A name to charm Lady Luck? Fisherfolk’s peculiar habits - Daily Nation

A name to charm Lady Luck? Fisherfolk’s peculiar habits

Friday August 17 2018

 Lake Victoria at Ndenda Island in Siaya County

Fishermen pull a fishing net to the shores of Lake Victoria at Ndenda Island in Siaya County on April 18. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

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What is in a name? No, forget about Rose smelling as sweet as any other English maiden - what about Akinyi, Auma, or Adhiambo? Indeed, what about Agwambo, Sibuor, or Ocampo?

Can a name charm Lady Luck? Shine the light of fortune one's way? Tour the beaches of Lake Victoria, where fisherfolk have long adopted the habit of naming their boats and find out.

Here, fishing boats are more than tools of trade, items for ensuring the dinner table is always occupied, vessels for economic advancement...they are distinct markers of the personalities of their owners, their ambitions and hopes for the future.


Lake Victoria fishermen acquire special attachments to their boats to an extent of giving them human names, often belonging to women - dead or alive - who have made a mark on the lives of the boat-owners. It's an uncanny idiosyncrasy.

When the Nation visited Nambo Beach, one of the fish landing sites in Yimbo, Usenge on the shores of Lake Victoria, the fishermen there revealed that women are assumed to be lucky charms and industrious. In a word, naming your boat after your favourite female can attract fish to your nets!

Mr Alfred Ochieng, a boat owner and a fisherman, has named his boats after his wife, his mother and his grandmother. He says that he believes that this will bring him luck and ensure he gets a good catch day in, day out.


“A woman nurtures and fends for her family. Naming the boat after a woman ensures that the boat acquires these feminine attributes and takes good care of its owner,” said Mr Ochieng.

“Anytime I feel like I have had a bad day at work, I speak to my boat as if I am addressing my grandmother or mother asking her why she is allowing my children to go hungry. After this I get a good catch when I go fishing,” said Mr Ochieng.

Religious fisherfolk name their boats after saints or remarkable Christian values; Tumaini, Shalom, Jehova Jireh or Emmanuel. Boats are also named after heroes and memorable events.

“Some have named their boats “Agwambo” after Opposition Chief Raila Odinga who is revered in the region. Others have named theirs “Moreno Ocampo” or “Koffi Annan” after the man who midwifed the coalition government,” said Mr Ochieng.