Streaming the Consciousness of Names

Now that Mike is finished with the engine refit and we have the boat back in the water, we get to enjoy a rare weekend of downtime. During this soggy March in Washington State, the wettest March on record (oh, ululations of profound joy, right?), downtime really means no driving down to Astoria and no big projects. Just taxes and catching up on indoor projects we’ve left unfinished. Like the curtains. Today I am staying by the warm stove finishing up the dyeing process for the salon curtains and, once again,  thinking about boat names.

Why does it seem like naming a boat is about as hard as naming your first born child? Now that Andromeda is coming to life after her long sleep and heart/lung transplant, we need to conjur up a new name for her. The name ‘Andromeda’, while beautiful, does not really suit me.  Mike likes the name better than I do, but it’s important that we both feel equally good about this name, and this boat. This vessel represents a complete change in how we live our lives and how we see our near future. Just as we are letting go of unused ‘stuff’, clearing out our lives in preparation for the new life we are creating, she needs to be released of whatever has outlived its purpose as well. This includes her historical names. She must be purified in a way, and made ready for the next phase of her life, too.

One of the pieces of clutter to be released: this ancient emergency beacon. We will buy a new one.

One of the pieces of clutter to be released: this ancient emergency beacon. We will buy a new one.

Our first boat was named ‘Saucy Sue’. Like the name of our blog, this was a reference to BlackAdder, the BBC TV show of yore. ‘Saucy Sue’ was a perfect name for our Catalina 27. She was decidedly ‘saucy’ as she bounded along at a right good clip, heeled over well, sails flying. The name conjurs up pictures of someone small and cute with attitude and that pretty much describes that boat.

The Sue being extra saucy!

The Sue being extra saucy!

Our second boat was the Cal 34, ‘Moonrise’.  There was a vintage ’70’s plaque in the salon when we bought her; name firmly burned into the wood in fancy script.  Mike wasn’t crazy about the name, but her name (and her diesel stove) were what told me she was ‘our’ boat. As soon as I saw the plaque I knew. We looked at other boats, but we always came back to her. Probably because he wanted me to love the boat as much as he did, Mike agreed we would keep the name. Her name always made me feel serene, and this is how I generally felt on that boat. Actually, I remember that the minute I set foot on that boat, the stress would start to drain from my body.

Moonrise at sail with a reefed main.

Moonrise at sail with a reefed main. She was such a fun boat.

Our family actually owns two boats, one of which is kept in Bellingham and sailed by our son, Andrew. Andrew’s boat is an Ericson 25 and is named ‘Danger Kitten’.  I love the way he came up with that name, allowing the personality of the boat to emerge before he named her. It’s been the perfect name for this wee boat that is sometimes a challenge to sail safely in windy Bellingham. Keep her in mind if you are looking for a small boat, as Andrew will be selling her in the future to get something a little more appropriate for the kind of sailing he wants to do.  She is a fun boat and he loves her.

Little boat, big attitude.

When we started looking at boats for our next adventure I payed close attention to the names of the vessels. It wasn’t deliberate, it’s just something noticeable maybe because it tells me something about the person who owned the boat before and what they expected out of the boat. I am partial to names that imply mystery, are archetypal in some way, or bird names. Mike likes names that are lyrical, or have some sort of personal significance.

One of the boats we really loved and didn’t buy was a Westerly Sealord named ‘Spellbound’. I love that name because it invokes the feeling we all get sometimes when we are out on the water and the beauty of it hits us just right. It holds us spellbound.  There was another boat of that name in our marina; a big traditional Islander sailboat painted bright yellow. It had been neglected. It was also named ‘Spellbound’ and it had a little yellow dingy named ‘Little Misspell’.  Good thing we weren’t ready to buy or I may have been interested because the name of the boat drew me in. She would have been a major project.

There is another boat in the same marina; a Norseman 447. Beautiful boat! It has circumnavigated several times, i.e. it needs a ton of work, but OH, that hull! The name of that boat is ‘Serenity’. That name tells me how the owners viewed this boat, and what they expected from her. We would probably get along, those owners and me. It’s still for sale, by the way, and the price has come down considerably. Someone will get a great boat if they have the money to put into it. It’s a boat with a cool history, and it would be worth repairing and refitting.

Then there was ‘Flying Gull‘. I love the name, I still love the boat. That’s the name of the big Sparkman and Stevens sailboat we almost bought a year ago. It was a boat meant to break hearts and it certainly broke ours. We do not regret our experience with that boat, but I will always have a sore place in my heart when thinking about her. If we were going to sail only in this area or up the inside passage, that boat would have been pretty much perfect.  And the name? Think about how gulls just ride the wind effortlessly. They are awesome to watch. Who wouldn’t want a boat that could fly like a gull? To be honest, when I look at photos of that boat I still want to cry. Even though I do love Andromeda and am very pleased that we bought her. Flying Gull will always have a place in my heart. I have to look away.

