How my boat got her name
We pulled onto the beach, heading north up to where my boat was parked about a mile away. As we turned, Cromwell glanced up at the flag on top of the big Lifeguard Tower.
“Out of the southeast,” he said, referring to the wind direction.
“Any idea what the tide is doing?” I asked.
“Coming in or going out, last I checked.” He wet a finger and stuck it out the open sliding door of the truck. “Going out, definitely.” All this silly banter began in the days when we first started sailing these beach cats a few years earlier. Not knowing what we were doing, continually making rigging mistakes and tipping the boat over in the ocean, we developed a program of “fake it 'till you make it,'” creating our own sailing terms and bits of wise sea knowledge which we would share with the tourist girls who inevitably came up to us while we prepared the boat to go out. There were times when we would come crashing in through the bathers on the beach who would dodge this way or that trying desperately to not be run over by this giant brightly colored and apparently out of control beach toy.
“Avast, there Captain!” I would shout as we narrowly missed one bobbing swimmer after another. “Bear off a lee! Come down hard and away! Arghh!” On the days when the onshore break was particularly brutal and the offshore drinking was particularly strong, it was not unusual for the helmsman to fall off the boat altogether. Then, as we pulled the boat back onto the beach, the girls would come around.
“That was beautiful!” they might say, “but why did one of you jump into the water like that?” Usually it was Cromwell who would try to sneak one last slug of rum before coming in, miss his timing as the boat crested a wave and “jump in” by falling over backwards off the boat.
“Well, Miss, you see, on days like this when the wind is agrarian out of the south and we have a riptudial tidal flow, certain maneuvers take place that call for adjustable ballast.”
You could say just about anything. And we did. And the foolishness didn't end; we would continue it into the evening, sitting at one saloon or another with the usual local crowd. It became our inside joke, setting us a little apart from the others. It ultimately became an inescapable habit, this goof-speak, and somehow created a kind of elitist cache that was worth a few drinks now and then and certainly garnered us a great deal of leeway with the Beach Patrol and the bartenders of Coronado Avenue. All due to this perception that we were in on something that the others were not. I once overheard a drunk at the bar say, “Those guys are such elegant speakers.” Indeed.
There was my boat just ahead, sitting pertly on the sand, waiting. She knew we were coming. Her name is the Bitch, because she is one. I did not name her in a moment of misogynistic despair, although I have certainly suffered from plenty such moments. She was named by one of my beach bum girl friends, a veteran of many years and many beach towns along the Atlantic Coast and the Bahamas who knew far more about sailing a beach cat than I did. She showed me the ropes, literally, and helping me get my new vessel rigged and launched. On the less-than -maiden voyage we broke out through an unusually rough surf. Summer (the girl's name) was busy as hell pulling on this line and that, steering the boat with one hand and adjusting the sail with the other, all the while cussing like the sailor she was, while I helped by hanging on for dear life and wondering if I was going to get laid. We finally cleared the surf line almost as an afterthought and then shot out towards the open ocean. The boat flew across the rolling sea.
“Damn,” Summer said, “What a handful! This boat is a bitch!” And the name stuck.