Renaming your yacht is an important decision, especially if your yacht will be in charter as it is a significant part of its brand and can draw or repel interest in chartering your boat.
Due to playing it safe to avoid bad luck, many boat owners are adamantly against renaming a boat. According to maritime legend, simply updating your boat’s name on the vessel and in your records could result in a curse leaving the owners and crew with a legacy of problems and perils. We, and other experienced seafarers, recommend you follow the proper renaming ceremony process of denaming the boat then naming anew as not to annoy the gods of sea and wind.
The bad luck mojo superstition for changing a boat’s name is attributed to the Romans and Greeks who believed the deities of the sea kept close watch on each boat on the ocean. When these revered gods perceived appreciation and gratitude from the captain and crew, they blessed the vessels with good sailing.
However, if the gods of the seas and wind felt discredited or ignored, they could annoy the sailors with trouble sometimes putting them in danger. So, the denaming and naming ceremonies are about avoiding the sea deities’ wrath to avert bad fortune for boat and crew.
Renaming a Boat
Since the superstition came from the ancient civilizations, it is no surprise that the time-honored ceremonies involved in renaming a boat are drawn from worship rituals lauded over the sea and wind divinities in those times.
Whether you choose a name for your private yacht that evokes a smile from family and friends that know you or you pick a yacht charter brand-worthy moniker to evoke the emotions that a sailing holiday brings, the first step is a denaming ceremony for the boat. The denaming ceremony below offers clear steps for the new boat owner to follow to appease the immortals to avoid invoking bad luck. Even if you are not convinced of the superstition, it is a great excuse to throw a grand party aboard your boat. So, why not?!
Boat Renaming Ceremony Preparation
Before you are ready for the denaming and subsequent re-naming ceremonies and for those who will witness and celebrate with you, there are important preparations:
Provision the Ceremony and Ensuing Party
Purchase or otherwise acquire the following:
- High quality, do not annoy the sea and wind gods with cheap libations
- Buy plenty to celebrate with
- Consider adding other wines and spirits and some delectable bites for your guests (optional, but mostly required for a sailor’s party)
- Metal tag with the old name written in water-soluble ink
- Ship’s bell
- Silver dollar or other enduring symbol of good luck
Remove the Old Name
This is likely the most time-consuming part of the process, but the most important. According to ancient lore, boats’ names are preserved in a registry in the ocean’s deepest depth governed by the sea god, Neptune (Roman name) also known as Poseidon (Greek name). To ensure the boat’s old name is unregistered by these powerful deities, the owner/captain must:
- Avoid bringing the new name aboard until all traces of the old name are removed and the naming ceremony is completed.
- Peel or scrape off the old name everywhere it is displayed. Tips for removing boat names.
- Examine inside and out for the old name including life rings, boat key rings, coffee mugs, wine glasses, towels and linens, trophies and plaques, etc. and remove the items or the name from the items completely.
- Refinish the hull or other areas such as on life rings where the old name appeared
- Remove every document (formal and informal) that bears the old boat name
With the old name completely removed from the boat except for the metal tag with the old name written on it in dissolvable ink that will be used in the de-naming ceremony, it is time to properly expunge the old name from the deep-ocean ledgers of Neptune also known as Poseidon.
With fellow celebrants gathered (if desired) and the old boat name eliminated fully except for a small metal tag with the old name written in non-permanent ink, begin the denaming ceremony. Note you can complete the purging ceremony before the party or make it a part of the renaming festivities as there is no specific time in between denaming and the naming/christening.
Here is an alternative and popular boat denaming ceremony with commentary by its author, John Vigor.
Invoking the Gods and Expressing Gratitude
Signal the ceremony’s start by ringing the ship’s bell which has the added benefit of getting the attention of your guests who surely have already begun sampling the god-worthy wines. To invoke the gods of the wind and sea speak:
In the name of all who have sailed aboard this vessel, we invoke the ancient gods of wind, Aeolus, and the sea, Neptune, also hailed as Poseidon, to favor us with their blessings today.
In your own words, express your gratitude to Neptune as well as the wind gods acknowledging that they are the omniscient deities of all that moves upon the waters and guardians of the winds.
