Late on the 31st of May, hours before the first day of the 2008 hurricane season, the first tropical storm of the season was named: Arthur. I was at Manjack Cay anchored just off this lovely little island sloop. I had gone over there for the evening to celebrate getting off the Roberts Marine dock and finishing my business with George. When I heard the news about Arthur on Saturday morning, I got to thinking about names.
Why do we name storms and boats and the like? Why do we anthropomorphize and turn these things into human-like characters with human names? While doing research for a book I am currently writing, I discovered a great archive of information about past hurricanes on the Weather Underground site at http://www.wunderground.com/hurricane/hurrarchive.asp. It's fun to check back and look at certain seasons and remember the characters of certain hurricanes. Remember Francis? Oh, yes, that was when I was in the condo for 3 days with no power when suddenly there was a knock at my door and the word was passed by flashlight - party in 306 and bring your own drinks. And Erin back in 1995? That was when Chip was born. And to everyone who was in South Florida in 1992, Andrew is a name we will not forget. We get to know these storms well when we live through them, but somehow by naming them, we give them personality and we give ourselves the sense that we can survive.
Now there are certain superstitions about boat names and one is that you are not supposed to change the name of a boat. I have simply never believed in this, so when I bought my boat in 2005, I promptly changed the name. For some time I had been dreaming of a boat named Talespinner. I've been making up stories and spinning tales since I was a little kid - okay, my parents sometimes called it lying - but after having been a sailing girlfriend, wife and mother, the name seemed to fit my dream of a boat that would take me to new adventures as a singlehander. And although I have lived aboard and sailed her a little bit, she never really came alive for me until this trip.
When I was tied to the Roberts Marine dock last week, waiting for George to come help me with my battery problems and watching all the juice drain out of my boat, I honestly began to think that my Talespinner was dying. I would talk to her and say, "Come on, girl, you'll make it through the night." I knew that in the morning, the sun would come out and the solar panels would start their magic and the lifeblood - electricity - would flow through her veins again. We had come to rely on one another and she most certainly took on a life and personality of her own.
Finally, George arrived, we solved the electrical problem and it didn't require new batteries (at that my checkbook sighed with relief) and we were off early on a Monday morning sailing through Whale Key passage with the solar panels pumping and the wind generator humming and we tacked our way towards Marsh Harbor - where George had recommended we (Talespinner and I) see another expert about the starter. It was a lovely sail that included sightings of both turtles and dolphins.
So now, here we are, anchored out in Marsh Harbor, thinking about another name. This one is Sonith Lockhardt of Abaco Electric Motors. It has been four days and I can't track him down. The winds have been blowing strong these last couple of days and Talespinner, now that she has developed this personality, seems to be trying to tell me something. She sails around on her anchor like a horse trying to get the bit in her teeth, ready to go. She's telling me to forget the experts and to count on her. She'll get me home, she's saying, and I think I can trust her. I think we'll look up the name of some starter guy when we get back to Florida.