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What’s in a Name? The History of Naming Boats

Would a rose by any other name smell as sweet? When it comes to boats, maybe not. Historically, naming boats and other seafaring vessels had very practical purposes. Ensuring you were boarding the correct boat was only one of them. If a boat had its own unique name, passengers and crew would know they were discussing the same voyage.

In today’s world, a traveler might most likely tell a friend, “I’m leaving LAX for Kona on Hawaiian Airlines, flight 96.” However, in the days when long distance travel required boarding a vessel, one would say, “I’m setting sail tomorrow on Mayflower.” There’s only one Mayflower and everyone knew where to find it.

Visitors to Kailua-Kona can gaze out over Kailua Bay, and recognize our 65 foot long catamaran, The Kanoa II. Kanoa means ‘wild and free,’ a perfect name for exuding the spirit of Aloha and the feeling of freedom one feels while sipping a mai tai and feeling the wind in their hair.

While it’s no longer logistically prudent to give boats names, sea captains still enjoy naming their vessels. Most boats are usually given female names, or names of endearing quality and pride. For example, it would be unusual to see a boat named “The Greg.” Boats are beautiful and graceful, calling for a name of the same qualities.

Historically, boat crews were traditionally male. Captains knew the importance of creating an emotional bond between his ship and his crew, and giving it a lovely feminine name helped instill those feelings of connection.

Here are few famous sea faring vessels and their corresponding names…

The Bounty


Queen Anne’s Revenge

The Santa Maria

The Nina

The Endeavour

Next time you’re visiting a boar harbor, peruse the boats and take note of the interesting names. If you see the captain near-by, ask him or her the story of how their boat got their name. They’re usually more than happy to share stories of their pride and joy.

All aboard!!

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