Excerpt from Fall 2021 SC Fleet Newsletter:
In sailor folklore, mermaids represent both good fortune and disaster. As sailors spent months, sometimes years travelling across vast oceans, it's not surprising that beliefs and superstitions of figures controlling the unpredictable weather appeared in nautical stories over the centuries.
The mermaid's conflicting personalities as both a beautiful and seductive maiden and a monstrous sea creature that dragged sailors to their deaths is a fitting representation for the wild, violent yet fascinating nature of the sea itself.
Mermaids often appear as figureheads on the front of nautical vessels. The figurehead, which was popular between the 16th and 20th centuries is a carved wooden decoration located on the bow of ships. While many different decorations have been used, mermaids proved popular with the sailors as they were believed to appease the sea, ensuring good weather and finding a safe way back to land.