The Maritime Report: What's in a Name?

The Maritime Report: What's in a Name?

Dave Bloch

Sunset renaming ceremony at Marina Village Yacht Harbor in Alameda. Photo by Dave Bloch.


Every day, as I walk to and from the boat through the marina, I'm struck by the imagination of the names people put on their boats. In any marina you'll find examples of whimsy, romance, strength or a little craziness. I took a short walk around the docks in the marina where I live and picked up some examples, beginning with Buoyant, which is our own boat. It turns out that the original owner always names his boats "gentle adjectives that start with 'B'" in his words. We like the name, because since moving aboard her we have had to divest ourselves of 90 percent of everything we used to own, thus making ourselves much lighter and hence, more buoyant. It's a nice concept.

Some boat names reflect the feeling of weekend relaxing, or "getting away from it all." Nouvelle Vie (new life), Joyride, Interlude, Endless Time, Endless Summer, No Worries and Why Knot all make you feel like heading out to sea and maybe not coming back.

Some names reflect times of romance (Wife's Boat) or maybe not-so-romantic (Doghouse). Significant Other may be about some relationship in between the two, unless the boat itself is the significant other. Whatever the relationship between people - or person and boat - might be, it hopefully results in Dulce (sweet), Bliss, No Worries and perhaps a few interesting Illusions. Dream On!

What was her name, the girl of his dreams? Alyena, Alchera, Cherie, Eowyn, Johanna, Tesa, Christine? One category of name that is almost totally absent from boats is the male first name, but there is one on our dock: Harry is a bright yellow sailboat with a distinguished history of ocean races. I don't know whether Harry is referred to as "she" as other boats are, but I imagine so.

Other names come from all over owners' imaginations. A small sloop named 3 Beekman Place gets its name from the book and musical Auntie Mame. Gokuraku comes from Japanese fiction, Quadriga was a four-horse Roman chariot (the boat started its life with four owners), and Maltese Duck must be a play on the Bogart movie. (Siuya turned out to be an acronym, but I'm not going to divulge what it stands for.)

If you had a boat, what would you name her?


Some friends down the dock just sold their boat and purchased a newer one. The old boat, which they had for more than 10 years, was named Five O'Clock Somewhere. They wanted to give their new boat that same name; mostly for the love of it, but partly because they have years of collecting little knickknacks that all say "5 O'Clock Somewhere!" on them.

Renaming a boat is a serious procedure, requiring great ceremony and sacrifices (generally of alcohol) to the gods of the seas and the winds. For this event, invitations were sent, food and drinks prepared, and several dozen well-wishing sailor friends showed up on the dock at (of course) 5 o’clock to witness the expunging of the old name from Neptune's (or Poseidon's; choose your sea god) records and the proper recording of her new name. Thanks were given for keeping the boat and her crew safe in the past; wine was poured (both on the boat and into the participants) in offering to send the new Five O'Clock Somewhere and her new owners swiftly and surely on their way in the future.

To give the reader an idea of the gravity of this occasion, here is just a portion of the ceremony that was used this weekend:

In appreciation of your munificence, dispensation and in honor of your greatness, we offer these libations to your majesty and your court. (At this point, one bottle of Champagne, less one glass for the master and one glass for the mate are poured into the sea from West to East.)

A fine time was had by all, and the boat floats proudly in the marina with her new name on her prow.