What’s in a name?

There are a lot of superstitions surrounding the names of boats. Naming is often done with a certain amount of pomp and ceremony, and it is considered deeply unlucky to change the name of the boat. Before our nautical dreams were made flesh we had contemplated various names. My personal favourite had been Annie’s Revenge – riffing on Black Beard’s famous ship, the Queen Annes Revenge. But now the idea of renaming Teka feels totally wrong. Like renaming a person. She was given her name in Norway in 1954. Who would want to change their name at that sort of age? However, we have absolutely no idea why she is called Teka. What does it mean? Given her Norwegian heritage we originally thought it most likely to be a Norwegian word. Google translate doesn’t recognise it as a Norwegian word, though. Or, in fact, any other language. ‘Teka’ is a German company who manufacture kitchen appliances, a band, a company who make concrete mixing machines, a character in Doctor Who…

A deeper etymological search found that a plausible meaning might come from the Javanese usage; it is the verb to come, or to arrive. This seems like a fairly boaty name, but I can’t really see how she could have ended up with a Javanese. In Lithuanian ‘teka’ is the third person present tense of tekėti, which can mean to rise (like the sun), to flow (like a river), or, when applied to a woman, to marry. Again, there is a certain poetic attraction to these, and Lithuania is a little closer to Norway than Java, but the oddity of the tense seems to make this unlikely. And ‘closer’ is a rather relative term! In Greek it is a colloquial term for notebook, which is interesting, but unlikely to bear relevance here. Finally, it appears that ‘teka’ is an accepted alternative spelling of the Spanish and Portuguese word ‘teca’, which means teak. And boy is there a lot of teak in Teka. Saying that, this still feels a little tenuous. I don’t know of any connection with Spain or Portugal, and that it is an unusual spelling makes me unsure of a legitimate connection.

IMG_3137We are not the only boat in the pontoon with an interesting name. Our former neighbours sailed Eas Mhor away a couple of days ago. Apparently this is Gaelic for ‘bright water’ – a lovely name for a boat. The most common and noticeable type of boat name, at least in Portishead marina, seems to be puns. Visible between Teka and the pontoon gate are Add Morality, Nauti Buoy, and Y Knot (complete with a picture of a knot). Some of the large, white, motorboats have quite fitting names too. Viking is at the end of our pontoon, and we locked in alongside Excalibur. My all time favourite has a rather less intimidating name, however. It’s a tiny little motor boat near the pontoon entrance. The sort one might spend a lovely afternoon bombing about and fishing in the channel. The Crazy Gran.



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