People have been naming boats for thousands of years, I have been trying for 7 months. Early on, boats were named after gods, goddesses, or saints to infer protection to the boat. Perhaps because of the languages that applied gender to objects, the names slowly began to drift toward the feminine, since boats and the sea are both considered such. Although this practice is still in use, naming boats these days has gotten a bit more creative.
Some are puns or plays on words (Ship for Brains, Aquaholic) or an inside joke (She Got the House, The Office). In the case of race boats, you may see something competitive or intimidating in nature (Project Mayhem, Renegade, Nefarious). There are even ones I personally would shudder to utter over the VHF (Titan Uranus, Priapism). And lets not forget the pragmatic in the group (If It Doesn’t Come When You Call It, Why Give It A Name).
Some boaters seem to have no trouble at all picking their boat names, and have them in mind far before they ever meet the boat in question. Others are so ensconced in the possible bad luck of renaming a boat that they would never consider changing the one currently used, and may even pass up buying the boat if they can’t tolerate the current name. Then there are those that feel that they need to get to know the personality of the boat first, rather like the parents that still haven’t named their three month old child because he hasn’t yet given them a sign or they can’t make up their mind. I fall into the third category.
Years ago I would play the “What Would You Name Your Boat” game with friends while out for a day sail. It seemed everyone had great ideas, everyone except me that is. I failed this game miserably. I am not of the inside joke or play on words camp; I suppose I believe there should be something slightly more serious about a vessel that is protecting you from high winds, tall seas, dragging anchors, or that may be your home. I don’t want my home named Breaking Wind or Reel Nauti – call me picky. I wanted a more traditional name or something that meant something special to me; something that would make my boat proud of me, like a kid that actually likes their name instead of preferring a nick name, their middle name, or just going to court to change their name.
In July 2014 I bought my first sail boat after sailing for about 6 years. I loved the boat, I hated the name. I really hated the name. Out of respect for the previous owners, I won’t mention it here, but I can say it’s French, and it describes a bird we all know that is particularly fond of depositing on our decks and sail covers and seems to have no food restrictions or manners. The name had to go, but what was I going to replace it with? My boat is a 41 year old Challenger 32. She isn’t racey, fast or flashy. If I were to describe her as a woman I would say she has big hips and is a tomboy. Really feminine names just weren’t going to fit. I had hoped a variation of my grandmother’s and mother’s names would fit, but they just did not match. I went through the suggested motions. I searched baby names online hoping for inspiration. I searched all types of mythological names- Greek, Roman, Arthurian, Viking, and came up empty. I made lists of words about how I felt about the boat and what I hoped our experiences together would be. Nothing. The closest I got was Compass Rose. I always loved pictures of ornate, antique compass roses with their intricate designs, and loved the thought that these beautiful instruments guided sailors to the place they wanted to be, keeping their path true. Then I looked up Compass Rose on the Coast Guard documentation website and found no less than 89 boats named Compass Rose. Clearly unique wasn’t in my repertoire.
I am now entertaining the thought that she may not tell me her new name until the old name is off the transom. I realize this is clearly superstition, but what’s left to try? I’m just waiting for the right weather window to take on this project; the Sticker Off and a printed copy of the de-naming ceremony are ready and waiting. Perhaps then, and only then, she will tell me who she really is. Until then, and up until now, she remains respectfully “The Challenger”. Somehow I find this more comforting than I would “The Catalina”, “The Beneteau”, or “The Hans”. Perhaps it’s because it has a ring of truth – she is “challenging her (me)” to do things that she hasn’t done before, to do things that she may be a little afraid of, and to learn a great many things she needs to know to be a boat owner.
If you would like to check out an array of humorous boat names, I suggest these links:
Got a photo from a favorite funny boat name from your area? Please send it to Tiny@TinySails with the subject Boat Names! Check out the submissions here.
As seen in Three Sheets NW http://threesheetsnw.com/blog/2015/03/what-if-you-cant-come-up-with-the-perfect-boat-name/