Superstitious Boating Items You Should Never Bring on Board

Superstitious Boating Items You Should Never Bring on Board

October 8, 2019

Before technology evolved to make sailing much safer, sailors needed all the help they could get for a smooth trip along the high seas. Despite the advances in weather prediction and ship safety, anyone who spends their life on a boat still honors some of these centuries-old traditions and avoids bringing superstitious boating items on board.

Never bring bananas

One of the most common boating superstitions is to never bring bananas on board a boat, particularly a fishing boat. In the 18th century, ships bringing bananas from the West Indies had to sail fast so the bananas wouldn’t spoil, so the crew was unable to slow down and catch fish. Sailors came to associate bananas with lean eating and didn’t want to be on a boat with bananas, launching a superstition that continues among sailors today.

Don’t invite Jonah

Sometimes superstitious boating items can be people, too. A Jonah was a sailor believed to be cursed or who brings about bad luck. The name comes from the Biblical prophet Jonah, who angered God by trying to sail away from his responsibilities and brought a storm with him. If a sailor or passenger had a history of being aboard unlucky ships, he was branded a Jonah.

No women on board

Rather than simply bringing bad luck, women were considered to be an outright hazard, as it was thought they’d distract sailors from their duties. The sea gods would be angry that the sailors weren’t taking their jobs seriously and would punish them with bad weather. One “woman” who was allowed on board was the figurehead of a topless woman at the front of the ship. Her nudity supposedly shamed the sea into being calmer. Don’t worry—we don’t follow this one. Everyone is welcome aboard our Alaskan fishing charters!

Your whistling skills

Whistling sailors were thought to summon bad weather by “whistling up a storm.” The whistle was considered a challenge to the wind, which would retaliate with harsh gusts. The superstition is also thought to come from the mutiny on the HMS Bounty, where the revolting sailors used a whistle as the signal to begin their attack. As a result, whistling was often prohibited on board.

Your bad attitude

Sailors knew that just saying something out loud could put bad energy out into the universe and bring bad luck on their trip. Sailors avoided words like “drown” for fear it might come true. As in acting, saying, “good luck” was thought to bring about the opposite.

What to bring for good luck

If you can’t bring a banana or your wife, what can you bring? A few superstitious boating items thought to bring luck include:

  • Gold jewelry: The gold is supposed to have magical properties to keep sailors safe and prevent drowning.
  • Black cats: While many cultures see the black cat as bad luck, some sailors bring aboard a black ship’s cat for good luck.
  • Your lucky hat: Every angler has a lucky hat that he or she must have before hitting the water.

At Phantom Tri-River Charters we honor our fishing traditions, but our list of what not to bring on a boat is a little different than what you’ll find here. Would you like to learn more about superstitious boating items and secrets for successful Alaskan fishing charters? Contact us today with any questions or to schedule your next Alaskan fishing trip free of bad luck with only great memories.

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