Sailors ride the wave of superstition

By Time of article published Jul 13, 2007

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By Arthi Sanpath

Some people don't give much thought to silly superstitions, but skipper Peter Shore is taking no chances today for it is Friday the 13th - the second one this year.

As the Durban International Boat Show starts on Friday, Shore and the rest of his crew will be strictly adhering to old sailing superstitions, fearing that Proserpina and Neptune, gods of the underworld and the sea respectively, might take offence.

While many Durbanites may have thought twice about getting out of bed this morning, avoided the neighbour's black cat and the ladder, they are in fine company because the sailors at Wilson's Wharf are as superstitious as they come - maybe even more so as they venture out to the open seas.

Contrary to the land-lover's view that black cats are bad luck, sailors treasure these felines as they are considered tokens of good luck, signalling the seamen's safe return home.

Among the many things sailors steer clear of are looking back at the port once they depart as this is considered to be bad luck, fresh flowers and bananas, and, at all costs, flat-footed and red-headed people.

Sailors believe that pouring wine on the deck brings good luck. (Could this be how the song What Shall We Do With the Drunken Sailor originated?)

This year the boat show has many exciting features with an exhibition called Off the Beat'n Track, the popular Mallards Marine Gamefish Classic and the Simply Sailing exhibition promising to entertain families.

A sailing regatta will be held tomorrow and on Sunday, and for the more adventurous there will be jet skis, quads and powerboats on display.

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