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Naming a Boat? Learn the History Behind the Boat Christening Ceremony

by Leanne Arnold on February 22, 2014  in Category_Vehicle GraphicsCategory_Vinyl Lettering

When you’re searching for your first perfect boat, you are probably considering the boat’s shape and lines, but you’re probably not considering her name. However, the true mariners know changing a boat’s name is terribly unlucky, destining your boat to an early demise. Does that mean that you are stuck with whatever name your new boat came with? Well, fortunately for you, seafarers know the proper ceremonies that will allow you to rename your boat while keeping your days on the sea lucky.

The History of Boat Names

Seafaring is almost as old as civilization itself, and although the origins of the first ocean travel are unknown, boats and sailing became integral parts to travel and trade in ancient civilization. And with the unpredictable weather and raging strength of the open seas, these ancient mariners were strongly religious and superstitious people, trusting in a greater power to protect them while out at sea.

Even today, sailors respect the untamable power of the ocean and keep the traditions alive. The importance of a boat’s name has to do with the gods known to rule the sea.

In Roman mythology, Neptune is the god of the sea, and in Greek mythology, it is Poseidon who rules the oceans, living in a palace at the bottom of its depths. As legend has it, Poseidon, or Neptune, has a ledger in which every boat’s name is written, and he watches over each one of them. This is where the unluckiness of changing your boat’s name originates. If you change your boats name, Poseidon and Neptune will not know it and therefore won’t protect it. Renaming your boat is a tricky activity that must be done carefully.


Renaming Your Boat

There are several different methods for renaming your boat; however, some will be more acceptable in a public place than others. Some methods include stripping naked and others suggest having a virgin urinate on your boat’s hull. However, the most common ceremony involves a party with large amounts of alcohol.

The first step in any renaming procedure is to remove the evidence of the boat’s old name. The name must be scratch out of every log and ledger. Flotation devices and key chains must be destroyed and the name removed from the hull. If the previous owner used a vinyl decal, you can use some goo-gone to remove it. Be thorough in your cleansing because if you miss even one item bearing your boat’s old name, Poseidon’s records will remain unchanged. Once the name has been removed, it must never be spoken in the presence of your boat. The second step is to hold a renaming ceremony.

This can be a very fun and social event, so invite your close friends and family, preferably those who are also seafarers, and then buy food and lots of liquid spirits, rum, wine, and most preferably champagne. The amount you’ll need varies on the size of your party, but you will need at least three bottles for use in the ceremony.

Remember that you cannot speak or show any signs of the new name until this ceremony, so if you must have the name applied to the hull before the ceremony, make sure to cover it until after. Bring your party aboard your ship and begin the party. At some point, gather their attention by ringing a bell. This is the time where you will make an appeal to Poseidon or Neptune to recognize your boat and protect it. Of course, being generous is considered more likely to bring your good luck.

There are litanies that you can say, but a heartfelt appeal is considered sufficient. To ensure that the gods hear your plea, you must make an offering to them. To do so, you should spill champagne over the side of the boat, down the hull, and in the water. You want both the god of the sea and your boat to share in the offering.

Of course, being generous is considered more likely to bring your good luck. There are litanies that you can say, but a heartfelt appeal is considered sufficient. After you have spilled the champagne for the god of the sea, you must then repeat the process for the god of the wind, asking his blessing on your boat’s travels as well. Repeat the process, but this time, pour wine over the boat in all four directions of the wind, north, east, south, and west.

Finally, reveal the name of the new boat to all those gathered and drink to its good fortune. Mariners are known for their generosity with alcohol and this is not the moment to be stingy, so celebrate freely and enjoy the knowledge that your boat is safely renamed and that good luck and good sailing will follow.