Sailing Sweet Ruca

What’s in the Name?

So just what does your boat’s name mean? We get that a lot. It is time to dispel the rumors and set the world straight. 

Sweet Ruca Stern Logo

This is our official boat logo. Even though the homeport says Newport, RI for logistics reasons, our true home is the Great Lakes!

In short, the name “Sweet Ruca” roughly translates to “wonderful girlfriend.” Why would we name the boat that, you ask? Why not “Why Knot” or “Knot 2 Fast” or “Windwalker” or wind or knot cliche something? Well, we wanted to be unique. So unique that if you dig deep and check with the USCG, we are the only vessel ever with that name. We like to be a one-off. 

The fact that we aren’t following anyone else is a big part of our choice; we like to go a different way than most. The new name also plays off of our last boat, “Gnarly Ruca.” The original “Ruca” was a Melges 24 one-design racing boat. We met on her; we went for our first sail together on her. I launched Kate’s cell phone and car keys overboard with the spinnaker, and I met her mom because of it. So there is some history with the “Ruca.” 

Sailing the original “Gnarly Ruca” USA 55 in the Bayview One Design Regatta in 2013. Photo Credit BYC.


The Ruca name goes way back, to a time I refer to as BK, before Kate. In 2011, on a whim, I drove from Toledo, Ohio to Tampa, Florida, to buy my first keelboat, a 1993 Melges 24. Before that, I had only owned small sailing dinghies and sailed on other people’s larger racing boats. I wanted to take the helm though, and since I was a child, I had always envied the performance and pedigree of the Melges 24s while turning pages in the sailing magazines. 

Curtis sailing a JY15 dinghy on an inland lake near Reading, Michigan.

The boat I purchased was hull #55 and was named “Narley Melgeson,” an obvious play on words of Harley Davidson ™. I liked the name because ironically, I owned a small motorcycle shop at the time. But Harley’s were not my thing; I raced a Yamaha R6 so I couldn’t have a boat named after a slow motorcycle. (I am sure I am going to hear it for this, but check lap times people, it’s a fact.) 

Before sailing, and before Kate (BK) Curtis was racing motorcycles as well as sailboats.

I wanted to keep some of the old and blend it with something new. My mom thought that I shouldn’t be messing about with boats and told me I should find a girlfriend. That is how the “Ruca” portion of the name came along. I told my mom, “for now; the boat is my girlfriend.”

It also fit that the Melges 24 was a handful to sail. It had a big learning curve and could wipe out hard if you made a mistake, just like a relationship. In a sense, the boat in itself was a bit crazy as well. You are supposed to name your boat after a woman anyway, so it came together, the name “Gnarly Ruca” short for crazy girlfriend stuck. The yacht club guys and I had a fun naming ceremony and stuck a racy graphic on the side. 

Preparing for the 2013 Melges 24 World Championships in San Francisco, California.

There were actually two “Gnarly Ruca’s.” A 1993 version #55 and a 2005 version #618. Kate sailed on both with me. Our first sail together though was on #55 in Muskegon, MI. We officially started dating a few months later after the Bayview One Design regatta. Since then we raced almost every Melges 24 event that we could together. We went PHRF racing together, crewed and doublehanded, had tons of fun and cleaned house. Kate also started sailing with me in long-distance races, including the Chicago and Port Huron to Mac races. 

Photo Credit BYC. Kate dousing the spinnaker at a mark rounding at the 2014 Bayview Yacht Club One Design Regatta in Detroit, Michigan.

We had been dating/engaged for seven years. We had some of the best life experiences during that time. We loved every minute of our time on boats together. We searched for a long time for the perfect boat to for us. We wanted something fast enough to excite us, something lots of cruisers would think we were crazy to circumnavigate on, but a little nicer and prettier and less gnarly than a Class 40.

Launching the J Boats J/46 “Sweet Ruca” before sailing to the Bahamas from Annapolis Maryland in November 2019.

The J/46 was that kind of boat, and it fit perfectly to keep the Ruca brand alive. When we found her we immediately saw her beautiful lines and thought “that’s a sweet ride.” Ruca is a kind of Mexicali slang for “lover,” originally coined in the Sublime song Waiting for My Ruca. So, in short, the name “Sweet Ruca” means to us: “your one and only beautiful true love.”  

As a bonus, our plan to sail around the world via Cape Horn would take us to Chile, and Kate was a World Language and Culture teacher before she left to go sailing. It turns out, we learned the word Ruca in the ancient Yagan (a tribe of people that lived near Cape Horn before Chile existed) language means House. We think this is pretty cool, and maybe even meant to be!

So the name may be a little bit racy, and it very unique, but so is the yacht. If it fits, it ships! 

Want to see more of our travels? Follow along and sail with us on our YouTube channel, Sailing Sweet Ruca, and other social media @rucasailing.

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