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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.

Fair winds!

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Comment by Richard on June 12, 2008 at 9:46pm
Thanks for the post, Christine. I'm happy that you're single-handing. I had a wonderful nine months doing it myself down in Mexico, Belize and Guatemala. However, I DO hope you're working on spinning your next Seychelle tale.

I also agree with Aria. My boat, when I bought her, was named "Little Dipper." Which is an okay name for a beautiful wine-glass transomed 26 footer with her windvane just calling out "let's go somewhere new!: I promptly renamed her, without ceremony to "Nancy Dawson." Nancy Dawson isn't some unrequited love. It's the tune to which the rum ration was piped in the British Navy for over 200 years! When I first heard that name and what it represented I said if I ever owned a boat worthy of having a name that's what it would be. Nancy certainly seemed to enjoy her new name. I lived on her for over six years and only spent $500.00 and painted 16 signs at a boat yard in Dania. The rest of the time was rent free.

But I talked to her. I caressed her. We had a love affair and saw some really great stuff together. And cruised up and down the reef in Belize and lolled around the Rio Dulce together.

I haven't done a fraction of what some of the members here have, but I've also done worlds of things others haven't, either. Spending 12 hours a day in a small aluminum crewboat putting men on and off of high-pressure gas wells in 8 to 10 foot waves in a norther off of Louisiana and pushing barges around on the Mississippi fueling ships around New Orleans.

But I talked to all those boats. I loved the Wave Runner, a 49 foot aluminum crewboat with a pair of screaming 871s in 12' following seas. I'd yell and howl with her as we went screaming off the top of a wave and creaming the next two or three in great sheets of spray, and when it was all over the only thing stopping me from doing it all over again is I'd have to slug my way through all that for 25 or 30 miles before I could turn around.

And I ran and restored a wonderful 47 foot Grebe. The Trumpys of the Great Lakes. I spent three years with her and made three trips on the ICW from Fort Lauderdale to Cape Cod, and wooden boats talk to you. And when you fashion pieces of wood to replace that damaged by an idiot in a big square box of fiberglass to make her whole again, and paint her from worm shoe to the top of her mast and lay on 18 coats of varnish, you build a very special attachment for each other.

Finally, thanks for keeping in touch with us. You really don't know how many of us look forward to hearing about your adventure.
Comment by Aria on June 10, 2008 at 8:34pm
I think singlehanders in particular, tend to personalize their boats. I frequently talk to Aria on passages, especially if the going is rough. I encourage her, coddle her, and show appreciation when she gets us through. I trust in her abilities, and listen closely when she tells me things. With a boat, you're really interdependent on each other. The boat to be maintained and cared for properly, and the skipper to know what is possible and what isn't.

And in naming the boat, I think it's a reflection, not just of ourselves, but in a way, what we expect from the boat. I love music, and the Music on the Wind sings, Aria, Aria, Aria. (you can listen to the song on my page here) . Aria and I work in rhtymn and harmony to achive our destination, sailing before the wind, and there is a magic in the music that creates. A song of dreams, hopes and wishes, and the joy of being out here chasing them.

So, yes, I think there is a lot in a name, especially when we choose it ourselves.

And here's to hoping for a safe and comfortable trip back ... fair winds.
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