From There to Here - Denaming a Boat

This is a re-post with a couple of tweaks from back in October 2013, but it's most appropriate for our current From There to Here series and thought you might enjoy it again ... assuming you even remembered it from nearly four years ago!

The Viking way of renaming a boat

The Viking way of renaming a boat

Renaming a boat is not an easy proposition. Remember, the Nine of Cups crew has always been a bit superstitious. Risking the wrath of Neptune is a serious matter, especially when we were newbies. Actually, there are lots of superstitions associated with renaming a boat that are well-documented. This took serious research and study. We only planned to do it once and we had to get it right. The Vikings believed that burning the boat to the waterline was the only way to prevent bad luck when renaming a boat. We did not consider this an option, so we looked for alternatives.

First, we asked around the marina. “Just pick out a new name, paint it on the transom and change the paperwork”, someone said. “What's the big deal?” Obviously, not a response from a real sailor.

Neptune has a temper!

Neptune has a temper!

What we didn't realize initially was that renaming was a two-step process. It was necessary to “de-name” the boat before renaming her. This is where we think most folks get fouled up. Neptune knows every boat in his kingdom. He thinks there's a particular boat with a particular name out there and then the owners, unaware of the rules, go ahead and change the name without expunging the original name and then arbitrarily renaming it without attention to protocol or proper homage to Neptune ... well, all hell breaks loose. You've got a non-Neptune-registered boat on Neptune's sea. You can see how this could cause a problem. We hoped to avoid the problems, so we moved ahead slowly.

First, the denaming ...

We painstakingly removed every vestige of the old boat name from the boat. This process included removing the name painted on the transom, the name off every sales order, receipt and maintenance record (white-out is allowed), blacking out the name stamped inside every book aboard. Everything … except one piece of paper. We were very thorough. The old boat name? We never mentioned it aboard again. It was, from that day forward, cleansed from memory. Until the denaming was complete, nothing with the new name could be brought aboard. It was a tough couple of days as we prepared for the big ceremony.

We scheduled the denaming and renaming for the same afternoon in two separate ceremonies and invited everyone on the dock to attend. We put up announcement posters on the marina bulletin board and made up special invitations for folks we knew. Even David's Mom flew down from Denver for the occasion. Champagne was promised, so we anticipated a good attendance.

We concocted a ceremony trying to keep everything we had learned in mind. We used formal, respectful, nautical talk. We were, after all, talking to sea gods. The denaming ceremony verbiage went like this:

“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 the wind and the sea to favor us this day with their blessing.

Mighty Neptune, king of all that moves on the waves and mighty Aeolus, guardian of the winds and all that blows before them: we humbly give you 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 ask 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 accorded once again the self-same privileges she previously enjoyed. This we humbly request.”

David and the rabbit's foot wrapped with the hair of red-haired virgin.

David and the rabbit's foot wrapped with the hair of red-haired virgin.

David then held up the last vestige of the old name which was written on an old ship’s document. A rabbit’s foot had been tied with a lock of hair from a red-headed virgin. (This was a tough one, but our friend, Dave, sent us a lock of his daughter, Katie's hair. She was a 7-year old red-head, so we thought we were safe.) The rabbit’s foot was rubbed over the paper and the paper was burned. Both the rabbit’s foot and the ashes from the paper were thrown over his left shoulder into the sea and washed away with half a bottle of champagne. The vessel was denamed.

Stay tuned for the renaming ceremony tomorrow.

Forgive the photos. They're 17 years old taken with one of the first digital cameras we ever owned. I did not take the photos of Neptune nor the burning Viking boat.