As a kid, I remember walking the docks at any new harbor my family would visit, competing with Ally & Michael over who could find the best (or most obscure) boat names painted on the sterns. A boy with a penchant for imagination and adventure would name his galley Dragon’s Breath or Darkwater, and for my part, I couldn’t figure out why anyone would waste lettering on a nautical pun, or worse: calling the boat something soft and endearing, like Sea Smoke or Ann Marie.
Still, though, as I got older I began to walk through harbors less out of the interest in the names of the boats, but for the sheer appreciation of the convergence of craft, trade, and nature. The way water moves in a harbor is lyrical and undisturbed, quietly in flux, like a low note held by a cellist. The boats respond in turn, sighing deeply of their sleeping hulls, patient in their skiffs, their sleek lines hidden under hemp rope and pink buoys.
Boats always carry stories, and with them a brief portrait of their owners. Some are named well, because a good captain is proud of his boat. Some are named poorly, but that’s only my opinion. But I think I figured out why some boats have those soft names: it's in harbors that one finds rest, so the name of a boat will reflect something—or someone—that shares that sentiment. Like Sea Smoke. Or Ann Marie.