I once met a man in Florida who
told me he'd owned 24 different yachts and renamed every single
one of them.
"Did it bring you bad luck?" I asked.
"Not that I'm aware of," he said. "You don't believe
in those old superstitions, do you?'
"Well, yes," I said. "As a matter of fact, I do.
And so do a lot of other sailors who wouldn't consciously do
anything to annoy the ancient gods of wind and sea. Out there,
you need all the help you can get."
Actually, I've come to the conclusion that it's not so much being
superstitious as being careful. It's part of good seamanship.
That's why I had to invent a 'de-naming' ceremony some years
ago to ward off bad luck when I wanted to change the name of
my new 31-ft sloop from 'Our Way' to 'Freelance'.
I needed a formal ceremony to
wipe the slate clean in preparation for the renaming. I searched
in vain for one. But research showed that such a ceremony would
consist of five parts: an invocation, an expression of gratitiude,
a supplication, a rededication and a libation.
So I sat down and wrote my own
ceremony. It worked perfectly. 'Freelance' carried us thousands
of deep-sea miles and enjoyed good luck all the way.
The ceremony should be read with
flair on the foredeck before a gathering of distinguished guests.
Or it can be mumbled down below by the skipper alone if he or
she finds these things embarassing.
The libation part, however, must
be carried out at the bow, as was the original naming ceremony.
And I would advise you to use nothing but the finest champagne
and to pour it all on the boat. One thing the gods of the sea
despise most is meanness, so don't try to do this part on the
How much time should you leave
between the de-naming ceremony and the new-naming ceremony? There's
no fixed limit. You can do the renaming right after the de-naming,
if you want. But I'd prefer to see a gap of at least 24 hours
to allow the demons time to clear out.
Oh, and one other thing - you have to remove all physical traces
of the boat's old name before the de-naming ceremony. There may
be official papers with the old name on them, of course. If you
can't destroy them you should at least keep them well out of
sight in a locker during the ceremony. But don't neglect to wipe
the name out in obvious place - bow, stern, dinghy, oars, logbook,
lifering, charts and so on. Likewise, do not lace the new name
anywhere on the boat before the de-naming ceremony is carried
out. Hoo-boy, that would be tempting fate.
"In the name of all who have sailed aboard this vessel in
the past, and all who may sail aboard her in the future, we invoke
the ancient gods of wind and sea to favor us with their blessing
"Mighty Neptune, king of all that moves on the waves, and
might Aeolus, guardian of the winds and all that blows before
them: we offer you our thanks for the protection you have afforded
this vessel in the past. We voice our gratitude that she has
always found shelter from tempest and storm and enjoyed safe
passage to port.
"Now, therefore, we submit this supplication, that the name
whereby this vessel has hitherto been known, '_________', be
struck and removed from your records. Further, we ask that when
she is again presented for blessing with another name, she shall
be recognized and shall be accorded once again the self-same
priveleges she previously enjoyed.
"In return for this, we rededicate this vessel to thy domain
in full knowledge that she shall be subject to the immutable
laws of the gods of wind and sea.
"In consequence whereof, and in good faith, we seal this
pact with a libation offered according to the hallowed ritual
of the sea.
Now pop the cork, shake the bottle and spray the whole of the
content over the bow. Then go quietly below and enjoy the other
- John Vigor