Monday, May 6, 2013

Name that Boat

The recent change in management at the Vatican hasn’t slowed things down here in Port Fourchon.

It’s not unusual to hear Pope Benedict conversing with Infant Jesus of Prague (familiarly, they often just use the shorthand “Benedict” and “Jesus”) or Our Lady of La Salette.

Continuing in a religious vein, I remember my astonishment upon hearing a captain proclaiming the good news to a ghost ship: "CSS Texas, Jesus Saves!" (Two towboats making passing arrangements near the interesection of the Intracoastal Waterway and the Texas City Ship Channel.)

I surmise, with little direct evidence, that Jesus Saves, Hallelujah and Resurrection may all belong to the same company.

More mundane names float across the airwaves, too: Will Bordelon chatting with Dino Chouest, Kevin Gros courting Chantise G.

Among the boat companies serving the oil patch, family feeling runs strong. At the company I work for, the boats are named for family members spanning four generations.

Key employees and long-time captains sometimes are honored with a boat name: take, for instance, Chouest’s Gary Rook, named for that company’s design chief.

Among my favorite boat names are the melodic Santee, Congaree and Wateree, Starfleet crewboats named for South Carolina rivers (or perhaps the native peoples that preceded them).

Other boat names are more practical or thematic: for instance, the cohort of platform supply vessels beginning with “C” (again, for Chouest) – C-Performer, C-Fighter, etc. Likewise, Hornbeck Offshore Services includes “HOS” in many – maybe all – of its boat names: HOS Innovator, HOS Strongline, HOS Centerline, and so on.

To some online hilarity, Hornbeck has recently announced a class of Louisiana food-themed boats: HOS Beignet, HOS Boudin, HOS Frog Legs … okay, I kid about the frog legs. But the others are real. In fact, I just heard the sausage boat leaving the dock.

Some companies leave even less doubt about whose boat you’re dealing with. Odyssea Marine has the Odyssea Explorer, Odyssea Titan, Odyssea Ranger and so-on. Or the prosaic Harvey Carrier or Harvey Supplier.

This can be carried a bit too far, as with the unimaginative K-Marine VII, K-Marine VIII, BoTruc 39, BoTruc-41, etc. On the radio, the captains of these vessels often come back with a simple “Thirty-nine,” or “Eight,” leading me to picture a Galactica- or Star Trek-type cyborg.

“BoTruc” itself, though, is evocative of the very early days of specialized oilfied service vessels. The first boat-trucks represented the marriage of a Cajun mariner’s desires and a Rhode Island naval architect’s drafting skill.

Other boat names bring to mind other things. Damon P. Bankston, for instance, a hero of the Deepwater Horizon disaster. Or Warrior, high and dry at the north end of the Eugene Island Channel.

Boat names are, widely, shrouded in superstition and  tradition. Successfully changing a boat's name requires some metaphysical gymnastics to placate the gods of the sea, as well as a heap of paperwork to soothe regulatory authorities.

I always wondered about the wisdom naming one's Gulf shrimp trawler Stormy Waters (still afloat in Port Isabel, so far as I know).

A recurring fantasy is that someday I’ll have my own boat company. I ponder color schemes and boat names. A Texas rivers series would be fun: Bravo, Nueces, Aransas, Brazos, Neches, Sabine ….

Or maybe shorebirds and seabirds? Heron, Egret, Kingfisher, Sanderling, Skimmer, Avocet, Bittern, Skua, Gannet, Gallinule … nah, not Gallinule. No Spoonbill, either.

No matter what fantasy names I come up with, or what whimsy or foolishness I hear on the radio, it will be pretty hard to top my favorite shrimp boat from back home: Ol' Dead Possum.


  1. Jesus Saves et al are all owned by a preacher who has a church in Bellechase, LA. All HOS boats, besides the afore mentioned Food boats, are named after Clydesdales, work horses.

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