Earth, Wind & Water

Ramblings of an Earthling, Laserite and small boat sailor

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Have you named your boat?

And now you know from this less-than-meticulously composed photo where the name of this blog comes from.  As for where the name of the boat comes from, that's a slightly more interesting story.  As my brother and a Chinese colleague found out a few years ago, this is what you get using an online tool when you translate our last name into Chinese and back into English.  I think it's also a pretty good description of what it's like to be planing in a Laser.  I'd had the boat for about a year before I realized it would make a good name for it, but at least I got around to it and named the boat, with decal and all.  That decal I had made by Compliance Signs, of Chicago Illinois, which, as you might guess, specializes in safety signs. Even though it was a custom job, they charged me only around six bucks for this decal.

I was a little surprised when I went to two regattas last summer with around 30 Lasers entered in each, that on both occasions, I was one of only two sailors who'd name their boats.  Why is this?  Is it because Laser sailors are all business with no time for such frivolous exploits as naming boats?  Is it maybe because the boats are all so alike (if you drink the Kool-Ade) that the boat is irrelevant, but a conduit to express the sailor's individual brilliance as a skipper?  Maybe just apathy?

By choosing a name that sounds like tumultuous water, I may have violated this oft-quoted advice for naming boats by tempting fate.  (Any one know who first wrote those wise words, by the way?)  However, despite all the spectacular videos you'll find if you search for "exploding water", everyone knows, water cannot explode, at least not literally.

Naming boats is not easy, but it is fun, especially if you think up names with friends.  And so I return to my original question: Have you named your boat?

Wednesday, June 2, 2010


One of the things I like about sailing is it's rich vocabulary, and the way has given it's words and expressions to general usage.  Expressions like "leaving yourself leeway", "having the wind knocked out of your sails", "liking the cut of someone's jib", and "being stuck in the doldrums" are so commonplace in everyday use that most people don't stop to think about where they come from.

As an aeronautical engineer, I love the aviation terms that have come from sailing - rolling, pitching, and yawing; surging, swaying, and heaving; buttlines, waterlines and stations, and indeed the name of the field itself, aeronautics. Bulkheads, rudders and strakes, the list goes on and on.

I'd been sailing for many years before I realized that the term chockablock comes from sailing.  The first definition given by Webster's is pulled so tight as to have the blocks touching, and the etymology refers to the preceding entry, chock, another bit of nautical hardware.  I'm not sure if the "chock" in chockablock comes from that type of chock or from the chocks, or cheeks of a block, but either way, I like the expression a lot more now that I know where it comes from.

We Laser sailors often talk about being two-blocked, or block to block, but i think we should revive this nautical term and instead say chockablock!