3 Superstitions of boaters, here’s their story


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3 Superstitions of boaters, here’s their story

The world of sea-goers is made up of many aspects but, almost inescapably, among them cannot be missing a fundamental one, traceable back through the centuries: superstition. On board, believe it or not, there are things that are bad luck (read “bad luck”). And there are not a few beliefs about it. Some have a foundation of truth, a meaning behind them; others, however, are mere myths to be debunked. Here are 3 of the most well-known cases, “practices” to ward off the unfortunate lapse, or myths to dispel.


Green boats, an all-native paranoia

Just see a green-colored boat and Italian sailors will start feeling wood, iron, and whatever else they think is necessary to ward off the jinx. In omnia pericula… Yet, only the Italians. Yes, because this is a belief all our own, only by us a green-colored boat brings bad luck. In the rest of the world, on the other hand, the landscape is full of green hulls, even beautiful boats that have never demonstrated this Italic belief. In ocean sailing, for example, quite a few hulls are green, a color most would avoid before embarking on such crossings, yet nothing. The same goes for several commercial companies and their floating behemoths in green. It reigns here over all Evergreen, basically, the fleet-made green. Yet, nothing, no jinx, no one believes it (leaving aside the little hiccup that happened to Ever Given in Suez…).

Satellite photograph of the Ever Given incident during its transit through the Suez Canal.

Why, then, in Italy, does a green boat immediately evoke superstitious thoughts and superstitious rituals? The belief finds its roots in the distant past, but not too distant either. Just go back to the era of large ships or, for that matter, wood and iron shipbuilding. Here, green, was generally an undesirable color on board, not so much because of bad luck, but because it risked distracting attention from a not inconsiderable element: copper green, precisely tending to green. What is meant by this? Easy: on hulls made and spliced the “old-fashioned way,” seeing copper green meant identifying symptoms of oxidation on board and the consequent and potential weakening of the hull’s constituent structures. No small signal. Painting in green simply risked hiding from view the appearance of these symptoms that, without preventive intervention, could lead to very unpleasant outcomes.

Changing the name of the boat: if necessary, here’s how not to risk it

If green appears to be a phobia of boating in the Belpaese, one instead agrees with the vast part of the boating world that it is quite a risk to change a boat’s name. There is little to be done, changing the name of a boat “bad luck,” it is a direct offense to the sea deities. It is, as evident, an ancient belief, a belief anchored in a tradition that sees the boat as a living creature with its own soul, a soul to which the name is closely linked, registered with the sea gods. Changing the name without duly communicating it is, therefore, not advisable, on pain of antagonizing the deities. An affront, in short. There are, however, solutions that lend themselves to the eventuality, removing the name from the records and ensuring the “salvation” of the vessel.

The trick is simple: you must have a friendly boat and have it cut at least 3 times (three) the wake of the boat whose name is to be changed. A belief, of course, but it doesn’t hurt to try, that you never know. Other theories see different solutions, but the climax is always the same: changing the name without caring is not a good thing; the sea may not appreciate it.

Superstitions. If the bottle doesn’t break at launch: playing it forward

Here we get into difficult territory, because when the damage is done, it is done. Every self-respecting launch, in fact, involves the throwing of the bottle by the boat’s godmother (or godfather, but tradition prefers the former option): champagne or sparkling wine it may be (no prosecco, it doesn’t count), the important thing is that the bottle breaks as it hits the starboard bow (or on the keel). First attempt. If it doesn’t break, stay cool, because, if at launch the bottle doesn’t explode, flooding the boat, bad luck to the boat-and to its occupants, by transitive property. How to do it? The trick is to play ahead, preventing any risk. Because as much as it may be superstition, coincidences are not few, indeed.

When in doubt, in addition to adjusting the force and calculating how the bottle will impact the boat, it may be wise to get a thin bottle. And, if you really want to be on the safe side, given the thickness of Champagne bottles, it may make sense to look for a specific one and, at worst, decant the liquid into it, then seal with a cork. A simple but effective trick.

Why, then, say that you enter difficult terrain if the solution is so trivial? Easy, history here leads to wrong thinking. Blatant evidence of this, among many, is the launching of Italy, a hull designed and launched to compete in the 1986 America’s Cup. At the appointed time, the godmother threw the bottle onto the starboard bow to witness, in the general murmur, the rebound of it. Rebound repeated on the second attempt before finally breaking on the third. But the former is what counts. Not to mention that, in breaking on the third shot, the glass shards injured the godmother herself. The morning after launching, the boat is later found half sunk. Well begun…in short, a lame career from the beginning, with a constellation of misfortunes to follow throughout its existence, with a disastrous America’s Cup and more than half a crew disembarking in the process. Even the Main Sponsor, Maurizio Gucci, will not go through pleasant ones in that short Cup period.

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