When you can’t help but read it

Conversation during childhood breakfasts was not encouraged: there were four girls to be got out of the door and dispatched on their way to school. There’s a lingering memory though of cereal packets and sauce bottles on the kitchen table that provided reading practice during those time-pressured meals. Is that the reason that words, either singly or in phrases, still tend to draw Boatwif’s eye?

Canal and River Trust estimate that there are over 34,000 narrow boats on the UK waterway system. Bumbling along, often at just a little more than a walking pace, you both meet and cruise past many boats. Each boat’s registration number and current licence must be displayed. Boats must be named and mostly names are visible somewhere on the hull.

A trawl through the last three years of boat names revealed some trends and some delights. Birds, flowers and girls’ names seem to be the most common categories. There is a thrill of course at spotting a daughter’s name, Abigail   or a favourite aunt’s, Megan. But far more interesting are names associated with places.

This one, Alaska,   is a reminder of a dear friend, one-time boater on nb Valerie, Alaskan-born Jaq. How different lil’ ol’ England must have seemed from the vastness of her home state. Another US state, Arizona has been spotted as a boat name: what’s the story behind that choice of name…? There are boat names that chime with Cleddau’s Welsh connections: Caernarfon,  Pendine    and Bodhyfryd,   the last a street in Wrexham, apparently.

Miramichi  (the image might be a clue) is the name of a river and a city in New Brunswick, on the east coast of Canada. Ben Cruachan  (the boat) has often been passed near Great Haywood – once the Cleddau crew visited Ben Cruachan’s hollow mountain in Argyll and Bute to visit the power station inside it. Sighted for the first time this year was this boat with a very recognisable name and cleverly executed paintwork.

There are boat names that connect with a theme; during the 2021 cruise several boat names associated with Time were spotted: A Moment in Time,   All of the Time,  Moments of Inertia, and Passing Time ).

Another theme is Music: All That Jazz,   Pink Floyd,   Adagio,   Fugue,  Cantabile,    Rhythm    and On The Fiddle.  Then there have been several sightings of Thomas Tallis,  a 16th century composer of choral music.

There are boat names where writers (Betjeman,  Bronte   and John Bunyan   ) are commemorated while Charles Dickens’ characters have been met, The Artful Dodger on the Great Ouse, and moored at Ashwood Marina near Kinver on the Staffs and Worcs Canal is Ebenezer.  

Frank Sinatra used to sing ‘Love and marriage, go together like a horse and carriage …You can’t have one without the other..’ .  Boats and water are a bit like that, you can’t have boats without water… And water features in some boat names: Aquahobo, , Aquaholic,    Summat in the Waerter, and River Cottage,

Another liquid theme that’s appeared is wine: Autumn Wine, and On Cloud Wine . As for canal references, well there is Lengthsman   (an employee whose role it was to inspect and protect a particular stretch of canal) and Lockhopper .

Maybe there are good stories behind the choice of names for some boats; whatever the reason the names bring a smile: Muddle Puddle,  Feisty Lady,  Dolly Duster,  No Lookin’ Back,  Lizzie Dripping,    May Un Mar Lady – and of course, the frequently sighted, Flirty Gertie  .

Word play in a name is always something that attracts the interest. Look at the lovely paintwork with Meant to Bee   . Somewhere on the Staffs and Worcs Canal is moored Notayot,   an ugly looking word but a precise statement of fact. Say this boat’s name –  – it sounds like NCB. Some connection to the National Coal Board??? This boat, meanwhile, might hint at an owner who’s perhaps a bit unbalanced… Sir’’T’ Fiable  ….

Any idea what “Nootlin”     means? (it’s an Eskimo word for snow that doesn’t stick…)

But top favourites this year are definitely these: short and to the point is Cwtch  – and top of the lot is Tipsy Penguin    – what on earth (unless it was a trip to Antarctica) inspired that name?

In the third week of July Cleddau is due to be untied from her mooring, to head northwards according to the current plan.  So what might catch the eye and bring a smile during part 2 of Cleddau‘s Summer 2021 Cruise…


You may also like...

