By John Andreotti
We had a big response to my last story about boat names, and so I’m going to stay on that roll!
A lot of these anecdotes stem from my hydroplane racing days: I once knew a guy who had had his boat for a while and was really struggling to come up with something. Most of our friends already had names that were recognizable because, when you’re racing, it’s important to have a something that people remember; that maybe says something about you or your boat; and, of course, it has to be ‘acceptable’ (though in truth some of us pushed that limit). One other thing: the name had to fit in a space on a racing boat built to have as little blank space as possible! We all tried our damnedest to help, but no creativity was jumping out and we weren’t too sure why it was so hard to come up with something clever, catching, original, and would match this particular boat or its owner. In the end, we gave up (but see below!).
Some of the race boat names were quite imaginative and apposite. Midnight Oil went with the racer who always worked well into the night to prepare for a race. We knew one guy as Green Truck Larry because both his truck and his boat were bright green. Green with Envy was his boat’s name. Everyone knew that another of the racers was misbehaving with someone else’s wife. His boat? Piece of Mine? Then there was the bigamist who named his boat Can’t Pick One; a doubtful play on the spy scandal U-2 You-Too! This Side Up belonged to the famous racer who flipped his boat almost every time he raced and Better Late Than Sober belonged to the guy who missed several important races by sleeping in after the Saturday night pre-race party. Oh S—t !! was the boat that was always the last into the first turn, which is scary indeed.
In my last note, I explained the origin of my own Wop-Sided boats and theses names and stories are endless. We had one racer who was quite wealthy and snobby about it. His boat was indeed the hottest and latest, with the best of equipment, professional crew, fancy car to match the boat, trophy wife with the best body that money could buy, and on and on. However, he was the worst boat driver in the fleet and always embarrassed himself on the track, and though his boat was the fastest around he somehow never won a trophy. The name of the boat? It Ain’t Luck. At one of preliminaries to the unlimited hydroplane races at Folsom Lake, which included famous boats like Miss Budweiser, Miss Madison, Short Circuit, Slo-Mo, Miss Bardahl, Miss Thriftway, Miss Wahoo and Atlas Van Lines, some of the most famous race boats of all time, a couple of jokesters went to the parking lot with a can of paint and renamed It Ain’t Luck by replacing the “L” in Luck to an “F”. The owner of the boat didn’t notice the change till the following week at a local event. It turned out to be his last race.
One of the greatest talents in our small boat racing world was a sign painter who would paint any boat name in any style anywhere for no payment whatsoever. Bob carried his paints and brushes with him at all times. All he ever asked was that he be allowed to put his name on the boat, somewhere, small and unobtrusive. He signed every boat he ever painted with treboR llewoP. I finally asked him what that was all about. He explained it was automatic to him because, all his life, he had painted signs on glass doors, windows and storefronts. They were always painted on the inside, so they were spelled backwards. Hence his credit, too, was painted backwards. His name was Robert Powell.
By the way, after a couple of seasons, the indecisive racer I started this story with, finally settled on Small Stuff. I never knew why but when I met his ex-wife, a regular at the races, she told everyone it was perfect. It matched his support payments, his boat and, apparently, parts of his anatomy.