Sailing off into the deep blue abyss of planet’s earth’s oceans risks perils and dangers unfathomable to most people. Yet, there is no more incredible thrill for the sea-faring adventurer than mastering a boat through and over calm and stormy seas.
For this reason, every boat should display a name that pleases the gods of the water to keep them safe on their journey.
So, naming your boat should be fun and uncomplicated, right? Let’s say I don’t think it needs to be as painful as trying to agree on a name for your newborn. This article aims to provide you with some practical tips that you can employ to come up with a great boat name.
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What Is In A Name?
Our names become part of our identity and play an essential role in our connection to the world around us. Some of the greatest philosophical thinkers in history spent their lives asking deep questions about the ‘self.’
Without a name, I believe it would prove challenging to begin answering such penetrating inquisitions. Yet, our names give us a place in history, our communities, and our families.
Although many car enthusiast friends have donned their show cars with a name, it is not typical for people to brandish their daily transportation with such an identity.
More often is the case that we probably take our daily drivers for granted. Our daily drivers are quite the workhorse- they bring us to work, get our kids to school and other extracurricular activities, muscle in all of our groceries to bring home, and protect us from inclement weather.
Whether you are cruising around in a Mercedez Benz or still using your grandfather’s hammy-down clunker, our cars deserve a great deal more respect than we tend to give them.
Unlike land slugs, boaters seem to understand the importance behind a name and thus continue to partake in quite the same superstitious boat-naming tradition that began thousands of years ago.
Boat Naming Myths and Superstitions
Can you imagine the thoughts that overtook a sailor’s mind thousands of years ago before embarking on an expedition face-to-face with the open and undeterminable seas?
With no fancy instrumentation, ‘smart’ technology, or emergency radio, captains of the past navigated the seven seas and our earth’s oceans with a fear that could tremble one to their knees.
Charged with maintaining a crew and returning from a successful expedition, boat owners found a way to pay homage to the gods of the water in exchange for a safe voyage.
Whether the name honored a specific saint or deity, the earliest boat names played a vital role in protecting a vessel from peril. In addition, a ceremonial boat naming ritual would precede a boat’s maiden voyage- something that contemporary boat owners continue to respect.
Boat Naming Tips
Like you and me, a boat’s name becomes its identity and is not one that you can change on the fly. That said, spend some time to think up a suitable and practical name that your vessel will be proud to brandish throughout its sailing life.
Please consider these tips when compiling your list of potential boat names. Do not mistake a lousy joke or sarcastic phrase for humor- it might just rub Poseidon the wrong way!
You will be using your boat’s name through radio communication with bridge and marina operators, other boats, and during an emergency, distress calls.
So make sure that your boat’s identity is appropriate, relatively short, and easy to understand. Many boat owners brandish their vessel’s name upon the boat transom, the cross-section at the back of the boat- others mark both sides of the boat’s hull.
#2) Make It Personal
Identity, Identity, Identity! If you have ever owned a pet, chances are you gave your animal companion a name that resembled a specific physical characteristic it had, like Spot. Maybe you gave it a name based upon its personality, for example, Happy.
The last thing you want to do is don your boat with a name that will quickly fade into a bad memory. It can be fun, but remember your boat’s name directly reflects you and your boat.
#3) Keep It Classy
Do not give your boat a name that you wouldn’t allow a five-year-old to say. Your boat’s name should be socially conscious and inoffensive to anybody that sees it or hears it.
#4) Be Unique
If your boat could speak, I wonder what it would say. I wonder what it would see as a fitting sea wanderer’s name. Though that would be interesting, it is your privilege and responsibility to provide a name for your boat.
Let your inner artist flow and keep your boat original by giving it a memorable name unique to its style, personality, and ability. How you come up with a name for your boat to live up to may use various techniques.
For example, maybe you wish to add a little humor to the name. The name may even recall an insider’s joke that others do not understand, but that is unique and what you should be aiming for.
