Maritime Folklore: What's Real and What's Not

Every profession in the world has its treasure trove of legends, myths and superstitions. A chimney sweeper present at a wedding will bring the young couple good luck. But crossing paths with a priest as you go about your business will bring you bad luck.

 

However, few professions have a richer folklore than that of sailors. Centuries of exploration, trade, piracy and whaling have created a seemingly endless list of unwritten rules. While some of them seem hilarious, they used to be taken very seriously centuries – and even decades – ago. But how true are they? Let us take a look at some of them:

 1. The Name of a Ship Ending in “A” Brings Bad Luck

This myth originates in the dark years of the Great War, when both Britannia and Lusitania went down under ceaseless fire from German torpedoes. However, the USS Saratoga was extremely successful and lucky during the intense maritime battles of World War II.

 2. Renaming a Ship Is a Bad Omen

For seafaring folk, getting the name of the ship right from the start is very important. Changing the name of the ship is seen as very bad luck. A classic example in this respect is Sir Ernest Shackleton’s Arctic explorer Endurance, which used to bear the name of Aurora. The 1914 expedition ended in disaster, when the ship got trapped in ice and then crushed.

 3. No Women On Board

An old superstition said that women aboard a ship bring bad luck. This myth was certainly fueled by fears that sailors would be distracted from their work by the presence of the fair sex. Also, jealousy could tear apart the unity of the crew. At the present, both men and women serve with professionalism and dignity aboard both civil and military ships.

For beautiful nautical paintings, visit the Maritime History In Art.

How Are Ships Named?

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There are many artists and writers who have shared the beauty of nautical artwork through drawings, paintings, and books.

USS Enterprise, USS Nimitz, USS Utah – these are well-known names of famous US battleships that fought with honor and glory in the two world wars. But how exactly did they get their names? Who and how decides on the name of a new ship? 

A Clearly Regulated Process

The US Navy has strict procedures concerning the person in charge and the kind of name a ship can be given. Thus, the Secretary of the Navy (SECNAV) has the responsibility and honor of naming a ship. The SECNAV acts under the direction of the President of the United States and in observance of rules set by the Congress.  

The rules for naming ships are set according to the class of each vessel. Thus: 

1. Aircraft Carriers Are Named after Past Presidents

The 14 aircraft carriers in the US Navy fleet bead the names of deceased US Presidents and two Members of Congress. 

2. Destroyers Honor Members of the Navy

Names of destroyer ships include members of the Marine Corps, of the Coast Guard and Secretaries of the Navy. 

3. Littoral Combat Ships Bear the Names of US Cities

Some of the best known ships of this class are USS Coronado, USS Forth Worth, USS Omaha and USS Indianapolis. 

4. Amphibious Assault Ships Pay Homage to Epic Battles

The exception to this rule is USS America. But you certainly heard of USS Iwo Jima, USS Tripoli and USS Nassau. 

5. San Antonio Class Amphibious Ships Are Named after Major US Cities

Some of these cities are the victims of the 9/11 attacks. Other names include USS Portland, USS Anchorage and USS San Diego.

Fun Facts about the Great Lakes

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The Great Lakes at the border between USA and Canada are five in number. From west to east, they are: Lake Superior, Lake Huron, Lake Michigan, Lake Erie and Lake Ontario. They were formed approximately 12,000 years ago when glaciers started to melt. 

These lakes hold a huge proportion of the total surface freshwater of the North American continent – 84%. And each of them has its specific particularities. Let us discover the most unexpected and fun facts about the Great Lakes. 

1. Lake Superior Does Not Behave Like a Lake

It is more like an inland sea, because it has tides. It also holds enough water (3,000,000 million gallons) to cover both North and South America with 1 foot of fresh water.  

2. Lake Erie Allegedly Harbors a Monster

The monster named Bessie was described as having between 30 and 40 feet in length. It was first sighted in 1973. Alas, only inconclusive and grainy photos exist of it, making Bessie as elusive as the more famous Nessie monster of Loch Ness. 

3. Lake Huron Hides a Few Secrets

One of them is a complex of animal-herding structures which are approximately 9,000 years old. Prehistoric humans used to inhabit the area of the lake before the glaciers melted. 

Lake Huron also has massive sinkholes with a combination of chemical and organic substances that replicate ocean conditions of 3 million years ago.

Maritime History in Art is the place to go for paintings by artist Jim Clary depicting the Great Lakes, famous shipwrecks, and other beautiful pieces of nautical art.

