The christening crisis With 'Serenity' floating at the top of an annual list of boat names, maritime originality and outrageousness have been deep-sixed

Observations

August 09, 1998|By Rob Hiaasen | Rob Hiaasen,SUN STAFF

Seriously, there's no accounting for taste. In shocking maritime news, "Wet Dream" has been knocked off the list of Top 10 boat names, as compiled yearly by the Boat Owners Association of the United States.

We had taken for granted seeing Wet Dream on the association's Top 10 list, where the name had nested proudly year after year. But there's nothing you, I or the Boat Owners Association can do about it.

"I think boat owners are getting more original," says Dave Pilvelait, who, inspired by David Letterman's signature bit, has been compiling his own Top 10 list at BOAT/U.S. since 1991. BOAT/U.S. lists 1,500 favorite boat names on its Web site. People can just click onto the site and submit their boat names.

But "original" might be a strong word, Dave. The 1998 Top 10 List reads like a seasick romance novel:

1. Serenity

2. Osprey

3. Obsession

4. Wind Dancer

5. Therapy

6. Destiny

7. Fantasea

8. Escape

9. Odyssey

10. Tide Runner

Serenity is the returning champ, Pilvelait says. It's soothing, meditative, inoffensive. The name requires no serious thought or invention (sort of like naming your kid "Kid"). Obsession, Destiny, Fantasea and Escape are also returning Top 10 finishers. What's new, and somewhat surprising, is Osprey, which has a decidedly mid-Atlantic aura.

"I thought they were vultures when I first saw them," says Pilvelait, fresh from a call from a "Jeopardy!" researcher, who wanted the boat list, too. "We're almost an icon!" he says.

Since before the first recreational boat leaked diesel fuel into our waters, boat owners have lived for the act of naming their craft. Traditionally, workboats are named for a woman, and that's that. But recreational boat owners have sworn it takes longer to name a boat than it does a child - which perhaps explains some children's names in circulation.

Naming a boat is more like deciding on a tattoo; it had better stick, because maritime tradition says it's bad luck to change it. (It's also rotten luck, of course, to date someone named Eileen with the name "Winona" still tattooed to your forearm.) It's risky business, so much so that many boaters aren't naming names.

"We don't see much of boats being named after significant others," Pilvelait says. "I think with divorce becoming more common ..."

Since lists beget lists, BOAT/U.S. also lists boat names that are not threatening to break into the Top 10. Here are 10 such names:

1. Lit'l Buoy Blew

2. Sick Puppy

3. Men-A-Pause

4. Passing Wind

5. Tooth Ferry (and other profession-related names, Freudian Ship, Water Broke, Sea-Section)

6. Sea Wench

7. Philanderer

8. Ahoy Matie

9. Sea Cow

10. Overbite

A few years back, a very popular boat name was Hakuna Matata - after the song and slogan ("No Worries") from Disney's "Lion King." By the grace of Neptune, Hakuna Matata is now rarely seen on boats. Either that or the boats so-named have left the country. It's hard to live down a boat name.

Take the case of poor multimillionaire Tommy Bagwell of Georgia, who has this beautiful 140-foot houseboat docked behind his beautiful house near Atlanta. Long before the movie of the same name came out, Bagwell christened his boat Amistad. Never mind that the word means "friendship" in Spanish. Bagwell was flooded with faxes that howled, "Hey, Bagwell! Slave ship!," reported the Atlanta Journal and Constitution in January.

Bagwell reportedly will not change his boat's name. He just hopes folks will stop with the "slave ship" cracks.

If you don't have a boat and are spared these complications, it's still good sport to scout for interesting boat names. During one recent spin on the Middle River, we spotted dozens, and threw together our own Top 10 List:

1. Her Fault

2. Gin & Tonic

3. Pop

4. Carried Away

5. Private Affair

6. Margaritaville

7. Thisildo

8. Playin' Hooky

9. Overkill

10. Cherry Splash

And not a Wet Dream in the crowd.

Pub Date: 8/09/98

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