How to Name Your Boat

Mark Dryden-WebArticle by: Mark Dryden, Harbourmaster

Spring is on the way (no trust me, it really is) and we are starting to think more about all things nautical.  New boats may be on the horizon, which will lead to a new set of adventures.

Take a look at these names: Knot on Call, Deep Ship and Unsinkable II.  These are names I have seen in almost every port I have visited; my least favorite is “Unsinkable II;” it just tempts the fates (you already lost “Unsinkable”).  As a sailor, I know better than to tempt any fate.  Sailors are a superstitious bunch and boat names mean a lot to us. Part of the deal with my wife on getting a boat was that she could name it, but she had to follow the guidelines below.

As a boater, you have a rite of passage to christen your watercraft with a fitting name, and as the above examples show, this glorious tradition allows for a healthy dollop of creativity, humor and some whimsy.

Even though the options seem limitless, dreaming up just the right name can be stressful. After all, unlike celebrity children, boats cannot be called just anything. When your vessel’s name is prominently tattooed on its haunches, it’s got to leave a good impression in its wake.  That’s exactly why it pays to have some help, a rudder on your route to tagging triumph.

Here are 5 easy guidelines to naming your next boat:

  1. Harbour News_Think About SafetyThink about safety
    Although I made a briny ballyhoo over the creative possibilities of naming your boat, there is a good reason to remain at least somewhat practical. In an emergency, you’ll need to be able to effectively relay your boat’s name to the Coast Guard and you don’t want any miscommunication (your life could depend on it). That’s why names with 1-2 syllables that roll off the tongue are typically the safest. While My Ex-Wife Got the Mansion or Toy Boat Toy Boat Toy Boat might get you chuckles around the marina, you assume some added risk by choosing them. Try saying the boat name in the picture 3 times!
  2. Harbour News_Avoid ClichesAvoid clichés
    If you’ve ever set foot on a dock, you’ve probably seen hackneyed handles such as Second Wind and Aquaholic floating by. Sure, these are easy fallbacks when naming your boat, but do they apply to you? I mean, are you truly an Aquahol connoisseur or merely a social boater? These are the tough questions you have to ask yourself. The best boat names reveal something unique about the boater. Especially if you’re new to the boating world, having a memorable, thoughtful name for your boat can be the best way to integrate yourself into the nautical community.
  3. Consider a woman’s touch
    The best boat names don’t get too cute or force something jokey.  If you are stuck, nothing is quite as tasteful or timeless as using a female name for your boat.  Need more reason?  Well, aside from the fact that every boat is a “she” at heart (just a core principle of maritime genetics), according to some experts, giving human traits to inanimate objects can inspire more responsible, attentive ownership — which could mean fewer costly repairs. Whether you are inspired by your wife, daughter, mother or grade-school lunch lady, naming your boat after an important woman in your life never goes out of style.
  4. Harbour News_Watch How You Portray YourselfWatch how you portray yourself
    Just as driving a sports car with the vanity plate “SPD DMON” might grab a cop’s attention; naming your boat Feeling Nauti or 3 Sheets might get you unwanted attention from authorities like the Coast Guard, or simply repel fellow boaters who, frankly, aren’t feeling as nauti. By all means, be playful with your boat’s name — just remember that ultimately it’s a reflection of you.
  5. Take your time
    It’s hard to wait with your boat just sitting there begging to be enjoyed. But you will regret a hasty name choice you are not proud of. Comb the depths of your mind for something that speaks to you, such as a favorite location or special detail about your watercraft.  Even if it’s a word or phrase whose importance is a bit more cryptic — like an old pet’s name or obscure song lyric— that can be OK too (again, as long as it’s easy to say and fairly tasteful). The possibilities could fill an ocean, but you have to wade through some seaweed before you get to clear water.