SUPERSTITIONS AT SEA
Fishermen are superstitious by nature. Many superstitions are as old as the profession itself. And some are as unique as the fisherman, the result of a great fishing season he’s trying to replicate – or a terrible season he’s trying to forget.
Sig Hansen, captain of the Northwestern, is no different. Here’s a sample of some of Sig’s personal superstitions:
“I will not go to sea without pencils, erasers (taped to the end of the pencil) and Post-it notes. For some reason, it drives me crazy not to have them. If I don’t have them, I’ll turn the boat around and go back to town to get them.”
“I got a New Zealand fish hook pendant as a gift. I gave it to my daughter and every time she wore the pendant to her soccer games, they won. So I took the pendant on the boat with me. I figured if it worked for her it could work for me. Now, if I get a new good luck charm, I test it out on my kids first.”
“I hate when guys talk about how much money we’re going to make that season. It’s best not to tempt fate by challenging it with arrogance – I always go into the season with a humble, grateful attitude. Anything can happen out there.”
“Don’t ever bring a suitcase on my boat. This is an old superstition handed down through the generations and I don’t question it. The first season the cameramen came on board, they had their camera gear in these suitcase-looking things. I made them remove their equipment and they had to leave their suitcases on the dock.
Don’t step foot on my boat with bananas. It’s bad luck. I was on another boat in Dutch Harbor in January and they had bananas in the galley. I couldn’t believe it. I’ll bed they had a lousy season.”
And there are superstitions that, while few know where they came from, few ignore them. Following are some popular maritime superstitions that are widely recognized today:
Never step on or off a boat by leading with the left foot. This is thought to stem from sailors who are leery of things left-handed.
Never whistle on board a boat, especially in the wheelhouse. Sailors used to think whistling onboard will raise a gale, hence “whistling up a storm.”
Never bring bananas on a boat. The fastest sailing ships used to carry bananas from the tropics to U.S. ports to land the bananas before they could spoil. The banana boats were so fast that fishermen never caught anything while trolling for fish from them, and that’s where the superstition got started. Another theory is that a species of spider with a lethal bite likes to hide in bunches of bananas.
Never Set Sail on a Friday. Since it is believed that Christ was crucified on a Friday, this day should be observed and respected. Therefore, it is considered unlucky to disembark on a Friday; many ships that have done so have been lost at sea. Legend says the British Navy fought this superstition: they laid the keel of a warship on a Friday, launched the vessel on another Friday, named the craft HMS Friday and sailed it out of port for the first time on Friday. It never made it back to the harbor again.
(source for info: Discovery