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The Seven Words You Can’t Put in a Boat Name

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Sadly, my growing family has exceeded the capacity of our Catalina 34 and we are in the market for a larger boat. As the search continues we frequently discuss the possible choices over dinner and last night we touched on what we would name our new vessel.

With so much to consider as we shop: the make, year, price, length, draft, engine, electronics, and sails, picking a name wasn’t something I’d considered yet. But I know this process is very important: It’s what gives a boat its unique personality. A custom that goes back to Biblical times, mariners named their ships in honor of gods and saints, in hopes they would be afforded their protection from the vicissitudes of sea travel.

“I’ve got an idea Daddy,” chirped my youngest daughter. “How about …” and she said a name that I can’t print here, and her sister and mother dissolved into fits of convulsive laughter. 

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“Hmmm,” I replied sternly, concerned that she knew that word at ten years old, “I don’t think the US Coast Guard would allow us to put that on our boat.”

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“How do you know?” she retorted, and reeled off several more examples that would surely amuse bridge tenders and dock masters wherever we sailed.

Well, actually I didn’t know. So I went to the USCG Vessel Documentation Center website and was amazed by the assortment of off-color appellations they have permitted to grace the bow and transoms of American vessels (Registrations are regulated by each State and have different rules).

Looking over the boat name list I could see they are surprisingly lax in their standards of good taste and rectitude; kind of like, go ahead, test us, shock us—we love a good laugh! Many permitted names can scarcely be uttered without a blush, and bring to mind George Carlin’s infamous, ‘Seven Words You Can’t Say on TV’.

Per USCG Documentation regulations: Here are the Rules for Boat Names

  • boat names must not be more than 33 characters.
  • It may not be identical, actually or phonetically, to any word or words used to solicit assistance at sea;
  • may not contain or be phonetically identical to obscene, indecent, or profane language, or to racial or ethnic epithets.

And that’s basically it. But I think the Coast Guard gives incredible latitude on what it considers obscene, indecent, or profane, never mind intelligent or in good taste—these are government employees, not Jesuits.

I spoke with a public affairs officer at the center and she informed me they will approve all names which follow the regulations, that there is no ‘naming committee’ that vets applications for tender ears.

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Years ago I saw a speedboat go by on Lake Erie named Wet Dream and I giggled, thinking this so risqué. And indeed, according to BoatUS this was one of the most popular names from 1994 to 1998. But no, good reader, the 122 current American vessels named Wet Dream are tame by comparison to the mischievous monikers that grace many of the boats on our lakes and oceans. And note that boat names are not like Social Security numbers, they may be issued an unlimited number of times.

Not surprisingly, legions of names extol the virtues of alcohol consumption:

  • Anita Cocktail,
  • Shot N Beer,
  • Boat Drinks,
  • Steel n Liquor,
  • Drunken Sailor,
  • On the Rocks,
  • Whiskey Business, and
  • Three Sheets.

Sexual innuendo word play is also very popular amongst boaters. So Bite Me, Berth Control, Fishing Chicks, Aquadesiac, Seaduction, For Play, Fueling Around, Master Baiter, Mother Rucker and, of course, Happy Hooker are on many, many boats. You’d think that some words would be taboo, but no fewer than 46-boats have the word ‘sex’ in their names. Other owners choose to push the boundaries hard: if you sail near Seattle you may catch a glimpse of The Filthy Whore out on Lake Washington.

Oh boy, I love a good chuckle, but if we sail past some of these boats I’ll have to cover my daughters’ eyes. I think they need to hire a couple of teenage boys at the Documentation Center to tell them what the joke is.

And of course, there are boat names that combine sex and alcohol: Sin & Tonic, Naked Women & Beer, and, well, I like writing for this magazine so I better stop there.

So, as we continue to look for our new boat my daughters have assumed the task of winnowing names. “Anything is fine,” I tell them, “just don’t make me embarrass myself when I call someone on the radio.”

CHIME IN BELOW in the COMMENTS…  Have any Nauti Boat Names that caught your wandering eye?

Robert Beringer’s first ebook, Water Power! a collection of sailing short stories, is available at BarnesandNoble.com. For a free sample go to: www.smashwords.com/books/view/542578

Editor’s Note: Custom’s and Immigration made Easy with eSeaClear

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  1. We knew of a sailboat in St Thomas years ago called “Cat Sass”. Thought that was pretty clever and always caused a smile when heard on the radio!

  2. The whole ship series. Ape Ship, Dip Ship, Scared Shipless etc. And the famous old story of Fujimo – a successful racing sailboat in Southern California. Jane, the wife, forced the owner/husband to chose between being married and racing. Fujimo is F U Jane, I’m Moving Out in short.

    Boat owners are a special breed.