Request Expungement of the Old Name
The new owner(s) and/or crew standing on the bow to beseech the gods by speaking:
Oh, mighty and great ruler of the waters, to whom all vessels and we who venture upon your vast domain are required to pay homage, implore you, in your graciousness, to expunge for all time from your records and recollection the name, (the boat’s old name) which has ceased to be an entity in your kingdom.
Next you release the metal tag with the old name written on it into the sea saying:
As proof, thereof, we submit this ingot bearing her name to be corrupted through your powers and forever be purged from the sea. We ask the name be struck and removed from your archives.
End de-naming by offering a libation to the gods saying:
In grateful acknowledgment of your generosity, magananimity, and permission, we offer these libations.
An owner or a crewmember must pour at least half of the bottle of champagne into the sea from East to West. The remainder may be passed among the guests or open an extra bottle or two for them.
Boat Naming / Re-Naming Ceremony
With the old name removed and the boat’s soul cleansed, it is time to rename the vessel requesting the gods accept the new boat name as a sign of good favor and to bless the vessel while sailing. The ceremony will end with a re-naming christening in which you place a symbol of good luck (usually a silver dollar) on the boat with a pledge to watch over it will end the ceremony.
Begin the boat re-naming ceremony by entreating Neptune (Poseidon) again to rededicate the vessel.
Oh, mighty and great ruler of the seas, to whom all ships and we who venture upon your vast domain are required to pay homage, implore you in your graciousness to take unto your records and recollection this worthy vessel hereafter and for all time known as (boat’s new name), guarding her with your mighty arm and trident and ensuring her of safe and rapid passage throughout her journeys within your realm.
Then offer a libation as a sign of commencement of a new agreement with the gods of the oceans.
Appeasing and Honoring the Gods of the Winds
To seek favor from the gods of the winds for the newly-named boat, invoke the four winds that are brothers by calling their names individually. Standing on the bow, the new owner or crew speaks:
Oh, mighty rulers of the winds, through whose power our frail vessels traverse the wild and faceless deep, we implore you to grant this worthy vessel (boat’s new name) the benefits and pleasures of your bounty, ensuring us of your gentle ministration according to our needs.
Facing North, crews pour a generous portion of champagne into a champagne flute a libation then fling the libation to the North while uttering:
Great Boreas, exalted ruler of the North Wind, grant us permission to use your mighty powers in the pursuit of our lawful endeavors, ever sparing us the overwhelming scourge of your frigid breath.
Facing West, refill the flute then fling its contents to the West while the crew saying:
Great Zephyrus, exalted ruler of the West Wind, grant us permission to use your mighty powers in the pursuit of our lawful endeavors, ever sparing us the overwhelming scourge of your wild breath.
Facing East, repeat pouring and flinging champagne to the East, stating:
Great Eurus, exalted ruler of the East Wind, grant us permission to use your mighty powers in the pursuit of our lawful endeavors, ever sparing us the overwhelming scourge of your mighty breath.
Facing South, repeat pouring and flinging champagne to the South, saying:
Great Notus, exalted ruler of the South Wind, grant us permission to use your mighty powers in the pursuit of our lawful endeavors, ever sparing us the overwhelming scourge of your scalding breath.
Complete the requests of acknowledgement of the new name and to receive blessings by calling out to both Aeolus and Neptune (Poseidon), asking for their aid and power to bless the ship and its sailors.
Christening for Renaming a Boat
During the boat renaming ceremony, the christening is an opportunity to station a symbol of good fortune aboard and to toast to the new captain and captain. Unlike a christening for a new boat receiving its initial name, it is not necessary to crack a bottle of champagne on the hull.
Though optional, begin the christening with a song as a serenade. Next, ‘re-name’ the ship again recording the date and name.
Then offer toasts to captain, the first mate, and the new name.
Then place a silver dollar or chosen symbol of good luck under the mast or in another safe location, saying:
We place a silver dollar (or other object) under the mast as a good luck charm, and as a symbol of generosity to this vessel, to show her that we will care for her and attend to her every need and desire.
Take care to place the token where it cannot be lost or stolen as this is an important symbol of good luck for the boat.
End the de-naming and re-naming ceremony by toasting all the guests who participated.
Clink! Let the Party Begin
The gods appreciate a good party in their honor, who doesn’t? So fill all glasses, put out a delicious feast, turn up the wireless marine speakers, and enjoy!
Oh, and now the new name can be brought aboard.