There is one thing all boats have in common. It doesn’t matter if these vessels are superyachts or sportfishers, schooners or sloops, cabin cruisers or center consoles, sportfishers or sailboats, ferries or freighters. That is, a name. Tacking a title on the transom began eons ago and was based on trepidation and superstition. As such, they were named after gods to keep the voyagers safe at sea. Similarly, and a little later, Christians gave their ships the protective names of saints. The practice of using the pronoun ‘she’ also relates to the mothering trait of keeping her family, or ship crew, safe.
Today, while countries like the USA, UK, and Canada don’t have regulations on what you can and can’t name a boat, there are some common sense guidelines. First, keep it short. No novels, please. Secondly, make sure it’s easy to pronounce. It’s hard enough for rescuers to hear over the radio in SOS conditions than try to repeat a boat name with all consonants. Third, don’t offend. Keep it classy.
There is a sea full of splendid examples of novel boat names throughout the Caribbean. Here is a sampling, what they mean, and the inspiration behind the name.
“Boat names for me come from situations involving the particular boat,” says Antigua & Barbuda’s Bernie Evan-Wong of his Reichel-Pugh 37. In this instance, he says, TAZ’s biggest rivals on the regatta circuit were the ‘Dingo’ team, meaning Trinidad & Tobago’s Mark Chapman’s Ker 11.3, Dingo Boat. “The only thing that can beat a Dingo (Australian wild dog) is the TAZ, short for Tasmanian Devil,” says Evan-Wong.
When Joe and Julie San Martin of St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands bought their first boat, a 36-foot Newick trimaran, they named it Three Little Pigs after a popular children’s fable they read to their young son. The three-hulled vessel also made the name a perfect fit. Akin to the fairy tale, when the big bad wolf blew down the pig’s house, the vessel was totaled in 1989’s Hurricane Hugo and rebuilt, then destroyed again save a wing mast and one ama, in 1999’s Hurricane Lenny. “After Three Little Pigs was totaled the second time, we looked for a smaller trimaran we could haul with our SUVs,” tells Julie San Martin. “Newick was attempting to launch a fleet of small, trailer-able trimarans (like the Farriers). Piglet was to have been the ‘mold boat’, but only two or three were built. What better name to a smaller successor than Piglet.”
Georges Coutu takes his girlfriend everywhere. From his yacht club Puerto Bahia Samana, in the Dominican Republic, he sailed her, a Leopard 50, to St. Maarten to race in the Caribbean Multihull Challenge in February, the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta in March, and the BVI Spring Regatta & Sailing Festival in April. “I tell my friends, I have my girlfriend, my La Novia (Spanish for ‘girlfriend’), and she gives me lots of satisfaction. She is also the only girlfriend my wife will accept,” says Coutu, of his racing cat.
A play on names is how Puerto Rico’s Fernando Montilla named his Tartan 10. “Timon in Spanish means the wheel for steering the boat. Plus, because of my last name, my friends call me Monti. Basically, Timon backward and slightly rearranged is Monti. I thought it was a great nautical name,” says Montilla.
The name was already on the transom when Gary Clifford bought the 31-foot Innovator for his True Blue Sportfishing operation, based in Port Louis Marina, in St. George’s, Grenada. “The previous owner was going to name her ‘Yes I’, a Rastafarian expression used as a greeting or exclamation. But a friend asked why not put a nautical twist on it by changing the letter ‘I’ to ‘Aye’ – as in Aye Aye Captain but pronounced the same way. So, he did,” Clifford explains.
This name on the back of Barbados’ Paul Hamel-Smith 43-foot Viking literally translates to ‘mademoiselle’ or unmarried lady in French. Yet it was a married lady, his mother to be specific, and her love of dragonflies, that are the real story behind this well-known sportfisher’s name. “At the time we named our first boat, some 20 years ago, my mother was very much into collecting dragonfly memorabilia (earrings, artwork, etc.). So much so that it became a bit of her personal brand,” tells Hamel-Smith. In Trinidad, the French patois name for a dragonfly is a ‘Batti Mamzelle’. So, we shortened that and named our boat ‘Mamzelle’ as an ode to her.”
Tacks and tunes are the fun five couples from Lake Lanier Sailing Club in Georgia, USA, enjoyed at the 50th BVI Spring Regatta & Sailing Festival this year. Since three team members were serious musicians, it was a no-brainer to name their chartered Moorings 45, Rumba Fish. It wasn’t a one-off. The idea to record original toe-tapping tunes to accompany the team’s race charters started in 2016 at Antigua Sailing Week. “We raced and won our class on a Sunsail 44 we named Bootyfish, along with a song to go with it,” explains crewmember, David Pritchard. “In 2020, we raced the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta in a Sun Odyssey 509 charter. Our boat, team name, and song were called Heinefish. We won our class and the tune got lots of play on the podium.” Rumba Fish finished a podium-worthy second in the BVI Spring Regatta, showing it’s tough to beat a boat that’s got the beat.
The Good, the Bad & the Ugly
British-born John Foster enjoys American Westerns. The St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands-based sailor for over fifty years, takes that wild-west love with him out of the sea by naming his race boats after famous cowboy flicks. For many years, Foster raced his J/27, Magnificent 7, namesake for the 1960-filmed movie starring Steve McQueen where gunfighters protect a small village from bandits. In this case, it was Foster’s crew, all excellent sailors along with Foster at the helm, who tried their best to guard against other boats getting in front of them. Then, he got a Kirby 25 and dubbed her after a Clint Eastwood western called The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.