Saturday, September 21, 2013

Naming Names: What Should I Call My Boat?

I'm still collecting questions for my Q&A, so don't feel like you're too late.  Leave a comment on the original post, or drop me a line.  No query too small to be considered!

Q:  What should I name my boat?
A:  I'm glad you asked.  Choosing a boat name is a bigger deal than you think, especially if you are cruising.  Why?  Because, dear reader, when you move aboard, you lose your own name, and become your boat name. Before you name your boat, you need to ask yourself two questions: 1. Is it easy to read and understand? 2. Do I like it enough that I can live with being called this every day?

Let's knock through this with imaginary cruising couple, John and Betsy.

Item one: clarity.

John and Betsy are wordies and Shakespeare buffs, so they have named their brand new boat Honorificabilitudinitatibus.

A man walks down the dock as John is buffing the last bit of gelcoat.
"Hi, there," says Bill.  "Nice boat.  What design is it?"
"She's a Schaefer Special," answers John.
"Mmm."  Bill squints at the tiny Gothic script painted under the gunwale.  "What's the name?"
"Honor... what?" 
"Honorificabilitudinitatibus."  John says the name slowly.
"Heck, I'm not going to chew that mouthful.  I'll just call you Bus," says Bill.  "Hey, Ginny!  Come on down here and meet Bus!"

John has learned two things.  His boat name is both impossible to read and to say.  This is not good news.  When you offer something for sale on the morning net, you want potential buyers to be able to reply.  When you call the Coast Guard on your crackly VHF, you don't want this:
"Vessel in distress, please give your name."
"No copy, vessel in distress.  Please repeat."

Your boat name is your name, so make it clear.  And, as a kindness to the nearsighted among us, this advice applies to font as well.  Big and plain, people.  Big and plain.

Item two: identity.

John and Betsy discuss it.  They tried Betsy's name choice, and it was a dud.  So now they are switching to something a little snappier.  John picks his favorite childhood pet, Cutie McTwinkletoes.

"Knock knock!  Cutie McTwinkletoes, are you home?"
Betsy leans out of the cockpit, trying not to cringe.  "Hello."
A stranger is standing in her dinghy alongside John and Betsy's boat in the anchorage.  "Hi, there.  I'm from Moonshine.  We're having a barbeque on the beach later, if you want to drop by."
"Great," says Betsy.  "We'll be there."
Three marinated porkchops later, John and Betsy are ready to meet some more cruisers.  Moonshine grabs them and hustles them over to her husband.  "Bob, this is Cutie McTwinkletoes.  They just started cruising.  Oh, you should meet Sea Breeze, they've been out for years."

Back aboard, the VHF crackles to life.  "Cutie McTwinkletoes, Cutie McTwinkletoes, Cutie McTwinkletoes, this is Moonshine, Moonshine."
Betsy picks up the mic.  "Go ahead Mooshine, this is Cutie McTwinkletoes."
"Hi, Betsy.  Just wanted to let you know you left a Tupperware bowl behind; I've got it for you."
"Thanks, Mary."
"Moonshine standing by six-eight."
"Cutie McTwinkletoes standing by six-eight."
Betsy turns to her husband.  "John."
"If I have to refer to myself as Cutie McTwinkletoes one more time, I'm going to murder someone.  Probably you."
"I'm thinking of new names as we speak."

This is how cruiser-cruiser interactions work:
For whatever reason, your surname is personal information you don't go sharing around.
You are your boat name.  To strangers, the Coast Guard, on paperwork.  I have been Amy Papillon for three years now.  It's a good name I can live with.  Short, snappy, easy to remember and understand.  I could hear it all day and not get annoyed.  And I'm very easily annoyed.

So before you call yourself Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, or Bikini Chick Party Spot, or anything from the pun family, think carefully.  You will use this moniker a lot.  A lot, a lot.  So make it clear, make it comfortable, and love it.  You're stuck with it.

And our imaginary friends John and Betsy?  I like to think they have sailed away on a boat named Mack.


Kimbercat SC said...

Thanks for the advice Amy. It will be well heeded in the future.

Amy Schaefer said...

My pleasure. And, by the way, I liked both of the names you came up with. :)