The Names of Nova Scotian Fishing Boats

Trevor J. Kenchington
1995 The Northern Mariner  
To Bob Strongman his boat was strictly a tool, a part of earning his living. He did not regard her as anything special at all. As far as he was concerned her status was pretty well the same as that of his big Chevrolet pickup which he changed every four or five years. He would no more think of giving her a name than he did the pickup. So, like the majority of the world's working boats, she has not got one. She is simply 'the boat' and he would never have used her for pleasure. In fact, he did
more » ... t like driving her very much. 1 These observations by Basil Greenhill about a Prince Edward Island lobster fisherman are a proper antidote for the excess of romanticism that twenty-years ago pervaded the study of nautical technology -and that still is too common today. I have no reason to doubt that they also correctly described Mr. Strongman's attitudes; fishing communities are sufficiently heterogeneous to contain at least one advocate for most points of view. But Greenhill's observations clearly are not true of the generality of fishermen in Canada's Maritimes. A few minutes in any fishing harbour will confirm that the great majority of the boats bear names. Conversation with their owners will reveal that many derive considerable pleasure from working at sea, at least when the weather is good, and that they take a great deal of pride in their boats; pride reflected in the paintwork, extra investments beyond the economic optimum, and the names painted on bow or stern. 2 In 1990-1991 I had an extended opportunity for such conversations during a survey of hook-and-line fishermen, on contract to the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO). 3 The survey was of owners and captains (in this fleet usually the same individual) of boats with groundfish longline licences issued by DFO's Scotia-Fundy Region, which covers Nova Scotia and New Brunswick between the northern tip of Cape Breton and the US border. In this paper, I will examine both the names these fishermen gave to their boats and the naming practices they reveal and will show that these conventions have close parallels in other periods and cultures. While there is far more to a man-boat relationship than can be deduced from a name, earlier studies have shown this to be a useful guide to the wider issues Greenhill raised. 4 The names recorded in the
doi:10.25071/2561-5467.730 fatcat:me5zlfx24vc3zbinwx26lkol5m