The Dos and Don’ts of Coast Guard Boat Names for Your Vessel

What’s in a name? For some, the name of their boat is something they’ve thought of for years. In idle daydreams or going through several drafts, many potential vessel owners have had their perfect vessel name picked out for years, possibly going back to childhood. For others, it’s the last thing they think about, something that occurs to them as they’re filling out the form. No matter how you’ve determined what you want the name of your vessel to be (or if you still haven’t decided) there are some things to keep in mind so that your Coast Guard boat names are in compliance. 

What Coast Guard Boat Names Can’t Be: Sea Assistance 

Usually, starting with the positive is the best way to explain something. However, when it comes to names for your vessels, we’ve found that it’s often easier to start with what a person cannot do. That way, they can eliminate those ideas and focus on what they can name their vessel. For example, you can’t use something that is or sounds like “any word or words used to solicit assistance at sea.” In fact, the language they use is that your name “may not be identical, actually or phonically,” to something used for assistance. So, “Ess Oh Ess,” for one, wouldn’t be allowed. Sure, it’s not technically “S. O. S.,” but, pronouncing it would sound the same. 

Coast Guard boat requirements

Remember: This Name Will Be Associated with You 

Another rule is that the name can’t “contain or be phonetically identical to obscene, indecent, or profane language, or to facial or ethnic epithets.” As this is a family blog, we won’t be giving any examples. However, you don’t need examples to know what does and does not cross (or even come close to) the line here. A great rule of thumb: if you believe that a name could potentially be a problem, don’t use it. Remember: this vessel name is going to be associated with you. When people hear it, they will think of you. If you keep that in mind, you’re going to have a better chance of picking a name that won’t embarrass you at some point. 

The Marking Requirements 

Once you’ve picked the name, it and the hailing port of your vessel have to be marked on some “clearly visible” exterior part of the hull. That’s if you’re a recreational vessel. If you’re commercial, it must be marked on the starboard bow, the port bow, and on the stern. You can use any materials or method, but, they have to be at least four inches tall, legible, and “durable markings.” 

Changing the Name and Other Forms 

You might have read the above and thought: “I think I’ve got a name that’s going to work, but I’m not one hundred percent sure.” Should you have questions about that or anything else in regards to vessel documentation, our staff will be more than happy to help you. All the forms you could need are right at our site, and if you need further assistance, call: (800) 535-8570.