Do You Have To Name Your Boat?

Naming boats has been going on for centuries. Some notable boat names throughout history include the Mayflower, the Titanic, and La Santa María. However, is the practice of boat naming a century-long cultural practice or a legal obligation? This question has a pretty straightforward answer to it:

You are not legally required to give your boat a name, but the general rule is that sailboats, houseboats, yachts, and any boat over 30 feet should be given a name. Naming your boat helps other boaters, marinas, and bridge operators identify you on the water.

On the contrary, boats that are smaller than 30 feet, such as bass fishing boats, ski boats, etc. are usually not named. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t name them if you would like to.

Giving boats a name is a tradition that dates back to a few thousand years and is based on superstitions and grounded in rituals, rules, and also practicality.

So, while you’re not obligated to do so, giving your boat a name not only will help identify you out on the water, but will also continue the cultural tradition of doing so

Why is it important for boats to have a name?

It’s practical. By giving your boat a name, you give them an identity which ends up giving you as the sailors an identity as well. This makes it easier to distinguish your boat from other boats. Likewise, when at sea, a boat with a name would be visible to other sailors that are present there at a distance.

Another thing that must not be denied is the psychological impact naming a boat leaves behind. A boat’s name not only reveals a sailor’s personality but also acts as a sort of reaffirmation. A positive boat name with a strong message can improve people’s confidence in you and can at times even give you an upper hand among other sailors.

A boat with a name such as reckless or speedy may give people the wrong idea for eg it may convince them that you would be willing to compromise on aspects of safety.

Research also suggests that boat names reflect an individual’s personal values.

Common myths and questions regarding naming a boat

There are so many myths and questions that circulate on the topic of naming a boat. These have developed over time and have been passed down from generation to generation with few alterations. Let’s address some of these!

Is It Bad Luck To Name A Boat?

The answer to this is no! You are not inviting any calamity upon yourself by giving your boat a name. Many people even go by the belief that having a boat that does not go by a name is like inviting bad luck.

Is it acceptable to rename my boat?

Well, it is recommended that before you name a boat, always spend some time trying to find the perfect name that matches your personality, fits in well, and is not offensive either culturally or legally, (Both of these cultural and legal aspects are discussed in depth below) just so you do not have to change it later on.

But if for any reason the need arises, feel free to give your boat a new name, but make sure to announce this amongst your community as well and get people familiarised with it to leave no room for confusion. However, as per some popular superstitions renaming a boat can bring bad luck if a proper name purging and renaming ceremony is not performed.

What is a boat Christening ceremony?

A Christening ceremony can be described simply as the time when boats are given their names. This ceremony involves champagne, a reading or poem, and some green leaves. You can learn more about it by checking out this article here.

How did this entire boat naming practice come into being?

Many people believe that the practice of boat naming came with the incentive of creating ease when it comes to tracking them. It is, for example, much more convenient to talk about a journey at sea on a boat that is named. The story will also be remembered and recorded much better if the boat is named.

Important things to keep in mind when deciding on a name for your boat

Traditionally, boats were named after a special female in a sailor’s life, but you can name your boat anything you would like. Boats should have names that are generally brief and may include one or a couple of words. Ideally, you should choose a name that can be easily understood over broadcast radio, and that is also easy enough to write and can fit on the surface of the boat’s stern.

When you make reservations to stay at marinas or get work done on your boat, they generally ask for your boat’s name to identify it. So making sure it is an easy enough name to understand and identify is important,

Boat names can reflect your hobbies, profession, or passion. Inoffensive Double meanings and puns are famous in the boat naming culture.

Generally, people tend to go after creative names that are not too long, so they are more memorable.

What should you not name a boat?

As we have discussed multiple times above, naming a boat is important, and it means business. Therefore, you have to be careful when you’re finalizing the name of your boat.

Especially keep in mind the rules and regulations when it comes to boat naming, for example, The US Coast Gaurd requires you to stay away from names that are racist, profane, and obscene. The rules are not too strict, but you have to be careful about not crossing the line.

Along with that, the United States Coast Guard, requires boat names to be short, consisting of 33 characters or less. Also, a name must not in any way be similar to, any word or phrase that would be used to call for assistance in case of an emergency while at sea.

To give you a better picture of these names, enlisted below are a few names that have been banned as they fall under the category of being used in case of an emergency:

  • Police Boat
  • Man Overboard
  • Sinking
  • Mayday
  • Coast Guard
  • On fire
  • Help
  • I’ve sunk

See more by checking out this article here.

The reason behind banning them is that they will cause a lot of confusion if there is an actual emergency any time at sea.

Selecting a name that makes sexual, alcohol, or drug reference can prove to be problematic for you, especially if you are planning on using the boat for a good period, because people end up making associations about you based on your boat name, and you may end up losing a respectable reputation among other sailors and people in general.

Although it’s funny to name your boat something slightly provocative, most people around you probably will just make poor assumptions about you. Most boaters have a sense of class, and it’s generally considered unclassy to have a name as such, although it’s completely up to you.

We hope that this article has helped clear any doubts you had concerning boat naming.

Good luck with finding an appropriate name for your boat!

Additional sources used: Boat Name Traditions, Superstitions, and Myth | Yacht Management South Florida (