Top 10 Sailing Superstitions in Honor of Friday the 13th
| February 13, 2015
"Red sky at night, sailor's delight, red sky in the morning, sailors take warning!"

“Red sky at night, sailor’s delight, red sky in the morning, sailor’s warning!”

Star Clippers evokes the golden age of sailing, a time hundreds of years ago when the seas teemed with tall ships and clippers traveled the seven seas carrying cargo along trade routes. Sailors developed some pretty interesting superstitions in that time, with some even dating back to the ancient days of sailing. In honor of Friday the 13th — and in no particular order — here are some of the top 13 sailing superstitions of yesteryear!

1. Red sky at night, sailor’s delight …

The old adage goes, “Red sky at night, sailor’s delight; red sky in the morning, sailor’s warning!” In the old days weather deeply affected ships. There is some scientific backing to this saying regarding the presence of clouds and weather patterns, but that depends on the direction of the ship, of course! While not a hard-and-fast rule, many still take to the sea with this saying in mind.

2. Good Luck Ladies!

While conservative ladies were once considered bad luck as they distracted sailors from their duties, a topless woman was welcomed. Sailors believed a nude woman calmed the sea. This is why ships typically had a figure of a topless woman at the bow. Her breasts calm the sea and her open eyes guide the sailors safely. That tradition continues today!

Royal Clipper's figurehead guides sailors safely with open eyes.

Royal Clipper’s figurehead guides sailors safely with open eyes.

3. Bananas are bad luck!

Back when trade routes between Spain and the Caribbean were well-traveled, bananas almost always seemed to be onboard when disaster struck! It could be that sailors made hasty decisions trying to transport the bananas before they spoiled, or that deadly insects and spiders traveled along with the bananas. Whatever the case, some boaters still avoid bananas at sea!

4. Don’t throw stones!

They say people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones — the same goes for sailors! Sailors don’t throw stones into the water, as it’s seen as disrespectful to the sea and can stir up the waves.

5. Dolphins are a good omen …

Have you ever sat in the bowsprit net and watched dolphins frolic along in the sea? There’s no doubt that they bring joy to those who see them. Ancient sailors also took them as a sign of good luck, which probably had something to do with the fact that they were the first clear sign that land was near.

Dolphins, like these seen swimming along with Star Clipper, are known as a good omen.

Dolphins, like these seen swimming along with Star Clipper, are known as a good omen.

6. As are albatross!

The albatross is known as good luck, as a symbol of hope and — like dolphins — that land is near. Some sailors even believed that the albatross carried the well-wishing souls of sailors that had passed on. Conversely, however, a dead albatross is very bad luck. Samuel Taylor Coleridge chronicled the good and bad luck brought by the albatross in his epic poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.

At length did cross an Albatross,
Thorough the fog it came;
As if it had been a Christian soul,
We hailed it in God’s name.
It ate the food it ne’er had eat,
And round and round it flew.
The ice did split with a thunder-fit;
The helmsman steered us through!

‘God save thee, ancient Mariner!
From the fiends, that plague thee thus!–
Why look’st thou so?’–With my cross-bow
I shot the ALBATROSS.
And I had done an hellish thing,
And it would work ’em woe:
For all averred, I had killed the bird
That made the breeze to blow.”

– Excerpt from The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Samuel Taylor Coleridge

7. Keep that tune to yourself!

No matter what kind song you have in your head, don’t dare to whistle if you’re around a superstitious sailor! Whistling or singing into the wind is thought to “whistle up the wind,” causing adverse weather conditions. If you do decide to whistle a bar, beware, clapping along was thought to incite thunder and really toss up the sea!

8. Don’t look back!

Some say looking back as you set sail could bring on a shaky ride. Who wants to look back anyway as you’re sailing into the horizon?

Look forward to the next horizon -- not back -- as you depart!

Look forward to the next horizon — not back — as you depart!

9. Don’t change the name of the ship.

It was thought to be very bad luck to change the name of a ship. Initially this was thought to anger the gods. As commerce became a big money business, a name change indicated change of ownership, and thieves would keep an eye out for these changes, as they could potentially mean the ship was full of booty.

10. Don’t depart on a Friday.

Long-standing superstition says do not begin a voyage on a Friday! Friday the 13th is a particularly dicey day to the superstitious! Fearful guests need not worry, though, as Star Clippers typically begins voyages on Saturdays!

So, are these superstitions credible or kooky? You be the judge! Let us know what you think in the comments!

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