Why Do Boats Have Names?

Spending a lot of time on the water, you might notice that most boats have a name on them. Walking around on a dock where a lot of ships are tied up, all most all of them have a name on them, which might make you wonder.

Why Do Boats Have Names? Boats are mainly named for identification and communication purposes. Though they are also named for sentimental, traditional, and even superstitious reasons as well. 

Boat naming can be extremely serious and traditional to a lot of people! Here are the best answers for all of the boat naming questions you have!

Boat Naming For Identification

Why Boats Have NamesNowadays with cell phones, business lines, emails, social media, and facetime. It is hard to think about a time when we did not have all of these forms of communicating with each other; I mean how did we do it without Facebook?

When we no longer remember phone numbers but have our contact lists in our phones. We don’t need to think about identifying someone. We just look at our phone and see that Janet or Joe is calling.

It is important to properly be able to identify somebody and especially while out on the water. We needed to be able to identify what boat we were talking about. Boat naming was a form of identification for so many years; it’s pretty easy to see why.

When we would be talking about going somewhere, we would simply say, I’m taking The Titanic to America! These days with so many boats there are now registration numbers for all of them. You wouldn’t want to say you were taking FL335526 to the Bahamas though.

It’s much easier and exciting to say we are taking the Carnival Freedom to Freeport in the Bahamas!

Boat Naming For Communication

Having the names was also a huge portion of the communication between the vessels at sea. Even before radios ships could still communicate with each other using the boat’s name to identify each other.

Once the radio was invented people could communicate over the VHF and using the vessels name, identify each other.

This is the Marathon Lady, looking for the Main Attraction. This is the Main Attraction, go ahead Marathon Lady!

So much easier than, this is FL335526, looking for NY553412!

The same goes for before the radios too. When you were in port, you would let your friend know what boat you were on by the name. Yes, we came in on the Reel Luck, we’ll be here for about a week. Stop by the boat if you’re down in the harbor.

They could then walk around and find you by the boat name!best boat for fishing and family fun

Traditional Boat Naming

Today the identification and communication purposed in naming our boats is not as necessary as it once was. That does not mean it is not still done!

In fact, it is just as much a part of owning a boat as it has ever been! Boat naming has become such a tradition that it’s hard to find a boat that does not have a name!

Yes, there are more boats out there without names than there used to be. Though you will find that you will have to search for a long time for a boat that someone lives on that doesn’t have a name!

Sailboats and liveaboards are some of the most named and traditionally named boats you can find! Watersport boats are more of the ones that you will be able to find that doesn’t have a name.

This is just the changing of times for these vessels. The bulk of them are still named though.

There are traditional ceremonies and boat naming parties that are held in keeping up with this tradition.

It isn’t only in the movies that you see someone smash a champagne bottle against the side of a boat while reading a poem.

Boat christening is a big tradition among a lot of boat owners, and this tradition wouldn’t be the same if they weren’t naming their boat at the same time!

Sentimental Boat Naming

There is also a sentimental aspect when it comes to a boat’s name. This is why you will see a lot of boats with roman numerals after the name.

Seeing the “Grady Lady IV” is super common because of the sentimental value that the boat has for the owner. This is a representation of how much the first boat that the owner had meant to them.

Boating becomes a way of life for a lot of people. That way of life becomes super sentimental to them, and their first boat becomes almost like their first love in a way.

So keeping that name and legacy alive will always be a part of a boat’s name for some people.

There are also those that name the boat after the passing of a loved one. They will name the boat after their loved one.

They are keeping the memory of that person alive! Also the name of other important relationships that they have had in their life. Dogs, cats, girlfriends, mothers, there are a lot of different people and things that have been super important to someone.

Driving them to name their boat after them in memory of them.

Superstitions About Boat Naming

There are also some superstitions about naming the boat. Since these are superstitions, we can’t really find some concrete rules about what we can and can’t do.

There are some “guidelines” that people like to follow though.

From what I can see the most common concerns that people have, have to do with the christening ceremony and the changing of the name. There seems to be a lot of good luck, bad luck things that concern the name as well.

Things like naming the boat after one that has sunk, naming it after a hurricane or great storm, even naming it with the first letter being “A.”

The name changing ceremony or ritual seems to be the most laid out with rules though.

Steps like “Burn the old nameboard and scatter the ashes on the sea” and “never perform the ceremony on a Friday.”

If you search out the checklist for changing a boat’s name, you will find all kinds of lists and steps that seem like they definitely fall into the “superstitious category!”

Why Are Boats Named After Women?

The ultimate question. Everybody wants to know, is why are boats always named after women? But nobody knows the exact answer.

You can search for days and get all kinds of answers. Some of the most common answers that I have found focus on mythical practices and older terms.

The most common for the origination of this practice comes from sailors naming the boats after “goddesses” and “important female figures” in their lives. The mythical practices and superstitions of the first sailors would probably support them naming them after “goddesses.”

Then it is said that this practice has come from the grammatical forms of a lot of languages. Most languages have gender-specific differentiations for nouns. Making them masculine or feminine. They do this for a lot of objects, including boats.

Being they were seen as feminine, this practice just seemed to stick even after all of these years.

Then you can get into all of the depths of female attributes and punchlines. Things like “boats are named after women because they are expensive, beautiful, and always surrounded by a lot of men.”

You can find these one-liners all over the place, but the validity of them seems to be more of a punchline instead of something that can factually be used to answer the question.

The mythical naming and grammatical answers though, seem to be the most solid that I can find to why boats are named after women!

Check Us Out!

I hope this has helped answer your boat naming questions. If there is something else you would like to know, ask us in the comment section below. Then let us know about all of the names that you have seen on boats. Or what you have named your boat!

Then check us out on our Youtube Channel: Born Again Boating. We make all kinds of how to and DIY boating videos. Along with a ton of outboard service videos! We hope you will get subscribed to the channel and then add us to your favorites so we can become your go-to resource for all of your DIY boating projects!


Aaron Hilligoss

Aaron has been working in the Marine Industry for over a decade and holds certifications for Yamaha and Mercury Marine. It is not uncommon for him to own and be working on at least three different boats at any given point in time!

Recent Content

Skip to toolbar