless, of course, you are launching a boat for the very first time, in which case tradition dictates smashing a bottle of fizz on the bow.

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.

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.

Throwing coins into the sea as the boat leaves port

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.

Flowers are unlucky on board

According to superstition, flowers on board were considered unlucky as it meant they could later be used to make a wreath for the dead. Today, not having flowers on board is considered unlucky, it means the owner will think you aren’t doing your job.

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.

Tattoos and piercing are said to ward off evil spirits

Popeye had the right idea with an anchor stamped on his bicep. The anchor was said to prevent a sailor from floating away from the ship should he fall overboard, while a nautical star was believed to help sailors to find their way home.

Saying the word “pig” on board is bad luck

Not having enough bacon for the crew is even worse luck.

Any more superstitions you can add to the list?


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