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The Top Boat Names for Marlin Fishing

Backstories of some of the most recognized operations on the water today

October 5, 2020

There is more to a boat’s transom than just wood, fiberglass, paint and teak: Those letters stretched across the stern tell their own stories. However, sometimes the anecdotes, quips and nods to loved ones are not immediately clear, and leave us scratching our heads and wanting to know more.

As we ask about the origins of a particular boat’s name, we find ourselves connecting deeply with members of the sport-fishing community, learning more about the people who pursue billfish to all corners of the world, often with their families as part of the team. They travel, they fish tournaments, and they have a blast doing it. Facilitating those connections might just be one of the many reasons folks choose creative and personal boat names in the first place.

A sport fishing boat cruising on the water with the words "Que Mas" painted on the transom.
The 70-foot Que Mas is one of the most recognizable rigs on the water today. AH360 Photography

Que Mas

The 70-foot American Custom Yacht built in 2004, Que Mas is no stranger to sport-fishing ­headlines. This renowned boat, owned by Wally and Sue Whitley of Islamorada, Florida, has fished in some of the top billfish destinations, participating in—and winning—many highly competitive tournaments. The Whitleys also enjoy time on the water with family and friends in locations such as Panama, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Mexico and Bermuda. The sleek teak transom with big, bold gold-leaf letters is classic and clean, and easily recognized when backing down on those angry blues. While many folks with a basic understanding of Spanish will know that qué más translates to “what more,” it takes a little more background to truly get the full effect of this playful and fitting name.

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For that we turn to the boat’s leading lady, Sue Whitley. Her father worked for General Electric International in South America and Mexico, and Whitley, whose maiden name is Whatmore, attended middle and high school in Latin America. Upon learning her last name, her classmates gave her the nickname Que Mas. The name stuck and followed her to college in San Antonio, where she first met Wally, who recalls, “The Que Mas nickname was used occasionally in a fun way among friends, particularly when she was speaking Spanish.”

Years later, when considering possible names for the newly minted boat, the tribute to Sue just seemed right. She’s a mother, grandmother, enthusiastic traveler and a crucial part of the team. “Since many boats are named after beautiful women, it seemed only fitting that our boat would be named after Sue,” Wally says. “And when the boat was completed, we felt it was one of the prettiest, classiest sport-fishing boats on the water. So ‘what more’ would anyone want?”

The back of a boat transom with the words "Tina's Trippin' " painted on the back.
Tina’s Trippin’ showcases a woman in heels and the South Carolina flag on the back of a blue marlin. Cameron J. Rhodes

Tina’s Trippin’

Some boat names can mean a whole series of different things, depending on how you read them or how you feel when you get up in the morning. And with a crew like the one you’ll find on the deck of Tina’s Trippin’, things might still be a little foggy when the sun first cracks the horizon. All joking aside, the family behind this operation has never met a stranger. Between hosting musicians in the cockpit and spouting off their signature greeting, “Who you wit?” the boat is an epicenter of fun and camaraderie.

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The transom features a woman wearing nothing but heels and the South Carolina flag, riding on the back of a blue marlin. Once you meet the boat’s owners, Tripp and Tina Rice, you realize the boat comes about her name and transom design honestly. However, it’s not just a nice tribute to the names and creativity of the fun-loving couple paying the bills; there’s more to the story.

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And it all starts when Tripp was a hell-raising teenager in high school, driving a lifted pickup truck with the word “Trippin’” etched across the windshield. Tina explains: “It played off his name and the fact that he might in fact be trippin’. He probably was!” After Tina and Tripp got married and eventually found themselves buying a 55-foot Viking, the pair wanted to incorporate some of that playful nostalgia in the boat’s name. “We heard that it was good luck for boats to be given a woman’s name, so we wanted to include Tina. And we liked the play on words that came from Tina’s Trippin’,” Tina explained. “It could mean so many things, like Tina is trippin’, or Tina is going on a trip offshore, or, most likely, that Tina is trippin’ over the cost of boats and tournaments!”

