3 Common Boat Superstitions

Centuries of sailing have brought with it many superstitions that are sometimes carried on today. While these superstitions, and the origin of them, may seem absurd to some, they are an important part of the history of boating. Most of these superstitions began centuries ago when goods that were exchanged across an ocean had to be transported by ship. For one reason or another, these superstitions caught on with the sailors that were transporting these goods and some even continue today. Here are three commonly known superstitions for boaters.

Bananas on Boats

One of the odder superstitions is that there are not to be any bananas on fishing boats. If there are bananas on a boat where fishing will be involved, it is considered unlucky for those taking part in the activity. This usually is seen to result in a lack of fish caught, but other issues such as mechanical failures have been reported. This superstition is so widespread and so widely followed that many fishermen refuse to allow anything that is banana related onto their boat. This includes products such as apparel from Banana Republic and Banana Boat sunscreen.

Nobody is quite sure why this superstition exists but there are theories. One thought is that long ago, when top-heavy ships would sink, everything would sink to the bottom except for the bananas that were on board. This led to speculation that it was the bananas that caused the sinking of the ship. Another thought is that poisonous creatures like snakes and spiders hide in bananas and spread throughout the ship once aboard. When bananas used to be shipped across the sea, they would travel on the fastest sailing ships so that they would reach their destination before spoiling. Because of the speed of these ships, fishing was very difficult. Some believe that the superstition comes from the fact that a fisherman became ill after eating a banana while others were afraid that a crew member would slip on a banana peel and become unable to complete his duties. A final thought is that bananas are deemed bad luck because they are the last fruit to spoil.

No Women Aboard

While this superstition is largely not followed today, it was thought by sailors that it was unlucky to have women aboard the ship. There are several reasons why this might have become a problem for those sailors. The main thought was that having women aboard would distract the sailors from completing their duties. Another idea has to do with the fact that ships are referred to as “she” and often have female names. These ships were thought of as the sailors’ mother and any other women aboard would make the ship jealous.

Interestingly, while actual women being aboard was considered bad luck, it was commonly thought that bare-breasted women would calm the seas. Because of this, many wooden ships would have bare-breasted women carved into the bow of the ship in an attempt to create safe travels. These carvings are often seen on ships that sailed the seas in past centuries.

The Changing of a Boat’s Name

One superstition that has stood the test of time has to do with the changing of a boat’s name. It has widely been thought that it was bad luck to change the name of a boat. But, while simply changing the name of a boat is considered bad luck, there is something that you can do that will get rid of that bad luck while allowing you to change the name of said boat. The de-naming ceremony that is used to rid the boat of its bad luck begins by removing all traces of the former name from the boat. This is followed by a purging ceremony where a metal tag with the name written on it is flung into the water and champagne is poured into the water and consumed. The final part of the process is the renaming ceremony. This includes providing champagne for the gods of the sea and winds.

As treacherous as the seas can be, sailors have always looked for ways to remove any signs of bad luck from their boats. Because of this, many superstitions have developed over the centuries of sea travel. If you are looking to begin a boating adventure but are not ready to purchase one for yourself, come to 321 Boat Club.