9 Boating Myths and Urban Legends To Tell In The Dark

The sea is full of myth and lore. It’s what happens when you combine the elements with adventure, the drama of the millennia-old sea with the passion of sailors. We rounded up nine of the most popular sailing urban legends that, whether rational or not, many sailors still adhere to.

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1. No whistling allowed

Superstition has it that whistling will tempt the winds to blow back, resulting in a chaotic voyage. 

2. Don’t sail on Fridays

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Friday is considered an unlucky day because it’s the day of the Crucifixion. A better point: Is this the reason why most charters encourage Saturday-Saturday bookings? (And why, in fact, you’ll find the best rates for weekly bookings that start on Saturday?)

3. Don’t bring that banana

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Bananas have long been considered to be unlucky items to bring onboard. Some fishers take this superstition so seriously that they won’t even allow Banana Boat sunscreen on board. 

4. Ink yourself

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Today, nautical tattoos may be more fashion statements than anything else, but for many sailors, they’re superstitious emblems meant to ward off bad luck at sea. 

5. Everyone loves cats

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While the appearance of many items are considered to be bad luck, cats are actually a welcome sight. This one makes sense, since cats are reputable mice-hunters.

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6. Beware of sharks

When a shark follows a ship, mariners read it as a sign that someone will die on board. Think of it as the Grim Reaper of the seas.

7. Don’t re-name your boat

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Don’t name your boat unless you plan on sticking with it for a lifetime. Why? If you ask a sailing old-timer, he’ll tell you that i’s because every ship’s name goes into Poseidon’s ‘Ledger of the deep,’ and when you rename a ship, you’re basically going behind his back and taking the naming into your hands. Swift retribution — aka, a lifetime of bad luck — will follow.

8. Leave the flowers at home

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They might make perfect decorative touches to your cabin, but flowers are considered bad luck in a ship. Many mariners associate them with funerals and won’t tempt fate by bringing any on board. 

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9. Let those beards be

Personal grooming is largely frowned upon by seasoned seafarers, and is seen as a harbinger of bad luck. Now, as in then, unkept beards are seen as a representation of dominance and maturity.

Have any favorite sailing and boating urban legends of your own? Share them in the comments below!

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