Naming (and lettering) your boat.

As the Knight Templar said to Dr. Jones in "Indiana Jones and the Last Cruisade"; "Choose wisely ...". The same advice could be used for choosing a boat name. I believe the best boat names are those that provide an insite to your personality, especially those that might have a double meaning. OK, go ahead and use your occupation if you cannot be creative; but I think a boat named "Me Sue You", while catchy, doesn't or shouldn't be the first choice for a Lawyer's boat.

Choosing the proper name can be surprisingly difficult. One of my favorates is "BAT And I". This was on a boating acquantance' of mine; his wife's initials were B.A.T. So you get the idea. Other dual-meaning name examples include "Knot Home", "Fanta-Sea", and "Bouy's Toys".

If you use a VHF radio, your boat's name is going to also be your hailing name, or "handle" on the radio. While VHF radio is not to be used like a CB (Citizen's Band) radio, the boat's name is the traditional method of identifying who you are. Therefore, you should consider short names, maybe 3 words at the most, and one that is easily understood. Avoid cute names like "That's What She Said" as that would be a bit confusing during conversation; and above all, pick a name in good taste. Not only is "Makin' Bacon" kind of silly in a conversation, you shoud raise above all of the neophyte boaters that do use that name for their boat.

In the examples below, I show my the lettering on my last 5 boats; beginning with the oldest boat. Each boat's lettering becomes more sophisticated (and expensive); which kind of tracks the value and size of each boat.



This boat was named "Dog House" because I was in it for buying this boat. My wife considered this a fishing boat and not a boat proper for a lady, so I felt it an appropriate name. In fact, I sold this boat soon after I bought it to keep harmony in the marriage.

This is an example of using a vinyl lettering kit. The chief disadvantage is that it might be difficult to line up the lettering; but a strip of blue-tape along the bottom to align the lettering helps. Another disadvantage is it is not unique; if that is an issue to you. Its my feeling that if you take the time to think up a unique name, you might as well have it look unique as well.

Advantages of this method are cost, as the lettering kit, available in several colors, will be less than $20; and if you ruin a letter, you have spares.

This was the first of my custom lettered boat names. If you are a "Parrot Head", you know what this meand. If not, its a reference to Jimmy Buffett fans; which are called Parrot Heads. To further the uniqueness of the artwork, I found a font "Tango" that I really liked. This lettering is one-dimensional, without shadowing, graphics, or any other enhancements. The color of the lettering matches the boat accent stripes.

When you get into custom boat names, you basically have two choices; you can find a local lettering shop and have them do the entire job for you; or you can purchase the lettering on-line and apply it yourself. This is the least expensive solution ONLY if you do not damage the lettering while attempting to install it.

I paid around $30 for this lettering on-line and installed it myself, so its not that more expensive than the sticker kit, and a whole not nicer looking.

A word of warning; installing vinyl lettering is not a done-deal, and can be easily ruined. There are specific techniques that can be used to make the job much easier, and I'll explain them later.

"Migration" is a title of a song on Jimmy Buffett's Coconut Telegraph CD. On this boat, we added a nice graphic to the name. This is a real good example of how you can sneak a graphic in a boat name when you don't have a lot of room to work with. Again, the Tango font was used, and the vinyl was purchased on-line, and I installed it.

Most of the time, you can find a graphics shop; either on-line of locally that will work with you on the design. I corresponded with the graphics shop several times; they would suggest one thing, I would approve it, or come up with an alternative, and so on until we arrived at the final design. This back-and-forth design process vastly improved the final design from my original thoughts.

When you begin to introduce colors, the cost goes up; for this design, the cost was about $80, which isn't too bad considering it included the graphic shop's assistance in the design.

Multi-color designs are done one of two ways; either each piece is cut out puzzle-like, or one piece is layered over the other. There are advantages to both. In the layering method, even though the vinyl film is thin, you get a buildup of layers that will show through. In contrast, the puzzle method avoids this; however, there is more labor involved, and the individual smaller pieces can begin to lift over time - especially in the corners.

We liked Migration so much that we named our next boat the same. I suppose we could have used "Migration 2", and I did consider the idea, but I could not come up with anything I liked. On the other hand, when we bought this boat, we changed boating locations, so none of the other boaters had ever seen the original Migration.

This time I used a local graphics shop, but installed it myself. Some shops will allow you to do this, but others will want you to purchase the installation from them. The graphics shop came out to my boat with a color chart, and matched the two colors of the name to the trim colors on my boat. The boat name again includes a graphic, but this time, shading has been added to the lettering. Like the previous design, I worked with the graphics shop and the design evolved over time. I recall sitting in the shop, going over books of their clip-art for the graphic until I found one I liked. Even then, the shop modified the graphic a bit by adding the sun, as I liked that touch from the last boat.

