We named our little sailboat Gwaihir, the wind lord. Really, she was a wind lady. Her name was pretentious for such a tiny boat, but I thought her name would be lucky. She was a 16-foot Soling. She had a centerboard and drew only 16-inches with the board up. I told people Gwaihir could sail on a wet hankie.
When my husband had time and felt frisky, we took Gwaihir out through Sloop Channel and Jones inlet into the ocean. The ocean is so huge and Gwaihir was never meant to sail the seas.
Even a 3-foot roller looks like a tsunami when you’re on the deck of a tiny sloop. My then-husband was a madman on the water. He would sail through thunder squalls because he liked a challenge. His father had been equally insane, so I guess he came by it honestly.
As for me, I piloted her through the salt marshes and canals off Long Island. She was perfect for shallow water sailing. We could sail through nesting plovers, herons, and ducks, silent except for the soft flapping of the jib. The birds were undisturbed by our passage and went about their business, white sails wing-like in the breeze.
One bright day with a warm sun lighting the water and the sky blue as a robin’s egg, I anchored on the edge of a reedy marsh and drifted off to sleep.
I awoke later to see Gwaihir’s sail covered with monarch butterflies. They had stopped to rest on my boat. I didn’t move or say anything. Just watched. Then, as if someone had signaled, they rose as one and flew onward to complete their long journey. I sailed home.
Gwaihir is one of very few non-living “things” I’ve ever named. But boats are special. They are not inanimate. Boats have personality and each is different. A boat needs a name.