The Reasons and Right Ways to De-Name Your Boat

People change boat names for all sorts of reasons. Which is all fine and good as long as you do it the right way. For those of you newish to sailing, changing a vessel’s name the proper way involves a fair amount of attention to form and tradition. Call us naive; call us superstitious — but please don’t just paint over the old name and stick a new one on and think everything is OK. The powers that be disdain such impropriety.

In the preparation for the September issue’s Changes, we became aware of two boat names that had been changed. Beth and Damien Campbell’s Catana 431 cat Brizo used to be Sweet and Salty. And Michael and Cybele Thirkill’s Golden Wave 42, originally named Quest, has become Birdsong. Being naturally inquisitive — OK, nosy and occasionally abrasive — we asked what prompted these name changes.

Beth and Damien told a familiar tale: “We wanted a shorter name that’s easier to use on the radio,” she said. After a long search and lots of deliberation, they found Brizo — an ancient Greek goddess/protector of mariners — and “We knew it was the right fit immediately.”

Michael Thirkill had a slightly longer explanation for Birdsong

“Great question! I’d learned to sail as a kid. My dad had a small sailboat and we sailed it to Catalina in the summers and around Long Beach harbor. I’d always wanted to cruise but life, college, marriage, kids and a career conspired to prevent that from happening.

Michael and Cybele of the renamed Birdsong at the start of the 2014 Baja Ha-Ha.
© 2019 Latitude 38 Media LLC /

“I had been researching cruising sailboats for a few years when I became a widowed, single dad in 2003. I decided it was time for a long voyage with my two boys, so with that in mind, I bought Quest, a Golden Wave 42, after finding her on the City Yachts dock at the San Francisco Marina. At the time, the name was perfect; I was on a ‘quest’ to live a new life as a voyaging single dad. Not surprisingly, my boys didn’t think much of my idea to sail away on a quest on Quest, so we compromised. I sailed her to Brookings with a couple buddies and kept her there for a few seasons. There’s not much to do on the Oregon Coast, so a friend and my oldest son sailed her back to San Francisco Bay, where we used her as a second home, exploring various marinas on long weekends, and ‘voyaging’ as far as Half Moon Bay. Our time on Quest was, shall we say, utterly adequate. I spent one spring break replacing the head, and that didn’t feel like much of a quest. But it was adequate.

“One warm summer evening, my youngest son’s piano teacher, Cybele Abbett, called. She said he had told her about our time sailing. She’d always wanted to learn to sail and she wondered if I knew anyone who could teach her. Tomorrow is the 11th anniversary of our second day of sailing; we married last October.

“In the interim, we sailed south on the Baja Ha-Ha in 2014 and during our time in Mexico, the name Quest became irrelevant. Neither of us was on a quest. We were happy together and in love and living a life we had created together, cruising a beautiful sailboat in Mexico. The old name represented a different time, a different place, a different mindset. It was the past, and we were looking to the future. We began casting about for a new name.

“One morning at anchor I was in the cockpit listening to the Grateful Dead and Eyes of the World, with Branford Marsalis on soprano sax, came up. It was so beautiful that Cybele popped up in the companionway and said, “Hey, how about Eyes of the World?” I loved the idea. We love travel and we can’t wait for new destinations and vistas. Eyes of the World. But after rolling it around a bit, we decided it was a bit of a mouthful to say on the radio. A few days later, we heard a boat hail, “Eyes of the World, Eyes of the World, this is Distant Drum.” Given there was already an Eyes of the World, and it was a mouthful on the radio, we kept casting. During the same concert, Bird Song came up, a lovely eulogy to Janis Joplin. Cybele and I are both musicians, so the Hunter/Garcia tribute to Janis was particularly sweet. We are birders, too, and much of our time is spent watching birds, listening for birds and identifying birds. At some juncture, that all came together. Birdsong it was.”

In these two cases, we’ve been assured that the proper incantations were made, along with suitable offerings to the correct deities of the deep. We wish these boats and all who sail upon them the fairest winds and safest passages.

For those of you contemplating this major life change but not really knowing how to do it properly, fear not — Latitude has your six. Under on our homepage at www.latitude38.com, go down to Resources, then Additional Historical Editorial. About halfway down that list, you will find The De-Naming Ceremony, written by John Vigor and published periodically over the years by us. We consider it the preeminent guide to this most mysterious and profound of seagoing traditions.

If you have a renaming story, please let us know by writing here, or commenting below.

And, as long as we’re on the subject, here’s what the internet has to say about renaming a boat:

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