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.
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 ….
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…