What’s in a Name?

Choosing the right boat is one thing. Choosing the right name for it is something else altogether. Naming a boat may not seem like such a big deal. After all, it’s not like choosing a name for your first born…one they’ll have to live with for the rest of their lives that gives them one more reason to hate you in their teenage years. But still it does deserve careful consideration.

Cruisers come to identify other cruisers by their boat name. So Jim and Jenny Smith from the boat WINDJAMMER become known to other cruisers as the Windjammers. In the worst case scenario, if you ever have to call in a mayday, you don’t want a long, hard to pronounce or hard to spell name, especially when you are seeking assistance in foreign waters.

We certainly put a fair amount of thought into picking a name for our boat. We didn’t want anything too bland, too long, too precious, too cute or too common. In the end, it didn’t turn out to be that difficult after all. We tossed around a few options (Hulk was never a contender) and quickly settled on MOKEN. It was far and away our number one choice, but the final decision had to wait until we learned whether or not it would be accepted for registration with Transport Canada. Since we can’t even remember what our second choice was, we waited nervously until we got the green light and MOKEN was official. But where did the name come from and what does it mean?

The Moken is the self-designation for a group of nomadic people with a sea-based culture living in Burma and Thailand. In Burma, the Moken are called the Selon, and in Thailand, the chao le (“sea people” or people of the sea). Wikipedia says the name is used for all of the Austronesian speaking tribes who inhabit the coast and islands in the Andaman Sea on the west coast of Thailand up through the Mergui Archipelago of Burma. Sometimes called sea gypsies or sea nomads, Moken roam the sea, live off the sea and know the sea, more comfortable in the water than out of it. Their wooden boats, called a Kabang, are their homes on the water. They live outside of mainstream society and outside of the politics of the countries within whose borders they find themselves. It is said that the Moken people do not have a word for “worry”.

It’s seems a fitting name for our boat, and by extension us, because we will now be known as Chris and Sandra Moken. Two Canadian sea nomads making their home on the water, exploring the ocean and living outside the mainstream. We even have a connection to the Moken’s traditional territory. Our very first vacation together was a diving holiday in Thailand that included a trip to the incredible Similan Islands off the coast of Thailand in the Andaman Sea. Chris also worked for several years in Dawei, Burma at the northern tip of the Moken range. And it’s our hope to one day feel like real sea people ourselves, as comfortable in or on the water as anywhere else. And maybe we’ll even forget that there is a word like “worry”. Time will tell.

Once we get to the boat, we will have to perform a formal renaming ceremony. It promises to be quite an interesting ritual. More to come on that.

Find out more about the Moken on YouTube: