Naming A New

Last night we were driving home from an afternoon spent on our boat Santa Maria. My wife had wondered, while we patiently and persistently scrubbed away some scum from this corner and that crook of the good ship, what we might call a vessel were we to acquire one nameless. This question was prodded, in part, by the plethora of strange names given boats in a marina.

People are trying to be variously funny, poetic, clever, sentimental et cetera (not a bad boat name itself, that last Latin common phrase) in this naming. Failures are many and magnificent, although “funny, poetic, and clever” may well be in the eye of the beholder. We quite like Santa Maria – an inherited name – although she was once differently called. We posed a few possibilities aloud, and scratched our heads at some names surrounding us.

The finger of the slip we are on in the harbour is in poor straits. Apparently, the marina was pounded by the remnants of hurricane “Barry” this week, although I am unsure whether this particular pounding was from Barry or another storm. Naming hurricanes, too, seems a bit fraught. Once upon a time these were all called by women’s names, as I recall. Now storms are differently gendered once they reach the requisite speed of 120 km/hr for a full minute.

There had been reports of yet another storm coming our way, and so we made our way home in the early evening, and drove through that very storm. It was a thing of rare beauty and looked utterly different than the storm we saw when I saw it through the eyes of different cameras at various angles on the news that night. But in each photo, it was stark and poised, about to pounce.

As we drove from the edge to the eye of the storm on our way to Kitchener, once called Berlin (a topic for another blog) to 185 Sheldon St. I know that here and there, in the world, houses and farms are named. Ours are numbered, as have been people, with the Holocaust and the Residential School Systems being notorious examples.

Santa Maria has a number as well, nicely stenciled on the fore of her hull. But I don’t remember it, while I never even have to grasp after “Santa Maria” in my current mental capacity. I like names more than numbers, and wonder too, what we might call a boat without a name. I suspect we will never face this problem since new boats are out of our price range, even while we could very well be facing the prospect of renaming a boat one day. “Barry” and “185” are unlikely candidates, and I suspect “et cetera” would finally not pass muster. But for now this is not my worry. A wise man once said that each day has troubles sufficing for itself (Matthew 6:34), and on this day called “Sunday,” I’ll think a little on him and ponder the power of storms, the curve of a hull, and the mystery of names, now chosen, now found and sometimes arriving without much ado.

Who’s in a Name?

My wife and I spent the last two days working on our sailboat, the “Santa Maria.”  We didn’t choose our boat’s name but inherited it. Of course, the name is not all we inherited, and as every boat owner will tell you, buying a boat is rather like purchasing an invoice.  This was doubly the case with the sainted lady; she was in sore straits when we got her, and we have plugged away at healing her.  In order to mitigate the threat of financial insolvency, we have been doing most of the work all on our own: painting the deck and interior, making new cushions, replacing the marine plywood inside, etc.  The repairs are done in a lop-sided fashion.  I am the strong-man who does my wife’s wise bidding.  She is the mind, I am the muscles; she the master planner, I the measure once saw twice man.


Each year we tackle a new project.  This year we decided to paint the hull.  This hull has been painted before – not by us – in a piece meal fashion.  Many shades of white cover up bumps and so forth.  On Saturday we bought a power buffer and some cleaning material to strip away some of the crud that has accrued over the years.  I have to say, I love doing this sort of work.  It is mindless, and after a busy week at work I find myself reveling in muscular engagement, the mindless repetition, the fresh wind on the face, the to and fro conversations with my wife and passers-by.  And it always feels good to begin a project that has an identifiable beginning, middle and ending – even if it is only one step in a long journey.  This happened to me with the hull cleansing process, a necessary preparatory stage in painting it.  But sometimes even small steps in a journey are a trip of their own.


As I cleaned up the port side of the hull, I noted a kind of shadow emerge; something of a faint outline of a word, a call number, a what?  Slowly, I could see it was an old name.  Santa Maria has not always been named after the blessed virgin.  As I cleaned and peered, it became clear that her name was once Abishag (I had to look it up).  For those of you as poor at Bible trivia as me, Abishag was the young woman who used to keep the aged David warm when his health deteriorated (1 Kings 1:1-4).  The bible is quick to vouch for young Abishag’s good reputation.  It is reported that nothing untoward transpired between the two.


I like the idea that this boat has these two biblical referents.  We have always wondered a bit about whether we should keep “Santa Maria” as a name, since it wasn’t our choice.  Changing, however, isn’t as simple as getting a new stencil – dire omens attend a boat whose name has been changed apart from the proper protocol.  Moreover, choosing a name willy-nilly has not appealed to us, and so when we saw Abishag, we began to wonder whether we should return her to her more original name, which had been hiding under our very noses for a long time.  And so, my ever resourceful wife, took to the internet, where she found that Abishag is not an unknown name for boats.  She did observe, however, that the owners of Abishags tended to be Davids.  It was decided.  I don’t have a David bone in my body, and so, “Santa Maria” she shall remain.  I may, however, take to calling her Abishag when coaxing her through difficult shoals, something to remind me of her humble beginnings.  Underneath every saint is a servant girl or boy, doing the bidding of the king, and wondering what will come of that.