Last week, I shared a number of seafaring superstitions. Today, I want to focus on a single belief that spurned an entire urban legend.
Anyone remotely familiar with maritime folklore will tell you it’s considered bad luck to begin a voyage on a Friday. Why? Because bad things happen on a Friday.
Jesus was crucified on Friday, and biblical disasters such as the Great Flood and Adam biting the apple in the Garden of Eden supposedly occurred on a Friday. Whether the latter two are true, the fact remains that Friday is a day to avoid when setting sail.
This belief was so ingrained and so widespread, that in the 19th century the Royal Navy took drastic steps to dispel it by commissioning a ship named the HMS Friday. The ship’s keel was laid on a Friday and she set sail on her maiden voyage on Friday the 13th. If that wasn’t enough, she was commanded by Captain James Friday.
All of this Friday-ism would have certainly proved a point had it worked. Unfortunately for Captain Friday, his crew, and his ship, they were never seen or heard from again. *cue eerie music*
Isn’t that great fodder for an urban legend? As it turns out, the tale of the HMS Friday is precisely that – an impressive story for inspiring goose bumps, but without a shred of truth. False or not, it’s an intriguing snippet of maritime folklore I couldn’t resist sharing. It has all the perfect components of an urban legend with just enough what-if leeway to make you wonder.
To close, I’m sharing a snippet from my upcoming contemporary romance/mystery, TWELFTH SUN. In this scene, my heroine, Reagan Cassidy is having breakfast with the novel’s hero, Dr. Elijah Cross, a twenty-five year old marine archeologist who is brilliant, annoying and good-looking. 🙂 Reagan considers their first encounter humiliating, and is still irritated over what happened. At thirty-five, she’s also thrown by Elijah’s age in contrast to his professional achievements. The scene picks up with them discussing the Twelfth Sun, a 19th century schooner.
“Getting back to the Twelfth Sun,” Elijah continued as if her interruption were of no consequence. “She was built in the 1790’s when Baltimore led the nation in shipbuilding, and came out of Fells Point like most clippers.”
“I thought you said she was a schooner?”
“Pretty much an interchangeable term. The Twelfth Sun was owned by the Wheeler Shipping Company and captained under Samuel Storm. During the war of 1812 she turned privateer and was responsible for single-handedly sinking or capturing ten British vessels. When the war ended, she floundered. The clipper era was on the wane. Changing maritime conditions and economic trends combined to make it almost obsolete.”
Reagan tilted her head. She vaguely recalled her uncle saying something along the same lines. She’d always viewed old sailing ships as poetic, romantic images, but had never taken the time to learn their history.
“Wheeler Shipping fell on hard times and sold to a pair of brothers out of Massachusetts,” Elijah continued. “The Rooks were wealthy, but inexperienced. Samuel Storm stayed on as captain of the Twelfth Sun and continued making cargo runs. In 1836, Chester Rook sent his younger brother Jeremiah along as the shipping company’s onboard representative.”
“The Twelfth Sun sank in 1836.” That much she did know.
Elijah nodded. He eyed her fruit again. “Are you really going to eat that?”
Exasperated, she pushed the plate across the table to him. He grinned broadly and attacked the pieces of cantaloupe, honeydew and pineapple with relish. Munching contentedly, he continued his tale.
“The voyage was doomed from the start. Chester Rook ordered the ship to launch on a Friday in direct opposition to Samuel Storm’s wishes.”
Reagan waited, expecting to learn there’d been a horrible gale or unstable weather conditions.
Elijah simply let the sentence hang.
“So?” she prompted, annoyed by the lapse.
“Friday, Reagan. Anyone familiar with sailing lore knows you never begin a voyage on a Friday. It’s bad luck.”
She bristled. “Ms. Cassidy, please.”
“A little too proper for first names?”
“Just tell me what happened.”
He finished the last of the fruit and drained his coffee. Slumping back in his chair, he folded his arms over his chest and stared at her across the table. The thick black line of his lashes made his eyes intensely blue, as vibrant as cut glass caught in the sun. Dark brown hair curled in long, riotous waves against his collar.
For one unsettling minute, Reagan had the insane desire to lace her fingers through it. Disturbed, she sat straighter and lowered her eyes. She’d always had a weakness for men with tousled, unkempt hair, but so what? Elijah Cross might be good-looking, but he was also a royal pain in the posterior.
I hope you enjoyed my excerpt. TWELFTH SUN doesn’t release until August 5, but I’m getting excited thinking about it! 🙂 And, although my fictional vessel didn’t vanish like the HMS Friday, the mystery of what happened to her is at the heart of the novel.
Do you find old ships fascinating? What about the legends attached to them? Is there a particular ghost ship or legendary vessel that intrigues you?