Informant Information — DD
- Nationality: American
- Age: 68
- Occupation: Professor
- Residence: San Pedro, California
- Date of Performance/Collection: March 20, 2022
- Primary Language: English
The informant grew up in San Pedro, CA, a port town where a large proportion of the town works on/near the water. He has sailed as a hobby and professionally for more than 50 years. He is still active in his town’s boating community and keeps up with sailing magazines, books, news, etc. The informant shared this information with me in an in-person interview.
You mentioned that it’s bad luck to rename a boat. Where and when did you first hear that?
So the first time I bought a sailboat, it was a 30-footer that I wanted to fix up and sail back and forth to Catalina in. The guy that sold it to me said, “Well you better not change the name because it’s really bad luck.”
Did you take his advice and keep the boat’s original name?
Nope, I changed it anyway. I don’t even remember what the original name was, but I remember that I didn’t really like it. I’ve used the same name for every boat I’ve ever renamed, but I’ve never had bad luck with a boat… not even the ones that I renamed. Once an original name was actually kind of an offensive stereotype, so I think renaming that one actually gave me some good luck.
I see! Do you think that this is a pretty common superstition?
Not so much anymore, just because it’s so common to sell, buy, and re-sell boats so often now… I actually know a little bit of history about this, though. Back in the old days, when records were less official and harder to keep track of, you would check in to a harbor or port of call with your boat’s name, and anything that happened was associated with that name. Back then, if you were to suddenly change the boat’s name, it would be kind of like erasing its history… suspicious, you know? You wouldn’t do that unless you had gotten into some trouble, so the renaming thing got associated with troublemakers.
This is a great example of how our changing society has altered our perception of folklore. With new technological developments, records are easily accessible around the world, making it much easier to keep track of vessels, regardless of their names. The informant mentioned that there might be a trick to get rid of bad luck after changing a boat’s name, which would be an example of conversion superstition. However, he couldn’t remember any specific methods or details, so that part of the conversation was not included in the piece.