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Anke and I live aboard WAYWARD, and wrote about it's design and construction at

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Fair winds!

Dave and Anke
triloboats swirly gmail daughter com

Saturday, November 8, 2014

What's in a Name? Naming One's Vessel

Yacht names carved into boardwalk at
Tofino Hotsprings, BC

“A name can't begin to encompass the sum of all her parts. But that's the magic of names, isn't it? That the complex, contradictory individuals we are can be called up complete and whole in another mind through the simple sorcery of a name.”

 ― From Dreams Underfoot by Charles de Lint

What's in a Name? Naming One's Vessel

Ideally, the name should evoke the spirit of the vessel. One's approach to life. One's Self. All of these.

But contenders have to run a gamut of quibbles. 
First and foremost, if one is plural, it has to grab both of you...
For example, Anke loves MUSTELID, which represents a whole family of admittedly fascinating varmints. They share a certain funk to which we relate. Me? I'd like to narrow that down to two that have a strong, aquatic connection; LUTRA - land and sea otters. But that sits lower down Anke's faves than others...
Cute and clever are tempting, but often have a short lifespan.... too long on the lips and it may come to gall.

SQUARE PEG (in a round world), for example. Or CUBIT, BOXER or C- or R-SQUARED.

The name must fit into society.

For example, we love the name ANARCHY. But its the kind of word that puts Concerned Citizens up in arms. Wouldn't do to sail into a town that doesn't know us with a name like that. Ditto ERIS (Goddess of Discord).

It has to be distinctive on the air (radio communications). 

US Coast Guard Vessel LIBERTY, this is the QUIRK, the QUIRK, the QUIRK. 
Quebec... Uniform... India... Romeo... Kilo. QUIRK.
Affirmative, QUIRK.

Too obscure:

WAMPETER. LIFE o' CONWAY. HOPEFUL MONSTER. BENTO. OPUS (Oppure Se Muove!). GREAT MOMENTS (in Evolution... a Gary Larsen cartoon that... well... nevermind). LI T'SI PO. TRILOBOAT (what the hay???).

S'CHAO was our most 'hopeful monster'. Chao (pronounced cow) is a Discordian (see ERIS, above) Unit of Chaos. YEAH! The S' prefix, with a little, local dialectic stretch passes for it's a, and makes the name a homophone of scow. Cool on all counts but about as obscure as they come. And get it across over radio?
Cool sub-text is welcome...
SLACKTIDE: Ambiguous uncertainty; Stillness in transition; Adaptability (from the I Ching).

Too much character can broadcast more than we might wish.


So, we have a short-list of contenders, but no final decision.

As she takes shape, her character grows ever more pronounced. One of these days... and very soon...

She'll whisper her name to us.



  1. Our naming convention is to have longer and bolder names for smaller and smaller boats. What one lacks in displacement we make up for in attitude. Bigger boats need shorter names as you'll be using it more when talking to bridgemasters to open their bridge.

    Now I've got the problem of naming a 12 foot scow i built. That will need a massive name.

    1. Hi Sixbears,

      In that spirit, a friend had a canoe with a name consisting of a long and beautiful poem written along the sheerline, and taking up the whole perimeter of the boat!

      Something like, "I set my little boat upon the water..." ...dum-bitty bum te tum... "...candlelight to babylon..." and so on. It was a long time ago.

      Best scow name I've heard was SCOWZER. I'm green with envy!


      Dave Z

  2. As a CG vet, I offer this; three syllables seems easiest to understand on radio. And avoid cute spellings such as using Y instead of I or the like. Although I've seen nice names done using the first couple of letters of the family's name. One fisherman had a boat named DENALI from DEborah, NAthaniel and LInaea.

    1. Hi Glenn,

      Anke says, "MUST*E*LID - 123 - QED!" 8)

      We'll take that under consideration, though our front runner counts four syllables.

      DENALI / family names is beautiful... cool name that means something personal!

      Dave Z

  3. Sounds good. Now paint it in good, big, plain letters, well spaced. So The Man can read it from far away. When I was on a Patrol Boat, the closer we had to get to ID a vessel, the more likely it was that our Skipper would order a boarding. Proximity and propinquity...

    1. Hi Glenn,

      Good advice!

      Funny, we've never been boarded (though it's taken us years, sometimes, to get our names painted on... must not look like drug money). Not even when a TRIDENT nuclear sub surfaced within a quarter mile of us in Puget Sound (THAT's what the two USCG cutters were doing there!). 'Course, that was pre-9/11.

      It's also possible they know us. We've had many Coastie friends, over the years, and we see one another frequently, at close quarters in some lonely spots, as well as in their town bases.

      Good to know they're on the job!

      Still... boardings are never exactly comfortable for either crew. We'll take your advice.

      Dave Z