  3. When I first started sailing there was a boat at the marina at the Ft. Belvoir army post named “Sea Bitch”. Not risque of course, but I thought it in poor taste and winced every time I saw it.

  4. I came up with my girls new name after purchasing her 4 months ago. I have yet to see a copy.
    “Miss Wet Ever” is a 1988 Sea Ray 345 Sedan Bridge.
    Tell me what you think!! ?
    Captain Wardy

  5. What you can do to really blow their mind, do NOT go down the joke name roster, come up with something catchy but not in that category–really blow their mind. Here are a few, All-Season, mini mo, good shepherd, hard roller, stubby, legal limit, short stuff. It really does not HAVE to be something silly or stupid. In spanish, I really like “El Sueno” (with the tilde over the “n”)

  6. Bought a sailboat in San Diego that had the name “Manuia”….
    Found her original name in the old paperwork and changed it back to Sante’
    We did not want to use the name mania on the radio, figured it would be to close to Manure

  7. In the 90’s on the Texas Gulf coast there was a shrink that named his boat “I blame my Mother”- A few years later, one of his friends catches the sailing bug, gets his own boat and promptly named it the “I blame your Mother too”

  8. Maybe I missed it, but what are the seven words you can’t put in a boat name? Read the whole article and must’ve missed it.

    • Good catch Tom. (no pun intended) Only bc it’s so common, you can search for the seven words you can’t say on air (radio or TV). They should’ve been listed, at least w some asterisks.

  9. Named our canoe Swamp Thing. Our Boy Scouts were required to swamp it and recover during canoe training. It got swamped a lot.

  10. I recently saw the Mad Hatteras docked in NC. Thought that was clever… I am buying a boat soon, and trying to come up with something clever yet unique. It’s a challenge!

  11. I heard of a Pastor that called his boat, “Visitation.” So when someone asks for him at work his secretary will say, “He’s out on visitation.”

  12. A farm boy must of named a boat “Heifer”. Can you just hear the VHF distress call This is Joe on the Heifer I am in need of assistance Help this is Joe on the Heifer. Next to the Heifer was a boat named Irish Bull. I always walked softly when passing the Irish Bull in fear of riling the Bull and frightening the Heifer. Its hard to keep em down on the farm after they gotten a taste of the nautical.

  13. Saw a boat named “OPEN WIDE”. I remarked to my wife the boat has to be owned by a Dentist. Without missing a beat she replied Perhaps a Gynicologist!!

  14. I once owned a Mirror dinghy, painted red, named Ruby Yacht in homage to a Mr. Peabody episode on Rocky and Bullwinkle, which itself was a homage to the Persian poet Omar Khayam and his work The Rubiyat. I built this boat with a buddy in 1974 in Kabul, Afghanistan.

    • Only if it’s commissioned by the US Navy. You can use the old Steam Ship (or Steam Screw) designation (i.e., SS) for your vessel, though.

  15. Saw a sailboat in one of the boatyards around Clear Lake/Kemah area called “Money Talks & Bulls**t Walks” quite a few years back. It did have the Bulls**t completely spelled out on the transom & was backed up to the main road going by. I’d just love to hear the backstory on that one.

  16. Only inshore day boaters treat a vessel that may save their souls as a cheap joke. You all are either ignorant of the power of the sea or hold it in contempt. Beware, prepare, take care…

  17. I work on boats for a living and always paid attention to names, asking why and how they got it. My all time favorites: Liquor Box, Lucky Again, I’ll Be Gone.
    My all time favorite, ” My itch “. Sooo, as we prepared for the sea trial the owner instructed the crew to hang the large capital “B” on a board over the transom perfectly in front of the “itch” . Of course the matching lettering and size so from 10ft away it was indistinguishable from the rest of the name. Beat that!!!!

  18. JUST A BARNACLE OR TWO ? ROLEX REGATTA J-BOAT NAME “BLEUBIU” my favorite / and this MANGLED STINK POT ON FLA.MID-EASTCOAST “Krew Klutz Klan” ballsey to say the least .the K’s were much larger than the lower case and from a distance we were stunned near Sebastian Inlet.

  19. The boat my family has on beautiful Lake Champlain, nestled in the Adirondack mountains, is my Dad’s one and only gift to himself, and he loves it. My mom, let’s just say she doesn’t love it. She wanted to name it “For Sail” 🤣

  20. Whoa, never thought this little article would garner so many comments. I love it! There seems to be some of you unfamiliar with george carlin and his infamous skit that he couldn’t do on TV, so here it is: https://youtu.be/kyBH5oNQOS0?si=cn2VokHiNgcgOmMi

    And as luck would have it I’m buying another boat in seattle and am in the process of selecting a name. Watch for future article.


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