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A boat transom with the words "Sola Fide" painted on the back.
Sola Fide rhymes with sola ride and is a place to gather to share family time. Cameron J. Rhodes

Sola Fide

Few scenes sadden the hearts of the sport-fishing ­community like that of a sinking boat. The Wyatt family experienced such heartbreak in 2017 during the Megadock Billfishing Tournament in South Carolina, when Sportsmann, their 56-foot Paul Mann, was lost to the sea. Fortunately, everyone made it off the boat safely. They even had the good-humored sense to grab the tournament-winning wahoo they’d caught earlier in the day before jumping ship. In the wake of that awful situation, Terri Wyatt recalls: “Family, friends and the entire fishing community came together with prayer, love and support. The people of South Carolina’s Lowcountry are a big family.” And family, above all else, is most important to Gary, Terri and their five children. Spending many hours together on the docks and fishing offshore, the cockpit of a boat quickly becomes a keeper of countless memories for them.

So when it came time to name the next boat, the family ­contemplated how best to honor God while also paying tribute to their beloved Sportsmann. Only one name seemed fitting: Sola Fide, which means “by faith alone,” is a family motto as well as a reflective reminder of the Wyatt family’s steadfast dedication to their Christian faith. Given that the phrase, which has Latin origins, has proved to be a bit much for those with a Southern drawl, the family chose the simplest and cleanest pronunciation—rhyming like “sola ride”—to grace the transom of their curvy 61-foot Blackwell.

In unassuming detail, the transom is a graceful allusion to Sportsmann’s glittering gold cursive: a tasteful nod to the past and a hopeful look to the future. The boat, which fishes primarily along the coast of South Carolina, is a happy reminder of the goodness of people in this close-knit community of ­billfish seekers. Terri says: “The only thing as welcoming in the South as a back porch is the cockpit of a boat on a summer evening, watching the sunset. Sola Fide is a place where everyone is ­welcome to gather and share life, tall tales and laughter.”

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A boat transom with the words "Shoe" painted on the back.
With a subtle checkered flag background, Shoe hints to the racing legacy of her owner. Cameron J. Rhodes

Shoe

When people first hear the name Shoe announced over the VHF radio or listed in tournament standings, it’s unlikely that they immediately catch the origin of the boat’s name. But when folks eventually see the black-and-white checkered pattern sweeping behind the glossy but subtle lettering of the boat’s transom at the dock, a few clues come into focus. Those clues lead back to a racetrack many years ago.

Professional drag racing is certainly not for the faint of heart. For Don Schumacher, it’s a way of life. Shoe’s captain, Devin Silas, explains: “When Don was racing back in the day, an announcer decided Schumacher was too long of a name to get through, given his impressive driving ability. The announcer starting calling him Shoe, and it stuck.” Since earning that nickname years ago, Don has earned countless top ­honors in ­motorsports, including inductions into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America and the International Motorsports Hall of Fame at Talladega Motor Speedway in Alabama.

When’s he not busy with Don Schumacher Racing—the team with the most wins in the history of the National Hot Rod Association—Don and his wife, Sarah, enjoy time on the water in locations such as Costa Rica, Mexico and Panama. Aboard their 75-foot Spencer, the couple gets to participate in competition away from the track as well, trading the wheel for the rod. And although Don is accustomed to going fast, he makes sure to take his time when enjoying new experiences on the water and whenever battling billfish among family and friends.

The back transom of a fishing boat with the words "Ditch Digger" painted on it.
Ditch Digger is the latest of eight boats to bear that name. Chris Rabil

Ditch Digger

Not all names are steeped in quite as much mystery as others. Some hint at the owner’s profession, a brief tribute to what pays the bills for the whole operation, while leaving just enough room for additional questions. The patriarch of the Creamer family always liked that approach. And when J. Fletcher Creamer Sr. and his wife chose a name for their new boat, he referred to a phrase he often reminded his three sons, “This is what we do for a living: digging ditches.” Thus, the now-legendary Ditch Digger name graced the transom of the first of eight boats to bear the title, a reference to the family’s construction and real estate business, J. Fletcher Creamer & Son.

