As one can imagine, the rich history of maritime exploration brought with it a number of superstitions about the sea. This can probably attributed to the fact that taking to the seas used to be a particularly dangerous venture in days gone by. Without the luxury of weather forecasts and GPS navigation systems, mariners often had to rely on mere experience to navigate the seven seas.
Thank goodness we live in the modern era, and ocean travel has advanced significantly!
Although you may find many of these superstitions a bit ridiculous today, it is worth mentioning that many seafaring folk would still avoid doing some of the things mentioned on this list. The next time the captain does something odd, you’ll know why.
1. Avoid personal grooming
It was believed that anyone aboard a ship who happened to cut their hair, shave their beards or trim their nails would bring bad luck to the ship. So much for looking kempt for your trip (and for the ‘gram)!
2. Hold on to your hat
If the wind happened to knock off your hat on a boat, it was believed to be an omen that the voyage would be a long one. Tighten that chinstrap!
3. Be wary of whistling
Whistling or singing into the wind was not allowed, as people believed it would “whistle up a storm”.
4. Strictly no girls allowed
Back in the day, women were not allowed aboard a ship, as it was believed that their presence would distract the crew and anger the sea, causing treacherous and dangerous conditions. Unclad women, on the other hand, calmed the sea, which is why bare-breasted women were so often used as figureheads.
5. Watch your mouth
Using certain words related to the land (like “cats”, “rabbits”, “pigs” and “church”) were believed to bring bad luck. Words and phrases like “goodbye”, “good luck” and “drowned” were also believed to bring bad luck aboard.
Before tattoos became as mainstream as they are now, and when they just became popular among sailors, a pig and a rooster were often tattooed onto sailors’ feet, as it was believed that these animals would show sailors the way to shore and prevent them from drowning.
7. Please don’t pass the salt
Passing the salt directly to another crewman was considered bad luck. To avoid this, one could rather put it down for someone else to pick up.
8. Don’t rename her
Renaming a boat is still considered bad luck by many people. If you do want to give a boat a new name, a de-naming ceremony should first be conducted, before the boat must be officially christened again.
The next time you step aboard a seafaring vessel for a trip on the water, spare a moment to think of these superstitions about the sea. We’re not saying you should take them seriously – we just think you might want to leave the nail clippers on shore, refrain from whistling, and take a break from salting your food, just in case.