The almost only safe assumption that one could make about fishermen is that they are all superstitious. At least, I’ve never met one who wasn’t. There is a slough of superstitions out there, almost as many as fishermen. Some are more commonly known than and abided by than others. The number one cardinal sin on a boat is to whistle, alas, one will whistle up a storm. I almost got fired once from accidentally whistling. I was clear out in Togiak, too and would have been screwed to find my own transportation home.
Leaving the hatch covers upside down is another big one. I’m not real sure what will happen but I just know I’ve never done it to find out. Saying the word “horse” on a boat is bad luck in some circles. I think this one came from back in the day of wooden boats that used to transport horses. In bad weather horses scare, kick, and damage the boat. You are supposed to replace the word “horse” with draft-animal as in “I have a 200 draft-animal power Volvo diesel engine…”
Of course, bananas are bad luck on a boat. Everyone knows that. This is because putting bananas next to other fruit makes them turn rotten faster. Some folks tweak this one a little bit and say that bananas are only bad luck in the wheelhouse. But what if you have a bowpicker and don’t have a wheelhouse? I don’t know, but I wouldn’t chance it.
Another is not leaving the deck bucket right side up, it simulates the boat filling with water and sinking. Coffee mugs need to all hang the same direction, though I don’t remember the direction or the reason for this one. OMG! I almost forgot a HUGE one; never ever leave port on Friday. This is a biggie and I can’t believe it almost escaped me. One other boat made this mistake and was never heard from again. Want to know which one? The Titanic. Yup, left port on a Friday and look what happened to them.
A lesser-known superstition is having someone of the opposite sex pee on your net for good luck. I’m not going to really go into detail on this one.
Another superstition, one that came around to bite me in the ass once, a little bit, is throwing all your spare change overboard to appease the fish gods. I only worked on one boat that abided to this one and have never heard of it since. Makes me wonder about that skipper.
Anyhow, me wanting to be a good deckhand, I reached into my pocket as requested and sent my coins into the drink. It was a donation to the herring gods, or so I was told, as we steamed west to seine Kodiak and Togiak. All was fine and dandy until the day I got smacked in the face with one of the metal rings on the bottom of the seine. It gave me a big fat bloody lip and put 3 cracks in my front tooth.
The next day was a day off and our spotter pilot offered to fly me into Kodiak to have it looked at by a dentist since we were about to head out further towards the end of the earth, Togiak.
I hopped in the plane with the plan to look up a dentist in the phone book and give them a shout in Kodiak. But, when I arrived, I had no quarters for the payphone (this was way before the day of cell phones.) In addition to bumming a ride from the pilot I had to bum a quarter, too. Though, it was mostly all for naught anyhow. The dentist told me there I had a 50/50 that my tooth was going to break in two. Thanks, but I could have guessed that on my own. Oh well, it was a pretty day for a flight and I got to get off the boat for an afternoon. Though I did spend the next month drinking tons of milk and not biting into apples. Fast-forward 14 years later, my front tooth still has 3 cracks in it, but is holding up just fine.
Knock on wood.