Tips for Using Naval Paintings to Give Your Home A Nautical Flare

Nautical home decorations, including naval paintings and prints to hang on your walls and sea-inspired colors featured on other décor elements are great for creating a nautical-inspired home – here is how to use marine prints in your rooms:

-        Pick the right atmosphere – the sea can be calm and soothing, wild and scary and everything in between. Pick the painting or the print that features the right atmosphere – a sunset over the sea or a romantic and mysterious wreck surrounded by calm waters works best in rooms used for relaxation and daydreaming, while depictions of the angry sea and darker, colder and steelier colors of titanic wall art may work better in spaces where you spend time more actively;

-        Use the theme in your painting as inspiration for decorating the entire room or, why not, for the entire house – hang your naval painting in a focal point and use decorations inspired from it across the room. Navy blue accents, such as throw blankets and ornamental pillows, décor elements inspired by the sea, such as anchors, blue and white curtains, the colors of the sea and vintage lamps that seem to be taken from a wreck and featured on the walls are all great for creating a harmonious and calming design.

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Famous Shipwrecks You Might Not Have Heard Of

Whether you are a diving enthusiast, trying to figure the next wreck to explore or you are a history buff, looking for the next seaside destination with some special wrecks to visit, or have a special interest in Great Lakes art, here are some famous wrecks that might not be so widely advertised as others, but are not less exciting either:

-        The MS World Discoverer at Solomon Islands – the Danish cruise ship hit a rock in 2000. The passengers and the crew were rescued, but the ship is still in the warm, crystal waters of Roderick Bay;

-        The Queen Anne’s Revenge – the 18th century warship was the property of Blackbeard, who grounded the ship in 1718 and abandoned it after having used it only for a year. The wreck is located at the shore of North Carolina, at Atlantic Beach and it is included in the list of heritage places as well;

-        The Yongala – the wreck at the shores of Australia is considered to be among the world’s best diving sites, with frequent sightings of manta rays, sharks, colorful corals, turtles, octopuses and sea snakes;

-        The Zenobia at Cyprus – the ferry sunk in 1979 and now she is laying on her side in Lanarka. Fortunately, nobody was killed in the accident.

Why Maritime Prints Make Great Gifts

Maritime prints, whether they depict calming, crystal waters, stormy seascapes, mighty ships or wrecks, make excellent gifts for anyone, not only for boating and diving enthusiasts, for history buffs passionate about pirate ships and battle cruisers or for avid fishermen. Here are some tips for you about getting the most suitable piece:

-        Digital versions or prints on heavy paper for a few dollars – there are many great maritime art websites that offer digital copies of amazing marine artwork created by the world’s most famous artists. You can download the print in digital format or you can order your prints on special paper to be hung on a wall;

-        A calming effect on stressed nerves – seascapes have a calming effect on the nerves. It is surely better to take in the scenery from a shore covered in white powder sand, but having a large marine poster on your wall can also create the illusion of actually being there;

-        Staying focused on goals – if the person you want to offer the gift to is dreaming of owning a private yacht or of buying a small bungalow by the sea, a marine print is an excellent reminder of the goal and a beautiful piece for the wall, too.

A Story Behind A Story

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Dad was well known for the lengths he’d go to for a painting. Aircraft carrier landings, trips aboard Great Lakes freighters, drives in the middle of the night to a shipyard to scrounge for discarded props (my brothers and I thought he was out of his mind, but who can argue with the grin he wore driving all the way there?); dozens and dozens of interviews with survivors of shipwrecks, re-enacting a deck fighting scene (the USS Constitution in Boston, if memory serves), and on and on and on. There are dozens more, believe me. And though I could spend a few hours chatting with one of my siblings or mom to jog our memories, it’d be an exercise in what was, to us, hardly remarkable. Because he was always doing something like this. Always off on some adventure, excursion, expedition, or wild goose chase. And it wasn’t the frequency with which they happened that I recall the most. It was the normalcy.

Still, for all the regularity, the story I remember the best was a trip to the University of Michigan’s planetarium. I’ll have to ask my friend Pete the exact month and year (he never forgets these details from our high school days) because I don’t remember and because it blurs into all the other experiences. What I do remember, though, is the heat. The suffocating temperature inside the darkened building under the dome-shaped screen. It was onto that bowl of fabric the astronomer dad was collaborating with projected a calculated expanse of stars. And while the mercury rose every minute, dad sat on the ground holding up a canvas with one hand and with the other, painted each star. One by one.

Literally, one...by...one. 

I’ll never forget the focused thrill on his face. I’ll never forget Pete and I ready to sell our souls to get out of what was, to us, abject boredom and stifling furnace. And I’ll never get over smiling now at what I didn’t care about then: that he was painting each and every visible star holding vigil in the sky the night the Titanic met her doom and sank to the bottom of the ocean where she would descend into legend and remain hidden forever. That is, until one day over seventy years later — precisely because of his rabid pursuit of details — he’d be among a crew of scientists and engineers searching for her final resting place.

Which, incidentally, they would finally discover because dad just so happened to remember a story everyone else dismissed as inconsequential.