The Luck of the Irish…Sailors and Surfers
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On St. Patrick’s Day – when everyone’s Irish – the pubs will be filled with people wishing each other “the luck of the Irish” as they toast the day, celebrating with green beer, Irish stew and corned beef and cabbage.
The Irish aren’t the only ones who are lucky, though. Sailors and surfers rely on good luck, too, hoping for gusting winds and killer waves.
From ancient times when Phoenician sailors traveled the Mediterranean Sea trading their purple-dyed fabrics to the early Hawaiian surfers challenging giant waves on long boards, much has been done by mariners to ensure good luck.
To bring good luck to you during this time for the wearing o’ the green, SurfWriter Girls Sunny Magdaug and Patti Kishel have gathered these time-tested good luck traditions and charms used by sailors and surfers just for you.
In Hawaii leis are traditionally thrown into the ocean for good luck whenever a sailor leaves. If the lei comes back to shore, it’s thought that the sailor will safely return.
Hawaiian fishermen believe that lucky fish hooks can ensure a good catch.
Island sailors and surfers wear the peridot, a green volcanic gem called “Pele’s Tears” after the volcano goddess, to guard against evil spirits.
They also wear tiki god charms for good luck and believe that these will give them clarity of thought and great inner knowledge.
Since the 1960s surfers around the world have worn medals with the image of St. Christopher, the Patron Saint of Travelers, for good luck and to keep themselves safe.
Counting waves can improve your luck, too. Many surfers believe that the third wave of a set is best and the ninth wave of the ninth set is the best of all.
And, when you’re ready to come ashore, never paddle in; always catch a wave and ride the whitewater in. That will set you up for good waves the next time.
Some other good luck sailing traditions that SurfWriter Girls discovered include when you board a boat be sure to step on deck with your right foot first.
Don’t whistle on board for fear of whistling up a storm.
Throw some coins in the sea to show your good will and gratefulness for the bounty that the sea offers.
Also make sure that all buckets on the ship are right side up; upside down buckets signify a sinking ship. If you have a good fishing day, wear the same clothes unwashed the next day. You don’t want to wash your luck away.
While black cats are usually considered unlucky, Irish and British sailors feel the opposite and often adopt black “ship’s cats” for good luck, tasking them with the job of keeping rodents at bay. Blackie, an illustrious ship’s cat during WW II, served on the HMS Prince of Wales and even had the distinction of meeting Prime Minister Winston Churchill.
Some sailors think that polydactyl cats – cats with extra toes – bring additional luck. Author Ernest Hemingway must have thought the same thing since the cats at his home in Key West, Florida, all had extra toes…and the cats living there now – the cats’ descendants – do as well.
So, on this St. Patrick’s Day, if you’re toasting “the luck of the Irish” at O’Malleys, Hennessey’s, Clancy’s, or The Irisher pubs on Main Street in Old Town Seal Beach, remember to toast the luck of the sailors and surfers, too.
As they say in Ireland, “May you always have the wind at your back” – whether you’re setting sail on a sunny day or waiting at the lineup for the next set of waves to break.
And, if a black cat crosses your path, consider yourself lucky!
SurfWriter Girls Sunny and Patti offer this Irish toast to you:
May good luck be your friend in whatever you do
And may trouble always be a stranger to you.
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