A boat's name can relay a lot about its owner: life philosophy, life's work, love life, or lack thereof. Your boat plays many roles in your life: it's a home, an escape, a grand adventure, a lifestyle, a livelihood, a partner in crime, and, yes, even a silent confidant. The name of a boat can carry weight, indicate a weight lifted, or take a completely lighthearted approach – the options are endless.
Do you stay traditional and name your boat after a sweetheart? If you've been jilted, do you name your boat something bitter as a form of catharsis? If you're not interested in naming your boat after a dame, your boat's name could represent a struggle you've overcome, a quest you're beginning, or something as simple as the cocktail you plan on sipping while at the helm. Learn how to name your boat and see some of the country's best boat names.
While you're here, create your free Dockwa profile:
Jokers beware: as the British NERC researchers can tell you, the name of your boat says a lot about you, and leaves a lasting impression.
To take a page out of the Halcyon Passages boating blog:
You can name your boat anything you want to and my opinion is just that. And that opinion is that a name should be one word sometimes two, but one if you can do it. Under no circumstances should it be a whole sentence. ...I miss the days of boats with real names like, Victory, Ranger, Dauntless, and Endeavor. When I send a distress call announcing that the vessel, that I have treated with such pride and respect, is taking me straight to the bottom, the Coast Guard undoubtedly will say, “Holy cow, now that’s a great boat name.”
Steps to Choosing a Boat Name
Step 1: Before you choose a name, give it a run through one of the boat name databases available online, and check out the annual BoatUS Top 10 Boat Names List.
If you choose a popular name, and in particular a name that is popular in your boating region, there's a good chance you'll eventually cross paths with your name-doppelgänger and cause some confusion over the radio waves.
Step 2: Imagine the scenarios in which you'll say or hear your boat name.
Envision yourself needing to call your boat name over a VHF, as you'll likely need to do many times before you and your boat part ways.
As per PropTalk's recommendation, "Imagine yourself using this new name three times on Channel 16. Consider how easy it is to say and how easy it is for other boats to understand." What will it look like if your boat makes front-page headlines?
If you're a sailor, imagine winning a regatta. Do you want to hear "Congratulations, B-Yacht'ch!" when you approach the podium? (...Maybe! It actually has a fun ring to it.) Once you've chosen a name, head to the USCG to make it official.
Boat Name Superstitions
Once named, superstition dictates that it's bad luck to change the name of a boat. But if you must, there's a tradition that follows (as with most things in boating) which can clear your boat of bad juju.
One boat renaming ceremony we found: place a piece of paper with the boat name on it in a small box, burn the box, then release the ashes into the sea or river. If you're not one for superstition, you're not alone – particularly as this one may have come about simply to dodge the attention of tax agencies when a large ship changed hands.
In need of some inspiration? Read on for tacks you can take when naming your boat. Chime in on Dockwa's Facebook page: Which type of name floats your boat?
Popular Boat Name Categories
#1: The Repeat
Don't call it a comeback! By far the easiest way to name a boat: ditch its predecessor. Whether your previous vessel had a run in with the sea floor or you wanted an upgrade, naming your second, third, and fourth boat after the first is a breeze. You don't even have to change the artwork on the boat decal. If you're attached to a boat name, there's no shame in wanting to keep it. Rendezvous II, Abigail Rose II, Act III, Adventure Us IIII – all names worthy of a second life.
Our favorite Repeat boat name in this category in 2016: Nailed It Again
The 2017 Dockwa team favorites: Double Down II, Karma II, Ship of Fools III
Pictured: VaVa II, Dockwa's future company vehicle.
#2: The Workaholic
Whether you're obsessed with your job, want to reference how much you hate it, or see boating as a business networking opportunity, naming your boat something related to your occupation opens up a world of boat name puns to help break the ice when you're out on the water.
Our favorites of 2016: Exit Strategy, Knot On Call, and Floating Doc
2017's workhorses (or work-escapees): FHARFRUMWORKEN and Aye Doctor
2018: Effervescence and Monkey Sea
2019: Plane To Sea
2020: Between Wakes
#3: The Sweetheart
Naming a boat after the lady in your life doesn't just score brownie points: it carries on an age-old tradition of naming boats after women.
Our pals at GetMyBoat did the research on this one:
There are several theories about how this came to be. One is that since the word for “ship” in the languages of the Mediterranean was feminine, the gender of the ship remained the same even in languages in which the word for ship or boat was male or gender-neutral. Another theory is that since boats were traditionally given female names, they became associated with women. In addition, working boats and ships were historically manned by all-male crews. Some ships, like whaling ships, would be at sea for years at a time, and would have a closer relationship with the boat than the mothers, wives, or sweethearts they left behind on shore. Legend has it that ships would sometimes behave like women too, with their own personalities and the specific ways they liked to be handled.
