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Six Seafaring Superstitions

Compass For Luck

Superstitions fill our everyday lives to the point where many of us have developed our own set of ‘rules’ for what we can and cannot do in order to keep bad luck at arm’s length. From classic examples such as being careful to never break a mirror to modern beliefs that merely stepping on three drains in a line will bring your whole day tumbling down on top of you, even the most rational of human beings cannot help but abide by these ‘laws’ of the land.

And it seems that sailors and modern day cruise ship crew members have a fair few of their own superstitions to think about. Here are six seafaring beliefs that are still observed today.

A Ban On Bananas –

To the untrained eye a banana will just seem like a delicious and healthy snack, but to those working on a ship they may be a dangerous omen. There are a few different reasons as to why this superstition started. One of them is that during the height of Spain’s trading empire in the South Atlantic and Caribbean, nearly every ship that fell foul to the cruelty of the sea was carrying a crate of the yellow fruit. I guess this means all inflatable banana boats are doomed to.

Other reasons include the fact that exotic and venomous spiders often hide in bunches of bananas and that the ships carrying the crates would travel so fast, in an attempt to get the cargo to its destination before it went bad, that they would leave smaller fishing vessels in the area with no fish to catch.


The Colour Of Luck –

Colours have a big role to play when determining whether a ship’s voyage will be a lucky one or not. The two main beliefs of this kind involve black luggage bags and people with red hair. The bags bring bad luck to a voyage when brought onto the vessel as the colour is said to represent death and the deep depths of the sea, whilst redheads will doom any sailing unless you speak to them before they speak to you. This may well be a great chat up line when approaching redheaded people in the ship’s bar.

The Sexist Sea –

This is apparently one of the most widely believed maritime superstitions of them all and involves the thought that any woman on board is bad luck. Traditionally this is because women were seen to be less able than men and therefore their inability to handle the physical jobs that men could, coupled with their weaker emotions, would anger the sea. It was also the case that a woman on board would often distract the men and reduce their ability to work effectively.

However, although it sounds as though it was dreamt up by lusty sailors of the past, the bad luck of having a woman on board can be counteracted by her own nudity. Nevertheless, many ships in the past and today bear the figure of a bare-breasted lady on the bow to keep the seas calm.

Woman Figure On Bow Of Ship

A Great Day For A Voyage –

For an industry that takes place around the clock, it may be surprising that superstition dictates on which days a ship should and ship not begin its voyage. Among the unluckiest days are the first Monday in April (thought to be when Cain killed his brother Able), the second Monday in August (when the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were burned), and the 31st of December (when Judas hung himself).

However, perhaps the most unlucky day to begin a sailing is on any Friday. This is down to the thought that because Jesus was crucified on this day, anyone who doesn’t observe and respect it, choosing to continue about their usual business, will have bad luck befallen upon them. Conversely, anyone starting a voyage on a Sunday will receive pleasant sailing conditions and good luck as this is the day that Jesus rose from the dead. Because of this, sailors are often heard to say ‘Sunday sail, never fail’.

The Only Thing To Be Cut Should Be The Waves –

Whilst the bow of a ship usually cuts through the waves as it makes its way across the seas, it is considered unlucky to cut your hair or nails during any sailing. The reason for this is that these trimmings were traditionally thought to be offerings to the Roman goddess Proserpina and offering them whilst in the kingdom of the seas will anger Neptune. Hopefully this will not put you off visiting the salon on your next cruise from Fred.\.

But It’s Not All Bad News –

Black Cat On Ship

Although, as you can see, there are many things that will bring bad luck upon a ship and its voyage, there are also plenty of things that will bless a journey on the seas. These include pouring wine onto the deck as an offering to the Gods, placing a silver coin under the masthead and spotting a pod of dolphins swimming with the ship. Perhaps most surprisingly though is the thought that a black cat will bring a sailor home safe from any time spent on the oceans. The most likely origin of this belief is that a, usually unlucky, feline of this colour will have the opposite affect at sea than it does on land.

If these interesting superstitions have not supressed your insatiable appetite to cruise the world, then the team at Fred.\ will be more than happy help you plan your next trip away. Whether you are looking to embark on a Mediterranean or Caribbean cruise, with luxury line Silversea or family-focussed operator Disney; we can offer recommendations and expertise to find you the best deal.