To carry on from my previous feature on nautical superstitions, I am delighted to present the second part of this intriguing subject, and hopefully I’ll be able to help you free your boat of any bad mojo that you may have unwittingly conjured up. So let us begin with launching a boat!
According to popular belief, bad luck will follow you for the rest of your days if you set sail on a Friday, and double that for a Friday the 13th.
To bolster the point, I recall the story of a ship building company at the turn of the 19th Century whose principals decided to test the hex to the max. Cutting to the chase here, they signed on to build the ship on a Friday, commissioned the keel on a Friday, finished driving the last fastening on a Friday, hired a captain named Friday, on a Friday, by the way, and launched and christened the vessel on a Friday. There were lots of other Friday occurrences but I’m sure you get my drift here. Oh yes, one more: The vessel was named…yep, Friday.
Anyway, on her maiden voyage, she smartly slipped her lines and drifted away from the dock on the outgoing tide. With family, friends, and investors waving from quayside, her crew unfurled her sails. She caught the wind, and slowly, bit by bit, made for the horizon after which she was never heard from again. So, as my good friend Father O’Really would have me do, let’s uncork a bit of the wee Bushmills and set aside Fridays for other things rather than splashing our boats.
But let’s get back to the problem at hand. Before the notion of using champagne to wet the bows of boats slipping down the ways, or more likely being lowered in the TravelLift for the vessel’s first taste of water, wine was poured upon the decks and represented a libation to the gods, what with their well-known and avid proclivity for the drink, thus ensuring good luck.
Christening a ship by breaking a bottle of champagne across her bow at the time of launching arose from this practice.
However, there is one derivation of this that is a bit more macabre. Somewhere back in antiquity, Druid stuff and all that, it is said that only human sacrifice could appease the capriciousness of the spirit world. With the decks thus bloodied, the vessel could now sail upon the waters in safety. I, for one, am glad that’s over with as is, I am sure, the hapless participant of such a ritual.
A good and proper launching
Now, to guarantee a good and proper launching, and to make sure no calamity, disaster, mishap, or ruin comes of your beginning this portion of your watery adventures, it is important to have this most sacred of nautical undertakings well planned out.
First, arrange your launching on an outgoing tide; preferable at the top of the flood and just before the ebb. In addition, if you can plan things during any cycle of a full moon, neap, or spring tide, this is also desirable but not absolutely necessary. But doing it during this special astronomical occurrence couldn’t hurt. This might well irritate your marina manager, but when you’re dealing with the alternative, I’d opt for the short-lived annoyance that anything from a six-pack to a freshly caught fish to a t-shirt can usually cure.
With everything now in place, take a pair of old shoes, whether one by one or tied together, and throw them in the water at the moment any part of the hull first touches the water. Having someone standing by helps to coordinate this. There is, of course, some leeway in the timing of the toss so don’t implode if you are either slightly ahead of the dipping or just behind it.
The shoes—boots are also permissible as are boat shoes, sneakers, sandals, flip flops, or any other type of foot wear—must be well worn, beyond repair, and a long-time favorite of the boat owner’s.
The older and more seasoned the better, as the long accumulated mileage will guarantee that much time and tide will pass before any monkey business will, well, monkey around with your vessel. And as far as that champagne goes, please make sure the bottle is well scored so that it will shatter and bathe the bows in liquid on the first shot.
You are allowed a second shot but in doing so, this will lessen the amount of protective time the shoes were originally giving you. For the full effect, you must wait at least 24 hours before cracking the bottle. To counteract this blight, hang the shoes overboard in the dock, much the same as a zinc guppy, for the same amount of time.
Once the boat is safely afloat, retrieve the footwear—I’m sure your dockmates and neighbors as well as that feisty marina manager don’t want a pair of old shoes floating around the docks—and toss them in the garbage with complete confidence as they have now and forever, served their purpose.
“I’m going below to put on my 50 mph hat cause I only got 40 mph hair.” Dick Weber, owner, Canyon Club Marina/South Jersey Yacht Sales, Cape May, New Jersey, as we hit 41.8 mph on his 73-foot Ocean Yacht in Biscayne Bay, Miami, February, 2005.