In the Dockwa boat list we found a few Carol Annes, a handful of Jennys, a Jeaninne III and a slew of boats named after their missus's - Miss Molly, Miss Megan, Miss Maggie, the list goes on.
Our favorite Dockwa boat name in 2016: Captain's Lady. Gotta give the captain credit for the built-in flexibility.
Our 2017 pick: Sweet Caroline. Even if you're not a Boston fan, we love a boat name that gets the harbor humming.
2018: Lost Keys
2019: Mr. T and Me
2020: Platinum Dream
#4: The Weatherbird
The Eskimo language may have more than 100 words for "snow," but we'd be willing to bet that the number of terms for wind puts that to shame. As well there should be – every day on the breeze is different. So if a particular day or type of wind strikes your fancy, or stays with you for reasons you can't quite describe, perhaps you're a Weatherbird.
Our favorite wind-related Dockwa boat names in 2016: Second Wind, and Wind Chaser
The 2017 favorite: Bris de Mer, which a boater relayed to us translates into French for "Breaking of Sea" – Sea Breaker. Lovely!
2018: Stella Maris
2019: Sowwanin II
2020: Irish Hurricane
#5: The Competitor
You know them when you see them: the boats that, when you read the name on the scratch sheet, you get a chill. You don't just want it to win, you want it to absolutely crush every other boat in the regatta. Comanche, Dark Star, and SPOOKIE are some of our favorites to see on the start lines.
Favorite competitive boat names of 2016: Triumph and STOLEN
Our fastest pick for 2017: Flight Risk
2018: Bird of Prey
2019: None this year! But we did add a "Boater's Best Friend" category. This year's winner was Bosun: We named our boat as well as our dog Bosun. Both are well trusted, dependable, and reliable. The definition of “bosun” suits both the dog as well as our boat well: "a ship's officer in charge of equipment and the crew." – Chris W., Rowayton, CT. Check out this new category!
2020: Lady Minx
#6: Goddess, Spirits, and Legends
Boating can teach you a number of things: resourcefulness, independence, geography, cooking, and, of course, a wealth of information about obscure Germanic/Greek/Norse deities, fantastic legends, and eerie seafaring stories. Looking to legends is a fantastic way to find a name for your boat that is both unique and classic.
A few of our favorites: Calliope, the Greek muse often associated with eloquence and epic poetry, Valkyrie, the Norse figures who choose those who may die in battle and those who may live, and Freyja, a Norse goddess associated with love, sex, beauty, fertility, and gold.
Our favorite goddess-themed boat name of 2016: Hespera, the Greek spirit of immortality.
2017's pick: We like the sound of Pyewacket, which was one of the spirits in the story of the witches of Essex, England, in 1644, described as both an imp and a polecat by the "witch" who claimed they visited her. If not that origin story, the boat could be named for the 1967 children's novel of the same name, in which the main character is an alley cat.
2018: Dea Latis
#7: The Sob Story
Whether you had your heart broken or lost your fortune in a drunken night of gambling - or both - naming a boat after your tale of woe can be cathartic. For instance, we can't imagine a boat namedAfter Child Support had happy beginnings.
The boat name that most stood out in the Dockwa roster: Life's a Wreck. Hope everything's okay, buddy!
2017's, er, winners: Bittersweet and Grumpy Old Man.
2018: Solace, No Regrets, Fighting Lady, and T n T Too
2019: Knot A Day Goes By
2020: Burnt Out
#8: The Musician
Three Little Birds, Comfortably Numb, Aleggro, Adagio, Calypso, Cantada – captains love music! From classical to contemporary, naming your boat after your favorite tune can give you a theme song to blast as you leave the harbor (we're looking at you, Wild T'ing), or a go-to to crank up once you've reached calm waters and are sipping on wine.
Our favorite musically-themed boat name of 2016: White Album, who apparently chose the name to avoid having to put the name on the hull.
Our 2017 pick: The Madman Across the Water. Kudos to this captain for being boating-apropos while showing us there's more to the Elton John album than Tiny Dancer. We also love Hotel California – if we see that boat we'd expect the crew aboard to be living it up while living aboard.
2018: Three Little Birds
2019: Row Jimmy
#9: The Fun-Lovin' Free-Wheeler!
Boat Drinks! Comfortably Numb! Yolo! There's no judgement here: People buy boats for different reasons, and if yours is to have a boozey getaway on the water, so be it! Careful with this naming category, though: If you name your boat a little too on the nose with something like Getting Slizzard, don't be surprised when the Coasties show up to survey the scene.
Our favorite fun-lovin' boat name of 2016: Zimbabalooba! Sounds like a wacky good time.
For 2017, we have a soft spot for Dune Buggy. We imagine this is a sporty little runabout!
2018: Mad Cap
2019: Too Much Weekend
2020: Weekend Bender
#10: The Pop Culture Fan
From the TheS.S. MinnowtoCast Awayto thePirate Ship Revenge, harbors always seem to have their fair share of pop culture references.
