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:

Slug Race
Southern Crow

Here are some of the remaining contenders:

Happy Thought

7 thoughts on “A rose by any other name

  1. Hi Meps and Barry, we feel for you – that documentation requirement (and the short deadline to pick a name) is how we ended up with Bint al Khamseen as the name for our Caliber! Awful radio name, but definitely the topic of many first conversations with new friends. :)
    Anyway, congratulations on the new boat! And, I vote for “Sunbreak” if you’re going to rename the Falcon. It’s such a PNW word, I’d never heard of it before I moved to Seattle, but now I know how lucky I feel when I see one.

  2. It’s also the tender, you know.

    I submit the following:

    Glee Club w/ Chorus
    Silver Lining w/ Luck
    High Yield w/ Legal Tender
    Stick Ups w/ Bandits
    Midnight Oasis w/ Camel

    jacqui mac

    Captain Jac, SPARROW
    w/ Miss Piggy (don’t ask)

    A few more days, maybe, a few more submisions…
    and I hope you are serious about those prizes.

  3. I have a couple of ideas. When I met you, you were in the Squidwagon. Squid seems nautical enough; just put something other than “wagon” with it, like Squidboat. The other one just came to me out of the blue. You could call it “Sing Loud” and pass both the radio and smile tests.

  4. Thanks, Elsie! I have to admit, though, I’m not a huge falcon fan, which makes it hard to keep that part of the existing name. We’re also considering repainting the hull a color other than red…

    We’ve received many name suggestions in e-mail, and I thought I’d share some of the great comments below:

    From Tom: “Consider Shangri-La or a phonetic variant. You have certainly searched for her long enough and it must feel like paradise to have found her and made her yours.”

    From Lee, of Whisper: “Maybe you need to find a local dive and pick a “regional” food name to reflect some of the local color of where you got your boat. Bubba can help, and sand if you keep fluid with enough beers. Could be worse: “parsnip pleasure” I can see the wicked grin now. add drawing of upturned two legged parsnip sorta like two black c-f masts?”

    From Sara: “Chuckle, Twinkle and Sparkle all have great resonance.”

    From Daisy: “I vote for Flutterby. Sun Streak is good, too.”

    Barbara, whose boat is called Complexity, suggested: Bahia Dream, Bliss, Joy, Raven, Free Spirit, Puffin, Aurora, Cascadian Dreamer, Wind Song, Sea Star, Merry Zephyr, Bullfrog

    From Paul, of Indigo: “I think there are several good reasons to re-name the boat Red Falcon:
    1. There is an action figure of this name – see http://www.innerspaceonline.com/rfal.htm – one of these would look good on-board.
    2. In Australia there is a company called that and they play nice music on their website.
    3. There is a book of that title on Amazon and if you look at the ad, they suggest that people who buy The Red Falcon also buy The Adventures of the Three Mosquitoes and The Weird Detective.
    4. You can get stainless steel body armor made by a Georgia company named Red Falcon – you are in the neighborhood practically and you never know when a set of armor will come in handy.
    5. It passes the radio test and probably doesn’t fail the smile test.
    6. How many boat names have that many intriguing associations on the internet – really I didn’t make these up and there are lots more – maybe I shouldn’t mention the ship that hit a bridge or the “raptor class” car ferry?
    7. It’s probably what the previous owner had in mind anyway so the re-naming ceremony will just be a matter of clarification for the Gods of the Deep.”

    From Sam, former owner of Banjo, who almost called her boat Luna Sea: “Would you consider keeping “Falcon” and adding another word like…flutter, sparkle or twinkle?”

    From Sharon, Barry’s Mom (who is of Italian descent): “About your naming dilemma; andiamo ‘officially’ is the first person plural present tense of the Italian verb andare meaning to go, to walk, to move or to happen–perhaps there’s also a food interpretation. My contributions to the name list: Carefree; Merry Breeze; Sea Otter; Sea Sprite. I thought of a number of stars, constellations, sea gods, sea birds, whales, and porpoises, but they are probably well used already.”

    From Tara, in landlocked Columbus: “Here’s one thought for the name of your new boat — how about ‘Gyrfalcon’? If you look it up, you’ll see an incredibly beautiful bird. But the word itself also makes me think about gyroscopes, and going ’round and ’round … and wandering about the earth (as you do) … and the slithy toves that did gyre and gimble in the wabe — rather fitting, all in all, don’t you think? … It’s still related to the previous name, but it doesn’t have that goofy “rougue” attached, which is hard to figure out. Just for the fun of it, I decided to go on the possibility that “rougue” meant “rouge” [red] and not “rogue”. Here’s the niftiest of what I found on Google images by looking up “red falcon”.”

