How Sweet the Sound

Published in the August 2007 Issue November 2018 Feature By Janet Groene, with Gordon Groene

What to name the houseboat that will be your home?  Stop! Think! Before the artist arrives with the golden leaf, put that name through some serious sea trials.

Does it blow your cover? 

Most of us go boating to get away from it all. Unless you want people dropping in for a free consultation, stay away from such revealing names as The Doctor’s Inn, Po’ Diatryst, Plumber’s Helper, Writer’s Cramp, Stock Picker or Dentist the Menace. 

Be original.

According to Boat US, top names include Seas the Day, Aquaholic, Island Time, Dragonfly, Pura Vida, Encore, Black Pearl, Destiny, Serenity Now and License to Chill. If you can’t do better than these overworked old saws, buy an RV. Nobody names them.

Avoid double meanings. 

As young urchins of the sea, we were tempted to name a boat Oursin , French for sea urchin. Then we realized everyone would call it Our Sin. Brisa and Brise mean Breeze in Spanish and German but Bris is the Yiddish word for circumcision. Coco was high-fashion when Chanel was alive. Now it’s French slang for communist. Nova is a star but to Latins it means “no go”.

How much explaining does it need?

It may seem just too cute now to name your boat JaJiJu after your children Jane, Jim, and June, but it will lose its charm after you’ve explained it for the ten millionth time. Those who hear it can’t spell it. Those who see it can’t pronounce it. 

Is she here to stay?

Not the boat, the girl.  It’s tempting to name a boat Water Lily, Ocean Pearl or Queen Elizabeth but if you divorce Lily, Pearl or Elizabeth you won’t find another first mate until your transom has been sanded down to the matte and roving and all traces of the ex-mate have been expunged. Stick to generic terms like Beloved, Mi Amore, Lady Love, or Ma Petite.

Don’t rile the gods. 

Living aboard has enough problems without invoking Old Nick, Devil’s Advocate,  Neptune, Thor, Odin and their ilk.

Eschew obfuscation. 

Unless you’re on a personal mission to educate the world that Fornax is a constellation named in honor of Antoine Lavoisier, who was guillotined in the French Revolution, you’ll soon dread having to explain your boat’s name to everyone who strolls down the dock.

Avoid the curse effect.

You’d be crazy to name your boat Stormy Weather, White Squall, Greased Lightning, Albatross, Titanic II, Water Torture, Out on Bail, or Riptide.  Names like Seagull, Osprey, Lonesome Dove, and Peregrine Falcon will assure a lifetime of bird poop all over your deck.  Row Vs. Wade sounds clever but the idea is to avoid both rowing and wading by keeping your engine and bilge pump in working order.

Can everyone spell it?

Nobody but retired English teachers can remember how many s’s and d’s are in Odyssey or where to put the h in Cirrhosis of the River. The only way to remember how to spell Bougainvillea is to have it tattooed on the inside of your wrist where you can refer to it regularly.

Is it copyrighted or trademarked?

Call your boat a copyrighted name like Mickey Mouse, Muppet, Victoria’s Secret, or Lucky Strike and you could be sued by a very big company.

Has Madison Avenue corrupted the meaning?

Serenity used to be a great boat name but now it’s something used by adults with bladder control problems. Swifter used to mean you were faster than the other guy. Now it’s a floor mop. Lazy Boy is a chair for geezers, even if you marinize it to Lazy Buoy.

Don’t date yourself.

All the Dot.Calms have sailed into the Bay of Passé to join Hula Whoop, Beach Buoys, Tranquility Base, Hi Five and Gone With the Wind. Name your boat for this year’s rock group or hit movie and it’s next year’s Old Hat.

Funny is as funny does.

You’ll get a laugh the first time you sail by in Up Your River or Water on the Brain or Passing Wind but the humor wanes in time. Author John D. MacDonald’s hero, Travis McGee, lived aboard a boat named Busted Flush.  Can you imagine how embarrassed he was when he had to call a plumber?

Is it G rated? 

Beware the wrath of the PC police if you name the boat something like Hard on the Wind, Seaduction , SexSea, Moby Dick, or  Ship Happens.  Ecstasy is an illegal drug, and not all of today’s Gay Blades are really gay. Some people have nauti minds.

Unless this is a new boat, it already has a name. Changing it is bad luck. Don’t say we didn’t warn you. 

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