Our favorite pop-culture boat name of 2016: Honey Badger. We assume this boat's namesake is the 2011 nature video that went viral after some creative narrating, which would lead us to also assume that the owners of this boat don't care and have a pretty fun sense of humor.
2017's winner: Kobayashi Maru hands down. The name is apropos for referencing the captain's test in J.J. Abrams' 2009 Star Trek reboot, and has an even sweeter connotation for Trek fans who know that this test is designed to be unbeatable, to see how a captain reacts in a no-win scenario. (Spoiler alert) Even better: the test is beaten by a captain who doesn't believe in no-win scenarios. Live long and prosper.
2019: Shortshank Redemption
2020: McHale’s Navy
#11: The Pun Master
Some people love a good pun – enough to slap one on the stern of a boat that will likely be one of the largest investments they make in their life. Pun names are harmless, even if they are groan-worthy – to name a few:ABSeas,Comocean,YEAH BOUY, Knot So Fast,Nauti Girl,Ships n' Giggles, Fanta-Sea,andExta-Sea. Catamaran owners seem particularly guilty of indulging in puns, with names likeCat-astrophe,KatAttack,Katnip, andKatatonic. And then there are the puns that get a bit more risque – the afore-mentioned B-Yacht'ch,Morning Wood, andMaster Baiter.(Do you bring your mothers on that boat??) We'll keep things a little more G-Rated for our boat name pick.
Our favorite punny boat name of 2016: Seas the Dream.
When perusing the long list of Dockwa boaters, many don't fit into one of the previous categories, and some in particular give pause.Twenty Two Bucks? What's the story there?Witch of Tilloo? Definitely needed to google that. Did the owner ofTriple Dog Dare Yabuy their boat on a dare?
Our 2016 favorite boat name: Against All Odds.
2017: Chocolate Socks. If you see a vessel by this name at your docks or on your mooring field, please approach with caution and get the story of this odd name.
2018: OH NO
2019: Deja Blue
2020: Off The Rails
#13: The Linguist
In 2017 we updated this post to include another category, as we felt compelled salute captains whose boat names are nod to a cultural sentiment they appreciate or their own family's culture. This year's picks: Andiamo!, Italian for "Let's go!" and Ladatio, which we've learned is Hindi for "scandal."
2018's favorite: Satori Blue
In 2018 we added two more categories:
#14: All in the Family
2018: OutNumbered: I am fortunate to have a wonderful wife & two teenage daughters... however I am truly outnumbered at home & in everything I do. We laugh that people at various ports/marinas sometimes ask if I am an accountant or deal with numbers to which I respond, you will see in a minute as the family comes aboard! – Dan F., Newport RI
2020: Beau Twyde
#15: Paying Homage
2018: Gray Ghost: My boat is a gray Robalo R227 named after my father’s ship in the navy. Officially the USS Newport News, the heavy cruiser earned the nickname “The Gray Ghost from the East Coast” during her service in Vietnam, due to numerous missions taking fire without being hit. Her sister ship USS Salem is berthed in Quincy MA. – Randy B.
2019: Nauti Nelli
New categories for 2020! We just can't get enough of a good thing, so a tradition of the Boat Names blog post is that each year, we add a category or two... or four...
#16: Dinghy Duos
We've seen some cute as heck dinghy names over the past year, and thought they warranted their own category. We of course love when they have their own boat name backstory, particularly when they're a standalone vessel instead of a +1, but we also love when the name is a nod to the mothership.
2020: A close family friend joined the Special Operations Unit for the Marines and was KIA. During his brutal training where all he wanted to do was give up he would recite the phrase in his head "Beast mode no breaks." This phrase became common among our families after. Our boat is namedBeast Mode and our tender is namedNo Breaks.
2020: SKYMARK came from a poem from Robert Frost bemoaning being somewhat lost at sea on a cloudy night and asking the clouds to part so he could find his old "sky marks" in the heavens so he could once again determine his location; thus the name. I have used it since my first sailboat in 1981.
#18: Money Matters
2020: Bottom's Up: Purchased from the funds of liquor sales at Bourbon Street Pub in Key West. – Conch Harbor Marine, Key West, FL
#19: Current Events
2020: Covid Therapy: Boat the boat while stressing out about being quarantined during Covid 19 and thinking there will be nothing to do in the summer – hence our new boat!
2021: TBD, but this year we'll be mailing a special Dockwa care package to the first person to enter with a name –and photographic proof– of their newly-named boat EVER GIVEN.
#20: Change of Pace
A frequent theme we've spotted with boat names is that the owner(s) have decided to slow things down, downsize, upsize (usually upsize), or, as was the case of our 2020 winners, finally take charge of tackling their boating bucket list at breakneck speed.
2020: Here Today: Here Today was launched In January 2019 in the Virgin Islands and has traveled to 57 different ports from the Caribbean to New England – for our short stays we are “Here Today”!