Yacht Charter Vacations

By Yacht Charters Guru

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Why is a Yacht Called a "She"?

One of the funny questions we've been asked over the years by our sailing vacation charter guest is, why do you call a yacht a "she"? In jest, we've always replied, "A yacht is called a “she” because there is always a great deal of bustle around her; there is usually a gang of men about, she has a waist and stays; it takes a lot of paint to keep her good looking; it is not the initial expense that breaks you, it is the upkeep; she can be all decked out; it takes an experienced man (or a woman who understands her needs!!!) to handle her correctly; and without a man at the helm, she is absolutely uncontrollable. She shows her topsides, hides her bottom and when coming into port, always heads for the buoys!” 

The exact reason why boats are called she in English is lost to history. While explanations abound, most appear to be of the folk variety, assumed or invented after the fact as a way to make sense of the phenomenon. Boats are a truly interesting case in English, as they are among the only inanimate objects that take a gendered pronoun, whereas most others are called it. Countries are also called she, as are cars sometimes, but the latter example is almost certainly an extension from boats.

One plausible theory is that boats are traditionally given female names, typically the name of an important woman in the life of the boat's owner, such as his mother. It has also been surmised that all ships were once dedicated to goddesses, and later to important mortal women when belief in goddesses waned. Interestingly, although male captains and sailors historically attributed the spirit of a benevolent female figure to their ships, actual women were considered very bad luck at sea. Whether its proper name is masculine, or whether it is a man o’war, a battleship, or a nuclear submarine, a ship is always referred to as “she.”

This old tradition is thought to stem from the fact that in the Romance languages, the word for “ship” is always in the feminine. For this reason, Mediterranean sailors always referred to their ship as “she”, and the practice was adopted over the centuries by their English-speaking counterparts. On a side note, advocates of gender-neutral or non-sexist language have proposed that ships be referred to as it, like any other inanimate object.

To be a success at sea, you must collaborate with your vessel. If you call her “it”, how friendly a relationship are you going to have? “She”seems to acknowledge the intimate relationship you need in order to address the vulnerability you may have when sailing across a very large ocean. And speaking from almost 30 years of sailing experience, you'd better give "her" what "she" wants! 

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