Canal Boat Names (How To Pick A Good One)


What is in a name? Well perhaps more than you’d think. Good boat names are not that easy to decide on, and aside from a beautiful paint job maybe the first thing people notice when they see your pride and joy. So, you’ll really want to get it right. In this article we are going to delve into loads of aspects of naming your boat including the top 20 canal boat names in 2020.

Have you just invested in a new boat? Or perhaps you have inherited something slightly older and you want to ‘relaunch’ it.

Read on to find out all you need to know…

Can you change the name of a canal boat?

The great news is, Yes of course you can. It is actually a really simple process, provided you know the rules. Here’s what you need to do in 4 easy steps: –

  • Contact the Canal and River Trust.
  • Tell them what you want to call your boat.
  • Give them the ‘old’ name of your boat and the registration number.
  • Make sure you inform your insurance company.

It’s that simple! Well, kind of. There might be a few things you want consider…

Why change your boat’s name?

Well, there’s lots of reasons. Maybe you have purchased the boat and the name isn’t giving off the kind of vibe that you want to portray? Maybe ‘Debbie Loves Baz’ is not the first thing you want to be greeted with when you get to the Marina? Or maybe you’ve already named your boat and have had better ideas. (We once knew someone with two kids called ‘Sam and Ella’… Who only realized the connotations associated after the ink had dried on the Birth Certificate).

Whatever the reason, and in light of the above, remember, just like a tattoo, you and others are going to be seeing it every day. So, choose wisely.

The superstitious bit…

Nautical pursuits and superstition go hand in glove. You may be the kind of mariner who doesn’t pay any notice, or you could be the type who prohibits whistling on board to avoid attracting storms (listen it’s the Cheshire Ring, how bad could it really get?).

The point we’re making is, if you are a big believer in karma, you are going to want to do a few things in order to ensure that your vessel keeps an even keel and happy juju: –

Name your boat out of water.

This is the big one. To rename a vessel whilst it is still in the water is considered to attract bad luck. Chances are if you are renaming it, you will probably be having it repainted and blacked. This could be an ideal time to change the name.

Hold a de-naming ceremony

This could actually quite a bit of fun. The aim is to remove all vestiges of the boats old name. If you want to be a stickler for the rules you must remove everything including logbooks, charts, records, photos, keepsakes… whatever they are… take them off the boat.

For the true believers painting over things isn’t enough. You need to remove them. If it takes sandpaper to appease the Gods, so be it.

Now it’s up to you how far you want to take this… Some insist on pouring alcohol onto the boat and begging for mercy from the gods. But if you don’t believe in such nonsense (we mean pouring good alcohol away) then we don’t blame you.

Hold an official boat launching ceremony.

This is the fun part, and is every reason to hold a party. You don’t have to splash it into the water with ribbons and confetti. But what you do have to do is enjoy the moment of making your boat truly yours. We can’t think of a better reason to celebrate! But in order to hold a ceremony you are going to have to think up a good name…

Choosing a good boat name

Just as with your firstborn child, choosing a good boat name is a deeply personal experience. We certainly aren’t going to tell you what to call it. No doubt you’ve seen funny ones, witty ones, touching ones and ones that are deeply inappropriate…

What’s the best we’ve seen?

Mmm? Our favourite would have to be “Unsinkable II”… (think about it).

Choosing a canal boat name

The advice we will give is pick one that is appropriate, you won’t embarrassed of, and will represent what you want the boat to remind you of.  Hellraiser, isn’t going to be particularly fitting for a few reasons. If that pulled up next to your berth whilst you were settling in for the night, what impression does it give you?

Ex loves or turbulent times aren’t that great either… The last thing you want to be doing is sanding another name off in 12 months times.

Don’t be a ‘Dave’…

Do you have a mate called Dave? Of course you do… Do you want your boat to be ‘Dave’? If not then you are going to have to be a little more creative. In case you thought you have had a brainwave, here are the 20 most popular canal boat names in 2020: –

1          Kingfisher

2          Dragonfly

3          Merlin

4          Willow

5          Phoenix

6          Serenity

7          Poppy

8          Sapphire

9          Free Spirit

10        Serendipity

11        Osprey

12        Blue Moon

13        Sandpiper

14        Heron

15        Puffin

16        Freedom

17        Misty

18        Rosie

19        Skylark

20        Daisy


Was your idea for a name that original after all, or are you just another Phoenix? 

Tell a story…

It can be a story personal to you or for all who see it. But what counts is that it has a bit of history. You and others are going to be seeing it day in, day out. So, make it mean something… Or if not think of a decent story behind it. ‘I just liked the name’ isn’t good enough… unless you want to call your boat ‘Dave’. 

Make it look the part. Painting your boat

It would be such a terrible shame to come up with a really great name and then ruin it with poor execution. For many the name of the boat is one of the most interesting things about it. You want it to shine and be noticed, for the right reasons.

How do you achieve this?

Get it professionally done, that’s how. There is an artisanal trade surrounding boat painting, we are talking gold lettering, bright colours, fine brushes and craftsmen.  You wouldn’t give yourself a tattoo, would you? Consider your boat’s name as something that is as equally lasting and permanent. If it is your pride and joy, treat it as such.

In summary

Let’s ask the question again? What’s in a name? Good boat names require quite a bit of thought, and perhaps ceremony if you are so inclined. Choosing a name for your boat can actually be quite fun, and maybe even a lasting memory of something… Ensure everything about your boat is the best it can be, including the name.

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