None of the eight different Ditch Diggers have hosted a number, so why haven’t the Creamers followed such tradition? “We would have to get new towels,” Dale joked. The current Ditch Digger—owned by Fletch, Glenn and Dale Creamer—is a striking 72-foot Viking that fishes from New Jersey to West Palm Beach, Florida; Isla Mujeres, Mexico; and throughout the Bahamas. The boat remains busy with family and friends alone, between the three owners, their 12 children and now their grandchildren.

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The family made sure to add some creative, personal touches to the simplicity of the transom, which features engine-turned, gold-leaf block letters outlined in what’s known among the ­family as Creamer Brown—a light, gold-tinged earth tone that is representative of the company’s brand and the color of their work trucks. With a combination of directness and subtlety, the transom’s design and name refer to a family business that has been around since the 1920s, as well as the very man who started it all—the original ditch digger.

A transom with the words "Shark Byte" painted on the back.
Shark Byte is Peter Cherasia’s pride and joy, a 73-foot Bayliss. Capt. Rich Barrett

Shark Byte

When young onlookers first read the name Shark Byte and later see boat owner Peter Cherasia emerge from the salon with a large scar running down his lower leg, their burning curiosity sometimes gets the better of them. Kids, utterly awed by the scene, always excitedly ask questions about the assumed shark attack. But there’s a lot more to this story than you might think—and it all begins on Wall Street.

When Peter started building trading systems, a career that came about from his degree in electrical engineering, he named each server after a shark. At the time, Mako, Thresher, Tiger and others helped to keep the New York markets up and running. So when Peter and his wife bought their first offshore boat in 1986, his wife suggested the name Shark Byte, a creative nod to his appreciation of sharks as well as his engineering background.

Shortly afterward, the name took on an entirely new meaning. A few years after purchasing that first boat, Peter blew out his ACL for a third time, while skiing. He developed compartment syndrome, and doctors had to operate on his lower leg, leaving a huge scar, which looks just like a shark bite. “I’m really thankful that I didn’t name the boat Peg Leg, which was one of the other choices we had, as a play on my wife’s name!” he says. A passionate angler who enjoys nothing more than a good marlin bite surrounded by his family, close friends and crew, Peter enjoys the intrigue as well.

The current Shark Byte, his eighth sport-fishing boat to carry the name, is a beautiful 73-foot Bayliss that fishes from the Dominican Republic in the Caribbean to Nantucket, and everywhere else in between.

The boat transom with the words "Purfeita" on the back.
Perfeita is one of those tongue-twisting names that always throws us off. Courtesy Carl Lewis III

Perfeita

Some boats showcase our struggle with foreign languages. To the amusement of our friends abroad, we often find ourselves stumbling through pronunciations, butchering names on the radio or in conversation. Perfeita, pronounced pehr-FAY-tuh, with the appropriate tongue roll for the R, of course, is no exception. Eduardo Castro, the owner and captain of the boat, jokes, “Pronunciation became so funny here in the United States and Costa Rica—a word that is so simple for us Brazilians to say is really complicated for others.”

Although the pronunciation of the boat’s name varies among people, there is no question that Eduardo and Perfeita find the fish. After three successful years with his 57-foot Island Boatworks sport-fisher, Eduardo sold the boat; she is now back in her original home port in North Carolina, a long way from her recent harbor in Costa Rica. However, the Perfeita name—one that has graced Eduardo’s boats for the past 20 years—will live on, splashed across the transom of his now 61-foot Garlington. Thanks to the creative genius of artist Monique Richter, the newly painted transom features a glowing yellow and green sun, a delicate tribute to Brazil’s flag as the dot to the letter “I,” and the whole design is now punctuated by a colorful blue marlin.

Eduardo’s reasoning for choosing the name Perfeita is as effortless and beautiful as his choice of graphic design. A native of Brazil, Eduardo says, “Perfeita means ‘perfect’ in Portuguese. Each boat I’ve built has been the perfect boat for that time in my life.” Each build, a symbol of growth and change in his life, serves as a gathering place for his family and friends. Together they fun-fish at the Costa Rica seamounts and ­participate in the tournaments out of Los Sueños. Depending on their luck, Eduardo jokes that some days are perfect ­fishing and others are perfect disasters. But based on their catch reports, most days lean to the former.

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