We sailors are a very superstitious lot, to the point of the ridiculous sometimes. We talked about refusing to be hauled on a Friday. We've delayed trips so as not to leave on a Friday. We hove-to off Pitcairn Island for five hours one time, then set sail at 12:01 am, so we didn't leave on a Friday. It was a good trip, so who knows if waiting made sense or not?
We always give Neptune a tot of rum when we leave on a passage and when we complete a passage. It doesn't hurt to ask for a little extra protection when you're out there. So far nothing fatal has occurred, so we're thinking it works. We were out of rum on a trip from Florida to Panama one time and toasted him with vodka instead. Evidently vodka is not one of his favorites because we had a rotten trip. The weather was crappy and the rudder arm broke as we were approaching the entrance to the Panama Canal zone. Though David jury-rigged it and we arrived safely, there were a few challenging moments … all because we didn't have rum.
Renaming the boat was a major undertaking because it's considered the height of bad luck. We took the risk because the old name (that which is never mentioned) was not a good one. According to some, the only way to avoid bad luck when renaming a boat is to burn the boat to the waterline. That didn't seem like a viable option, so we had to do a considerable amount of research to come up with some reasonable ways to rename our new home and still stay in Neptune's good graces. It turned out that we had to de-name the boat in one ceremony first and then re-name it in a second ceremony. The more you know, huh?
The de-naming ceremony required us to take everything off the boat (including the name on the transom) that bore the previous name except for one piece of paper. After thanking Neptune for having kept the boat safe with its old name, David burned the final piece of paper and threw the ashes into the sea. The renaming ceremony was a bit more complicated and included, but was not limited to, a lock of hair from a red-haired virgin tied around a rabbit's foot, a bucket of sea water and copious amounts of champagne. During the ceremony, David asked Neptune to accept the new name of the boat and protect her and her crew. Not sure if it was the red hair, the rabbit's foot or the champagne, but who cares? So far, it's worked. We'll talk more about these ceremonies in another blog post.
We don't adhere to many of the other sailor's superstitions, and there are quite a number of them. Never cut your hair or your nails on a boat … these are considered offerings to other gods and Neptune will get jealous. No fresh flowers … funerals at sea. No whistling...it encourages the wind to blow. Rabbits are bad luck...but we're not sure why (reminds sailors that they haven't had any in awhile?). No bananas … who knows why, maybe you can slip on a banana peel?
Killing an albatross is bad luck (as if). Killing a seagull is bad luck ...they're the souls of men who have died at sea. Seeing a swallow at sea is good luck … it means you're close to land. Cats on board are good luck … they kill rodents (and potentially provide one extra meal...just kidding). Dolphins swimming beside the boat are good luck … they relay Neptune's greetings and we like this one.
Women on board are considered bad luck. I think it's because they caused hard feelings between the crewmen who didn't have women for long months and those who were smiling more often. All I know is that on this boat, a woman (and I do mean singular woman, not women) is good luck and keeps the captain happy.