Boating is perhaps the most sophisticated hobby a true gentleman can acquire. Boating requires patience and persistence to master (even motorized boats require special licenses and permits) as well as dedicated funds to keep up. However, more importantly, the bare idea of boating is inextricably linked to concepts of leisure and luxury — of boat shoes and pastel sweaters, of champagne in the morning and cognac in the evening — which is why we whole-heartedly support going out on the water any chance we get.

A man’s first boat is usually given as much love and attention as his firstborn, but usually, there is one crucial step of owning a boat that first-timers forget: the name. As with children, you feasibly have limitless options for your boat’s name, but there are several reasons you might want to stop and consider before christening your vessel something as ridiculous as “Bodhi Ransom” or “Megaa Omari Grandberry.”

Boat - The Surprising Importance of Naming Your Boat

Safety

Unlike cars, which have a slew of numbers by which you and the authorities can identify them, your boat is most often referenced by its given name. That means in nautical crises, you will need to be able to clearly articulate the name of your boat over a radio to an emergency responder who likely won’t find your pun in “Pier Pressure” or the twisting tongue in “Willy’s Real Rear Wheel” as hilarious as you do. Any miscommunication between you and the Coast Guard (or any other responder in the vicinity) could cost you your boat — or your life. Thus, it is wise to limit your boat’s name to a few syllables and avoid sounds and phrases you can’t relay efficiently.

Dignity

When you see a Mclaren P1 on the highway with a license plate reading SPD DEMON, your gut tells you that the driver of that car gets more than his (or her) fair share of tickets, and you probably stay away from its swerves. Your boat’s name is often the first thing the authorities and other boaters see of you and your vessel, which means it should come across as respectful and inviting rather than aggressive and dangerous.

Not only is the Coast Guard more likely to investigate a boat named “Cirrhosis of the River,” but fellow boaters might keep their distance. Few people name their pets lewd, insulting, or otherwise outrageous names because it degrades both the animal and the owner. You should evaluate potential names for your boat on the same basis.

Thus, your boat’s name should appropriately reflect your boating attitude and style. No matter what kind of boat you buy (and the options are limitless, especially when you look into less expensive alternative vendors) you should try to fit the name to the vessel. Naming a 70-foot yacht “Guppy” might be ironic, but it isn’t particularly respectful of the craft. Instead, you should evaluate the reputation your boat’s make and model boasts and find a tasteful name to reflect it.

Sparks of Imagination

Now that you know what kind of names you should avoid, you can begin exploring names that offer poise, passion, and pleasure. There are a number of sources you can draw upon, in culture, history, and your own life, to inspire your boat’s name.

One of the oldest boating traditions that remains relevant today is naming your vessel after a woman. Boats have long claimed female pronouns (though scholars fail to provide an adequate reason why; my favorite theory is “Like a woman, a ship is unpredictable.”) so giving your craft a female name isn’t a stretch. You can draw inspiration from any important women in your life — your mother, sister, wife, lunch lady — or you can think of conventionally beautiful female names, like Pearl, Marina, Isabella, and others.

Another theory regarding the feminine classification of boats suggests that ancient sailors named their vessels after goddesses, calling upon their power to keep them safe. Pantheons make for rich sources of boat names, as nearly every god or goddess has a fascinating moniker. You can search through any list of deities, including the Greek, Roman, Egyptian, Norse, Hindu, Chinese, and more.

Finally, foreign words make for mysterious as well as meaningful boat names. For example, the simple word “boat” translated into different languages produces a number of interesting words:

  • Nauka in Bengali
  • Vaixell in Catalan
  • Nkoj in Hmong
  • Kaipuke in Maori
  • Mashua in Swahili

If you can think of a word that is meaningful to you, but you are less than impressed with the English version emblazoned on your vessel, you might consider translating it into a foreign language to add some extra flavor.