People are always asking, “What are the best and worst boat names?” Most boat names like these at right reflect bad puns, good women or bad situations.
While traveling through North Carolina and South Carolina, I found a curious set of names at a marina in Wilmington. The US Coast Guard has strict naming rules that preclude the use of such terms as MAYDAY or VESSEL IN DISTRESS.
That’s because their names could be confused as conditions, creating chaos and wasting precious minutes during an emergency. It was with that proviso that I found it odd that a retired couple would name their big cabin cruiser boat WE QUIT. It sounds charming, conjuring an image of two people throwing in the towel of the rat race to live on the water. But imagine the confusion if they had an emergency at sea.
“US Coast Guard, this is WE QUIT on Channel 16.”
“Coast Guard, WE QUIT. We ran aground on rocks.”
“Well, do not quit. Do not give up!”
And so on, recalling Abbott and Costello in their famous skit, “Who’s on First.”
The same confusion arises if they ask the Coast Guard whether to abandon their burning ship. “Here We Go…” “No wait, don’t jump!”
On the next dock was a smaller cabin cruiser whose stern name was obliterated by tarp and tape. I asked why, and the fellow on board said they developed a name change.
“We’re uncovering it tomorrow,” he said proudly. I responded, “Hope you didn’t name it SINKING.”
Down in Charleston, some boats at the city dock have unconventional names. BATTERY CHARGER conjures an image of someone who only runs the boat to keep the battery bank up to strength. More appropriately, it could convey a boat that approaches the old Battery at the foot of Charleston, a.k.a. “below Broad.”
INDEPENDENCE was done with elegant type attached to the stern to look like raised letters. KNEE DEEP was just silly unless you consider that the six-foot tides at Charleston expose acres of mud hard by the marina. A giant blue fender next to a sailboat suggested it may have been in one horrific bang-up at a dock in the distant past.
Other peculiar names included COBALT BLUE on a white hull, which made no sense. My favorite clever name is found at York River Yacht Haven. AFTER MATH suggests that two teachers who retired to go sailing. Imagine the a-ha moment when they settled on the name.
The skiff at right is hilarious because of the juxtaposition of big type on a small boat, and the tyke at the helm.
According to Boat US Magazine, the second-most popular name is SEAS THE DAY, a cliche pun on the Roman motto. The others are Serenity, Andiamo, Aquaholic, Second Wind, Island Time, Happy Hours, Journey, Serendipity and Relentless. They strike me as cliches, but then maybe I’ve seen too many boats.
The name SHIP HAPPENS at right may have been chosen after a few beers, perhaps a few too many. But then you can imagine the guy’s wife challenging his bad taste, and what will the neighbors and children think, not to mention our minister? Then again, maybe he’s divorced.
By the same token WTF strikes a humorous chord until it doesn’t. It’s hardly appropriate for a boat because it conveys wonderment in a bad way. I wouldn’t want to repeat the name to the Coast Guard (or a marina) unless I translated it to WHISKEY TANGO FOXTROT. That’s a lot to say repeatedly over marine radio.
Similarly, ZOMBIES CAN’T SWIM is absurd as a statement, never mind the name of a boat. The elegant English font only confuses matters unless the idea is to give zombies some elegant dignity. Ironically, there is no swim platform.
Another irony is that none of these boats is a sailboat. Thus the classy people who use wind for power show up unrepresented in this crowd. Make of that what you will.
The fishing boat TEST TACKLES reads made more gross by adding the word SALTY in smaller type. This comes across so bad that I hope he didn’t tell his wife — or mother. Again, think about how the Coast Guard would respond on radio. They do not giggle. But from the looks of the surroundings, he’s fishing inland on a river well removed from frequent Coast Guard contact. We can only hope.
GROUNDS 4 DIVORCE is a double entendre suggesting that if the wife grounded the boat, he might divorce her. Same thing works if he grounds it, since she would quit. The very existence of the boat and the distraction it posed to the marriage would be grounds. Given the hefty size of the boat, he might prefer the boat over her. The “4” is a minor affectation, very nautical in a cutesy way. The typeface is a playful cursive. Remember cursive?
Wait! Here’s a sailboat. ILLUSION is a so-so name as a standalone, but with the dinghy REALITY behind it, the name becomes perfect. Another example: a sailboat in Charleston named SHOELESS, with a dinghy FLIP FLOPS. I love these permutations because they show a genuine upside-downside situation encountered every day by boaters. Let’s Go Sail’s boat has the name DEADLINE. Why? So my secretary could tell people why I wasn’t available. The dinghy name: PAST DEADLINE.
