Boat Superstitions (Part 2)

This is the second part of a two part article. The first part dealt with renaming a boat and the necessary ceremony to avoid bad luck. One recovering reader responded, “like most of us I’ve come to accept the glorification of alcohol and drunkenness in society” and “we have found that we can have just as much fun, laughter, and happiness with diet coke and sparkling cider”. Alcoholism is a serious problem. My father had 35+ years sobriety from alcohol. Thus, let it be known the renaming ceremony will be just as effective with non-alcoholic beverages.
Since one objective of the ceremony is to make the God of the Sea forget your boat’s prior name, consider tossing (soon to be legal) marijuana in the water instead (unless you’re addicted to weed).
Now on to the lesser superstitions.
Bringing bananas aboard a vessel has been thought to bring bad luck since the 1700s. There are gross tons of theories as to why. One suggests that bananas spoil quickly and thus ships had to rush to their destinations, eliminating the opportunity for the crew to fish. Spiders, termites and methane gas are among the explanations for this obviously poor choice of sea food, as if we need any logical bases. This is most commonly adhered to now by fisherman.
Sharks following the vessel, whistling onboard and redheads (gingers) are bad luck. The shark is a sure sign of death. Don’t whistle aboard, you may whistle up a storm. Redheads are bad luck as they are just unfortunate to be a statistical minority. If brown hair had been bad luck we would have a history of bald sailors. Albatrosses are thought to be good luck if one is spotted, bad luck if one is killed. A “Jonah” is a person or crew member who brings bad luck. Dolphins swimming alongside are a positive omen, this one I can personally attest to as they always make me happy.
From the pirates comes a full booty of superstitions. Gold hoop earrings bring good fortune, gold provides healing powers and prevents drowning (unless you have too much). Tattoos have many magical powers. A North Star tattoo can help guide you home. Ducks or pigs tattooed on your feet will help you reach land if you fall overboard. Cutting hair or nails or shaving beards brings bad luck, baseball players share this one. Clearly there is crossover between land and sea superstitions.
There are many bad days to set sail, December 31, the first Monday in April, the second Monday in August, Thursdays and most commonly Fridays. I did a job for a commercial customer recently who will not begin a voyage on Friday and his business is doing well.
Red sky at night a sailor’s delight, red sky in the morning sailors take warning. Brief research suggests this has scientific validity and is alluded to in the Bible (Matthew 16:2-3).
Historically sailing was (and is) a dangerous occupation and superstitions helped sailors deal with the unknown. Today we have weather satellites, hair dye, man overboard drills, steel ships and refrigeration. Thank God (of the sea) for steel ships and refrigeration as Dole brings ship loads of bananas to the 10th avenue Marine Terminal in San Diego regularly; imagine the load of bad luck we might otherwise have suffered?