THIS POSTING IS COMING TO YOU FROM TOP RACK MARINA AT THE HEAD OF THE DISMAL SWAMP CANAL IN VIRGINIA, WHICH -- SADLY -- IS CLOSED DUE TO HURRICANE MATTHEW. I'M ABOARD IOLANTHE, THE 41-FOOT SAILBOAT THAT WILL BE OUR FLOATING HOME FOR THE NEXT 6 WEEKS. TIED UP AMONG ALL THE OTHER VESSELS THAT ARE MAKING THE GREAT FALL PASSAGE TOWARD THE LAND OF THE SUN, I WAS REMEMBERED THIS BLOG FROM TWO YEARS AGO AND THOUGHT IT WOULD BE WORTH A RERUN. POSTING WHILE THE INTERNET SIGNAL IS STILL AVAILABLE! -- Marcia
Over the course of our long marriage, Barry and I have owned five sailboats, starting with a 16-foot knockabout featuring a “self-bailing cockpit” that didn’t. Kiev Sea dumped half of the musical talent of the eastern seaboard into the Chesapeake Bay at one time or another, before being replaced by a succession of incrementally larger vessels, each “previously owned” and wearing a name on the hull that we’d never have chosen, thank you, not in a million years.
Superstitious mariners believe that it’s bad luck to change the name of a vessel, so what does one do when an otherwise acceptable boat joins your family bearing a moniker that, pardon me, you wouldn’t be caught dead sailing, a name like Iwannafeelya or Dijabringabeeralong?
You change the name, of course, while being careful to placate the mighty gods of the sea – Poseidon, Neptune, even The Little Mermaid -- by destroying all traces of the previous name, then sacrificing a bottle of fine bubbly over the bow. Purists would insist on sailing the vessel backwards over the equator, then tossing the old name plates overboard, but Barry and I settled for the bubbly, both to christen the bow and lubricate the crew.
Naming a boat can be harder than naming a child. You want to choose a name that the boat can live up to – for that reason, I’d avoid Titanic Too, Molly Brown or Das Broke.
Humor is appreciated – especially by the Coast Guard – if done tastefully. If not, well, it may be a big, beer-fueled hee-haw to watch people laugh and point out your boat, but who wants to repeat over the VHF radio, “Mayday, Mayday, Mayday, this is the Master Baiter.”
If you’re a long-distance cruiser, you should take pity on the hundreds of hardworking (and lonely!) lift bridge tenders along the 1089 miles of the Intracoastal Waterway that stretches from Norfolk to Miami who are required to record the names of all vessels that pass under. Do you really want to spell out Esprit de Famille every time you pick up the radio to request a bridge opening? Or Ptarmigan?
And pity the marina and harbor masters, too, who respond to your calls to request docking. If you're not careful you could get caught up in a classic "Who's on First" routine:
"Hope Town Marina, Hope Town Marina, G'day Mate."
"Good day to you, too. Who is the vessel calling?"
"What is your boat name, please?"
"I know, it's a lovely day in the Abacos, Captain, but what is the name of your vessel?"
There are boat name generators, too, and Hilarious Boat Names has its own Facebook page.
I’ve tried to categorize some of the names we’ve run across in our nautical travels, grouping them in a way that made sense to me after a couple of glasses of the aforementioned bubbly.
So here goes:
Sometimes boats are named after the wife or girlfriend of the owner, but I’d recommend daughters. They are less likely to change:
A One Anna Tuna
Victoria at Sea
Or the name might hint at who’s on board:
Four Part Harmony
Lady and the Tramp
Snap, Shackle and Pop
Tyme 4 2 2 Play
Boating can be expensive:
A Crewed Interest
In D Red
The Loan Ranger
As a former government contractor, my favorite in the financial category is a honking big cabin cruiser, Change Order, towing a dinghy named Original Contract.
Sir Osis of the River
And just plain Clever:
Maid of Plywood
Moor Often Than Knot
Slipless in Seattle
Sometimes leading to Outrageous Puns. (Permission to groan granted):
My Miss Stress
Seize the Bay
Victoria’s Sea Crate
Own a fishing boat? How about:
Just for the Halibut
There’s the Sophomoric (the guys are usually guilty here):
My Dixie Wrecked
Although one boat we saw (skippered by a woman!) was named Sea-Cup.
There are variations on ship:
Piece of Ship
Sloop du Jour
Sea is always popular:
Sea Sun Ticket
Sea Yawl Later!
Buoy, Oh Buoy
Buoys and Gulls
Buoys in the Hood
And the variations on knot are endless.
Knot Big Enough
Knot My Job
Knot Paid IV
Knot Guilty (is the captain a lawyer?)
If you’re the skipper of a new catamaran, the sky’s the limit:
And finally, there’s the totally obscure:
Dances With Sheep
Shoot Low They’re Riding Chickens
(Don’t ask me! I haven’t a clue.)
I’d always liked Walter Cronkite’s sailboat, Assignment. “Honey, if anyone calls, tell them I’m on Assignment.” For similar reasons, any number of boats have been named The Office. Perhaps my next boat will be named, The Final Draft.