A woman on a ship, going to sea on Friday and other signs ...
Like many yachtsmen, at one time, it was interesting for me to study sea superstitions, legends, and rituals. It is really very interesting, and I noticed that many sailors (our friends and we are not an exception) still follow some of these beliefs. So, I decided to share with you those signs and superstitions that seemed to be the most relevant in our time. You probably have already heard about some of them, and you will learn about some for the first time. In any case, after reading this article, you can refresh your knowledge in this area and learn something new for yourself. So let’s get started!
A woman aboard
The first and most widespread myth among sailors says that a woman on a ship means trouble! There are several explanations for this superstition. One says that the ship in English is feminine and, they say if a woman is on the ship, the ship itself will be jealous. Another says that since sailors stayed for a long time on board and far from the land, carnal desires began to prevail over reason, and a woman on a ship could become a bone of contention and, to prevent certain unacceptable acts, women were not taken on board, and the sailors stoically stayed at sea among their own kind. It seems to me, the second reason is more plausible, what do you think?
Now I know a lot of women who travel with their husbands around the world (I am one of them), and many women-skippers who successfully manage their ships, sometimes know even more than men and feel great in the sea. So in our times, this myth has been completely debunked.
Women were not the only ones who were disliked on board, but bananas also. Sailors still believe that bananas on board mean a bad catch. Mysticism and fairy tales, you will say! However, this superstition can be explained. Many people know from their own experience that even green bananas ripen very quickly. What is more important, they make the fruits and vegetables that lie next to them ripen faster. And if something ripens fast, it also quickly goes bad. To prevent this, sailors tried to deliver the bananas to their destination as quickly as possible. For this reason, the skipper sailed fast, not even stopping to catch fish from the sea.
Cats onboard were always welcomed, since where there is a cat, there are no rats. True, over time, ships began to be built from more reliable materials, but the sailors’ love for animals did not disappear. To this day, you can meet people who have a fluffy sailor on board!
Friday or Monday
The next superstition is about Friday. It is believed that going to sea on Friday (the day of the crucifixion of Christ), especially on the 13th, is unlucky. But in the Russian navy, it is believed that taking off the anchor on Monday (especially on the 13th) means trouble. I cannot prove or disprove these superstitions. We went out to sea more than once on Friday and Monday, and nothing terrible happened to us. We could be unlucky with the weather, but I don’t know if it should be attributed to unlucky days of the week ...
Another belief is that a sailor with different eyes is unfortunate. I can say that for 5 years that we have been traveling we had only one sailor with different eyes (one green, the other brown) and during his presence onboard our anchor winch broke. I don’t know if it’s a coincidence or not, but the fact is the fact.
Some of the oldest sea superstitions are associated with tattoos. With the help of them, sailors tried to ingratiate themselves with the gods and return home safely. Good luck was brought by the image of the sea (a symbol of hope), a black cat, a four-petaled clover, a horseshoe, and other symbols. Most often, religious symbols (crucifixes, images of saints, etc.) were used as tattoos. Many sailors had tattoos with a star between their index finger and thumb. Also in the US Navy, it is believed that a person with a pig and a rooster on his left foot will never drown. I cannot say anything, since I have no tattoos and am not planning to have any, and my husband’s body is free for creativity and soon he will have some kind of tattoo symbolizing happiness and good luck. Then we’ll see how it works ...
According to the ancient belief, an earring protects against loss of sight and rheumatism, and at a later time, sailors who passed by Cape Horn began to have it. My husband passed Cape Horn in his early youth as part of the crew of a ship sailing around the world, so he has a well-deserved earring in his ear!
There are several ways to call the wind when it is calm. We use two of them. The first is to rub the mast while calling in the wind. Well, you are actually supposed to scratch it with a knife, but we feel sorry for our mast, and if we do this, the wind may of course come, or maybe not, but it certainly hurts the heart of the captain, who loves our yacht very much and worries about any scratch. The second option is to «whistle the wind». To do this, sit in the direction from which you want the wind to blow, and whistle pleasant melodies smoothly and melodiously. We rarely use this option, since, according to some superstitions, whistling on a ship is dangerous and, if whistled incorrectly, can cause a storm. And some of our friends tie the mop to the stern rails and lower it into the water. It creates some excitement and thus, according to the legend, calls for a tailwind. We have not tried this method yet, but everything is still ahead ...
Some people we know use one funny superstition, which originated from the ancient sailors of Indonesia. They imagined the «nasty wind» as an angry storm woman. The best way to get rid of her intrigues was for all sailors to strip naked. And then the embarrassed «windy lady» turned aside. After reading about it once, our friends decided to use it. I do not know how much it helps them in changing the direction of the wind, but the mood of those around them definitely lifts!
