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.