What’s in a name

If there’s one thing I don’t really like about Felucca, it’s her name.  She was launched in 2002 as “Jubilee”, but somewhere along the line the first owners got tired of that and renamed her after a type of Egyptian yacht.  We umm-ed and aah-ed about changing it but never got round to it.  It seemed like a lot of paperwork, and  it’s bad luck to change the name of a boat… unless it’s out of the water, or, apparently, one burns a paper effigy of the originally-named boat to appease the boating gods.

The other problem is:  what would the new name be?  It’s tricky.  Narrowboats can be charming or idiosyncratic or loveable, but they are rarely chic or beautiful.  And somehow, these missing qualities make it pretty hard to find a name that rings true.  If your boat looks sleek and elegant like this, you can call it almost anything and get away with it:

But when your boat looks like this, it’s a struggle:

A narrowboat, for all its pugnacious charm, is really a 15-ton steel tube.  There just isn’t the elegance to carry off “Grace”, say, nor the gravitas for “Tradewinds”, nor the carefree, nimble beauty for “Kingfisher”.  Not that this stops people; indeed, Kingfisher is the number one name for narrowboats in this country.  The most wonderfully apt name I’ve seen is “Sally Slapcabbage”, a piece of genius, but narrowboaters – despite trying – rarely manage to combine irreverence and charm in such perfect proportions.

So, Felucca it stays… but feel free to suggest alternatives in the comments.  And here is the list of the 25 favourite narrowboat names in the UK:

1              KINGFISHER       229 boats

2              DRAGONFLY       138

3              MERLIN                120

4              WILLOW               115

5              PHOENIX             109

6              SERENITY             89

7              POPPY  89

8              FREE SPIRIT         88

9              SAPPHIRE            86

10           SERENDIPITY      77

11           OSPREY                76

12           BLUE MOON      75

13           HERON 73

14           FREEDOM            69

15           SANDPIPER         66

16           PUFFIN 66

17           MALLARD            64

18           MISTY   64

19           ROSIE    62

20           DAISY    61

21           GRACE  60

22           VOYAGER            57

23           BLUEBELL             57

24           ANDANTE            55

25           GEMINI                55

Full list etc here:  http://www.jim-shead.com/waterways/boatnames.php

(There is only one “Felucca” but there is a “Felucca Jo”.  There are 19 Jubilees!)

Posted in History and traditions, The Boat
6 comments on “What’s in a name
  1. Darius Wojewodka says:

    I vote for “Slam”

  2. farva says:

    If you’ve got to rename her, what about naming her after a beer? Old Peculier or Bishop’s Finger or Marston’s Pedigree? Or Chuggalug, except that’s not a beer, rather an Ozzie binge.

  3. I like the old working boat style, especially the male names eg Ross, Albert or Bill.

  4. Chris Hills says:

    Nice to meet you again yesterday, sorry we did not have time for much of a chat. You in the blog
    Jan, Chris & Spot
    NB Tilly May

  5. Frances says:

    Hi Felucca, I have just read your blog on narrowboat names. I have nb Dollar. Sally Slapcabbage was moored near us on the Grand U some months ago and I blogged about nb names too! Deep joy! Happy boating and Merry Christmas/new year.

  6. Jonathan Robertson says:

    Hi I now own Felucca and I believe she is the only Narrowboat called that, I have no intention of changing her name except sometimes shorten it to Felly, she’s a fantastic boat and is still in great condition, i will only be adding to her capability and sustainability with quality upgrades, Jon Robertson

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