Last week a transient powerboat named FLOATING “DOC” III pulled onto the T next to my slip. The owner was a nice enough fellow, but the name reminded me how much I dislike pun boat names (and sports headlines.) And to think, he had owned two other FLOATING “DOC”s.
The rise of the pithy pun names, to say nothing of alliterative names, took off in the 1990s. Up until then, the top 30 boat names contained no puns, according to the US Coast Guard certificate of certification database. Among nineties boats, however, SEAS THE DAY crept in at number 25, well below CARPE DIEM. (Translated into English, it means “seize the day,” which is what the pun is based on.)
To be sure, the database only includes a fraction of all recreational vessels but it is a pretty decent sample, even if it does probably skew to larger boats and doesn’t account for sinkings and renamings, among other things.
SEAS THE DAY was just the beginning. By the 2000s, the boozy HAPPY OURS and the medical KNOT ON CALL had joined it in the top 30 names. The next decade saw WHY KNOT added to the top names and why not?
Around the same time, jokey, aspirational, foreign cultural references, and even pop culture and marketing slogans started showing up.
MILLER TIME, for example, was first used as part of an advertising campaign by the beer company in 1971. It first appears as the name of a few 1980s boats. It is now the 9th most popular name this decade, up more than 1,000 places.
Recent years have brought the 1-percenter LIQUID ASSET, ranked 19 among boats built in the oughts, the utterly perplexing WINE DOWN, ranked 21 this decade. The Seinfeldian SERENITY NOW almost cracked the top 30. It was probably held back by the perennially popular SERENITY, which has the benefit of being fewer words while being less angry bald man and more bald Buddhist monk.
Today we see OHANA, a Hawaiian word for extended family and friends, and PURA VIDA, Spanish for pure life, among the more popular names for newer boats. Those two plus SILVER LINING, ISLAND TIME and FOREVER YOUNG are pushing down the popularity of old classics, such as OSPREY, ODYSSEY, and PEGASUS
The word Sea, however, seems to have captured the lacking imagination of boat owners: There is ECSTASEA, also spelled EGGS TA SEA and XTA-SEA. There is FANTASEA, NAUTI FANTASEA, WHIMSEA, SEADATION, SEADUCTRESS and VICTORIA’S SEACRET. There is the possible nerdy computer reference SEAQUEL and definitely nerdy reference SEA PLUS PLUS. There is a possible double pun, PLANE TO SEA, as well as VITAMIN SEA, LUNA SEA, GYPSEA, O SEA D.
And just to add a final exclamation to it all, there is SEARENITY.
So what’s my boat naming confession?
I once named a boat control-alt-delete, which was a horrific name and even worse over the radio. We eventually gave up and just called her reboot.
Since then I have had a few other boats and kept the names they came with.
Calliope, a 36-foot S2 sloop, for example, was named for Zeus’ muse of epic poetry. She appealed to me, and so I kept the name. (She could also be named for the musical instrument of the same spelling, but I like the muse thing better.)
My current boat, a 54-foot Kaufman and Ladd designed ketch, is named Zennora, a name sometimes given to girls from the village of Zennor on the Cornish coast of England. According to the previous owners, they came to it after naming their first boat the Maid of Zennor, in honor of the mermaid who convinced Zennor’s parish priest to join her for all eternity in the treacherous waters of the Bristol Channel. I like that too.
I suppose those choices say something about me, which I will take up with my shrink. I am afraid for America and what these puns say about us.
Here are the top 30 names by year of vessel construction:
|Prior to 1970||1970s||1980s||1990s||2000s||2010s|
|OSPREY||OSPREY||SECOND WIND||ISLAND TIME||FREEDOM||ANDIAMO|
|SERENITY||FREEDOM||DESTINY||FREEDOM||SERENITY||SEAS THE DAY|
|WHISPER||MARIAH||OSPREY||DREAM CATCHER||HAPPY OURS||FREEDOM|
|PEGASUS||SECOND WIND||OBSESSION||LIBERTY||BLUE MOON||RELENTLESS|
|DOLPHIN||FREE SPIRIT||SPIRIT||TIME OUT||SEAS THE DAY||HAPPY OURS|
|AQUARIUS||ODYSSEY||PEGASUS||ISLAND GIRL||BLACK PEARL||MILLER TIME|
|DESTINY||WINDSONG||ODYSSEY||SECOND WIND||LA DOLCE VITA||PURA VIDA|
|FREEDOM||HALCYON||GRACE||CARPE DIEM||PURA VIDA||BELLA VITA|
|WINDFALL||LIBERTY||DREAM CATCHER||DOUBLE TROUBLE||AT LAST||WHY KNOT|
|DULCINEA||AURORA||SEREN-DIPITY||AT LAST||KNOT ON CALL||ESCAPE|
|RAVEN||ARIEL||ESCAPE||ODYSSEY||SECOND WIND||SILVER LINING|
|QUEST||PHOENIX||ESCAPADE||GRACE||TIME OUT||ISLAND TIME|
|MORNING STAR||MAGIC||TRAN-QUILITY||ORION||BELLA VITA||BLUE MOON|
|ESCAPADE||MORNING STAR||BLUE MOON||COOL CHANGE||LIQUID ASSET||ENCORE|
|PHOENIX||ORION||MAGIC||GREAT ESCAPE||DREAM CATCHER||ZEPHYR|
|WINDSONG||PELICAN||VOYAGER||PARADISE||ODYSSEY||KNOT ON CALL|
|AEOLUS||CAMELOT||SANDPIPER||ENDLESS SUMMER||LEGACY||FOREVER YOUNG|
|SHADOW||DESTINY||HALCYON||HAKUNA MATATA||IMAGINE||LAST CALL|
|SEA FEVER||QUEST||ZEPHYR||OBSESSION||SOUTHERN CROSS||WINE DOWN|
|HALCYON||AEOLUS||CHEERS||SPIRIT||ENDLESS SUMMER||BLACK PEARL|
|SUNDANCE||PUFFIN||INTERLUDE||SEAS THE DAY||LIFE IS GOOD||LA BELLA VITA|
|EAGLE||SUNDANCE||SECOND CHANCE||BLUE MOON||SERENDIPITY||MY WAY|
|STARDUST||GRACE||AURORA||HAPPY OURS||AT EASE|
Note: This data comes from the USCG and contains information on the names of about 40,000 recreational vessels. Because of ties, most decades contain more than 30 names.