My brother, Morgan, and I found infinite ways to while away summer days sailing with our parents. For years we numbered four, plus the family dog, Guinness, aboard S/V Murf. For a month each summer we made this 23foot boat (named after Guinness’ predecessor, a beloved English springer spaniel) our home, cruising with ice-box refrigeration and a single porta-potty hidden under the V-berth’s cushions. There was very little space to move, even less to find a quiet place to perfect preteen mopiness. To make matters worse, Guinness’ port visits were restricted due to his enthusiasm for biting strangers.
Our parents weren’t crazy, though. They would gift us the occasional overnight marina visit where we could regain our land legs and see other humans while they stocked up on supplies (and got a break from parenting). It was during these times that Morgan and I discovered our favorite pastime. We would grab a snack, click on our life jackets, and row in and out of fairways in search of the best—and worst—boat names.
Our least favorites were the fishing seiners, mostly because we didn’t understand what the names meant. Always, it seemed, those boats employed some combination of a woman’s name and an initial. Admittedly, the impulse to name a boat Mary J makes more sense in retrospect. Grand Banks were often a play on the modifier: Grand Adventure, Baby Grand. Many boat names were quite creative, though, and some were simply amusing. One of my favorites was a 1940s Chris- Craft that was left to disintegrate in her slip. Her name? Sans Souci, or, the French expression loosely translated to mean, “carefree.” I’ll say.
Asubscriber in Guernsey, Channel Islands, recently gave me an idea for a way to bring back the fun of judging boat names. Piers du Pré wrote us a letter (included in this issue’s “CrossTalk”) in response to Steve Zimmerman’s column on fuel burn (“Troubleshooter,” March 2018). When asked the name of his boat, Piers responded that his Fleming 55 is named Play d’eau, a clever homophone of the children’s modeling clay, Play-Doh, using the French word for water, “l’eau.” This clever name made me wonder if we could try to re-create those hours my brother and I spent rowing around marinas in search of the perfect boat name. This time, we’ll try to do it virtually. If you have one you would like to submit, send a photo of the name and a short history behind it, and we’ll share it with other subscribers. We might even scare up a prize or two for those who score points with the judges.
Murf, lounging on our sailboat, Acorazado, before consecutive boats were named in his honor.
Jonathan Cooper Editor-In-Chief email@example.com