Boat Names - Unsinkable 2

Getting your boat name right

June 2024

Checking out websites offering advice on naming your boat leads to some entertaining reading. There’s plenty of history and humour on offer and some words of warning around superstitions and names that are deemed unsuitable for reasons of good taste and legitimate safety.

Let’s start by acknowledging that boat naming has been around for thousands of years, right back to the days when sailors named their vessels after saints in the hope of smooth sailing and good fortune at sea. According to the vanislemarina website, names were chosen very carefully since many then believed that meant the difference between a safe voyage or being lost at sea.

According to a wonderful piece of writing by Lindsay Wright on the Boating NZ site, in New Zealand, we have a choice of deities to consider when naming a boat.

“Legend has it that every boat name is entered in the “Ledger of the Deep” and personally known to Poseidon (Greek god) and/or Neptune (Roman god). But in our part of the world, there is also Tangaroa.”

While on the topic of seafaring legends, it is apparently bad luck to rename a boat (unless the proper name purging and renaming ceremonies are performed*) or to give a boat a name that begins with O. Websites offering boat name suggestions advise its best not to tempt fate by naming your boat something tragic like Titanic or Unsinkable or Wahine either.

Superstitions aside, safety should be considered when naming your boat. For example, a vessel called No Problem sank in the United States after the coastguard received a distress call and mistook the name of the boat for the seriousness of its situation. So, radio communications are a consideration worth taking on board when naming a boat. Conversely, your boat name shouldn’t be anything that might be used to ask for help on the water - such as Man Overboard. Short names are recommended, not only to fit on the transom but to ensure they are easily understood during a VHF radio broadcast.

There are many marvelous puns and cheeky spelling emblazoned on boats. Did you hear about the two yachts built to an early Bruce Farr design and named Farr Canal and Farr Q, for example? Seen the judge’s yacht called Just Desserts, the café owner sailing around in Flat White, the medic’s boat named Knot on Call, or the attorney’s Plead Insanity? Yes, boat names are often influenced by their owners’ professions.

The team at myyachtmanagement offer the following boat naming advice: think tattoos.

“We like to think of boat names like tattoos - take it seriously; it cannot be undone easily; make it feel personal like it matches your personality.”

Tattoos aside, it’s a good site to visit for a quick read on myths, superstitions, and traditions associated with boat naming.

If selecting the right name really has you stumped, check out the vanislemarina site which includes a link to a Boat Name Generator - could be just the thing to help narrow down the choices.

Also, there to help is the seven tips for naming your boats offered up by the discoverboating website. Once you’ve sorted that, the next step is a christening, and this website offers advice on that too.

If you’re wondering if anyone else has come up with the same great boat name as you have, it’s possible to check boat registration information - it’s as simple as visiting this site. And, if your chosen name is taken, there’s the option of adding a prefix or suffix so all is not lost.

And here’s some excellent advice to end with (from the vanislamarina site)… what name makes you smile whenever you say it? That will more than likely be the name for your vessel!

Finally, if you are wondering why so much has been written about choosing a great boat name, just stop to think that it’s the only thing we buy that must have a name.

In Lindsay Wright’s words: “Of all a person’s possessions, his/her boat is the only thing that almost always carries a name. Houses come with addresses and cars are adorned with fancy little labels - but an owner gets to name his boat.”

*If you are renaming your boat, all evidence of the boat’s previous name must be obliterated. Charts, handbooks, nameplates, lifebuoys, log books - anything carrying the old name should be removed until the vessel is entirely clean of her previous name. For more on boat renaming protocol check this boating NZ page.