Thursday, January 21, 2010


Here's a subject - L. Francis Herreshoff wrote an entire essay on "Naming the Yacht", see his wonderful  Reader. I can't go so far, but there are some rules.

1.   Some names are taken or retired. You think you can call your little sloop "Running Tide", or "Shenandoah", or "Ticonderoga"? Sorry.

2. You must not name your boat after how you earn your living, as in "Decision" for a lawyer, or "Net Gain" for a financier. No matter how subtle, how clever, it's bound to be a bit tacky.

3.   If possible pick a name that works well on the radio.  There's a boat down Cape Cod way, I think a charter fishing boat, called "Dazed and Confused", and we hear them on the VHF a lot. Speaking as a former watchstander in a Coast Guard rescue coordinations center, that's a terrible and, well, confusing name to be broadcasting. And there's a pretty Pilot 35 in Edgartown called "It Never Entered My Mind". Obviously.

4. If you don't like the name of a boat you have bought, change it. But if you think you might like the name, keep it for a while and see if it grows on you.  Your boat may have made friends in many ports and if you change the name they won't know the boat.

An acquaintance breeds draft horses. He sometimes waits as long as a year to finally name a foal. When I bought Journeyman she was "Vagrant", a name which in years gone by no doubt had a carefree, Gypsy air. I turned over various names in my mind - McWhirr, after Conrad's skipper of the Nan-Shee, was one - but none seemed right. Journeyman, which came to me several months after we took delivery, was an instant fit.

In tomorrow's post I will bestow upon the nautical world a great name for a certain type of yacht, interesting, cadenced,  maritime, and so far as I know used little or not at all.

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