Top 13 sailing superstitions regarding good luck

Superstitions are not necessarily all about bad luck. And amongst sailors, we have a good number of superstitions that bring good luck as well. So without further ado, let’s get into them:

Ship figurine
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1. Women figureheads: While women were considered bad luck onboard, a naked woman was supposed to calm rough seas. This would explain the busty topless figurines that were fitted at the bow of most early sail ships.

2. Fishing: In order to encourage a better fishing haul, Scottish fishermen would throw one of their crewmembers overboard and then haul him back in.

Tattoo Pig Rooster
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3. Tattoos: The images of a pig and a rooster were often tattooed on the feet of sailors. Though neither the pig or the rooster are known to be good swimmers, the belief was that God would look down upon a shipwreck and see an animal not capable of swimming and would take them in his hand and place them upon land. Though the more believable version was that the crates in which these animals were stored would float and sailors could hold onto them. Tattooing of the North Star (Nautical star or compass rose) also followed the belief that by wearing this symbol it would help the sailors find their way home.

4. Wine: Pouring wine on the deck was supposed to please the Gods and bring good luck on a long voyage.

5. Swallows: Swallows seen at sea are supposed to be a good omen as swallows are land-based and their presence indicates that land is nearby.

6. Dolphins: Dolphins swimming along with the ship is a sign of good luck as dolphins are considered a sacred friend of fishermen, they have the good fortunes of man in mind and their presence indicates that you are under their protection.

7. Right-footed: Stepping on a ship with your right foot brings good luck for that voyage. This follows from the old superstitions against anything done with the left limbs.

8. Rum: Neptune is supposedly fond of rum and a shot of rum offered overboard ensures his protection for the duration of the voyage.

9. Silver coin: Placing a silver coin (heads up) under the main mast ensures the vessel has successful commissions.

10. Horseshoe: A horseshoe secured to the mast kept storms away.

11. Feather of a wren: A sailor carrying the feather of a wren killed on New Year’s Day would not perish in a shipwreck.

12. Gold earrings: Wearing gold earrings was thought to ensure a sailor wouldn’t drown. In most cases, it ensured that if a sailor ended up penniless anyplace, he had something to buy his way out of with.

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13. A black cat: Yes you read that right. A black cat is supposed to be the mother of all good luck that transpires aboard. Cats eat rodents which damage ropes and the grain stored aboard. So you can see how the cat allowed for better mooring ropes and food security.

And that is a brief outlook on the sailing superstitions for good luck. Have you been told of other superstitions in your sailing career? Let us know. Don’t forget to check our article on the Top 13 sailing superstitions for bad luck.


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