Friday, March 13, 2009

Nautical Superstitions & Legends

It's Friday the 13th, the second one this year, and I thought you might enjoy looking at some of the nautical superstitions and legends.

Probably the most popular Nautical Superstition is that women on board a ship equalled bad luck. Some say that having a woman on board a ship when it was at sea would anger the sea gods, bringing on horrible weather and rough water. In some cases women who were on board ship were even tossed over board in order to attempt an appeasement of the gods. It was believed that a figurehead in the form of a naked woman, perched on the bow, calms the sea and her open eyes will guide it to safety.

There were rules against women on board ship (not passenger ships, however) it was more often due to the distracter factor than any superstition. A woman on board a ship full of men on a months-long voyage could bring on all sorts of headaches for the captain, not to mention the woman.

Wine poured upon the deck before a long voyage represents a libation to the gods which will bring good luck. "Christening" a ship by breaking a bottle of champagne across her bow at the time of launching arose from this practice. It is very unlikely that mermaids really exist. The source of this legend may be a plant-eating marine mammal called the manatee. The female manatee floats upright while nursing her young, using her front feet to cradle it. Possibly, from a distance, it might look like a human mother with her baby. Nevertheless, this famous statue of a mermaid can be seen in Copenhagen.

Ships and planes have mysteriously disappeared without a trace when inside the Bermuda Triangle. This is an area of the Atlantic Ocean that stretches between Bermuda, Puerto Rico, and Florida. I am happy to report that I've been to the Bermuda Triangle and back safely, just last year in fact.

In the 1400`s, people believed that the Earth was flat and that if you sailed too far from land, you would FALL OFF the edge! Fortunately for all of us, not all the sailors believed that or the Americas may have never been discovered.

Fishermen are a superstitious lot, even today. They have some bizarre beliefs. If they see a red-haired person on the way to the boat it’s bad luck. Other bad omens include a black bag, a minister and a cross-eyed or flat-footed person.

Flowers are for funerals, and therefore weren’t welcomed aboard ship. If somebody’s sweetheart brought some aboard as a bon voyage gift, they were quickly thrown overboard. The reason a minister wasn't welcomed either was due to the same connection with funerals, but they weren’t tossed off the ship.

Don’t bring bananas on board, or you won’t catch any fish. And empty your pockets of pennies before boarding or your catch will be small. Don’t eat anything before the first fish is caught, and the first one caught each day must be spit upon and thrown back.

It is unlucky to start a cruise on Friday. This is the day Christ was crucified on the cross.

These are just a sample of the various superstitions and legends, many of which are still respected today. One thing is for certain, Mother Nature and the Sea can be very unforgiving, so it is wise to be careful and follow common sense and safety rules while at sea. Follow these or ignore these superstitions as you see fit.

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