Thursday, August 12, 2010

What's in a Name?

Creative names are common for fishing-charter boats

My personal bible for all things nautical, Chapman’s Boating Etiquette, notes, “Choose boat names with care; people often known owners by their boats.   

"A vessel’s name conveys a lot about how the owner thinks of his boat,” the book continues.  “How do you think a boat with the name like Marauder will negotiate a crowded channel?”  In our experience, cigarette boat Delirious will pass you very close and at high speed, so the mountainous wake rocks your boat hard enough to scramble eggs.

Luckily, no VHF radio on this boat!
Ok, so we’re in Two Rivers, Wisconsin, tied up just the street from a marina where salmon-fishing charter boat are docked, and, allowing for the reality that raunchy boat names are extremely common (if I see one more boat named “Wet Dream,” I’m using the Cap’n’s potato gun to teach an etiquette lesson), this particular marina has an unusual concentration of skippers with off-color names for their boats/businesses: Golden Beaver, Stern Action, Chasin’ Tail.  I know, they're talkin' about fishin', but guys, imagine your wife paying the bills and seeing that charge on your card.

I’m not sure what the name Dragonfly says about us, but it’s true people what Chapman says, that people know you by your boat name.   Often we’ll meet folks at one port, then see them again, miles and days later.  They don’t remember our names, but they still hail us: “Hey, Dragonfly!”

Cap'n approves of this name;
Our hero Lucky Jack Aubrey commanded
H.M.S. Surprise
I started keeping a list of funny boat names the first week of this trip.  Bad puns are rampant (Seas the Day, E-fishin-Sea).  I’m partial to sailboat names that pun on aspects of sailing:  Outreach and dot.calm (both spotted at Little Current); Mast Transit (Benjamin Islands); Reefer Madness (Sturgeon Bay) and Breaking Wind (Two Rivers).

Sailboats also seem more likely to have names that express the owner’s values.  Right after the Chicago-to-Mackinac yacht race, the marina where we stayed in St. Ignace filled with raceboats headed home: large graceful boats with names like Celerity, Perseverance, and Serenity.

Other funny boat names I’ve seen include the battered Rockfinder--a fishing boat spotted in granite boulder-strewn Georgian Bay--and Hunky Dory, a houseboat in Bobcaygeon piloted by three shirtless young men.

When you’re choosing a boat name, notes Chapman, consider: “How will it sound when you hail someone on your VHF radio?”  Common boat names like Mistress and ChickenShip can create awkwardness.  “Playbouy, this is The Other Woman.”  Kwitchabichen, this is Bushels of Fun.” 

We met some boaters at St. Ignace who heard “Dial 9-1-1” crackle over the radio.  A marina operator was also listening. He called the Coast Guard . . . there was temporary panic.  Bad boat name.

A boat's name can say how it makes you feel.
This is a fellow Looper, the American tug Freedom
And once, this same Skipper was using a public channel to talk with another boat, only to have a third boat butt in, announcing: “Oh Be Quiet, Oh Be Quiet.” “I thought he was telling me to shut up!” said the bemused skipper.

To avoid the risk of a boat name faux pas, Chapman says, you might choose from a list of classic boat names collected over the last four centuries--among them (no irony intended) Tradition, a 60-ft Alden schooner.

Want to name your vessel for a clippership of the 1850s? Choose Blessing of the Bay, Herald of the Morning, or Champion of the Seas. (If you’re feeling a bit wicked, Witch of the Wave is also on the list).  

Moving on in history, names “considered suitable for yachts” in 1877 were mostly Greek gods and goddesses, like Dione (an ocean nympsh) and Daedalus (who invented not just the famous wings of wax, but masts and sails for ships).

If you want to boost your boat’s ego, name it for a famous racing yacht of long ago!  There's Fearless, Dauntless, and Tigress, not to mention Mariner, Navigator, and Seafarer.   

“A name well chosen may even enhance the value of the boat,” says Chapman. Our boat had a different name when we bought her; whether the name change will affect her resale value remains to be seen, but we DO find Dragonfly easier to say on the radio than our boat’s original name, Honeyoe

The name Dragonfly is common enough that we've seen three or four other boats with the same name.  When we passed through the lock at Bobcaygeon, an attractive brunette on the deck of a Sea Ray tied to the wall waved enthusiastically to the Captain.  “Look,” she hollered, “our boat is Dragonfly, too.”  

At which point another young woman, on shore, slipped her shirt down off her shoulder and yelled, “I don’t have a boat, but I have a dragonfly tattoo!”

1 comment:

  1. I tend to agree with you about the off-color boat names that are so popular these days.

    When I recommend boat names to people on my blog (boatnameblog.com), I try to suggest names that I'd be comfortable explaining to my kids.

    I keep the same guideline in mind when picking a "boat name of the day" on Twitter. Speaking of which, I think I'll make Dragonfly today's Boat Name of the Day (look for it at Twitter.com/BoatNameGear )

    Good luck with the rest of your journey!