    Tara also made this delightful comment: “You are the only folks I know for whom the terms “homesick” and “seasick” mean the same thing, since your *home* is clearly the sea.”

    And lastly, we got a whole list from Steve (who sails with Elsie on Osprey)…this is a wonderful list of words, but most of them do NOT pass either the explanation test or the radio test:

    Try one of these. I often retreat to my growlery to prepare a jeremiad about the Republican farrago and the Democratic imbroglio.

    Farrago fe-rah’go, n (Latin farrago, mixed fodder, from far, grain)

    A confused mass of objects or people; any disordered mixture. This is an excellent term to describe the chaos evident in a crowd, jumble sale, or any drawer in my home. It’s not just a mess, but adds the extra context of confusion and clutter.

    Galimatias gal-i-may’shi-us, n (French, gibberish)

    Nonsense; a confused mixture of unrelated things. This very cordial-sounding word is extraordinarily useful in contexts where one wishes to inform someone that their ideas are bafflingly ridiculous and incoherent without seeming overly impolite. It combines the senses of ‘incoherent’ and ‘ridiculous’ into a unique and useful term.

    Growlery growl’er-ee, n (English; cf. Dutch grollen, to grumble)

    A retreat for times of ill humour. This term has largely become obsolete, which is strange, given that so many people seem to have a place to go when they are in a bad mood – a place to be alone and think. It’s similar in meaning to the Latin-derived sanctum sanctorum, with the added connotation that the individual in question is going to the place to be alone while upset.

    Imbroglio im-broal’yo, n (Italian, confusion, from imbrogliare to confuse, embroil)

    An intricate, confusing or disturbing situation; a confused mass or heap. Imbroglio is close to predicament in meaning, only with a remarkable sound (especially its Italian soft ‘g’) and the added connotation of confusion and entanglement. It is to be preferred enormously over the anglicised ’embroilment’.

    Mascaron mas’ke-ron, n (French masque, a mask, from Italian maschera)

    A grotesque face on a door-knocker. Everyone’s seen and used them, but I’ll bet you didn’t know there was a word for this. Not only does it have a remarkable sound, but it’s the sort of thing that really ought to have a word. Related to mask, mascaron may ultimately derive from the Arabic maskharah, a jester or man in masquerade.

    Panopticon pan-op’ti-kon, n (Greek, pan- all and optikon for seeing)

    A prison where all inmates can be watched from one point; an exhibition room. The panopticon was an idea of Jeremy Bentham. If a single guard post is erected in the middle of a circular prison, all cells can be seen from that point. Unfortunately, the idea never caught on, though the word was used to apply to a royal exhibition in London roughly organized on such a scheme.

    Sisyphean sis-i-fee’an, adj (Greek, from Sisyphus, king of Corinth)

    Laborious, endless and futile. This term, sometimes capitalised, derives from the story of the legendary king Sisyphus, who was condemned after his death to perpetually roll a huge stone to the top of the hill, only to have it roll back each time he neared his goal. Sisyphean is a marvelous adjective to describe much of the work done in the world today.

  5. Meps and Barry,

    I think you’re overlooking and obvious and easy solution: just call the boat “Falcon”. “Rougue” looked French to me but I looked it up in my copy of Larouse De Poche and its not in there although several other words close to it in spelling mean “red” which makes sense. Another option for a name would be “Red Falcon”, although that might be considered redundant considering the color of the boat.

    I got out our copy of the “L.Francis Herreshoff Reader” which has an article in it called “Naming the Yacht.” You’ll be pleased to learn that the very first point Herreshoff makes is that you must be able to clearly and distinctly enunciate the name in an emergency. His second point is the name should be melodious. (He likes Spanish and Italian names ending in O for that reason – think of “Cuervo”, the Spanish word for crow or “Cuervo Rojo”.). Herreshoff strongly dislikes names made up of the owners’ names (egotistical) or those which have no clear meaning, or those which have an obscure meaning and have to be explained all the time. In discussing the history of yacht names, he notes how often the names of mythological characters (Aphrodite, Artemis, Athena, etc.) have been used. Another popular theme is birds’ names. The article includes a list of names of yachts in the past which includes “Falcon” but not any of the names on your list.

  6. We have a couple of votes for Flutterby, and one for Whimsy, which is not on the list (we’re saving that name for the next boat!)

    Here are some of the suggestions we’ve gotten today, plus some I’ve added to the list:
    Carolina Crow
    Peep Show
    Candy Apple
    Peanut Gallery
    Happy Camper

    Cast your votes or make your suggestions here!

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