Back in the Land of the Pleasant Names

We’ve just left the Sassafras River. There’s a Turkey Point on the bow. In the Sassafras, we were surrounded by ordinary names such as Ordinary Point, Turner Creek, Cassidy Wharf, Back Creek, Woodland Creek and Knight Island. The only name in the area that stood out was Money Creek. I wonder how that came about. The night before, we were in the Bohemia River off normally-named Ford Landing presumably where someone named Ford once landed and maintained a landing. There was also Town Point, Sandy Point, and another Back Creek just north of the Bohemia.

Two days ago heading up the Delaware Bay, we were surrounded by funky and cool sounding names: such as “Peach House Ditch.” It almost sounds inviting. For some unknown reason, “Ditch” just ruins “Peach House”. Further south we passed Ship John Shoal, Elbow Cross Ledge, Miah Maull Shoal (names after Nehemiah Maull who drowned on the shoal in 1780 after his ship wrecked there), Fourteen Foot Bank (yes, it really is 14ft there), Brandywine Shoal, and my favorite, Prissy Wicks Shoal which breaks when a sea is rolling in.

Up in New England, the naming landscape was quite different. I suspect that many of the names related to the original inhabitants. In Buzzards Bay: Indian Neck, Pocasset Harbor, and Mattapoisett, for example.

Only a bit over a week ago, we sailed past “The Graves” outside of Boston Harbor. Yikes. That name pretty much says stay away or else. And that is how it looks. Further north, the outlook of the folks who came up with the names must have been even grimmer.

Sure, there are some fun names north of Boston. “Ram Island,” “Great Pig Rocks,” and “Roaring Bull” make us wonder what sort of wildlife used to live off the Massachusetts coast. Someone must have caught lobster off “Lobster Rocks”. But, it really isn’t particularly helpful as they seem to catch lobster everywhere up there. Probably even off “Rams Horn Rock”.

Unsurprisingly, there are a lot of variants of “Breakers” such as “Inner Breakers” and the oddly named “Dry Breakers.” Do they really stay dry? Doubtful. Off Marblehead, they have a set of miseries. There is “Misery Ledge” which I can understand if you were aground on it. Then, there is “Great Misery” and “Little Misery” Island. Is the latter really more pleasant?

It is off the coast of Maine where the names really make you wonder what you’re getting into. Off Casco, there is another “Ram Island,” “West Brown Cow” and “Junk of Pork”. I can’t imagine what caused someone to name an island “Junk of Pork”. Yes, there is also an “East Brown Cow,” but those two are pretty far out. Did someone really see a brown cow on them? Then, there is “Witch Rock,” “Hussey Sound” and “The Hussey.” In among all of this, someone had some mercy and named Jewell and Hope Islands.

Further east, the Chamber of Commerce really stepped up. There is a pair of ledges off of Muscongus bay call “Old Man” and “Old Woman” Ledge. In Muscongus, you can find “Thief Island.” Burnt and Mosquito Islands sound pleasant enough compared to “Hurricane Island” (which was actually quite pleasant), the nearby “Deadman Ledge,” “Wreck Island,” “Hell’s Half Acre” and “Devil’s Island”. On the day we tried to visit the latter two, it was anything but pleasant. So maybe this explains why Maine seems so sparsely populated with really hardy folk.

It’s a wonder we made it through this summer intact. Tonight, we’re headed to visit friends on Rock Creek. And unusually for the Chesapeake, the chart suggests there may actually be rocks present. It looks like our challenges are not over yet.

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2 Responses to Back in the Land of the Pleasant Names

  1. Michelle says:

    Did you go to Smuttynose?

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