Christening the Boat

As we approach the mid-point of summer, another boating season is in full swing.  My wife and I know several boaters, both power-enthusiasts and sailors, and have long enjoyed many happy hours on the water with them.  Just recently, we spent four days cruising the waters of Lake Memphremagog, a lovely haven in Quebec, with six good friends.

For some period of time we lived on a lake ourselves, and had our own boat, a twenty-foot inboard/outboard that seemed the epitome of Muskoka chic when we were out and about in it.

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A sleek, blue-and-white fibreglass craft, a bow-rider, it took us on languid cruises in the early evening, and we’d wave casually at neighbours as we passed their docks.  It pulled us across the water on sunny afternoons, slicing and skimming the waves on water skis, at least until we fell.  It even served as a gentle cradle for young grandchildren when tethered to the dock, gently rising and falling in the lapping water.

We had that boat for almost fifteen years.  But never, not in all that time, did we christen it with a name.  As I think about that now, I’m baffled.

You see, the names people give their boats have always intrigued me.  In fact, over the years, whether boating with friends, visiting tropical marinas, or sauntering through boat-shows, I’ve enjoyed a fascination with the names that grace the hulls.  My favourites are those that employ clever plays on words, those with double-meanings, or those that hint at their owners’ occupations.

I’ve seen scores of them over the years, even jotted down some of the more memorable creations.  Ecsta-Sea is one I recall, and IntimaSea, bespeaking a hankering for bliss and solitude on the open water.  Anchors Away, I suppose, implied a desire to be ever on the move.  And there was Log-a-Rhythm, which I thought might belong to a retired math professor who loved the roll and sway of the bounding main.

I saw Squanderlust on a double-masted craft, all shiny teak and gleaming brass, and I thus supposed it cost someone a small fortune.  Miss Behavin’ struck me as a clever name—although everyone aboard seemed to be comporting themselves quite properly, at least while I was watching.  The guy who owned Tokin’ Reward, I was pretty sure, had profited from the illicit drug trade.

One imposing cruiser, with a middle-aged woman at the wheel, bore the name Alimoney, and I silently congratulated her.  Can’t Get Enough, embossed in graceful script across the stern of a large yacht, referred, I assumed, to the owners’ love of sailing.  And I was pretty sure a retired lawyer or judge owned the Legal-Ease.

I liked Slalome, too, conjuring as it did the image of a graceful, veiled dancer atop a single water ski, sending sparkling rooster-tails soaring into the bright sky overhead.  But the owners of Three Sheets to the Wind, I thought, must have altogether too much time for drinking.   Another of my favourites adorned the rear of a garish craft, which either had more than one head aboard, or belonged to a retired con man: Four-Flusher.

There was the Good Ferry, perhaps implying a generous benefactor’s involvement.  Summer Lucky might have spoken to the owners’ belief that some others are not.  And In Limbo could have implied either an irresolute skipper or a love of Caribbean dancing.

Most boaters and sailors, at least in my experience, use feminine pronouns when they speak of their crafts—as in, She’s got a lovely way about her!  I, on the other hand, invariably referred to my boat with the impersonal pronoun—It needs more gas if we’re going to take it out.  Whenever I consciously tried to emulate those real boaters, I felt slightly ridiculous personifying an inanimate object.  It was a boat, not a friend!

Anyway, it’s gone now, that boat, sold along with our home on the lake several years ago.  But if I were to own it still, and if I were to affix a name to it—in keeping with my fascination with boat names—what, I wonder, might I come up with?

Would it be something clever, such as Buoy-O-Buoy, to convey my joy at being at the wheel?  Would Over-Bored be too cynical, implying that I have nothing better to do than race around the lake, burning fuel?  Would PenmanShip be appropriate, given my penchant for writing, or is ship too grandiose a word for a bow-rider?

Perhaps I’d choose something to reflect my rudimentary skills and ignorance of things nautical; Worst Mate could work.  A remote possibility, if my wife would join me on watery excursions, is Miz ‘n’ Masta, except I don’t know what a mizzenmast is.  And I’d hardly be the master!  Maybe, as a retired educator, I might go with School’s Out.

Of course, one’s financial health severely limits one’s boating pursuits, so the notion that I’ll ever again own a boat is far-fetched.  With the rising price of fuel, the soaring costs of docking, storage, and insurance, and the depreciation that swiftly erodes the purchase value, the whole issue is moot.

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But I did notice that our Quebec friends have not named their boat, either—a large pontoon-boat by Bennington.  It transported eight of us with no strain as we cruised the sparkling waters, its 50 HP Yamaha outboard motor a mere whisper in the summer breezes.  We noshed, drank, and conversed amiably for hours out there, comfortable in the plush leather seats, shaded by the Bimini top.

And so, the question gnaws at my mind—what would I call their boat if I were asked to christen it?  A cynical choice might be Hole in the Water, as in something to pour money into; I do remember that aspect of boat-ownership all too well.  Daddy MoreBucks might be appropriate, too (although I was far too polite to enquire about the financial aspects of our hosts’ lives).

On a cheerier note—because it’s a deck-boat—All Hands on Deck, or perhaps Decked Out, could work.  Or maybe All Agog on Magog, to reflect the enchanting locale.  I might also consider Yamahappy (although only if they keep the Yamaha motor), Boat of Us to reflect their togetherness, Didjabringwine (no explanation needed), or Throttled Back to echo their lifestyle.

Mind you, they haven’t even hinted that I should suggest a moniker, so my ruminating on the matter is likely in vain.  It is their boat, after all.  Still, it does seem a shame not to have a grand name for such a luxurious craft.

So, what would I do if it were mine to own and mine to name?  Unfortunately— despite my love of boating on the open water—my pecuniary circumstances would be likely to influence the selection.  I think I might have to settle on For Sale.

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And then I’d hope my friends would be the highest bidder.

Music in Muskoka

It never crossed my mind on that rainy, August Saturday in 1967—our wedding day, as we stood on the threshold of our future together—that our golden anniversary would eventually arrive.  And now, fifty years on, it has.

Symbolic occasions have never resonated loudly with me, for whatever reason.  My wife and I have always celebrated family birthdays, of course, especially those of our children and grandchildren.  Wedding anniversaries, however, have come and gone with very little fanfare—although not without a sense of gratitude for our good fortune.

But it occurred to us a while back that, when two strong, independent people are able to spend fifty years with each other, weathering the storms and cherishing the good times, it is no small feat.  It is, in our case, a triumph of symbiosis over autonomy.  And so, we resolved to celebrate this one.

Our wedding coincided with Canada’s 100th year as a nation; indeed, we joked that getting married was our centennial project.  Now, as the country celebrates its sesquicentennial, we marvel that we have been married for fully a third of its existence.

For some time, we cast about for ideas as to how we might mark the momentous occasion.  We consulted with friends who have already achieved the milestone, we spoke with our children, and we talked with each other, long into the night many times, searching for the perfect way to celebrate.

You’ll never guess what has come to be.

On the very anniversary date of our nuptials, my wife will be a member of the audience in a darkened theatre, while I, a lifelong singer of songs (but never publicly), will be sharing the stage with my comrades in a barbershop harmony chorus, sixty-five-men strong, for a night of music in Muskoka.

Had you asked me those fifty long years ago if I thought such a situation could ever come to be, I’d have regarded you as mad.  Yet, there I shall be, one voice among many in the mighty Harbourtown Sound, singing my heart out.

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This being Canada’s 150th birthday year, the programme will contain several songs of Canadiana, two of which you may hear now, should you choose.  The first is Fare Thee Well, written by John Rankin of Nova Scotia—

 

The second, Hallelujah, is from Leonard Cohen, and one of our favourites to perform.  It may be found at the end of this post.

Both songs will be sung in harmony with our hosts for the concert, the Muskoka Music Men, a local barbershop chorus.  Our chorus will be singing several other songs, as well, including selections from Broadway, Motown, and the more traditional barbershop canon.

My wife and I did take an extended trip earlier in the spring, as part of our golden year, and we shall be together with our children and grandchildren for a special celebration later in the summer.  So the concert is not a one-off commemoration of our special year, just one part of it.

Given my love for the music, I can’t think of a more enjoyable way to end the journey to fifty years, and begin the voyage to sixty years, our diamond anniversary.  And for that prospect, I offer up, Hallelujah