A rose by any other name

Buying a boat is not an easy thing. For the past week, we’ve been struggling with disheartening survey findings, lengthy project lists, and painful price negotiations. It’s not a tale that lends itself to lighthearted storytelling. Maybe we’ll tell the story later, when it’s not so raw.

Now, the deal is done. Next week, the boat will be ours. That brings me to our dilemma — we need your help!

Years ago, when we named our first tiny sailboat, it was easy. We met at the boat every weekend, driving 150 miles each from Ohio and Virginia to Deep Creek, Maryland, so we named it the Rendezvous.

No such luck with the next boat. It, unfortunately, has a name, and that’s a problem. I don’t mind the first half of the name — I know what a Falcon is. But Rougue is not a word! So, instead of Falcon Rougue, we’ve taken to calling it Falcon Ragu, which led one friend to recommend that we should call it Pigeon Stew.

There’s a well-known ceremony, documented by sailing author John Vigor, that says how to de-name a boat and then re-name it without offending the sea gods. No human sacrifices are required, and you don’t even have to find a virgin to pee in the bilge (most virgins are small children, and if they pee in the bilge, it’s usually by accident, anyway). You do, however, have to donate some pretty expensive liquor to the sea gods, and you have to carefully remove every trace of the old name. I can’t wait to remove “Rougue” from our transom.

We began leisurely brainstorming on a name weeks ago, when we first bid on the boat. But now, our brainstorming has become frantic, since we have to document the boat next week. If we don’t figure out a name in time, we’ll either have to live with a strange name we can’t pronounce, or we’ll have to change it later at a cost of several hundred dollars.

We’ve always subscribed to our friend Bill Brown’s theory of boat names, which is that it has to be clearly understandable when you are on fire and sinking and hollering “Mayday” on the radio. To test a name, Bill recommends borrowing the cheapest pair of walkie-talkies you can find, preferably some kids’ models that have chewing-gum in the switches and sticky soda-pop in the speakers. Walk out to the edge of the walkie-talkies’ range and scream the name of the boat three times fast with complete panic in your voice. If the other person can make out the name, it’s a good one. If they go, “Huh, what?” then try another name.

The above test explains why Bill named his boat Freebooter instead of Border Ruffian.

Some names pass the radio test with ease, but fail to meet other requirements. We want a name that’s pleasant and positive, something that makes people smile. Melanoma is easy to understand on the radio, but fails the smile test horribly. Merriment passes the smile test but fails the radio test. (I didn’t conduct Bill’s test on Merriment per se, but a bad cell phone connection with my sister made for a good simulation.)

Some names are just too common. Independence, for example — there are over 100 boats with that name in the U.S. I thought Figment might be unusual, but 13 other people chose that one. In the Northwest, Buckeye might be an uncommon name, but 30 people, probably all Ohio natives, have used it already. I’ve run dozens of searches on the Coast Guard documentation database to see what names are documented, so I know.

I also know that there are 262 boats named Andiamo. I’ve always wondered what an andiamo is, so I looked it up on the internet. It has something to do with Italian food, luggage, and hurrying up, which might explain why it’s usually found on the transom of powerboats. Also, the Danish translation is “fart på!” Personally, I think Fart På would make a better name for a stinkpot than Andiamo.

Whoops, I digress.

Another issue to consider is that when you hang out with other cruisers, they often use your boat name instead of your last name to identify you. So if we were to name the boat Peep, there would be folks standing around at a potluck on the beach, saying, “Oh, here come the Peeps!” That’s one reason that Tourist and Participant and Guilty Pleasure got crossed off the list.

You also don’t want to give the Coast Guard the wrong idea about what you’re doing on the boat. So we crossed out Snort. We also decided that saying we’re on Drugs is a bad idea. Although Barry liked the idea of showing up somewhere and saying we came in Peace.

Our short list has expanded and contracted several times, but we’d love to hear what you think. We’ll even make it a contest: If you send us the winning name for the boat, you’ll win a free trip to a boatyard on the east coast, complete with a free package of sandpaper and a Tyvek suit to wear while you use it!

Here are some of the names we considered and rejected:

Clueful
Inconstromitable
Lurk
Phoon
Slug Race
Southern Crow
Squeezebox
Wabbit

Here are some of the remaining contenders:

Chuckle
Creativity
Fanciful
Flutterby
Happy Thought
Sangha
Sparkle
Sunbreak
Twinkle