Boat Superstitions and Symbolism in Yacht Design

Boat Superstitions

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On October 31st, 2020, a Blue Moon – the second full moon to fall within the calendar month – will illuminate the night sky, providing the perfect eerie effect for that intentionally spooky, candy-filled festivity we call Halloween.

The rarity of a Blue Moon – as well as a full moon on Halloween – is quite the treat, and something that won’t be experienced for another 19 years. Plenty of superstitions surround the Blue Moon (turn your bed over during a Blue Moon for fertility or pick flowers under a Blue Moon for good fortune, for example), but the full moon itself is also a symbol of culmination and completion – something we yacht designers embrace with enthusiasm!

Plenty of superstitions surround the Blue Moon, but the full moon itself is also a symbol of culmination and completion

The very nature of spending time on the sea, whether as a salty sailor or a refined yachtsman, invites belief in symbolism and superstition. Many superstitions are simply accepted as fact and, given the sea’s penchant for unpredictable behavior, those associated with the marine world tend to embrace them as factors that contribute to luck and protection.

SHIPWRECKS AND YELLOW FRUIT

Boat superstition and ocean symbolism makes its way into yacht design and decor as well. Paintings of shipwrecks or stormy seas, for example, are frowned upon in yacht decor – for obvious reasons!

The very nature of spending time on the sea, whether as a salty sailor or a refined yachtsman, invites belief in symbolism and superstition

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A bunch of bananas in your galley may raise the eyebrow of a weathered mariner, as this yellow fruit has long been regarded as an omen of disaster if found onboard. This idea began when, at the height of the Spanish Empire’s trade routes between the South Atlantic and Caribbean, it was noted that nearly every ship to disappear at sea was carrying a cargo of….bananas.

Bananas have been blamed for reckless cruising causing ships to run aground (because they were speeding so as to reach their destination before the cargo spoiled), for emitting poisonous gas when stored in confined spaces or, most commonly, for injuries caused by a certain species of poisonous spider that likes to hide within the bunch.

Now I don’t pay too much attention to bananas, but you’ll never find fake lemons in my designs. This personal boat superstition was inspired by a yacht builder, who, many years ago asked that I not include faux lemons in any of their spec production boat decor. Why? Because one time, while meeting with an owner onboard, the conversation got heated and, in frustration, the owner grabbed and hurled the closest thing within reach – a plastic lemon – at the bewildered builder! Hence, I have never used a fake lemon on a boat. 

CHAMPAGNE AND ROSES

Boat Superstitions

© Adobe Stock

Many popular idioms and superstitions we reference throughout our daily lives saw their origins in seafaring lore, like giving someone a “wide berth” or being “on board” with an idea or preparing to “batten down the hatches” before a storm.

Many boat superstitions have turned into time-honored traditions. At the end of the day, what’s so bad about christening a boat with the smash of a champagne bottle or stepping aboard with your right foot for good luck? I personally feel that hanging a piece of carpet over the bulwark, as I’ve seen many people do, is very bad luck. I once stepped on what I believed to be solid ground under a piece of carpet hanging like this, but instead, I stepped on the loose part and fell right in the water, bouncing off the dock on my way down!

Christening a yacht with a bottle of champagne is a time-honored tradition with origins in boat superstition

Of course, there are plenty of boat superstitions that simply do not translate into yacht design – no fresh flowers onboard, for example, as flowers were associated with death and funerals and were expected to be tossed overboard if they ever found their way aboard a ship. Take note of the rest of your day today – you’ll undoubtedly begin to notice plenty of symbols and superstitions that we take for granted in both our onboard and on land life! Drop me a line and tell me, what are some symbols and superstitions you use in your onboard life?

Some ancient superstitions, such as avoiding flowers onboard, simply won’t do in yacht design

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About the Author

About the Author

Destry Darr Pethtel is an award-winning interior designer based in Florida. Her designs have been featured in several luxury yacht publications such as Showboats, Boat International, Yachts International, Yachting, Luxe Magazine to name just a few! Read More About Destry >>

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