9 Responses

  1. Jane Massey says:

    As a novice/trainee boater what a delight we had reading this blog Sue. I had no idea what a diverse, amusing and amazing number of names there were – and 34,000 of them – amazing . Reading your regular blog has always been very entertaining but this was a joy. Particularly loved ‘May and Mar Lady’ (has to be said out loud in Potteries dialect) from a comic strip of the same name which appeared in the Stoke on Trent ‘Sentinel’ Newspaper from 1985. to 2003.

  2. Sue Deveson says:

    Hi Jane,
    It’s interesting that you picked up on ‘May Un Mar Lady’, a boat which is moored at Red Bull, very close to the junction of the Trent and Mersey with the Macclesfield Canal. It’s probably about half a mile from Kidsgrove Railway Station, so very likely to have a Stoke-on-Trent connection!

    Sue /Boatwif

  3. Jaqueline Biggs says:

    Wonderful blog as always Sue. I have a picture somewhere of me at a lock with windlass in hand, standing next to the boat names Alaska. A fair few of those boats were familiar to me, giving m a tug at my heart strings. As for Nootlin’ I think it is a pronounced corruption if you will, of the word noodling as in just Noodling along. Thanks for the walkdown memory lane!
    Love Jaq xxx

  4. Jennie says:

    A great fun post Sue. I have a folder of photos of boat names that have caught our eyes over the years. There is indeed, a wide variety and some are very clever and amusing. What caught my eye from your post was the reference to reading sauce bottle labels etc. Many moons ago when you were doing an OU degree course you had to collate information from friends and family about exactly what they read over the course of a certain length of time and I was one of those selected. When you have to write down everything you read, including sauce bottles etc, it makes you realise just how much is read in every 24 hour period.

  5. Sue Deveson says:

    Hi Jaq,
    I am pretty certain that we passed ‘Alaska’ twice, on both occasions moored somewhere on the North Oxford Canal, north of All Oaks Wood, between Stretton Stop and the M6 bridge, I think. (I have referred to a Nicholson’s map to try to describe where I think Alaska was moored.)
    My “Nootlin” definition was gained via a Google search…

    Jennie, I had completely forgotten the reading survey – but I remain, I suppose, a compulsive reader of words – hence my fascination with boat names!

    Sue /Boatwif

  6. The boat names are cool. We always particularly notice the names with a New Zealand connection: Taranaki, Rangitoto, Waiouru, Arohanui, Tui, Whio.

    Ours (Waka Huia) means Treasure Box in Maori – waka means canoe or vessel, huia is an extinct bird whose tail feathers are a treasure worn by chiefs on ceremonial occasions; the carved wooden box they are kept in (the feathers, not the chiefs) is called a waka huia. We thought it apt as our boat is a vessel that we treasure and we have made great memories in it – our son is living on it now while we cannot come over to the UK, and he is making great memories too, I am sure.

    I smiled thinking about reading the cereal boxes on the breakfast table – I always used to do that. Mum also said getting me to clear the table to set it for dinner could take ages as there was always stuff on there with words (newspaper, books, …) and of course I had to read …

    Cheers, Marilyn

    • Sue Deveson says:

      Hi Marilyn,
      Good to hear from you. I am following your posts about David’s treatment. Best wishes to you both.
      I quite understand your compulsion to spot New Zealand related boat names… I am sure there are many more categories of boat name that could be identified.
      I absolutely empathise with someone who is distracted from the task in hand by words that are lying in the way… ! Words first, jobs second…!

      All the best,
      Sue / Boatwif

  7. Karen Davies says:

    Loved reading this Sue. Particularly pleased to see Cwtch ( we’ve been doing a lot of that with grandchildren, now that we can!) and Cantabile: I wonder if the owners have heard of Cantabile Singers of Pembrokeshire?
    I know you have !
    Baby Sis K xx
    PS Does this qualify as a Monkton Moment?

  8. Sue /Boatwif says:

    Hi K,
    Envious of your “cwtch” moments – but you have certainly earned them!
    I must go back through the photos to track where ‘Cantabile’ was spotted – it would be very gratifying if the owners did know of the Pembrokeshire Cantabile Singers!
    The jury is out as to whether this is a Monkton Moment*. Will report the verdict when it’s decided!
    Sue /Boatwif

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.