• marker2 N48 27.2' W123 17.7'

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Top 13 Sailing Superstitions

It's Friday the 13th, a day that many believe to be either bad luck or a day full of good luck. As they say, it is in the eye of the beholder. We thought it would be fun to look up the top 13 Sailing Superstitions - both good and bad - to add a bit of fun to this unpredictable day. How many have you heard before?

13.  Personal Grooming 
Anyone aboard who trimmed their nails, cut their hair or shaved their beard brought bad luck to the ship.

12. Feet 
Flat-footed people were unlucky on board a ship, and were also avoided by sailors before they boarded.

11. Women 
Women were bad luck on board because they distracted the crew, which would anger the sea, causing treacherous conditions as revenge. However, conveniently for the male crew, naked women calmed the sea, which is why so many figureheads were women with bare chests. 

10. Non-sailing Days 
It was bad luck to sail on Thursdays (God of Storms, Thor’s day) or Fridays (the day Jesus was executed), the first Monday in April (the day Cain killed Abel), the second Monday in August (the day Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed), and 31 December (the day on which Judas Iscariot hanged himself).

9. Watch Your Mouth 
Some words and sayings brought about bad luck on board, including "drowned", "goodbye” and "good luck". Things to do with the land were believed to be bad luck if mentioned, such as the church,  pigs, foxes, cats, and rabbits.

8. No Whistling
Whistling or singing into the wind was forbidden as it would "whistle up a storm"

7.  No Farewell 
It was bad luck for seafaring men’s wives to call out to them or wave goodbye once they stepped out the door to leave for a voyage.

6. Stirring tea with a knife or fork would invite bad luck

5. As would turning a loaf of bread upside down once it had been cut 
These two seem to be superstitions that existed on land as well as at sea:

4. Red-heads 
Like flat-footed people, red heads were believed to bring bad luck to a ship. If you met one before boarding, the only way to mitigate the bad luck was to speak to them before they could speak to you.

3. Salt 
It was bad luck for one crewman to pass the salt pot to another directly. Presumably one could put it down and the other could pick it up.

2. Fishy 
In order to encourage fish to be caught, Scottish fishermen would begin their fishing session by throwing one of the crew members overboard and then hauling him back on 

1. Bananas 
No bananas on board. They were believed to be so unlucky they would cause the ship to be lost. Whole cargoes of bananas were especially frightening for sailors.

For the full list of Sailing Superstitions from Maritime Museum, click here