On having redheads on board
Okay guys and gals, for all of you who are smitten with significant others whose hair, locks, tresses, curls, buzz cuts, or manes are carrot-topped, crimson, scarlet, ruby, burgundy, or any hue, shade, tint, color, tinge, tone, or blush in any variation, whether dyed or au natural, on the color red, this one is for you.
Since the days of yore, having a redheaded person on board has been considered a harbinger of bad luck. Whether its roots can be found in the old ‘Red Sky At Dawning, Sailor Take Warning’ elegy or some other limerick, couplet, rhyme, or verse dating back to when the first mariner set off from terra firma to float upon the watery world, we will most likely never know the true reason for this particular predicament.
However, should you be expecting a redheaded person aboard, you must, lest you suffer the most dire of consequences, not allow them to speak to you first. Therefore, the utmost vigilance must be taken.
As soon as you see them coming down the dock, quay, gangplank, wharf, pier, or being ferried from ashore via dinghy or lowered by helicopter—a pair of high-quality binoculars should be used—be prepared to speak first.
Whether it’s a hearty ‘Hal-lo!’, ‘Ahoy!’, ‘Hey, hiyadoin!’, or whatever greeting, salutation, welcome, salute, or any other means of communication available that causes you to say the spoken work—don’t worry about texting but do about voice mails—it absolutely, without question must be you who utter it first.
Should the unthinkable occur, you will have to immediately cease all tête-à-tête, discussion, dialogue, conversation, or any communication that may be construed as a verbal discourse, including singing or speaking in iambic pentameter, or any other lyric or poetic presentation, with the offending person. Even if they continue to assault your auditory senses with lexis, you will desist with all your inner strength.
Using an intermediary, or if no one else is around or refuses, on secular or religious grounds, to be part of this exorcism, you will, without delay, communicate with the aforementioned scarlet-headed person via the written word or sign language as long as no sound utters from you.
During this inscribing or gesticulating discourse, after you have explained yourself fully and made it quite clear that you are most serious about the unfolding and subsequent ramifications of these event—you may be looked upon with dread, scorn, revulsion, as well as a stare that might very well question your sanity, but, my dear fellow sojourner, see it through—you are to ask for a small cutting of hair.
You are then to place it in a small envelope, seal it, and place the packet in a larger sachet and mail the package to someone you know who lives inland and not within sight of a major body of water; whether it be ocean, lake, stream, pond, brook, river, tributary, waterway, canal, channel, inlet, gulf, bay, cove, creek, sound, or fjord.
They are to be instructed to place the parcel, unopened, in a dark place such as a closet or drawer, and keep it there for one complete cycle of the moon after which it can be thrown away. Choose wisely now pilgrim, for entrusting such an important burden should only be asked of someone worthy of the responsibility.
The parcel must always remain unopened up to the time it is trashed. For the length of its incarceration, and until it is properly disposed of, you and your vessel and everyone on board, will have immunity from harm. And once the package has been forever dispatched, you and your redheaded crewmember can live in everlasting nautical harmony. Now, isn’t that a nice way to wrap this one up? I think so too.
Gongoozler’s and dockwalloper’s are two distinct kinds of people. The former stands around the waterfront with their hands in their pockets watching other folks do things while the latter walks around the dock, checking things out.
By now dear travelers, you’ve most likely picked up on the importance of not only chasing but keeping away some of these troubles by coordinating their unraveling with certain phases of the moon, especially when it is full.
This particular component is nothing to be scoffed at or ignored as the moon not only plays a special role in the natural world but as we all know, “There are more things in heaven and earth dear Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”
From time immemorial, the dead orb that accompanies our planet on its own ceaseless celestial voyage has had a profound effect on humankind. Such is the upshot on our collective consciousnesses that there’s “Moon For The Misbegotten” and “Moon Over Miami”; Native American author William Least Heat Moon of Blue Highways fame; pop star Moon Martin whose 1978 album—yes, in those days it was albums kids—‘Shots From A Cold Nightmare’ was received quite well; the infamous Moonies of the 1970’s and 80’s; H.G. Wells’ “From The Earth to The Moon”; moonshine whisky;
Pink Floyd’s remarkable Dark Side of The Moon as well as Van Morrison’s mercurial Moondance; NFL pro quarterback Warren Moon; other songs such as Blue Moon, [It’s only a] Paper Moon, By The Light of The Silvery Moon, Shine on, shine on Harvest Moon, the Rolling Stones’ Moonlight Mile, and Warren Zevon’s They Moved the Moon; Streit’s Moon Strips matzohs; of course there’s always howling at the moon and the Moonwalk, made famous by pseudo-human Michael Jackson; the well-known Man in The Moon, not to be confused by the movie of almost-the-same-name, The Man on The Moon nor the movie of the same name starring Jim Carey as hell-bent-for-destruction comedian Andy Kaufman; moon pies (they came in artificial chocolate and strawberry flavored).
