13. Very superstitious

So the last post went out early on a cliff-hanger. You’ll have to wait for post 14 as I have to do superstitions for number 13. Sailors are apparently REALLY superstitious! Here are a few.


A is for Albatrosses (albatrossi?). It is exceedingly bad luck to kill an albatross. They carry the souls of dead sailors so you’d be shooting one of your own kind. Remember what happened to the Ancient Mariner?

Looks happy enough!

B is for Bananas. Don’t know why but they should not be allowed on board. Could be due to spiders hiding in the bunches, the fact that they go off so quickly and smell / taste horrid (and let off noxious gases) or who knows.

C is for Cats. You can see Tessa on the header.  Ideally you want a black cat for luck, she was grey (blue?) but the good news is she was polydactyl (extra toes) which apparently is super lucky. You can see them here on her front paws.

D is for Dates. Not the type you eat but in the calendar. You should not set sail on a Thursday (Thor’s day, you’ll have storms and thunder), Friday (Jesus was sacrificed then?), the first Monday in April (Cain slew Abel?) or the second Sunday in August (Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed?). If you’re really superstitious, the only good day to set sail is Sunday (presumably after you’ve been to church and asked for a good voyage). This is good news for us as in May we’re off for a sail on a Sunday. More in a later post…

D is also for Dolphins. It is good luck to have them swimming with you, and even if not lucky they are a lovely sight.

E is for Earrings. Preferably gold hoops. John must have known this as he gave me some for my birthday this year with lots of hoops. Maybe the hoop miraculously becomes a life belt if you go overboard. Gold is said to have healing powers, and if all else fails you can barter with them. (I read the other day that our RAF pilots are still issued with gold sovereigns when they fly over enemy territory so they can buy their way home. Honestly?? Anyone out there know if this is true or an urban myth?).

Plenty of hoops here

F is for Flowers. These are bad luck to bring on board. Obviously the crews on cruise ships are not superstitious as these vessels are always shown with loads.

A flower girl

G is for Girls. Well, women actually but I have another W. Despite the fact that women were often on board (and if they gave birth then a boy would be a “son-of-the-gun” on warships), we supposedly bring bad luck if on board. The picture above is doubly unlucky then. HOWEVER, naked women are OK and often figureheads on the bow. Hmmm…

H is for Hair. It is considered bad luck to cut or trim hair, beards and nails whilst at sea. So not only are MFB (see Post 02), going to be very smelly after a month with no shower facilities, they will be unrecognisable with long lanky hair, beards and witchy finger (and toe) nails. May be time to reconsider my travel plans and go elsewhere.

Business is slack.

Thankfully, there are some letters of the alphabet I can skip. If you know of any superstitions I’ve missed then we can add them at another time. Meanwhile, on we go.

M is for Mast. Specifically, if you attach a horseshoe to the mast it will calm storms. As does a bare-breasted woman on the bow of the boat. As long as you didn’t set sail on a Thursday. Or whistle (see below). Thing is, it’s often stormy at sea, just listen to the weather forecast.

R is for Red Sky. We all know the saying “Red sky at night, shepherd’s delight” obviously also for sailors. This is an indication of good weather coming from the West, so probably only applies to the Northern Hemisphere. There’s no one down under who is superstitious surely?

This red sky is in NZ

S is for Sharks. Unlike the friendly dolphins, sharks are Bad News. We’ve all seen “Jaws” after all and know they eat small boats. If you see one following your boat I guess you’d be pretty nervous anyway.

Shark attack!

T is for Tattoos. Oddly I have no photos of tattoos and I’m not planning on getting one just for this blog. They were the sign of a sailor, I seem to remember when I was young that only sailors had them (or maybe everyone else covered them up). Having the North Star means you’ll come home. Only applicable in the Northern Hemisphere again I think. There is a rumour that MFB will be getting one or more during or after the trip. All I ask is that they go to a reputable tattooist as you can become allergic to the dye used if it’s not done correctly and DIE (dying to die is the slogan used by one of my clients when I was working).

FINALLY, W is for Whistling. This may be good or bad luck depending what you need. If you are in the Doldrums and need some wind, whistling may help. On the other hand, you may whistle up a storm if there’s already a wind.  If you whistle for long enough one or other of these will probably happen on a round the world trip.

To end, here’s a more likely view of an albatross.

Next time, the mystery is solved and continuation of the Crew Briefing.

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