Naming a baby is one of life's most solemn duties. When naming a boat, on the other hand, people can indulge their wildest, cutest or corniest whims. Often, they do.

Here's what I found and surmised on a tour of the docks and seas around Ocean City, New Jersey. The first category of boat names is Elegant Nautical, such as "Conquest," "High Seas" and "Sting Ray." These unexciting names often embellish the largest, most elaborate yachts. Big boats call for big names and vice-versa. Their owners are the subtle rich. They probably drive substantial gray sedans, work in finance, and paid cash while writing off the boat as a business expense.

Like people, boats with Roman numerals after their names have more prestige. (It's an unwritten law that when a boat is replaced, it's always with a bigger one.) The ultimate is a huge boat, such as "Twin Dolphin III," which is anchored next to a smaller version, "Twin Dolphin Jr.," presumably for the little dolphins in the family.

At the other end of the scale are those who go for humor by putting a big name on a small boat. Spotted rowing or putting along were "Mother Superior," "Queen Mary" and "Tuff Ship." Itsy-bitsy rowboats that poke fun at themselves included "Kid Vicious," "Better Than Nothin' " and "At Last!" (Colloquial words and spellings abound in all but the Elegant Nautical category.)

Some names tell what the captain hopes to get out of his boat. "Librium," "No Worrys," "Enjoy," "Happy Ours," "Tranquilizer," and "Our Dream" are in the Wishful Thinking, or Sedative group. I'll bet the owners have Type A behavior: Anyone who is trying this hard to relax, probably can't. These boats are always docked because the captain is expecting an important call.

For sentimental reasons, or because someone expects it, many boats are named after a loved one, usually a wife or daughter. I'm suspicious of these Lovey Dovey names. Those who flaunt their love must be hiding something.

Next is the Lovey-Dovey-with-Hyphens group. They love so many people, they can't chose just one. Therefore, they combine the names with hyphens to tedious and often cacaphonous conclusions. Pity the poor owner of "Sand-Bar-Su-Lu."

What a balancing act he's got going. "Wood-Ju-Pat" is a cute execution of human names. It might mean Mr. Wood has a wife, June, and daughter, Pat, or perhaps he's asking his son, Patrick, to please wash down the boat and remove the empty beer cans and leftover bait after he's used it. Or, maybe it's an invitation to his one-and-only, Patricia?

The Cutesy category also includes "Leaky Teaky," "Playin' Hooky," "School's Out," "Ding a Ling," "Mo No Go," "Men's Room" and "Harrumph." Many of these names extol the virtues of goofing off and thumbing one's nose at the pompous.

The Fishing category includes "Hot Tuna," "The Happy Hooker," "Hook Line and Sinker" and "Weketchum IV." You always know when you're approaching fishermen's boats, for you can hear the ship-to- shore radio blasting banter or weather. These owners are the rich men's CBers and use jargon that would put truckers to shame with its imaginative terms. They wear windbreakers and funny hats. To catch them in port, you must come by early or late, because real fishermen fish all day. When in port, they are always working on the boats, housing them down, or puttering around.

The Booze names speak for themselves, "Sip of Scotch," "On the Rocks," and "Bottoms Up." These owners like to cruise slowly up and down the shore during the cocktail hour. Boating is a social event. They wear blue blazers and sundresses and wave a lot.

Play on Words includes "Nauti-Gal," "Miss Chief," "Miss Demeanor" and "Fantasea."

Macho names, like "Silver Thunder," appear on speedboats with hulls that look like they fell in a jar of glitter. These long low boats seat only two people; the one at the wheel guns his engines while adopting threatening stances and glances. He is always shirtless and has silvered sunglasses, with a girl in a bikini at his side. He can hardly restrain all that power and hopes you'll notice.

Names in the Biographical category tell something about the owner: "Dancin' Doc," "Flyin' Doc," "Wuz Fuz" (a former F.B.I. agent), "Lucky Irishman," "Rich Guy," "For Pete's Sake," "Bub's Tub," "Four Sons" and "O Daddy."

One boat owner summed up what you'll say when you enjoy a similar day of boat- watching. Perhaps in desperation, he called his craft, "That's A Good Name."