Our monthly blog Old Sea Legends For Crew explores the lore and tales of the sea. This time, it’s all about weird and wacky nautical superstitions.

Some of these might make sense… Some might surprise you!

Always step onto a boat with your right foot

It’s rumored that starting your journey by stepping onto the ship with your left foot brings misfortune. However, luck can turn sour regardless of whichever foot you use if the captain spots you boarding with your shoes on.

Don’t bring a banana on board!

However, it’s been suggested that this puzzling taboo originated from concerns about crew members slipping on banana peels left on the deck.

But there’s a more plausible explanation. Before the introduction of commercial-grade pesticides for banana stalks, sailors could unwittingly transport entire ecosystems of insects, bugs, and spiders aboard with their fruit, resulting in unwanted bites and infections.

Non-sailing days

Sailing on certain days was believed to bring bad luck. They were

  • Thursdays (associated with the God of Storms, Thor’s day)
  • Fridays (the day of Jesus’ crucifixion)
  • the first Monday in April (marking Cain’s slaying of Abel)
  • the second Monday in August (the day Sodom and Gomorrah were obliterated)

Re-naming a boat

Changing your boat’s name is apparently bad luck! If you must, conduct a de-naming ceremony and officially christen the boat again.

Spill some blood

At the start of the fishing season? It is unlucky to set off without shedding some blood in an accident or fight.

Fishing nets

Have an odd number of fishing nets. As Shakespeare said, ‘good luck lies in odd numbers.

Keep a caul with you

To safeguard against the possibility of drowning, sailors often acquired the caul of a newborn, a thin membrane covering the baby’s face and head, before embarking on a voyage. Cauls, though exceptionally rare, were believed to possess a protective quality.

Hat overboard

Lose a hat overboard? It’s going to be a loooong voyage.

Tread on eggshells

Once an egg was cracked open, sailors believed it was essential to break its shell into minuscule fragments. This practice aimed to prevent witches from boarding the ship.

Beware the flat-footed

Sailors had a tendency of avoiding the flat-footed who were considered bad luck.

No women, thank you

Women were deemed unlucky aboard ships due to the belief that their presence distracted the crew, potentially angering the sea and leading to hazardous conditions.

Conveniently, though, nude women were thought to pacify the sea. This is why numerous ship figureheads depicted women with exposed breasts.

Watch your mouth

Forbidden words/phrases onboard:

  • “drowned”
  • “goodbye”
  • “good luck”
  • Land-related words like: church, pigs, foxes, cats, rabbits

No whistling

Don’t! You could “whistle up a storm”.

No good in goodbye

It was considered unlucky for the wives of seafaring men to call out or wave goodbye once their husbands stepped out the door to embark on a voyage.

Stirring tea

If you stirred your tea with a knife or fork might invite bad luck.

Turning a loaf of bread upside down

Once cut, it was considered bad luck to turn a loaf of bread upside down.


Like flat-footed people, red-heads were also believed to reap bad luck. And if you did come across one before you got onbaord, make sure you speak to them before they talk to you!

Don’t pass the salt (the wrong way)

Don’t hand salt to someone else. Put it down so they can pick it up.

Toss a coin

Throw a coin into the sea as you leave port. It’s a small payment to Neptune, the sea god, to ensure a safe voyage. But if you throw a stone, the vessel never returns.

Flowers mean death?

Because flowers may later be used to make a wreath for the dead, they were considered unlucky.

Tattoos & piercings. Not only professional but necessary!

Popeye’s choice of an anchor tattoo on his bicep was quite apt. The anchor symbol was thought to prevent a sailor from drifting away from the ship if he fell overboard. Similarly, a nautical star tattoo was believed to guide sailors safely back home.

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