If humor is not your thing, maybe your boat’s name could somehow reference your job or profession. For example, as I was writing this, Wet Ink just came to mind- pretty catchy if I say so myself.
Perhaps, you are particularly attracted to imagery, so you could utilize graphics and art to accentuate your boat’s more humble name.
The truth is that there are so many different ways to name a boat. What is most important to remember is that it needs to be personal and relatable to you as the ship captain.
Boat Names Today
A Feminine Touch
Boat naming has changed thematically since the ancient Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, and earlier civilizations. However, throughout maritime history, giving a boat a feminine name became commonly accepted.
Feminine names are just more fitting in some circumstances- I wouldn’t call my sleek-and-sexy 2002 VW Polo Hatchback a Howard, would I?
All jokes aside, there are several theories about why feminine names became a popular moniker for sea-faring vessels. First, it seemed like a fairly natural move from using ancient gods’ names to those of goddesses.
Second, a feminine name tends to soften the sometimes brute and overly macho reputation often attached to captaining a boat over the vast unknown.
The last primary theory considers grammatical correctness. In Latin-based languages, objects typically have a masculine or feminine identity. For example, the word ‘boat’ in Italian is barca– the final -a making the word feminine.
One of my favorite things to do when I find myself near a marina, besides looking out for marine life, is reading all the special and unique names of the boats docked.
I can report that the boat often dons a feminine name. While this could often be after the captain’s wife (if not the captain herself), then it may be in remembrance or tribute to a child, family member, or another important person in their life.
About a month ago, while walking around the port of Gallipoli in southern Italy, I noticed a fisherman’s boat was named Forte Brezza, meaning a strong breeze. So, this is another example where you can see how the fisherman used his job in naming his boat.
Others may even use the circumstance in acquiring the boat as inspiration for its name. For example, if I somehow acquired Jeff Bezos’ multi-million dollar yacht- I would rename it Bankrupt!
It’s all about the love of boating and the earth’s largely unexplored waters. So make your boat’s name reflect the respect you have for it and the waters that keep you afloat.
How To Christen A Boat
Once a name has been decided, it’s almost time for your maiden voyage. But be sure not to skip any of the formalities linked to the pre-departure celebrations.
Whether you think of yourself as superstitious or not, it would behoove you to perform a christening ceremony for your boat. It is a fun and sentimental way of partaking in maritime tradition and blessing your maiden voyage.
Thankfully, we have moved beyond the times of offering a human or animal sacrifice to the gods. However, a good christening ceremony will likely include blessings, speeches, toasts, and prayers.
With any life event, no matter how minor or grand, it’s usually more memorable when enjoyed in company with your closest family and friends. Naming your boat is a significant event, so here is a guide on how to prepare and conduct your christening ceremony:
#1) Choose An Appropriate Time
Keeping in mind the availability of the guests you intend to invite, you should pick a special day to hold the christening ceremony for your boat. I imagine the tradition is just as important to you as the boat captain.
Historically, tradition implies that extra good tidings will come to those seafarers that conduct the ritual ceremony during high tide, a full moon, or when the sun is out.
If all the superstition is starting to get a hold on your peace and comfort, then you are in the right place. But, first, let’s make sure you know the customs and traditions involved in correctly timing a boat’s christening.
Pay special attention not to organize your boat’s christening on any Thursday or Friday. Even if your boat’s build is complete on one of these days, hold fast until the weekend to hold the ceremony.
But other days seem to also bring a bash of bad luck due to specific religious reasons. So my advice is not to dwell on the fact that you don’t follow that religious belief system (if that is the case)- respect it and schedule your ceremony for a different day.
#2) Invite Your Closest Family and Friends
Considering everyone’s schedule, you have decided on a perfect day to christen your boat and take to the wind. So, with your boat rigged and ready for launch, gather your relatives and friends around to take part in your boat naming ceremony.
