How to Change Your Boat’s Name June 8, 2020

Let’s say you found the perfect vessel for your needs and bought one from a local marine dealer.

But your new boat carries a name you don’t like. Perhaps she’s got the same name as your ex-wife and you’ve got thousands, if not millions, of reasons why that will never be okay!

Changing the name of a sea-going vessel awakens one of the oldest and most persistent superstitions of mankind’s marine tradition: it’s bad luck to change the name of a boat.

You can pooh-pooh this superstition as just a bunch of old wives’ tales, hocus-pocus ancient Greek nonsense or, as Mister Spock of the Starship Enterprise would say, illogical.  But mariners will point to a long list of vessels that changed their names and went down to disaster later.

We’re agnostic as to the truth behind the superstition, but it is true that almost every marine culture in recorded history has some kind of ceremonial structure in place to handle the changing of a vessel’s name. You can ignore it all if you choose, but why tempt the fates?

You can Google “Changing a Boat’s Name” to get all kinds of advice and information on how to perform a ship’s name change ceremony. But they all have the same basic steps.

  1. Remove all traces of the old name.  Not only from the transom on the stern or any other place on the hull, but the old name must be excised from life jackets, preserver rings, key rings, ship’s logs and papers … everywhere.
  2. Give the name back to Poseidon.  Write the old name down on a metal tag and, after invoking the name of the gods Poseidon or Neptune (Greek and Roman gods of the sea) who keep the Ledger of Ships’ Names in the deep, toss the metal tag overboard, returning the old name to the god of the sea.
  3. Ask for the god’s blessings.  There are prayers to be lifted to Poseidon and to the gods of the four winds, and appropriate sacrificial libations and offerings to be poured over the side. Champagne, rum or wine is recommended. You can find the language online.
  4. Bring the new name onboard. Only after the purging ceremony has been completed is it safe to bring the new name to the vessel. 

These ceremonies have been around for millennia. In France, by tradition boat name changes can only occur on August 15, and there is usually participation by a local priest involved. Of course, many cultures used to believe having a woman on board was always bad luck, as was departing on a trip on a Friday, but hopefully Poseidon and Neptune have changed their views on that.

And, of course, our other “Gods,” also known as the government, also has some rules and regulations regarding name changes. For those, our sales reps can help you fill out the proper forms with the right names in the right boxes, and no champagne is required!

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