Boating 101: Naming Your Boat

By Ron Walz.

Naming your vessel is a very important part of boat ownership! To help make it easier, we’ll cover the do’s and don’ts for coming up with boat name ideas, details on christening your craft, and what to do if a name change is unavoidable.

Do’s and Don’ts for Naming Your Boat

1. Keep it Short 
From an aesthetic standpoint, you want your boat’s name to easily fit on the transom, so one to two words are best. Beyond the ornamental consideration, a short and understandable name is also a necessity when making an emergency call on your onboard VHS radio. By keeping it short, you’ll make it easy for a responder to catch the name.
2. Follow the Rules 
The United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom don’t have any rules or regulations on the naming of recreational boats. However, registration requirements vary by country, so check with your regulatory agency to be sure you are in compliance.
3. Make a Tribute
Is there someone you want to honor with the name of your boat? It could be a real person, a character, or mythical being. A few common tributes include:
  • A sweetheart (just like a tattoo, be careful and certain when you go this route!)
  • A sea creature, mythical or real: Little Mermaid, Calypso, Sea Urchin
  • A special family member 
  • A hero or mentor 
4. Give It a Motto, Personality, or Feeling 
What words do you live by? Is there a certain trait or feeling you want your boat or travels to exude? These are great ways to come up with a name. Here are a couple of examples:
  • Life Motto: Persist, Carpe diem, Silver Lining, Smooth Sailing
  • Personality or Feeling: Discovery, Epic, Serenity, Peace, Perseverance
5. Have Some Fun with It 
A boat name doesn’t have to be serious. Many people like to have a little fun with it. Here are a few ideas for directions to go when brainstorming:
  • Reference your Career or Hobby: Banker’s Hours, Exhibit A, Time Out, Winning Ticket
  • Make a Pun: Seas the Day, Pier Pressure, Aboat Time, Pug Boat
  • Reference Popular Culture: Ariel, Love Boat, Margaritaville, 3-Hour Tour
6. Don’t Challenge the Sea Gods
DO NOT have the audacity to name your boat after the forces of the sea, as in Tempest, Typhoon, or Hurricane.  To do so would be issuing a challenge to nature, likely a no-win situation.
7. Don’t Memorialize a Fallen Vessel 
It’s considered tempting fate to name a boat after a vessel lost to the sea. So, again, don’t challenge the sea gods!

How to Christen Your Boat 

Once you have the perfect name, it is time for pomp and circumstance. The christening ceremony is an important tradition.
Here’s a quick rundown of the events of a christening:
  1. With your boat in the water, gather family and friends aboard.
  2. You will need two or more bottles of champagne or another celebratory beverage.  We suggest one made for christening boats (companies like Galleyware make bottles specifically designed to christen boats) and another for your guests to consume.
  3. Be prepared with a speech. Say a few words to welcome your guests aboard. Share about your vessel, where it came from, the history if it’s an older boat, and where you hope to sail to. Then, end your speech by asking for safe passage.
  4. Once you have completed your speech, pour half a bottle of champagne into the water. This is your offering for safe passage—enjoy the other half of this bottle with your guests after the christening ceremony.
  5. Next you will offer your boat a gift of appreciation for carrying all who voyage with her to safe harbors. Pour or break the bottle across the boat’s bow or another metal fixture on the boat, taking care not to damage the paint.
  6. Next place a green leafy branch in the boat to signify the safe return to land.
  7. Pass the second bottle of celebratory beverage to all gathered and toast the boat by name.
  8. End the celebration by taking your newly named vessel out on its maiden voyage.
Where will you go on your maiden voyage? OceanGrafix has a chart for every journey. Browse now.

When the Name is Not So Sweet: How to Change Your Boat’s Name

Whether a relationship attached to the boat’s name goes bad or the new-to-you boat had a previous owner who delighted in a not-so-family-friendly name (Ship Happens, Breakin’ Wind), sometimes you just have to change the name.
It isn’t a quick fix, but when it’s time for a change, all it will take is a little elbow grease and another ceremony, which must precede the christening.
First, you have to erase the old name from all memory. It will not be enough to paint over the old name, because paint can peel away, and reveal the former identity. It also will not be enough to remove the name from the boat. Remove all instances of the name from life rafts, jackets, and buoys. Scour furniture, equipment, tools, and mechanical parts. Destroy ID tags. White out the name on old ledgers and paperwork.
For the un-naming ceremony, you will need two or more bottles of champagne, a water-soluble marker, and an environmentally friendly tag. Write the old name of the boat in water-soluble ink on the tag.
With your boat in the water, gather family and friends aboard or do this alone—depending on how comfortable you are with performances. Whether you’re alone or surrounded by your favorite fellow boaters, start by offering the boat a gift of appreciation for all of the safe passages of the past, pouring half of the bottle across the boat’s bow. Pass the celebratory beverage to all gathered, and toast the boat by its old name.
Now, it’s time to give into that healthy dose of boater superstition and to appease the gods of the sea. To do this, you’ll want to recite ‘Vigor’s Denaming Ceremony’ or some variation of it. Offer the tags as proof of thankfulness and drop them into the water. To show gratitude, pour the other half of the champagne into the water.
Then, hold the christening ceremony directly after the un-naming ceremony.
Have fun with this, and may you have many happy voyages!
Where will you go on your maiden voyage?