Typically wherever you have the boat docked or moored is a suitable location. The critical point here is to have your boat in the water so your family and friends can wave you off into the sunset as soon as the ceremony is over.
#3) Pass Out Glassware And Pour The Bubbly
Whether your own or of a friend, there may be children around, so it would be wise to plan the christening ceremony as child-appropriate as possible.
If you think the children are too young to handle glass, then bring a few tall recyclable plastic cups for the little seafarers to enjoy their beverage.
According to maritime tradition, boat owners would use a bottle of red wine to christen the boat. However, I should mention that you or your guests may not drink alcohol, which is perfectly fine.
Nowadays, champagne has become the more popular beverage for toasts and celebrations. However, if you or anyone else does not consume alcohol or is not of legal age, then use a bottle of sparkling cider or favorite juice cocktail.
#4) Raise Glasses For The Toast
It is almost time to set sail, but some significant steps remain in the christening ritual. First, now it is time to invite your guests to raise their glasses as you say a few words.
With everyone’s attention on you, give a toast, say a prayer, or recite your favorite maritime poem. Other boat owners prefer to keep the focus on their boat and choose to talk about its build, merit, sea-worthiness, and any sailing goals or upcoming expeditions on the horizon.
#5) Reveal Your Boat Name
Towards the end of your speech, it is time to finally reveal your boat’s name to your family and friends. You have done a fantastic job keeping the name a secret until now, but at this point, your vessel’s name becomes intimately connected to the waters below its hull and maritime history.
#6) The Christening
For some, it is now time for the most exciting part of the ceremony- breaking a champagne bottle over the boat’s bow. Though this sounds fun, it can be dangerous and harmful, so please take careful precautions seriously.
Champagne bottles are thicker than other glass bottles, so please know it will take quite a solid blow to break them. And if you don’t want to reverse good superstition for bad omens, you better be able to break it on the first try.
PRO-TIP: Do not break the bottle directly on the bow as this could damage woodwork and enamel. Instead, choose a cleat or other piece
of metalwork to receive the impact of the glass bottle.
That said, broken bottles mean shattered glass- not very safe for your guests or marine life if pieces are slung overboard into the waters. In addition, the spilled liquid could become a slip hazard to you or your guests.
You can do a couple of things to make this safer and cleaner for everyone: for starters, place the glass champagne bottle into a small mesh bag to contain the broken glass.
Next, consider using amarine-grade floating mat to ensure the deck of your boat is slip-resistant for everyone’s safety.
Finally, clean up as soon as possible.
#7) Your Maiden Voyage
Now, lay a branch with green leaves across your boat’s bow and pull the anchor up. Finally, it is time to consummate the christening ritual by taking your boat out for a spin.
Depending on your busy schedule, you may have to limit your maiden voyage to a short coastal cruise. However, suppose you have planned for this day well in advance and have everything prepared. In that case, your maiden voyage could be an unforgettable expedition allowing you to log hundreds of nautical miles in your captain’s book.
The name of your boat is a significant part of its identity, and you should christen your boat keeping with maritime tradition. Remember to have fun coming up with a great boat name that reflects both you and your boat’s personality.
Remember your boat’s name is here to stay, but should you have to rename your boat, closely follow the renaming ritual so that nothing but positive sea vibrations roll underway.
If you need additional help choosing a perfect boat name or have more questions about the boat christening process, please leave your questions or concerns in the comment section below.
Joseph Fabiano is a writer, nature enthusiast, and stay-at-home father of two wild and free boys. He enjoys starting his day with a good run, hot mug of coffee, and a jump in the Ionian Sea, no matter the weather. Currently based in the Apuglia region of southern Italy, he enjoys discovering the world with his best traveling buddies (his little monkey’s and beautiful wife) at every given opportunity. Every trip, long or far, should be made an adventure according to Joseph as he believes inspiration and creation is right in front of you.