Some names are precious in context but otherwise blah.
That’s the case with PUGBOAT because the dogs have to be all aboard when this couple goes out. We tried to take our dog sailing, but as a Lakeland terrier she always jumped into the drink. I imagine that if one of these pugs jumped ship the others would surely follow. Talk about an MOB challenge.
Boat US Magazine had a sidebar in the April/May 2020 edition that listed a few “punny” boat names. BUOYONCE was self-evident as a pun on Beyonce’s name. LAST BOAT FOR ME #4 was equally self-evident. UH OH! was lettered upside down, equally self-evident.
But like PUGBOAT, the others required context or else we wouldn’t get it. Canadian owner: ABOAT TIME. Small fishing boat: A SALT WEAPON. News cameraman: SEA SPAN. Accountant: A CREWED INTEREST. Small battery-powered boat: ELECTRA-CUTE. Rarely used boat: MOOR OFTEN THAN KNOT. My favorite pun is that of a colorectal surgeon who named his boat REAR ADMIRAL. But again, you have to know the context to get the joke.
Let’s conclude with two rowboats whose names are at once funny and poignant. Most people don’t even bother to name their rowboat, but these were worth the effort.
Some of these boats show up in the video below which tracks clever names from all over the United States.
Name that Boat II
At the venerable Hampton Yacht Club in Hampton Roads, a plethora of creative names boggles the mind. WAIT & SEA is a simple and yet elegant play on words. If only the rescue ring didn’t block the title.
TREASURE CHEST reads as exactly that, for it identifies a massive 44-foot boat with perfectly new plastic wraparound for cold-weather sailing. They took the dinghy home for the winter but left the pricey outboard behind. HYC is a safe harbor from theives and from wicked winter weather.
OPTIONS2 is easily explained as a big sport fishing boat paid for by making a killing in the options market. Indeed, probably the second fortune made in options.
LUNACY is significant because the spelling is correct instead of playing on a pun such as Lun-a-Sea. The literal use is apt here because this is a very fast J boat that no doubt races out of Hampton Yacht Club. Anyone crewing on this boat has been forwarned. Yet note the casual way the boat tiest to the dock, from the winch.
APRIL TIED has a lighthearted font and plays on the word tide. Maybe the couple who sail it got married in April. Or some woman named April became emotionally tied to the boat and to sailing. Either way, it presents as a beautiful small boat, impeccably cared for.
No one but a dog owner would name their boat BROWN EYED GIRL. It would be appropriate on a 1980s Catalina because the trim came in brown. But that’s not the case here. My wife’s beloved Lakeland terrier Breezy became her brown eyed girl.
WEEKEND HOOKER is a crude name, even for a fishing boat. Plus it’s from Yorktown, not Hampton. Can’t imagine how the Yacht Club let this one past the gate. The only saving grace is that it’s way out on a distant dock, out of view of most people.
WHAM BAM also reflects bad taste, except that this is a performance J80 whose name is an insult to the other sailboats she passess in an HYC race. Plus the color red rubs in the insult. Wouln’t want to call the USCG on radio with this name, however.
Speaking of inappropriate, DEMENTIA 2 qualifies nicely and makes no sense either. The elegant type on a new Catalina seems way out of place for the word described. Perhaps the owner is a dementia doctor. Like the colorectal surgeon in Charleston whose sailboat name was REAR ADMIRAL.
STORMY GAIL is quite the redundancy, but what can you expect on a fishing boat. Yellow at that. To class up the boat, the home port is pricey Fox Hill, but that doesn’t compensate for the other bad taste. Honestly, what was Hampton Yacht Club thinking?
INVICTUS is Latin for unconquerable and was freqently used by Nelson Mandela in his quest for African freedoms. It strikes me as pretentious unless the owner teaches Latin. I suppose it works in a sailboat race, but still.
Name that Boat III
We returned to South Carolina in April 2021 to examine more boat names in Charleston and Beaufort, beginning with this one. Easterly is an elegant new day-sailor with an open cockpit that easily sits six.
I looked it up online and couldn’t find it. I asked a dock boy at Safe Harbor Charleston what type of boat it was and he said Easterly. “I asked the same thing,” he told me, “and the name on the back is also the model.” It would be perfect for Kingsmill at the James River, which is more shallow than the York.
