Why Do Boats Have Names?

From the moment humankind had boats, we had names for boats. 

Since the beginning, thousands of years ago, sailors named their boats in hopes that it would bring them good fortune, good fishing, safety, smooth sailing, and the like. It’s always important to be safe when on a boat, but it was far more dangerous for our ancestors. 

Today, boats are named for any number of reasons. One reason that boats have always been named, of course, is logistics. Even way back then, it was important to know that, when a person referred to a specific boat, they needed to make sure there was a way for anyone they were communicating with to understand that they meant this one boat. 

In fact, that is, in a very real way, why documented vessels must be named. Identification is important. If your vessel has never been documented with the USCG and is eligible to do so, you can use this link to apply for a USCG Certificate of Documentation

If your vessel has already been documented, you can change the name whenever you would like. Just use this form to change a documented vessel name

Should there be an outstanding mortgage on the vessel, before you change the vessel’s name you have to apply for permission from the mortgagee/lender. 

In regards to the vessel name, 46 CFR 67.117 states: 

“The name designated: must be composed of letters or the Latin alphabet or Arabic or Roman numerals; may not be identical, actually or phonetically, to any word or words used to solicit assistance at sea; and may not contain nor be phonetically identical to obscene, indecent, or profane language, or to racial or ethnic epithets.” 

After the above form has been filed and returned to you, then you can remove the vessel’s previous name and mark the new one. 

The requirements for marking your vessel’s name and hailing port are as follows, according to 46 CFR 67.123

“The name of the vessel must be marked on some clearly visible exterior part of the port and starboard bow and the stern of the vessel. The hailing port of the vessel must be marked on some clearly exterior part of the stern of the vessel.” 

For vessels with a square bow, “the name of the vessel must be marked on some clearly visible exterior part of the bow in a manner to avoid obliteration. The name and hailing port must be marked on some clearly visible exterior part of the stern.” 

For vessels with a recreational endorsement, “the name and hailing port must be marked together on some clearly visible exterior part of the hull.” 

In terms of materials, the markings “may be made by the use of any means and materials which result in durable markings, must be made in clearly legible letters of the Latin alphabet or Arabic or Roman numerals not less than four inches in height.” 

In that same vessel documentation form, you may also change your vessel’s hailing port. 

In regards to designating a hailing port, 46 CFR 67.119 states: 

“The hailing port must be a place in the United States included in the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Federal Information Processing Standards Publication 55DC. The hailing port must include the State, territory, or possession in which it is located.” 

Note: the vessel’s hailing port does not have to be the port at which the vessel most often docks. The hailing port can be anywhere you choose, so long as it is a location in America. 

Reminder: the hailing port is not where the vessel owner hails from, but rather, where the vessel hails from. 

If you have further questions about boat names or anything else related to USCG vessel documentation, contact the Vessel Registrar Center at info@usvesselregistrar.us or (800) 535-8570 Monday-Friday, 8 AM to 4:30 PM.