And there's more.... Moon Dog, the Viking-clad existential poet who, until he died, made it his life’s work to stand on a street corner in New York City; and then there was his parallel universe buddy, Moondoggie, the half-wit surfer dude from those Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello flicks; the absolutely wonderful Goodnight Moon children’s book; the persistent sophomoric inclination towards mooning; the famous comic strip of the 1940’s and 50’s, Moon Mullins; Frank Moon, who played the role of the doctor on the hit television show, The A-Team; D.H. Lawrence’s, “…the new moon, of no importance”; lots of Asian kids having Moon as a surname.
There are many references in literature, poetry, and music to moon-faced girls, none of which I can name right now but I know they exist; Moon Unit Zappa, daughter of Frank Zappa, transcendental leader and driving force of the 1960’s band, The Mothers of Invention; the movie Moonstruck with Cher and Nicholas Cage; a moon reference from Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” reads thus:
The moving Moon went up the sky.
And nowhere did abide;
Softly she was going up,
And a star or two beside-
To Honeymooner Jackie Gleason’s exasperated signature shout as Brooklyn bus driver Ralph Cramden, “to the moon Alice!”; the nursery rhyme line where the cow jumped over the moon; the moon adventures of Baron von Munchausen.
And who could ever forget the cheesy 1950’s black and white sci-fi film classic, Cat-Women of the Moon; in colonial America, March was the time of the Fish Moon; for the Chinese, the month was known as the Sleepy Moon; the Cherokee tribe called it the Windy Moon while the Choctaw and Dakotah Sioux knew it as The Big Famine Moon and the Moon When Eyes Are Sore From Bright Snow respectively;
For the Celts it was the Moon Of Winds; Medieval Englanders christened it the Chaste Moon while the Neo Pagans naturally dubbed it the Death Moon—go figure, Pagans; and to those people inhabiting New Guinea, the appellation for the full moon occurring in March ranged from Rainbow Fish to Palalo Worm to Open Sea to Rain and Wind Moon. A rose by any other name, eh? And of course looked what happened to poor Larry Talbot in the original Wolfman film.
Going with the flow
Then there’s the whole tide thing coupled with our own bodily makeup of lots of water and the fact that we begin life by swimming around in amniotic fluid for nine months and the possible effect the moon could have on that. I could easily go on and on and fill several more pages but I think you catch my drift here. So bottom line, don’t discount the effect that the moon has on us mere mortals when dealing with keeping good luck aboard and bad luck at bay. When in doubt, or if you need an extra push, it couldn’t hurt to wait for the proper time in the lunar cycle to get things done right.
Well friends, that’s it for now. There are legions more to deal with but this is all I have room for in this edition. Spurred on by my terminal wanderlust, I will be scouring the Seven Seas and visiting every atoll, island, port-of-call, harbor, wharf, quay, marina, town, seaport, and mooring in my watery travels to uncover not only the sources of other ills not dealt with here, but more of the spells, incantations, charms, potions, concoctions, remedies, cures and treatments for all that ails ye. If you have a hex that needs dispelling drop me a line and I’ll see what I can do. Hopefully I’ll be able to help you free your boat of any bad mojo that you may have unwittingly conjured up.
If you have a salty cure of your own for what ails us poor unfortunate souls, please send it in. In the meantime, don’t leave any hatch covers lying upside down on your deck, if a redheaded person is getting aboard your boat always be the first to speak to them before they speak to you, and never, absolutely never mess with an albatross.
Now, if I can only find that Fijian talisman that my good buddy Capt. Bill Pike gave me, I just might be able to go fishing again.
Fair Winds Shipmates!