Tag Archives: catalina

Sea Cucumber Kissing

Background: The informant is a 14-year-old high school freshman living in El Segundo, California. The informant is my brother.

Context: After family dinner, my brother overheard a conversation about folklore I was having with my parents and he seemed interested, so I decided to explain the field of folklore to him and even interview him on some of the folklore he was aware of.

Main Piece: The informant described that on a fifth-grade field trip to Catalina Island off of the coast of California there was a specific point where the local workers at CIMI (Catalina Island Marine Institute) brought out a sea cucumber from one of the tanks they had and told the class that if you kissed the sea cucumber you would receive 7 years of good luck.

Interpretation: This was actually a piece of contagious superstition that I was already aware of. Years prior, I had been on the same field trip my brother went on since we went to the same elementary school. I believe that the reason kissing a sea cucumber yields good luck is because it takes a bit of courage to do it. While it might be easy to sit in comfort and imagine giving a little smooch to a sea cucumber, when you actually have one of those slimy, salty, and gross looking creatures in front of you and you are asked if you want to kiss it, there is a solid chance that you will simply refuse. However, mustering the stomach to kiss one of those slimy things ends up rewarding the brave with a solid seven years of good fortune! 

The Unprepared Sailor

The informant related a legend his Sailing professor told him as an example of why one should always be prepared when going sailing.


There’s this guy and he’s leaving from Long Beach and he’s only going to Catalina which you can actually see when, um, you, um, leave the harbor over there and, ha, so, ya know, he… he’s a novice. He doesn’t really know what he’s doing. But he thinks Oh, it’s just Catalina, I can see it um, ya know, what could go wrong?  Haha. And whenever you say that ya know, you know there’s gonna be a story after that. Um.

So anyway, um. What ends up happening was he had this um GPS system which ended up not working, um. I think what happened was first, his propeller went out. And so, his onboard battery only lasted a certain amount of hours before his GPS died. So after that died, he had no way of knowing where he was. And he had no, no motor. And after that point he didn’t really know how to sail cuz he wasn’t an expert on that ya know. He just knew how to use his, his motor.

And, uh, long story short, he wasn’t prepared at all. Only had enough for maybe lunch. Uh, couple gallons of water. And uh, after, after a while he decided he needed to start saving his food. He like had a stack of crackers that was left. [Gestures to represent about a one foot stack of crackers.] And he was out to see for probably three months. So um, he got by and survived. But um, basically what happened was maybe half of his stack of crackers went by. He was eating ya know, like one or two a day. He, he started reasoning oh, ya know, I should start using this to hunt. And, when you’re on a boat and you don’t have a fishing line the only thing you can really hunt is seagulls. So he would set out maybe like, a piece of a cracker out and hide, wait for the seagull to come then he’d take his oar and like whack it. [Mimes braining a gull with an oar.]

And uh, our teacher said that seagull meat is the worst meat to eat. It’s such salty meat and it tastes terrible. So that’s why we don’t eat seagulls. But this guy had to eat it. He, um ya know, ran out of water so the only water he was drinking was small doses of sea water which would make you go insane cuz you would dehydrate you, uh, make you hallucinate, do all kinds of crazy things.

At the end of the story, they found him three months later. He was in Costa Rica. Off the shore. And uh, so, ya know, a small ship or a small journey to Catalina ended up being this looooong journey to Costa Rica. And uh, when they found him, they said he was crazy. He was out of his mind. He thought that, that the rescuers were there to steal his food, which he didn’t really have much of. So he, when they came on board he was trying to fight them and he attacked them [Shadowboxes.] biting them and stuff. So they had to wrestle him down, restrain him, put him in one of those, like a, one of those jackets. [Wraps his arms as though in a straightjacket.]

And uh, you know, he eventually regained his senses. They got him healthy, fed him food, gave him water, got him all shaved up, ya know he had a long beard.

Uh, that’s all I really know from the story my professor told me but uh, the point of the story is: Be Prepared.


The popular graphic novel Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons appears to have used a similar story as inspiration for one of its subplots. In the graphic novel, a character reads a comic book called Tales of the Black Freighter in which a sailor is shipwrecked and makes a raft out of his fallen comrades to sail home. In the process, he is driven mad by starvation and heat and ends up catching and eating the gulls that come to feast on his raft.

This is interesting in that the Graphic novel was written in 1986, well before the advent of GPS, showing that the story has likely evolved into its current version from something slightly different. The core however is still there.