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 gratitude, 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 embarrassing.
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 cheap.
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 today.
“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 privileges 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 bottle yourselves.
© 1997 Latitude 38