May’s amazing Gin of the Month is distilled in a place shrouded in mystery and legend: beautiful Fermanagh. As an ode to the distillery itself – an old boat repair shop on the water of Lough Erne – we’ve pulled together the legends and lore generations of sailors have lived by.
No, it’s not because the slippery peels sending sailors overboard, whatever slapstick comedians may have us believing.
Rather, bananas are thought to bring bad luck due to the number of ships that disappeared in the 1700s with this fruit filling their cargo holds. They were also known to let off toxic gases as they over-fermented onboard, setting their ships up for a big blast should anything go wrong.
Rest assured, sailors: no bananas were involved in the making of Boatyard Gin.
No Girls Allowed
Historically, woman were forbidden onboard a ship or boat, as sailors believed that the presence of a female would anger the sea.
However (ironically) the sight of a bare-chested lady is thought to calm the waters, which is why we see so many figureheads of woman and mermaids carved into the front of ships.
Most of us count the minutes to the end of the working week, when we can crack open the gin, while sailors consider Fridays as unlucky days to sail. This is because Christ was crucified on a Friday. They are also not keen on Thursdays, as that is Thor’s day, the god of thunders and storms. Sunday is the favoured day to set sail.
(Don’t) Whistle While You Work
Whistling or singing into the wind whilst onboard a boat is considered very bad luck, indeed, as the sound will ‘whistle up a storm’. But not all music is forbidden aboard a boat: sea shanties are work songs, sung to encourage the crew to work harder, the music’s rhythm coordinating the efforts of many sailors hauling on lines.
The tradition of christening a new ship for good luck and safe travel dates back to the sacrificial traditions of the Vikings, who offered up human blood when a ship was launched (we prefer the booze method ourselves).
The choice of beverages evolved from whiskey, to brandy and now Champagne. We would obviously prefer smashing a bottle of gin – but then again, what a waste!
In for a Penny
Boarding a boat with pennies in your pockets is bad news for fisherman, as it means the catch will be small.
At sea, some words must not be uttered to ensure the ship and crew's safe return. These include obvious ones like "drowned" and "goodbye", and if someone says "good luck" to you, it is sure to attract the opposite. The only way to reverse the curse is by drawing blood, so better to keep shtum!