USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘Commercial fishing boat’
Folk Beliefs
Signs

Red Sky At Morning

Background:

My informant is a twenty-two year old deckhand on a lobster vessel out of Gloucester, Massachusetts. He began working part-time on the boat as a senior in high school and began lobstering full-time just out of high school. He has also worked fishing cod, crabs, and halibut. He spends a great deal of time on the water in his free time as well.

Performance:

“I think everyone has heard this one. ‘Red sky at night, sailor’s delight; red sky at morning, sailor’s take warning?’ Basically it just means that if you’re going out and you see a wicked red sunrise…that’s probably not gonna be good. At night it’s supposed to be red, so that’s okay. We say it on boats and stuff but I think I heard it when I was little somewhere. Everyone says it I guess. Honestly it’s pretty fucking accurate…like, every time I see a red sky when we’re going out in the morning we’re all like ‘shit, this day is gonna suck.’ It’s not like a huge storm or anything, usually, but it really sucks when it’s wicked choppy and rainy or windy or something. I don’t know if there’s science or something about it but I think it’s legit.”

Thoughts:

This saying gives some predictability to an otherwise very unpredictable job. Often both the weather and the success of the trip are equally uncertain. Mike was incredibly adamant that the superstition is true based on anecdotal evidence. Despite the superstition, it does not seem that a red sky in the morning would seriously deter a boat from going out; rather, it portends the quality of the day.

Contagious
Customs
Folk medicine
Protection

Suitcases are not allowed on commercial fishing boats.

Fisherman are not allowed to bring suitcases on board. They must bring their property in duffelbags or drybags. If a greenhorn brings a suitcase they must leave it on dock.

My informant has witnessed a greenhorn bring a suit-case and had to leave it at the dock and the greenhorn had to put his items in a trashbag and bring it on. Another example would be The Deadliest Catch filming crew. They brought their cameras and film equipment in cases, the crew reacted negatively thus they had to put their belongings within trash-bags.

When I asked my informant if he had any ideas why this was such a serious rule and why suitcases brought bad luck. He stated that he did not know why, he said that his father told him this superstition and his captain’s father told him this superstition also. This is a superstition based on lineage as everyone fisherman spreads this to greenhorns and fathers to sons. My informant stated that he does not want to be the reason that his boat does not do well or a horrible accident happens. Thus he follows this superstition and only takes his things in duffelbags.

This is an interesting superstition, my belief is that the reasoning it brings bad luck is that a suitcase is more so for a white-color man, whereas fisherman are blue-color men. Thus by separating the two worlds, fisherman will not have bad luck as they follow the culture by not bringing a suitcase.

Suitcases are considered bad luck just like women are. H explained that his father told him this and

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