How to Name Your Boat

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Gary S Chapman / Getty Images

The Boat Owners Association of America, which runs a side business supplying vinyl graphics to over 100,000 boaters every year, just tallied the titles and released their list of America’s most popular boat names. In the number one spot is “Serenity,” followed by “Second Wind” and “Island Girl.” The monikers are innocuous, bordering on trite, but BoatUS Vice President Scott Croft says that hasn’t always been the case.

“Because boats are discretionary expenditures, boat names often reflect a bigger event,” Croft explains. “We’ve seen patterns: After 9/11, there were patriotic names and in ’08, when the recession hit, we got more family names.”

If “Liberty” and “Victory,”  which were one and two in 2002, giving way to 2008’s “Second Chance” (#3) and “Hydrotherapy” (#4) says something profound about America’s shifting concerns, this year’s names seem to indicate that we’ve tacked into the cultural doldrums. “Seas the Day,” always near the top, has cracked the top 10 despite being – at best – a single entendre and “Island Time,” a cliche with an outboard motor, has chugged up to number seven. Boat owners need to do better.

Croft, who named his boat after his son, doesn’t like to comment on the quality of names – his organization represents all boaters, even the uncreative ones – but is quick to give out the sort of advice that leads to better decision making. His first bit of wisdom: “Say it out loud like you’re going to say it on the radio.” That means avoiding anything overlong, hard to pronounce, or completely silly. He also points out that pleasure cruisers don’t have to be labeled as the glorified coasters they sometimes become. No Coast Guard pilot wants to respond to a distress call from the “Happy Hours” (#9) or the “Aquaholic.” That said, Croft isn’t putting down puns.

“If all a person wants to do is fish the canyons off New Jersey, the name ‘Reel Time’ is going to resonate with them,” he says. “But it’s the accountants and lawyers who are always trying to come up with tricky names.”

Croft favors a more straightforward approach. He recommends that mariners consider “their profession, their passions, and their lovers” when brainstorming. “It’s harder than naming a child,” he adds, pointing out that the options are a bit more varied. If Serenity is really what you’re after, so be it – but it’s probably more complicated than that.

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