I’m not sure Stevie Wonder ever stepped foot on a sailboat but when LOOK Insurance Services invited us to be a part of a new campaign they are launching, my songwriter brain snapped right to the famous intro to Stevie’s song “Superstition”. See, The folks at LOOK are taking a fun look at sailing superstitions and wondered if we put any stock in the legendary stories, myths and tropes. Melody and I looked at each other and simultaneously uttered one word… Loa.
If you’re not familiar with Loa Agwe, Lord of the sea and guardian of the sacred underworld, it’s okay… neither were we. That is until my former boss gave me a “good luck” charm just as we were preparing to leave on our maiden voyage aboard our new ship bound for a new life. Mel and I were familiar with Neptune of course and hip to some of the famous sailing superstitions such as not leaving port on a Friday, not whistling on board and the whole red sky at night business but Loa was new to us. If you’ve read our blog at all, you know Melody is a total tech geek and when she encounters something she doesn’t know about, she Googles it. Upon discovering a little about Loa, she also found the ritual that one can do to ensure a safe passage and since we’d already decided not to leave Panama City on a Friday (better safe than sorry right?), we might as well get a little extra insurance… pun intended… and appease Loa, too.
They say if you give an offering – rock salt wrapped in blue paper gently dropped into the sea – Agwe will keep a watchful and protective eye over your journey. So, as we departed Panama City on a bright and beautiful Saturday morning, Melody bounded into the cockpit with a big smile on her face, obviously proud of herself and produced a small, impressive, tightly wrapped wad of blue paper in her palm. It was tied with tiny piece of hemp string. I said, “Where did you get the blue paper?!” Cause… who has blue paper on board, right? She said, “We’re sailors. I had to improvise.” And, improvise she did. She took one square of our environmentally friendly toilet paper and with a blue sharpie, proceeded to carefully dot the entire square until it was the perfect shade of azure. Rock salt? How about some sea salt instead? Loa won’t mind… right?
Well, we gently dropped that perfect little wad into the spectacular Gulf of Mexico, certain our passage to the Chesapeake Bay would be blessed and carefully chaperoned by Loa, Neptune and any other God that felt like they wanted to jump on board, so to speak. Needless to say, that night the remnants of Tropical Storm Beryl unexpectedly backed down the East Coast and pummeled us for twenty-four hours, ripping our main sail and dodger. The rest of the trip was not without incident either (think broken toilet) but we did make the Bay that summer. So much for appeasing the Gods.
If you ask us today about sailing superstitions I think we fall somewhere on the fence between “It never hurts to pay a little mind to the lore and pour a little rum over board to keep Neptune happy” and… “nah, we don’t believe any of that stuff.” That said, when dolphins meet us on a passage, we smile, acknowledging their presence as the purveyors of good luck. We don’t keep bananas on board or do much whistling at sea either. I do however, travel with woman on board, always seen as bad luck in the past, but I keep emphasizing the fact that as long as she’s naked, she’s considered GOOD luck. Mel’s not buying that one.
No, Stevie Wonder may have never set foot on a sailboat. And when it comes to life’s trials and tribulations, “superstition ain’t the way” but on our boat, I guess we have been duped by our own credulity just a bit but then again, we’re sailors right? We travel under five-thousand year old technology. We should be allowed a little leeway.
Do you have any sailing superstitions? Leave them in the comments and tell the folks at LOOK about them by taking their short survey here.
Duane and June says
Hi Guys! Hope all is well with you and you are having a Happy New Year. We are in Puerto Rico! In response to your question regarding superstitions, here is an excerpt from our blog from last fall…
Our trip down the east coast was almost charmed. Things went extremely well. SeaClearly performed wonderfully. Our weather windows developed when, and as, expected. We anchored in nice places, had a couple of short marina stays and we were always ahead of the cold weather and bad storms. Now, we try to plan things to turn out well. But we know better than to take too much credit. And, I do not take it lightly to tempt fate by talking about a string of good luck. We know that fate can be fickle. We carry a full compliment of talismans and symbolic items to try to attract good fortune.
Our most recent addition came from our neighbor, Jack, just before we left. A hand-crafted, stained glass rendition of a white seahorse. The seahorse has long been considered good luck by sailors and represents such qualities as patience, perspective, persistence, friendliness and contentment – all of which we would like to possess someday.
We keep the champagne bottle we used to christen SeaClearly onboard. We also embraced the legacy of her original owners by keeping the brass plaque commemorating her commissioning. We have a relatively nondescript tin container that carries the ashes of our very special dog, Roux. We have a St. Brendan medal given to us by our daughter, Emily, mounted over the nav station. We both have rosaries, given to us by friend Thomas, that we carry all the time. And I carry a gold coin in the same pocket with mine – not sure if that negates any benefits or not. It may seem that we take a shotgun approach to fostering good fortune. And that would be correct.
There’s nothing wrong with a shotgun approach to foster safety and good fortune on the high seas! Thanks for sharing and we hope you’re having a great time in Puerto Rico. Wish we were there!
You poor soul, Loa are medicinal and quite picky. Sharpie is toxic, which would anger Agwe, and yes Loa are going to be offended if you don’t use the right thing. So you essentially pissed him off. Good job! :D
Mercurial, not medicinal
I’m sorry but, I’m a firm believer in “using what you got at the moment.” Maybe Loa (Agwe) needs to lighten up a bit. Appreciate the gesture. Toxic or not, it’s a pretty blue you have to admit.