Throughout history, ships have been christened with the names of royal ladies, great leaders and legendary places. Every boat owner experiences the ritual, the excitement, the struggle, and the ultimate joy of finding the right name…or maybe the spirit of that perfect name finds you.
So, just for a few minutes, suspend disbelief and listen to the boats talk…
The unwelcome chill of middle October swirled around shuttered bungalows and rattled discarded beach chairs. Lined up like soldiers, boats of all sizes filled gravel parking lots, blocked and secure for another New Jersey winter. They chattered away amongst themselves, like children on the playground.
I want to scream at the top of my lungs! Dolphin’s Tail proclaimed, Nobody’s around to hear us.
For the millionth time, most people don’t hear you anyway, The Dragon answered, Just the littlest kids.
My Clara still hears me. The biggest boat spoke up from the center of the pack. And she’s a teenager now. Last week she said good-bye for the winter and thanked me for taking care of her.
That’s our job, Better Days said, her voice smooth and refined, like the champagne color of her hull. To keep them safe.
I just dread these cold months, Dragon said, Maybe someone can fix my blue stripes while we’re stuck on land? They’re peeling.
You need to sleep, lass, Better Days chimed in, We all do.
I don’t think I can, Dolphin’s Tail moaned, Why can’t it be summer forever?
I want to hear a story. Dragon said, Better Days, you’re the oldest. Why do you have an accent?
My owners are from Ireland. I’ve lived across the Atlantic Ocean, on Lake Michigan and now here in Barnegat Bay. Next year—Lake Tahoe.
Tell us about the boats who used to live here…like Thunderbird, Dragon nagged, Is it true, that she was made completely of wood?
Solid mahogany. Legend has it, that a presidential peace deal was signed on her deck, right there at the end of Dock B, Better Days said, The Queen’s slip.
No wonder there’s a party down there every night, Dolphin said, I want to be the Queen when I grow up.
What else? Dragon asked, I want to hear more.
I may be the oldest, but I haven’t been here the longest, Better Days said, Ask the Queen.
Oh, that’s right, Dragon whispered to the grand boat in the center, Why do they call you Queen Mary?
That’s just Clara’s nickname for me, but I like it, The big white boat answered, I’m not nearly as regal as the real Queen Mary.
Weren’t you moving to Louisiana? Dragon asked.
My family found a house on Lake Ponchartrain, and then a hurricane destroyed everything, The Queen answered, They were scared enough to abandon the whole plan. Clara told me…
I’m sure it wasn’t that bad, Dolphin’s Tail interrupted, Where’s Thunderbird now?
Cruising the Caribbean, The Queen answered, The true, endless summer.
I’m going there next, Dolphin’s Tail said.
Little Dolphin, The Dragon sighed, Has anyone told you how squeaky your voice is?
She’s still a wee thing, Better Days lilted, Wait until next year.
Next year, Dolphin’s Tail said, I want the Queen to teach me everything she knows—like how to stop when I sense danger.
How did you learn that, actually? The Dragon asked, I managed to slow down, once, to keep from running aground. When we got back to the marina, someone called a mechanic.
That means you did it right, Better Days chuckled.
You learn by being in danger, and having the lives of your passengers in your control, The Queen answered, I’ll teach you. Promise
All winter, I do what, again? Dolphin’s Tail moaned, How do I know when it’s over?
Sleep, Better Days answered.
She means, stop jabbering, Dragon said, The bright sun and warm wind will wake you up.
Good-night, kids. The Queen slipped into silence while the little boat’s chatter dwindled away…
to be continued…