Flying Gull. The boat that broke our heart but prepared us for Andromeda.

Andromeda has had several names. She has been ‘Aquarius’, and ‘Walhachin’, at least. The name ‘Walhachin’ is engraved on an owner’s plate just above the ladder into the cabin. The name ‘Aquarius’ is still written on the propane tanks.  We know the previous owner named her Andromeda because this name had special meaning to him. But he did not perform the naming ceremony and I have never felt as though this boat felt like an ‘Andromeda’ to me. That’s a feeling that is hard to put into words, but there it is. Perhaps she is confused about her name.

Sailors are a superstitious lot, but if people have believed for centuries that boats have ‘consciousness’, then there’s a reason why. Although ‘Andromeda’ is a perfectly beautiful name and is also associated with a rather picturesque galaxy far far away, for me, the word ‘Andromeda’ brings up images of a young girl tied to the rocks as a human sacrifice to the gods, then rescued by her hero. Um. This is probably not the best image to associate with a boat; this image of human suffering. If feels heavy to me, like it’s a name that has to be lived up to.  I’d like a name that implies playfulness and a lightness of spirit,  a name that brings up images of being easy on the sea, of adventure, exploration, and of gratitude. It needs to be different from most other boat names, but also easy to say and easy to understand.

Andromeda looks somehow brighter after her new engine refit.

I like bird names such as ‘Osprey’, ‘Pelican’, and ‘Puffin’, but none of them are really right for this boat. She is blue, so ‘Bluebird’ comes to mind, but she is really too big for that name. I’ve also thought of ‘Blue Swan’, but her sister ship is ‘Black Swan’, so that might be weird. It also might be cool. I don’t know. There is a boat in Astoria named ‘Peacock’. That’s a pretty cool name, too.

I feel grateful that we had the means and opportunity to buy this boat as she is so much more than I ever thought we would have. And she is graceful to look at and I love the color of her hull. So I think of the name ‘Grace’, then ‘Gracie’ which is a more playful version, then ‘Gracie Blue’ which kind of rolls off the tongue. Mike likes the name ‘Fetching’, but I’m on the fence on that one. Seems more suited to a sleeker, lighter boat, although I admit that when we finally had her on the water, she was quite ‘fetching’.

I figure that like most things, the answer will come to us when it’s ready. We’ll just get her out on the water, bring her to life, and let her speak to us. From her heart to ours, the right name for this part of our lives will emerge.

A sweet little Westerly we looked at in Vancouver, BC. I have no idea what this name means.

A sweet little Westerly we looked at in Vancouver, BC. I have no idea what this name means.

28 thoughts on “Streaming the Consciousness of Names

  1. Sounds like a good reason to go sailing. Since it’s a new chapter in your lives and of your boat, what came to my mind was “Liberating” or something along that path. Take her out and it may come to you.

    She is looking pretty good.

    • I think it will come once we really start sailing her. Yes, something that represents the freedom we hope to have, maybe.

  2. The right name will come! Or not. You could be like me and name her one thing then call her something completely different and unrelated because you realize later you whiffed it. 🙂

    • Well yours is a musical reference, no? And your husband is a Scot. So it makes sense that you’d have a boat with a Gaelic name that refers to music. That combination of you and Mark. But now I want to know what you call her.

  3. Blue Moon Rising. References and honours you last boat, acknowledges the colour of this one. Blue moons are rare, and don’t come around very often, like boats you can fall in love with. Rising implies the hope of many happy sails aboard her. Just a thought, feel free to discard it 🙂

    • Nice! We’ll put that on the list. I’d thought of Blue Moon, but hadn’t put the ‘rising’ at the end.

      • Good luck with your decision process. We decided in the end not to rename our boat partly out of superstition (she had been renamed before without the proper ceremony) and partly because we’ve grown to love the name she has. Last year we found out how she came by her current name from a previous owner. The tale is an interesting and unique one and a bit of her history we do not wish to rob her of. Nor I think could we change her bright red colour. We’ll save the name we love for our next boat.

  4. Maybe something associated with Eagles. In the land of birds your boat is definitely on the level of Eagles. I’m excited that you get to rename your boat :). As you said she’s had many names and it doesn’t appear that care was taken when renaming her in the past. Confused like you said.

    She needs a true name for you and Mike.

