Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Day Four, continued: Boat names

Danford's Marina is a large rather flashy but obviously well-run place frequented by some very big and expensive boats. There was a motor cruiser tied up there so vast that it figured in the dockmaster's directions: Come into the harbor until you get to the Prediction and then go left....

"Prediction" is an awfully dull and uninspired name for a boat, isn't it? Some tens of millions must have been spent on this monster, which was the size of a middling warship -- and they couldn't come up with a better name? I couldn't help thinking that it was probably owned by some hedge-fund creep and the name celebrated this parasite's prowess at anticipating the market. (Let's hope it was the previous owner's previous prowess, and that the self-celebrator is now living a lot less large.)

This got me thinking about boat names.

They fall into several categories. There are girls' names innumerable: Mary Ann, Rosalind, Geraldine, and every other name a female human being ever bore. (Well, maybe not Hrotswitha.) There is the clumsily jocular, a numerous category: Buona For Tuna and the like. There's the name you come up with because you can't think of a name: Come Si Chiami [sic], another boat in Port Jefferson. There's the name that advertises your ancestry: Cill Dara, though I think this one may have been spelled with a 'K'. There's the grandiose -- Astraea, with a rendering of the Pleiades on the sail.

There's the slightly wistful -- Serenity (very frequently encountered, this -- there are two of them at the 79th Street boat basin); Daddy's Toy; Magic Hour. Sailing, in my experience, doesn't really live up to these expectations, though it has its charm; and Daddy's Toy, in particular, was last seen half-sunk and sadly uncared-for in Eastchester Bay.

There's the original -- Ishtar and Hambo, and there's the slightly ill-omened -- Palinuro; what were they thinking of? And there's the enigmatic -- Pitchi Poï, seen in New Rochelle.

This last, a little Googling shows, is a Yiddish phrase, though I can't find either word in Weinreich's dictionary, perhaps because I can't correctly reverse-engineer the Yiddish spelling from the transliteration. But I gather it's a phrase with not entirely happy associations. So why did somebody name his boat that, and render the name in whimsical humorous lettering, which I wish I had taken a picture of?

I might have asked, if I had seen Pitchi Poï's skipper. But I probably wouldn't have. I'm rather shy about approaching other sailors. Or other people in general, actually. Fortunately this is not true of all the other sailors out there, and so some agreeable encounters occur in spite of one's own shyness. I experienced just such an encounter later on today, Day Four; but that, and the saga of the dinghy outboard, will have to wait yet again.

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