If you’ve ever walked through a marina, you’ve quickly come to understand that there must be few, if any, limits on what you can name your boat.
Short of outright obscenity, just about anything apparently goes, and you see boats with boring, unimaginative names like Jennifer’s Dream, boats that shamelessly boast of their owners’ financial success, boats that suggestively tell the world that they’re ready to party, and boats that bear really bad puns like Seas The Day. (My favorite boat name ever, which I saw on a derelict, beached craft on the rocky shores of the harbor in Stonington, Maine several years ago, was Shit Happens.)
So when the British Natural Environment Research Council invited the public to name its new polar research vessel through a voting competition, what were they expecting, really? Of course they got whimsical and silly and punny names — like Usain Boat and It’s Bloody Cold Here — because that what boat namers naturally come up with. And the runaway winner in the competition is along the same lines: Boaty McBoatface.
I happen to like the name Boaty McBoatface — in fact, I like it a lot — but I can see why the NERC might conclude that it really doesn’t convey the seriousness of the vessel’s mission. Imagine a bundled up BBC correspondent, reporting from the rolling, windswept deck as the craft plunges through an iceberg-dotted seascape, beginning the report by saying in a high-brow British accent: “This is Jeremy Middleditch reporting from the deck of the Arctic exploration vessel Boaty McBoatface . . . .”
It’s probably not the message the NERC was hoping to convey, and the NERC gets the final say on naming the boat. So even though Boaty McBoatface got nine times as many votes as the second place name, serious types are urging the NERC to overrule the public and give the boat a more inspirational name, like the name of a long-dead polar explorer or adventurer — which is how the two current polar exploration vessels are named.
I hope the NERC avoids the temptation. Sure, the winning name sounds like a cartoon character, but we need more whimsy in our lives. I’m all in for Boaty McBoatface!