Also, to calm down the raging elements (Neptune, Poseidon, God of the seas, etc.), we, like many other sailors, pour a glass of alcohol overboard with a request for favorable weather. It helps, of course, not immediately, but in 75% of cases.
Good luck charms
For the ship to be lucky, many nail a horseshoe to the mast or the door of the captain’s cabin. Most often it is nailed with the ends down, but I also saw it attached with the ends up. To my question «Why?», the sailors answered that this way they would not be able to «splash» their luck. And sometimes it is nailed sideways (in the shape of the letter «C»). It is more often used by English-speaking sailors, as it means the first letter of the name Christ. I don’t know which of these options is more correct, but if you believe in a horseshoe that brings good luck, then you can fix it on your ship in any position you like.
We also strictly adhere to the rule of not asking what time the ship will arrive at its destination. Every time I am convinced that as soon as you ask the skipper about the estimated time of arrival, everything changes immediately (the wind is down, or vice versa, it intensifies, or simply changes its direction).
Every seasoned sailor is a strict opponent of killing seagulls and any sea bird. This superstition comes from the distant past and is the result of the belief that the soul of a sailor who died migrates to a seabird. We do not offend the birds and only admire their flight, and sometimes we work as cabbies, taking «free riders» to the place of their destination. Once, a sparrow traveled with us from Pirogovo near Moscow to the Black Sea. It could fly away on its business during our stay in yacht clubs, but every time it came back. We always recognized it by an uncharacteristic for sparrows spot on its tummy, and by the end of the trip, it was already eating from our hands. In Anapa, it apparently found a mate and left the ship. We met the next such «sailor» during the crossing from Turkey to the Canary Islands. It stoically stayed with us all the way across the Ionian Sea from Greece to Italy, eating cheese and bread crumbs.
A ship’s baptism and name
We and our friends, observe the ritual of «Wine baptism» — breaking a bottle on the stem (or anchor) of the ship that is being launched. If the bottle does not break the first time or flies past the hull altogether, this promises misfortune for the ship, therefore we all aim very carefully and strongly.
They say that renaming a ship without changing its gender is a bad omen. «Captain Nikos» that we have now, in the past was a female named «Anastasia», but the former owner made a very radical renovation inside and out and changed the name to the current one, thus giving the ship a male gender (we can say that he «gave birth» to a new yacht) ... And our first yacht, on the contrary, was male, and we renamed it, giving it a female name. I do not know if this sign works when changing the name of the ship without changing the gender, but there is another belief that as you name the ship, so it will sail. We believe it, and we adhere to this principle when choosing a name for yachts.
Now, a little about the weather. Now, in the age of technologies, we have many different gadgets, apps, and programs where you can see the weather forecast and plan your crossing, and in ancient times sailors did not have such benefits of civilization, and many were looking at the sun, stars and listened to the words of shamans ... Since the ships were only using sails before, the most common proverb was: «the sun is red in the morning — the weather will be calm, the sun is red in the evening — the sailor has nothing to fear (i. e. the wind will blow) ». Now we will think a hundred times about whether to go to sea in the morning at a red sunset the day before because it can promise not only a pleasant favorable wind but also a storm ...
And of course, I’ll tell you about the saints who protect all sailors. Our main patron is Nicholas the Wonderworker. He not only «protects the poor,» but he can also help ships in distress, end a storm, heal a sailor who fell from the mast, and so on. The people call him «the helper». It is believed that all the saints, except for St. Nicholas, can help those who are praying only with the permission of the Almighty. To the patron saint of sailors, «God’s mercy has been bestowed,» that is, in a critical situation he can act independently, without coordinating his actions with God. In sea conditions, when every minute counts, such help was very much appreciated.
Among the Portuguese Catholics, Saint Anthony is considered the protector of sailors. Sailors treat him with reverence, but his image in the form of a figurine is treated quite unceremoniously. During a storm, it was tied to the mast very tightly, or lowered on a rope into the sea, or completely thrown overboard, thereby sacrificing it.
There are many more different superstitions, rituals, signs, and legends that go among sailors. These are mysterious mermaids, St. Elmo’s lights, a shark’s tail nailed to a bowsprit, a bow-legged sailor, a bucket or mop that has fallen overboard, spitting on the deck, the presence of virgins on the ship, etc., but they are much more difficult to apply in the realities of our modern life. ...
If you know any signs or observe some of them yourself, write to us and we will be happy to discuss them together!
Good luck everyone!