solingWe 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.

The Name’s The Thing


  1. Martha Kennedy August 14, 2014 / 2:08 pm

    I loved this!


    • Marilyn Armstrong August 14, 2014 / 3:31 pm

      I really loved that little sailboat. It was the only boat I ever owned and it was a sweetie.


  2. genusrosa August 14, 2014 / 3:46 pm

    I loved this. It’s a world I’ve never been to–either sailing or Long Island–but I felt as though I just visited.


    • Marilyn Armstrong August 14, 2014 / 3:51 pm

      This was a long time ago, back in the 1970s. I don’t know what it’s like now, but it was pretty built up even then. Yet once you got into the marshes, it was another world.


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  4. tnkerr August 14, 2014 / 10:35 pm

    16 inches is truly a shallow draw Marilyn. She sounds like a beauty!


    • Marilyn Armstrong August 14, 2014 / 10:56 pm

      Solings are still in production and basically haven’t changed. Ours was not set up for racing. Racing Solings have no benches to sit on. They are just shells. They are perfect for inland waterways or any shallow water. She would also move on almost no breeze. A fine little boat. We bought her second hand for a few hundred dollars including a trailer and a 5 hp outboard. It was one of the biggest bargains of my life.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Garry Armstrong August 15, 2014 / 12:36 pm

    Sounds like she was yar.


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