The cost of this lettering was $100, and I did the installation.

For our current boat, we wanted something different, so we changed the name. Yesterday's Dreams is a lyric in a Moody Blue's song, on "Days of Future Past". This name has special meaning to us, as we had dreamed of owning a MotorYacht one day, so this was the boat of our past dreams in a way.

We used a local shop on this one, and went all out; embedded graphic, shading on the lettering, adding a wave - style to the lettering, and adding a few stars around the area. Again, this design evolved over the design process from my original idea to this. Like the last design, we color-matched the two colors in the lettering to the boat trim. Due to the complexity and size of this graphic (it is fairly large), I had the graphic's shop install it. The cost of the graphic and installation was $300.

Design Evolution

I met a design shop at the local boat show when I was ready to put a name on our current boat. I had somewhat of an idea of what I wanted, but I was not totally happy with it (Design 1). The shop had some photos at the show of work they had done, and when I looked through them, I found a moon with clouds that I liked much better than mine. So a few days after the boat show, I submitted my original design to them and wanted to see if we could change the moon.

The design shop responeded with Design 2, but also provided an alternative font as shown in Design 3. I had picked the original font as it was the same font used on a Moody Blues album cover. However, the font in Item 3 had a sort of "I Dream of Jeanie" look to it that I liked, so we went with that font.

However, I considered the layout on the boat, and while I liked Design 3, I moved "Yesterday's" up a bit, so that it would fit the boat better, clear the stern light, and provide a location for the hailing port. In Design 4, I even superimposed the idea on a photo of my boat to see how it would look (notice the stern light).

Lastly, we changed the font color by reversing the Blue and Gray colors, and darkened the moon and clouds. The result was the final design that was applied to the boat. If you look at where we started, the evolutionary process certainly resulted in a much improved design.

Applying the vinyl Lettering.

And you are sure you want to do this yourself? Typically when you receive your completed name, the vinyl will be sandwiched between its adhesive backing paper, and transfer tape that is applied over the face of the lettering by the graphics shop. The transfer tape keeps the lettering aligned when you remove the backing paper when applying the lettering to the boat.

Don't do this on a windy day!

There definately is a technique to doing this, and I'll describe it as best as I can. The graphics shop should also give you a set of instructions and a squeegie to get all of the air bubbles out of the lettering - and you will get air bubbles. The basic technique is to tape the lettering to the boat with both adhesive backing and transfer paper tape still attached. This allows you to line up the lettering as desired.

When you are satisfied with the position, apply tape to the top of the lettering only. Two inch tape works well here, and what you want to do is to create a hinge of sorts so that you can get to the backside of the lettering (to remove the adhesive backing) without changing its placement on the boat.

If you are working on an irregular surface, or the lettering is large, I'd recommend cutting the lettering in two or three places and work in sections. Of course, you would cut between the letters, not through them.

There are two techniques used to actually apply the lettering; the dry method and the wet method. In the dry method, you remove the backing paper (one section at a time if you sectioned it), then starting at the hinged top, slowly lay the decal down onto the boat's surface, while using the squeege in a downward motion to remove any bubbles and ensure perfect alignment. When everything is down, simply remove the transfer adhesive and you are done.

However, this is harder than it sounds. My preferred method is to use the wet method. In this method, you use a squirt bottle of water, with perhaps a drop or two of Ivroy liquid soap, and wet the boat's surface before laying the lettering down. This allows the bubbles to be squeegied out a bit easier, but more important, you can lift the lettering off and reposition if you need to. The only down side is you cannot remove the transfer tape until the lettering has set for an hour or two - long enough for the water to evaporate. But it is a superior method.

One caution if you use the wet method. Not all vinyl lettering is the same, and some backing paper is not waterproof. If you happen to get any water on the backing paper, you may spend the rest of your day picking paper fibers out of the lettering's adhesive. I know this from experience. So until you are sure the backing paper is waterproof, shield the backside of the lettering with a piece of cardboard when you wet the boat.

The Ceremony.

Once your boat is named, and especially if it is re-named, legend requires some christening or other celebration. If you re-name the boat, there is a definate process you must follow, lest you upset Poseidon, Neptune, and all of those other entities. This is all a bit of tongue-and-cheek really, and you can have a little fun with your dock-mates by doing so.

Suggested Renaming and Christening Ceremony Procedures.


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