What’s In A Boat’s Name?

Tackle Box Dave Stark

Mar 8, 2018

By D.M. Stark

This article was my first about 10 years ago, and it found it’s way to an outdoor editor/writer here on the west coast named Bob Jones. He became my mentor and helped me tremendously.

My interest in the origin of boat names had me writing “fillers” for a couple papers on “local” boats of all kind on the BC coast.

It would be appreciated if you could manage to stick a “plug” in somewhere for the book. “Thoughts from Outside the Tackle Box”. Available for about $5.00 on Amazon. It includes the article on boat names and 15 others that have been previously published across Canada.


Dave Stark


Have you ever noticed that some of your most intriguing yet downright useless thoughts come when the fish aren’t biting -– which for most of us is the majority of the time. Those times when your gear is set to satisfaction and you have given it all over to the fish gods.

This thought came early one sunny mid-August evening while trolling with the pack in Brown’s Bay just north of Campbell River. Wind, waves and the bite were conspicuously absent, and the pack was as large and diverse as my old hometown of Vancouver — small boats, large cruisers, guided Whalers, and dangerously overcrowded runabouts. Most passed around my 24-foot cruiser with the typical myriad of acknowledgements: the nod, the smile, the hands-apart motion signifying the “how’s fishin’” question, and the threatening Clint Eastwood scowl for those daring you to cross their trolling line.

So there I was, bobbing around between bites, when suddenly I saw the “Sea Chicken.” A 21-foot runabout totally decked out for salmon fishing, its purpose in life was quite obvious. The burning question I asked myself was, What in hell was he thinking? I know that every boat name has a story behind it, but… “Sea Chicken?” An inside joke perhaps. A fear of the sea? Only the one who named her knows for sure.

Although dedicated anglers are content with tossing a line from shore or riverbanks, almost everyone contemplates what it would be like to have a boat to get out where the big ones are. That secluded pool, the second tide line away out there, or the middle of the lake. The possibility of owning a fishing boat also begs the question, ”What would I name it?” Whether for use on lakes, rivers or the saltchuck, naming a fishing boat is not a simple task, nor should it ever be taken lightly. Naming a vessel serves to give it life, energy, and a mind of its own.

Maritime history indicates a tremendous respect for the seas. Once named and christened, ships assumed the female gender and developed their own soul. Being a traditionalist, and coming from an old commercial fishing family, I frequently refer to my 24-footer as “she.” My girlfriend actually took offence once when I referred to my “other girl.”

Ships were never given names that were too presumptuous, for this would show disrespect to the sea gods, which would result in bad luck. Vessels should never be named Ocean Conqueror or Wind Master. After all, look what happened to the Titanic. This same lore should discourage naming fishing boats to challenge the fish gods. The following list of existing boat names are sure to jinx the fishing experience of those aboard: Salmon Slayer, Fisher King, Chum Lord, Flounder Pounder, and Whopper Stopper. Maritime history shows that gods of the deep blue have always appreciated humility; never pride. So don’t challenge them -– you’ll lose.

Given that the sea had a soul of its own, it was also presumptuous to paint your boat blue or green like the ocean water. The bottom paint on my boat is black for a reason. Go ahead, next time you are fishing aboard someone else’s boat and the fish aren’t biting, ask the owner the colour of his vessel’s bottom paint.

It is also considered poor form to name a boat after your wife. Besides, rumour has it that sometimes spouses also change ownership. Although it is possible to rename a boat, owners are encouraged to avoid this test of fate. Also, while it is considered bad luck to have a boat name starting with the letter “O”, some of the most popular names in North America include, Obsession, Osprey and Odyssey. This tells me that modern seafarers are either becoming more liberal about superstition, or have developed a false sense of confidence due, perhaps, to the invention of radar, GPS and depth sounders. I am also curious about the maritime history of these so-named boats, for many of these superstitions were in vogue when it was commonplace for ships to sail away and never return.

How about the question of what to do if you want to change the name of a fishing boat already in your possession? In the old days you wouldn’t even contemplate the thought, for to do so would bring sure demise from the full wrath of the gods of the seas and wind. While maritime superstitions have yielded to more liberal interpretations during these modern times, if one changes a boat’s name it must be done properly — or else. This decision must be taken seriously, for if the gods of the sea are not appeased, bad fortune may befall the vessel. The unluckiest of fishing boats are the ones that defied the gods and changed their names the wrong way, so why tempt fate?

John Vigor is the author of The Practical Mariner’s Book of Knowledge: 420 Sea Tested Rules of Thumb for Almost Any Situation. He has developed what is conveniently called “Vigor’s Boat Naming Ceremony,” which includes frequent and liberal amounts of libations to appease the gods, owner and crew. Thus, if you have a boat or dream of owning one some day to pursue your addiction on the water, it would be worthwhile to read this book beforehand so you can put some serious thought into what you will name “her.” Fishermen need all the help they can get to appease the fish gods. Besides, if you’re neither spiritual nor superstitious, you’re probably not having anywhere near as much fun as you could have on the water.

The End

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