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Name That Boat

07/21/08 5:55PM By Jay Parini
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(HOST) Commentator Jay Parini is a teacher, novelist, biographer and poet - with a special fondness for boats - and the names people give them.

(PARINI) What’s in a name - as Shakespeare once asked. Well, a lot, if you’re a boater. From what I’ve seen, people go to great lengths trying to think up just the right name for their beloved vessels. And more often than not, they fail. Why else would so many boats be called things like IDLE HOURS, DAD’S TOY or - among the worst I’ve ever seen - YACHTS OF FUN.

When I got my current boat, some years ago, I had quite a few arguments with my sons, who had their own ideas about what the family boat should be called. One of them, a teenager at the time, wanted CHICKS AHOY. My own first choice came from the old Latin proverb: SIC TRANSIT GLORIA MUNDI, which means roughly "And so pass the glories of this world." I would shorten it to just SIC TRANSIT, making for a nifty pun. But the kids thought that was kind of pretentious, exactly the sort of thing a professor would like. I thought briefly about GLORIA MUNDI, but one of my friends said he’d once dated a girl in high school called that, so there went that idea. Everyone seemed happy enough with the final name that flashed into my head one day as I dangled a line over the side in vain: FISHIN IMPOSSIBLE. So there it rests, a boat that will threaten few of our finny brethren below the surface of the lake.

Over the years, I’ve come across several fine names for boats. An English friend recalled a sailboat he had seen called PASSING WIND. There’s a lazy houseboat on the Otter Creek called BARELY A WAKE. It seems to slumber at the dock most days, and the name always makes me pleasantly drowzy. Once in the Westport Marina I saw a boat called NAUTICAL BUT NICE, and wished I’d come up with that one.

What I find dreadful are the endless bad puns, many of them with a vaguely erotic flavor, such as NICE AFT. (Quite a few of these names, of course, cannot be said aloud on the radio.) A fair number of boats, as might be expected, reflect the owner’s sense of deep financial terror - boats of any size amount to a hole in the water into which large amounts of cash are regularly poured. One handsome trawler until recently seen at the Point Bay Marina was called IT’S ONLY MONEY. Last summer at the dock in Burlington a pair of elegant sailboats arrived from Canada. The one was called SLUSH FUN. The other was DEEPER IN DEPTH.

Ah, there is no winning this game. The boater’s mind frequently spins all night, coming up with better and more relevant puns. It’s all part of the summer fun, I suppose. Let me think: VITAMIN SEA... ugh. JUST FOR THE HULL OF IT? Even worse.

Oh well, SEA YAWL LATER.

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