13 Wacky Sea Superstitions

Superstitious people normally have hang-ups about breaking mirrors, walking under ladders or opening umbrellas indoors. These beliefs may seem silly to some but when you track their history; a number of superstitions are actually based on the series of actions reaping similar outcomes. Walking under a ladder, for example, comes for the concern that something might fall from overhead. In other cases, however, superstitions come about when the brain can't explain something, so it makes something up. A 2010 study found that superstitions can sometimes work as believing in something can improve performance on a task.This is why things like Beginners Luck occurs as a person isn’t stressed about winning.  

Seafarers are extremely superstitions because the ocean can be unpredictable, temperamental and ruthless. Anything sailors and seamen and women can do to protect themselves out at sea, they will. We’ve searched for the wackiest and most outrageous superstitions and rituals connected to sailing to entertain and alarm you.


  1. Bon Voyage

Meaning “safe journey” in French. This phrase is said to wish travellers a pleasant passage and safe arrival to their destination. In the yachting industry it has become a nautical, ‘break a leg’ of sorts. Used more often than any other colloquial alternatives.

Saying,  ‘Buona fortuna,’ which means "Good luck" in Italian is often regarded as a negative omen for many sailors.


      2. Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays

It is believed that it is a bad idea to set sail on these days because terrible events are connected them.

Fridays are viewed as bad days to leave the dock for a sea voyage because Jesus was crucified on a Friday.

Thursdays are condemned because it is Thor’s day. Thor is known to be the god of thunder and lightning,

The first Monday of April is seen as bad luck because it is believed to be the day Cain slew Abel, and the second Monday of August is the day the kingdoms of Sodom of Gomorrah were destroyed. Sunday is seen as the most opportune day to set sail.


        3.  Bananas

A bizarre superstition believed by many is that bananas should not be on board vessels on a long voyage. Aside from their peels presenting the possibilities of sailors slipping and sliding along the deck, they spoil easy. When the tropical fruit ferments it releases a deadly toxin. Another concern is that poisonous spiders hide in banana bunches. These circumstances pose a threat to sailors who have no immediate access to medical attention.


       4. Whistling

Many seafarers hold the belief that whistling on board brings misfortune. British sailor Fletcher Christian used a whistle as a signal for the mutiny against Captain William Bligh. It is also thought that whistling brings windy waters and storms when the wind is calm.


      5. Boat’s Name

Changing the name of your boat is regarded as a catastrophic mistake that could lead to the demise of you vessel. Boats are known to develop a life and mind of their own. If your yacht must be named it can only happen on the 15 August after a strict ritual is followed. Some seafarers will write the current vessels name, place the paper in a wooden box and burn the box. The ashes then need to be thrown into the ocean. Another ritual is that the boat must be renamed while sailing close to the wind whilst  making a series of short zigzag tacks. She must then bear away and go exactly downwind. It’s believed that this is the path a snake takes when it eats its own tail.


        6. Jonah

Another rather bizarre superstition is that people named Jonah are bad luck to sail with. This is derived from the biblical story of a prophet who was ordered by God to go to the city of Nineveh. During his voyage across the seas a huge storm arose which put the sailing crew and passengers in grave danger. The storm ceased when the sailors were forced to throw Jonah overboard. As a rule, modern seafarers try not to hire yacht crew or sailors with the name lest they have to toss them overboard during a storm.


        7. Red Sky

"Red sky at night, sailor's delight; red sky in the morning, sailors take warning" is how the old saying goes. A belief is held that a red sunset indicates a beautiful day to come; that the weather will be warm and the seas calm. On the other hand, a red sunrise indicates rain and bad weather.


        8. Lurking Sharks

Sharks have always been linked to bad luck, negative energy or death. If you notice sharks following your vessel or lurking near your yacht it is often an omen of an inevitable death.


        9. Lurking Dolphins

The flipside of the previous superstition is that seeing a school of dolphins swimming behind your yacht is a great sign. If the sea mammes flick under the bow it is an indication that your voyage will end in safe arrival.


        10. Women

Though times have changed, and the exclusion would be extremely politically incorrect; women used to be banned from boats. The origin of this superstition was ancient scholars who held the belief that all women were witches that bring storm and disaster. Ironically naked women on board were seen as good luck. Naked women were thought to calm the sea. This explains why ships and yachts typically had a figure of a topless women at the bow of their vessel. The figures bare breasts was thought to shame the stormy seas into calm and her eyes guided the seamen to safety.


       11. Debts

It is imperative that sailors, crew and seafarers pay all their dues before they set sail or they will be blamed for any storms that occur on sea. Owing people money is believed to carry negative energy that will corrupt the energy of the vessel if unresolved.  


       12: Killing Albatrosses

An old nautical superstition held by many is that seabirds carry the souls of dead sailors. It is considered a bad idea to kill one because you then anger the departed soul, which will bring peril to your vessel. Seeing a bird, however, it is considered good luck.

      13. Personal Grooming

Thankfully this superstitions has been abandoned somewhat, but a belief has been shared that anyone who cuts their nails, hair or shaves their beard while onboard will surely bring bad luck to the vessel. Seafarers could prim and preen themselves just before they set sail, and it became mandatory for crew to even spill blood before leaving the port, but once at sea no grooming was allowed. 


Some superstitions are wacky and too far fetched to make sense, while others seem reasonable and purely for safety purposes. Either way they appear to work and thus have been passed down from one to another. 

Do you have any unique rituals and superstitions that you follow before you leave the port and when you are out at sea?