Does It Matter seems like a clever name, until you get into trouble at sea and once again have to call the Coast Guard on marine radio. “US Coast Guard Charleston, this is the vessel Does It Matter.”
“To the vessel calling, this is US Coast Guard. What is your name?”
“Coast Guard, Does It Matter.”
“To the vessel calling, yes it does.”
And so it goes, like Abbott and Costello again in “Who’s On First?”
Spray is an elegant 50-foot yacht with beautiful lines everywhere that virtually spray from the boat.
A minute later in a sheer coincidence, another boat named Spray came chugging up the Ashley River. His fenders were already out, ready for the challenge of docking in a wicked current. Charleston is where I learned to back in the sailboat in the afternoon because sometimes people are standing around to help. That is less the case in the morning, so you simply gun it to shoot out.
Back to marine radio. Up on the Charleston Mega-Dock, Feisty Lady is a broad-beamed sailboat pushing 60 or 70 feet. Once again, the Coast Guard may become confused when the skipper identifies herself as Feisty Lady. “That’s nice, lady, but what’s the name of the boat?”
Nearby is an elegant yacht whose name is equally elegant: Grace of Tides. They probably had no idea when they came in from the Cayman Islands that they within easy view of the Charleston bridge made famous by Nick Nolte in the end of the movie “Prince of Tides”: “At the end of every day I drive through the city of Charleston and I cross the bridge that will take me home. I feel the words building inside me, I can’t stop them, or tell you why I say them, but as I reach the top of the bridge these words come to me in a whisper. I say these words as a prayer, as regret, as praise, I say: Lowenstein, Lowenstein.” He added, “I am a father, a husband, a coach and a well-loved man. That is more than enough to sustain me now.”
A few berths along lies a sleek sailboat that easily was the longest on the Mega-Dock. I asked and was told 141 feet. The scope of the thing is amazing because it has a very narrow bow and equally narrow stern, with all manner of heavy equipment on board.
Massive scuppers inexplicably face aft instead of forward to catch the breeze. Huge drum-like winches are required to hoist bowsprits the size of utility poles. Everything is polished exquisitely.
Across the dock lies another huge yacht, whose massive winch costs $10,000 and is the size of bucket. A smaller conventional winch is to the right, just out of view of the photo. It takes quite a talent to service these because they have scores of parts, including springs no bigger than a fingernail clipping. Drop one on the deck and you’ll be a while finding it. Drop one in the drink and you can forget about it.
It’s hard to see in this photo, but the baby blue fender covers exactly match the baby blue hull on this fancy yacht. The covers are made of cloth to avoid scuffing the hull paint. Even the lines are blue, suggesting a bit of OCD on the water.
Here we have one of many examples of polished anchors. The detail to get this kind of shine on stainless steel boggles the mind. Clearly this boat hasn’t anchored in years — if ever. That’s why they built the Mega-Dock.
Southern Seas is ironic because it’s from North Palm Beach. You rarely see such geographic dichotomy on the docks.
Journey is a 1980s Hunter that has had a long voyage of distinguished care. The fiberglass looks new and the rub rail is pristine.
Got Johnny must be an inside joke, perhaps the skipper had a porta potty business. In any event, it too will play havoc on marine radio.
This old boat is a restored steel two-master, beautifully painted white and ready to go. God know what work went into this, and it shows. Look at the coils of long lines up on the bow pulpit. This sailboat has been to sea many a time and far away, no doubt.
This beauty is a $250,00 Club 42, which is a racing boat of simple lines and minimal accoutrements. There’s no stern rail, so you have to be careful not to fall off at high speed.
Finally, here is a rare sight indeed, a sailboat on a lift. The last time I saw one of these was 30 years ago in Florida. You see a lot of motorboats on a lift, but the fixed keel of a sailboat makes that almost impossible. The lift has to be carved out to allow the keel to enter.
In this case, I suspect the keel is shorter than 4 feet, perhaps only 2 and with an extender that can make it 4 from inside the boat. The owner is so fastidious that he/she wrapped the posts of the lift in corded line to protect the finish of the boat.
Below is a frontal view of the boat as it sits on the lift. The advantage of all this is that the boat is safe from getting knocked around in the slip. More important, it won’t develop any slime/barnacles that require monthly cleaning by an expensive diver. The lift looks like a commercial model, but it could be custom-made as well. People with money, wow.
Let’s Go Sail to Name that Boat
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name that boat name that boat name that boat