What's in a Name?

7 things to think about when naming a boat

Wandering along the piers in the marina, we were wondering about the names of some of the boats. Some are obviously personal like Miss Victoria or the Lady J. Some reflect the intended use of the boat like fishing boats named Reel It In or Hooked. Then there are the foreign names that sound exotic like Bonita or Ciao Bella, which would lose a bit in translation. A boat named Pretty or Hi, Beautiful, doesn't sound quite as exotic. Then there are those folks that like to name their boats after fictional characters like Hobbit, Ivanhoe, Spartacus or Zazu. Our discussion gave rise to some considerations when choosing a boat name.


1. Does the name suit you and the boat?

Some names are just not good for boats. Names like Perfidious (untrustworthy?) or Titanic, for instance, just don't seem appropriate. We think of Nine of Cups as a part of our own persona and the meaning of her name, “dreams realized”, reflects our feelings about sailing around the world. We could only speculate about the boats named Skitzo, Fatso and Bandit.


2. Is the name too common?

Some names are very common for boats. Do a search to see how many other boats have the same name as the one you're thinking about. It's preferable to be unique without being too weird or cutesy. In some countries, two boats are not allowed to have the same name and therefore, 1, 2, 3, etc. is used after the name or the home port is added to distinguish it from others. Waverunner II of Portsmouth, for instance. It seems that any boat name with sea, wave, dream or wind in it is pretty much overused.

fairwind 2

3. Is the name too cutesy?

Some folks go out of their way to be cute when naming their boat, but remember you're going to have to live with the name for a long time. Clever is good; cutesy, not so much. Some examples we saw recently that were on the cutesy side: Reely Nauti and Fanta-Sea

reely nauti

4. If you're planning to go abroad, how does the name translate into another language?

We had friends who named their boat “Tata”. For them, this meant goodbye, as in tata for now (TTFN). To others it means “thanks”. It's also a slang for breasts in Spanish. They got a few snickers when they pulled into Central American ports. You might remember the story about Ford Motors naming a car “Nova” which translated to “no-go” in Spanish or the perfume named “Night Wind” which means fart in some places. Make sure the boat name translates well into other languages and cultures if you intend to travel to foreign ports.

5. Is the name easy to say and is it easily understood on the radio?

May Day, Help Me, and Goin' Down are not good choices for obvious reasons. We do have problems with Nine of Cups on occasion. We've been called Cup of Nines and Nine of Clubs among other things.

6. Is it easy to spell?

Long names are an issue when you're spelling the name over the radio for the Coast Guard, for instance. If you travel abroad, you will be spelling it frequently using the phonetic alphabet. Nine of Cups gets to be a bit tedious when spelling it out. November, India, November, Echo (new word) Oscar, Foxtrot (new word) Charlie,Uniform, Papa, Sierra Most people want to quit after “NINE”.  The marina winner in this category is Flying Spaghetti Monster.

flying spaghetti monster

7. Are you superstitious?

If you're the least bit superstitious, as many sailors are, you'll want to do a little research about naming your boat and the ceremony involved. If you're changing the name of your boat, then you're in for a de-naming and a re-naming ceremony in order to ensure that you and your boat remain in Neptune's good graces.