What is the Procedure for Changing a Boat Name?

If you live and own a vessel bought in the UK then you are wise to register it. If you intend to use it on inland waterways you’ll need to register it to avoid a stiff fine and in order to do that you need to supply an insurance certificate and a Boat Safety Scheme Certificate.

How to Register a Boat in the UK

If you are keeping your vessel at sea and it’s under 24 metres LOA, then you should consider registering under Part III (the Small Ships Register). 

To be eligible:

  • your boat must be less than 24 metres long
  • you must be a private individual (not a company)
  • you must live in the UK for at least 185 days of the year
  • your boat must have a name

It costs £25 to register for five years.

Alternatively, if you wish to register under Part I of the register, this will cost you £124 for five years. 

You may wish to do this if you want to;

  • prove you own the boat
  • prove your boat’s nationality
  • use the boat as security for a marine mortgage
  • register a pleasure vessel 
  • get ‘transcripts of registry’, which show the boat’s previous owners and whether there are any outstanding mortgages

Your boat must have a unique name to be registered.

When changing a boat’s name registered in the UK. You will need to update the registry by completing a bill of sale if you are selling a boat or apply to change the name if not. 

Notify insurers and all statutory bodies, including issuers of harbour permits, radio licenses, etc. You should also update your boat’s papers (with particular reference to the paperwork relating to VAT), electronic devices (especially AIS, DSC Radio sets and EPIRBs, etc) and safety equipment such as horseshoe buoys and danbuoys.

On the less formal side of things, there is the unwritten law of the sea - for those that admit to some level of superstition - and don’t we all sometimes - especially in a blow!  

It is said that to change a boat’s name is terribly bad luck and most of us can cite an example to back up that claim. You may just feel unable to live with a particularly cringe-worthy name and for those delicate flowers amongst you, there is a way to redemption!

For those that always walk around ladders when ashore, here is a basic summary for you to follow;

  • Remove all traces of the old name. Obviously, only do this once you have formally changed the registration but do not bring anything on board with the new name until this is done (see also purging ceremony below).
  • Perform a ritual ceremony! See below.
  • Offer a sacrifice - champagne is the norm but a tot of rum might suffice (preferably not the skippers)
  • Attach the new name as soon as possible

The following has been unearthed by those at www.boatsafe.com and may be of some use to you.

Neptune’s purging Ceremony

Oh mighty and great ruler of the seas and oceans, to whom all ships and we who venture upon your vast domain are required to pay homage, implore you in your graciousness to expunge for all time from your records and recollection the name (here insert the old name of your vessel) which has ceased to be an entity in your kingdom. 

As proof thereof, we submit this ingot bearing her name to be corrupted through your powers and forever be purged from the sea. (At this point, the prepared metal tag is dropped from the bow of the boat into the sea.)

In grateful acknowledgment of your munificence and dispensation, we offer these libations to your majesty and your court. (Pour at least half of the bottle of Champagne into the sea from East to West. The remainder may be passed among your guests.

Neptune’s renaming Ceremony

Oh mighty rulers of the winds, through whose power our frail vessels traverse the wild and faceless deep, we implore you to grant this worthy vessel (Insert your boat’s new name) the benefits and pleasures of your bounty, ensuring us of your gentle ministration according to our needs.(Facing north, pour a generous libation of Champagne into a Champagne flute and fling to the North as you intone:) Great Boreas, exalted ruler of the North Wind, grant us permission to use your mighty powers in the pursuit of our lawful endeavors, ever sparing us the overwhelming scourge of your frigid breath.(Facing west, pour the same amount of Champagne and fling to the West while intoning:)  Great Zephyrus, exalted ruler of the West Wind, grant us permission to use your mighty powers in the pursuit of our lawful endeavors, ever sparing us the overwhelming scourge of your wild breath.(Facing east, repeat and fling to the East.) Great Eurus, exalted ruler of the East Wind, grant us permission to use your mighty powers in the pursuit of our lawful endeavors, ever sparing us the overwhelming scourge of your mighty breath.

(Facing south, repeat, flinging to the South.) Great Notus, exalted ruler of the South Wind, grant us permission to use your mighty powers in the pursuit of our lawful endeavors, ever sparing us the overwhelming scourge of your scalding breath.

If you do this in full view of an amazed public I for one will be very impressed, although I suggest you slip lines quickly to avoid detention by Her Majesty’s Constabulary. 

Of course, when at sea Neptune rules, especially when in a storm (or a stiff Force 6 with the mother-in-law on board) but once in coastal waters Her Majesty’s other agency of choice, The Customs and Excise, hold more sway, so make sure any changes are properly recorded if you don’t want your vessel impounded for non-payment of VAT at some point in the future.

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