Editor’s Note: Sailing resumes June 10 when the Pandemic Lockdown ends in Virginia.
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.”
“To the vessel calling, what is your emergency?
“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.”
Nearby was another cabin cruiser had big type on the stern reading, HERE WE GO.
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 it was for 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.
Similarly, MARSH MELLOW could refer to the many bayous of the Ashley or Cooper rivers.
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 are unrepresented in this crowd. Make of that what you will.
The fishing boat TEST TACKLES is made more gross by adding the word SALTY in smaller type. This is 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 are not given to giggles. 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. There’s also the idea that 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 was 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 is named DEADLINE so my secretary could tell people why I wasn’t available. The dinghy is 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.
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Name that Boat
Names that Boat covers unusual names that are humorous or cliched.
Capt Bill ODonovan
Williamsburg Charter Sails/Let's Go Sail
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