    When we first bought Sundowner I didn’t like name all that much, but when I learned that was the name that carried Molly and Roger around the world 3 times, in marriage, in love and in safety, I just couldn’t imagine renaming her. That is her name deep down in her soul. Something your boat needs.

    • That’s how I felt about Moonrise, Dani. The name seemed to suit the boat and all the experiences it had already had. I like the way you think about it!

  5. Choosing a name is indeed a big deal! We took a long time tossing names around before deciding on “Nirvana” … a Buddhist term meaning “bliss and enlightenment” … a lack of materialism.

    Like you, Andromeda brings the same sort of visions to my mind. Your boat is beautiful, and I’m sure you’ll find the perfect name to reflect your personalities … and hers. “Spellbound” gets my vote!

    Oh, and I finally caught up on your posts … congrats on getting her back in the water! 30,000 pounds … that’s three times the weight of our Catalina 30! Good thing we don’t plan on taking her across oceans. =)

    • Yeah, she is a big girl. She weighs 4 times what our Cal 34 weighed. But she is definitely light on her feet in the water. Makes no sense to me, but then I was never that great at physics. Have a great time on your upcoming vacation!

  6. Such an important decision. Our Cal 2-27 came named “Flying Mist II” which made us always wonder what happened to Flying Mist I. One of the first things I researched was “How to remove boat letters”. The broker sent us the name changing ceremony. Great excuse for a part. We renamed her “Sirena Gorda” or Fat Mermaid in english. It’s a bar in Zihuatenejo and we loved the name. Sirena is now Mongo and currently in Hawaii!
    Our Catalina 38 came named “Naughty By Nature”. We swore we’d change the name but before we could, it stuck! It’s “the Naughty Boat”. And all but one of our kids love it! I just learned, don’t google it a work because it sure brings up some racy photos. Apparently Naughty By Nature is also a hip hop band.
    Good luck with your decision and the ceremony itself is such great fun.
    Ken St. John
    S/V Naughty By Nature

    • Fat Mermaid! That is hysterical and I actually love it in English. I think I would have changed ‘Naughty by Nature’, but once kids get hold of a name you just have to go with it. ‘The naughty boat’ is quite amusing for sure. And, yes, I think I will leave the googling on that name to others. A Catalina 38 is a sweet boat, so I cannot imagine what kind of trouble she gets up to…

  7. We’ve had quite a few boats over the years and have never named them. A year or so ago we bought a new boat. My wife asked what we should name it and I thought we’d just call it “the boat”, like every other boat we’ve had. She came up with Spellbound, which she got from the Robin Trower song Daydream. I mostly still call it the boat.

    Some might say I have no romance in my soul!

  8. I have the same challenge… I have been thinking for a year what to call my Catalina 30… and I really don’t know… I have a couple in mind… Nautabyte; as I am a sailing computer geek, Avec; a musical term meaning Free, unrestrained or Passionate, Allegro; another musical term meaning cheerful or brisk and a newcomer to the list – Dulcenea; from “The Man of La Mancha” a show I am currently in at the Tacoma Musical Playhouse.

    I is really hard to know which is best, and I kind of worry that as soon As i have named her, a better name will come to mind… Sigh!

    but for your boat, You like birds, and the Boat is big, so how about “Big Bird”? LOL… I seriously stink at trying to come up with names…

    BTW, I have never had a chance to return your kindness for taking me out on Moonrise… If you might be interested, I have a couple of Comp Tickets for the last weekend (this coming weekend Apr 4-5) if you are going to be in town. Fri 8pm Sat 2pm and 8pm, and Sun 2pm…. Let me know soon if you would like them, and I will give you more info! Sorry for the short notice….

  9. Adding to my previous comment…. the Show for the Comp Tickets is “Man of La Mancha” at the Tacoma Musical Playhouse. (I realized I left that info out) We have done 10 shows and have had 10 Standing O’s…. doesn’t happen very often…. I really think you guys would enjoy it!

    • John, that is a very generous offer and we would love to see the show! We are going to Astoria this weekend, but we could go to your show on friday night and would surely enjoy it! Many thanks!
      In terms of the names for your boat, I’m partial to Dulcenea. That’s really pretty. And so is your boat!

      • Sweet! I will email Mike with the specifics soon! I have to admit, I like Dulcinea as well so far…. “To each his Dulcinea” (that will make sense after you see the show, if you don’t know already)… Oh… and I even have a solo in the show! LOL…

  10. Blue Star? It pulls in her gorgeous color and provides continuity with the galactic theme of her current name. Some nice graphic options too, if you want to get fancy with the hull decals and/or sail graphics.

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