Maritime Myth Busters
Exploring Superstitions Held By Mariners For Centuries
Cadets were asked to pack a variety of items for Sea Term 2018. The list provided to the cadets included sunscreen, insect repellent, soap, shampoo, and foot powder. One item not on the list? A black cat!
You probably think that it’s crazy to even mention packing a black cat, right? Aren’t they thought to bring bad luck? And Captain Campbell wouldn’t allow cadets to bring cats on board the TS Kennedy, would he?
British and Irish sailors once believed that bringing a black cat on a ship would bring good luck to the vessel and those that sailed on it. When you look at this superstition with a practical eye, it does make sense. Most ships that transported grain also carried unwanted rats and mice. The cat was happy to put an end to the pesky rodents.
Some sailors placed even greater importance on a polydactyl cat. It does make sense that a cat born with extra toes would have a much better sense of balance on a rocking ship. Balance was especially important considering some sailors feared that if a ship’s cat fell overboard, there would be nine years of bad luck for the vessel and the crew.
Things begin to sound even crazier when you learn that mariners also believed that the ship's cat could predict the weather - and start storms with its tail. If a cat sneezed, sailors watched for rain. If the feline was especially frisky, the crew braced for strong winds. And, if the cat licked its fur n the direction opposite of how it grew, word quickly spread that a hail storm was imminent.
Aboard the TS Kennedy, the Bridge is equipped with state-of-the-art instruments that track the weather, allowing Captain Campbell and the cadets to make accurate predictions.
Thankfully, all of the cadets left their black cats at home. There is no need to bring a black cat on the TS Kennedy.