WHAT’S IN A NAME?: Nostalgia and shenanigans drive boat naming at The Cliffs

Nostalgia and shenanigans drive boat naming at The Cliffs.  For thousands of years, boats have cruised the world’s waters carrying unique names.  Early on, captains christened their vessels with names honoring country, crown, and mission. Who can forget the USS Arizona, the Queen Mary, the Bounty ? Naming vessels was purely for logistics, so sailors and fishermen knew they were talking about the same ship, on the same voyage. Nowadays, boat naming has become its own type of art form, blending family traditions, escape and humor. Here are a few buzzing around Lake Keowee.


Dan Donnelly,The Cliffs at Keowee Springs

Boat Name: Lucky Charms; Favorite Spot: Anywhere there’s wine

After a lifetime spent within minutes of the coast, Dan Donnelly can finally call himself captain. “I’m like a fifth grader,” he reveals with a smile. “I’m from Manhattan and live part of the year in Newport, Rhode Island, but this will be my first boat.” The New Yorker admits he’s “one of the huddled masses” redomiciling to South Carolina during COVID-19. “If ever there’s a time to leave New York, this is it,” he explains. “My girlfriend and I are really looking forward to meeting new people and exploring a different lifestyle. I live in a high-end, high-rise on 57th Street and all of our amenities are vertical, as opposed to The Cliffs where they’re all horizontal.”

After much research, he settled on a fully loaded, Cobalt R6 Surf. “I have small grandkids,” he says. “Initially, it’s conducive for me to pull them on tubes, but they can grow into water sports with it.” Her name: Lucky Charms. “It’s sort of an Irish thing and it looks like a Leprechaun,” he says. “When I was a kid growing up in Queens, Lucky Charms was a fun thing. I don’t know if people still eat them. It’s just an Irish thing.”


Robin & Lee Grodsky. The Cliffs at Keowee Falls

Boat Name: Doin’ Nauti Thangs; Favorite Spot: Boo Boo Beach

Upon first gazing into Lake Keowee’s water, Robin Grodsky looked at her husband and declared, “No other lake will do.” The couple had grown tired of the growing population, wildfires and cost of Colorado. “We started looking for a retirement home on a lake about five years ago,” shares Lee. “We wanted to be north of alligators and south of snow. That was the thin line we were dancing on.”

By Thanksgiving of 2020, they’d settled at Keowee Falls and were guiding their Barletta tritoon, complete with two dog doors, around the lake. The Parrot Heads made lists of nautical names that lived up to their festive lifestyle. Lee explains, “We have a text string with neighbors. We joke, ‘We’re going out to do Nauti Thangs, want to join us?’’’ Robin adds, “We get great responses from other boaters. There’s a tiny, tiny boat on the lake called Little Nauti. We always wave to each other. It’s a good time.”


Susan & Don Buckley, The Cliffs at Keowee Vineyards

Boat Name: Freebie; Favorite Spot: Behind the wheel

After 38 years on San Diego’s saltwater shores, Susan and Don Buckley love tearing up Lake Keowee’s fresh water in their 24-foot Chaparral. The boat’s name came to them as easily as the boat… they won it in a drawing! “When Keowee Falls opened, we visited to select our preference of lots,” Don recalls. “We flew back to California, and were sitting by the pool when a friend called and said, ‘You won the boat!’ We didn’t even know there was a drawing.”

Ironically, the Buckleys won the exact boat they were planning to buy. “It’s an inboard/outboard. White with beige interior,” says Don. “How could we not name it Freebie?”


Darlene & Jim Keelor, The Cliffs at Keowee Vineyards 

Boat Name: Hoosier Mama; Favorite Spot: The Falls

If you’ve been out on Lake Keowee in recent years, you’ve most likely spotted Hoosier Mama. Her owners, Darlene and Jim Keelor, have lived in South Carolina for 30 years and are some of the “first settlers” at The Cliffs at Keowee Vineyards. “We are the oldies,” jokes Darlene. “It’s changed a lot since we first moved here. I remember when it was dirt roads and a mountain view.”

Early on, the couple purchased their beloved white pontoon boat with hunter green trim. “We’re from Indiana,” Darlene explains. “A long time ago, people there would say, ‘Hoosier Mama? Hoosier Daddy?’ So, it just made sense.” The family made more memories on the boat than Lake Keowee has fish. “We have five grandkids,” the matriarch says. “They grew up with us pulling them on a Big Bertha [floatable tube]. Now we take it out at Christmas and holidays when everyone visits. It’s been such a blessing.”

This story was featured in Cliffs Living Magazine. To read more stories like this one and learn more about The Cliffs, subscribe here.

Related Stories