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How to Name Your Boat? – A Quick and Simple Guide

Written by J. Harvey / Fact checked by S. Numbers

how to name your boat

So, you finally got a boat, which I’m more than willing to bet you can’t wait to take out to start fulfilling your seafaring dreams. However, tradition (and superstition) dictate naming it first before doing so.

Learning how to name your boat is about unlocking your creativity and discovering what your boat means to you. This guide will give you a couple of naming pointers to help capture its essence and your own spirit of adventure.

Step-by-step Guide to Name Your Boat


1. Have fun with it.


Naming boats is a tradition that has been upheld for decades, so much so that it gave rise to superstitions that are still being followed today. People will chastise you with statements like, “Don’t rename your boat!” or “Be sure you give a name to it before taking it out on the water!”, warning of the bad luck that will arise as a result.

This is why I can’t blame you if you think boat naming is particularly serious – like christening your child. There’s nothing wrong with that approach. However, that seriousness shouldn’t spoil or limit your boat name ideas.

A lot of modern boat owners hop on the funny boat names bandwagon, and why not? What’s wrong with naming your vessel “Nauti Buoys”, “Cat Sass”, or “Hook Line and Sink Her”? The world can use a few more lighthearted and funny moments that you get to spread every time you take your boat out.

As long as it’s easy to remember while being a source of daily amusement (assuming that’s what you like), fire away! Be sure to follow the second point below, though.

2. Don’t forget to be respectful.


You can be wacky with your names without having to rely on profane and disrespectful language. And, it’s not like you have much of a choice in this regard, really. The US Coast Guard has laid out strict guidelines for boat naming etiquette.

As long as you pick a boat name that’s not going to offend anyone racially, sexually, and culturally, you get a checkmark. Besides, those types of names tend to be lame and tacky in the first place.

3. Keep it simple and unique.


There are no stringent rules for naming a boat, but if there’s one that most boaters subscribe to, it’s this. Simple in this case only means keeping it at a maximum of three words. Now, it’s entirely fine if you copy a boat name you encounter online or offline.

But, we can’t deny the value of a boat that has a unique name. For one, it will be easily identified by state authorities (instead of looking over the hundreds of Feelin’ Nautis and Unsinkable 2s out there).

The most compelling reason for this is that it often leads to a name that’s meaningful to you. For instance, most people string their children’s names together such as in “Anne Marie”. That adheres to the tradition of naming your boat after women while expressing how dear your kids are to you.

Remember, it doesn’t always have to be witty.

4. Add a meaningful, personal touch.


Because admit it or not, we name things (boats included) more than just to differentiate them. We name them because they symbolize something to us. Just as we instinctively assign symbols to our personalities, the same goes for the names we choose for our boats, because your personality inevitably carries over to it.

Look at why many boat owners love one-word names like “Liberty”, “Serendipity”, and “Atlantis”. I’m more than willing to bet that these are concepts that they take plenty of inspiration from.

“Atlantis”, in particular, to me clearly transmits a great, adventurous spirit, always yearning for a wondrous discovery somewhere on the boundless horizon. This can apply to you, your boat, or both.

That’s only my own interpretation, and obviously, people can attach even richer meanings to it. And, that for many of us, is what makes this seemingly simple endeavor magical – past the necessity to adhere to standard naming conventions.

Factors to Consider When Naming Your Boat


  • Naming guidelines

While I said that the rules are fairly lax, there are still some limitations you have to be mindful of. For example, you only have a total of 33 characters to work with composed of Latin alphabet letters and/or Roman or Arabic numerals.

You also can’t use a name that’s exactly the same words or phrases you use when asking for help or making a distress signal, e.g. Mayday.

  • Superstitions and traditions

Should you believe in them or not? In the end, it’s all up to you. A lot of boat operators nowadays no longer subscribe to them, but there are definitely still a handful who will say it’s bad luck to change a boat’s name.

Boat naming traditions like renaming ceremonies are another aspect some owners have to consider, especially if they’re still being closely followed where you are.

  • Be mindful of how it will sound to others.

This is where lines can be drawn when considering funny boat names. After all, it won’t exactly be appropriate for an officer to answer your distress call while trying to keep himself or herself from laughing while saying, “Roger, Let’s Get Nauti. We are coordinating a response…”

The same can be said when you’re naming a sailboat after a place, person, or thing that’s hard to pronounce or may not be suitable for children, so don’t forget about this point.

  • Boat lettering

Last but not least, be mindful of how you will affix the name as lettering on the side of your boat. Most owners spare themselves from the extra hassle by choosing a one-word name and keeping it as short as possible.

Of course, you can always choose a professional service to do it for you. Still, you want to make sure that the length and style you choose won’t negatively affect the aesthetics of your watercraft.

The Significance of a Boat’s Name


In the past and arguably even now, boats were named after women. But overall, though, that tradition stuck simply because it’s an act of reverence and a way to honor the people we cherish and even worship (e.g. our wives, mothers, and goddesses).

Nowadays, the same attribution still applies, but certain people are looking at it more from a personalized lens. We choose a name because it means something to us; we find it funny, or simply catchy. Regardless of the reason, we imbue it with our own meaning, which often fits our character and/or our vessel.


With everything considered, knowing how to name your boat almost always opens our eyes to the fact that gone are the days when it was such a solemn, capital-S Serious thing. We can attribute it to the cultural shifts that have happened in the past decades.

What’s sure is that more and more people are breaking traditional boat naming “norms” (if they can still be called such). What matters the most is for you to exercise your utmost freedom, creativity, and personal preference, while ensuring that it doesn’t offend and keeps you a rule-abiding owner in the eyes of authorities.

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