Great news! You found a boat you’re in love with, and because she’s a brokerage buy, she suits your budget just as much as your lifestyle. Bad news: She bears the name of her former owner’s wife, and there’s just no way that Princess Prudence is going to fly with your family. Even more bad news: You can’t simply order new graphics to cover the transom, unless you want to bring all sorts of bad luck upon yourself.
Ask any seasoned boater, and he or she will tell you renaming a boat without following time-honored traditions can incur the wrath of Poseidon, the god of the sea. Poseidon has the name of every (and we do mean every) vessel ever launched recorded in the Ledger of the Deep. Therefore, if you want the boat to carry a new name, you need to purge it not just from the ledger, but also from Poseidon’s mind. Here’s how to ensure renaming a boat succeeds.
How to Rename a Boat
- Remove all traces of the current name.
- Begin the purging ceremony.
- Begin the renaming ceremony.
- Appease the four wind gods.
- If you have champagne left, indulge in honor of completing the ceremony.
1. Remove all traces of the current name.
Start by taking any and every item bearing the boat’s name off the boat. This means documents, decor items, nameboards, and even life rings. Then, strike the name from every record, ranging from log books to maintenance documents. Some people recommend burning them, to ensure you obliterate the name, but white-out fluid does the trick just as well. Finally, after you’ve checked and re-checked that you’ve completed these steps, write the old name in water-soluble ink on a metal tag. Do not, under any circumstances, take even one item with the new name onboard yet! In fact, you can’t do this until you’ve completed all of the tasks outlined below.
2. Begin the purging ceremony.
The official ceremony, in which you address Poseidon himself, calls for good champagne, and good friends as witnesses. Once you’re gathered together on the bow of the boat, recite the following:
Oh mighty and great ruler of the seas and oceans, to whom all ships and we who venture upon your vast domain are required to pay homage, I implore you in your graciousness to expunge for all time from your records and recollection the name (mention the old boat name), which has ceased to be an entity in your kingdom. As proof thereof, we submit this ingot bearing her name, to be corrupted through your powers and forever be purged from the sea.
At this point, drop the metal tag over the bow into the water. Then say:
In grateful acknowledgement of your munificence and dispensation, we offer these libations to your majesty and your court.
Pour at least half the champagne into the water, from east to west. Share the rest among yourselves.
3. Begin the renaming ceremony.
Speak to Poseidon once again:
Oh mighty and great ruler of the seas and oceans, to whom all ships and we who venture upon your vast domain are required to pay homage, I implore you in your graciousness to take unto your records and recollection this worthy vessel hereafter and for all time known as (say the name you’ve selected), guarding her with your mighty arm and trident and ensuring her of safe and rapid passage throughout her journeys within your realm.
In appreciation of your munificence, dispensation, and in honor of your greatness, we offer these libations to your majesty and your court.
Make sure you have more champagne on hand, because you’ll need to pour it, minus one glass for you and one for the mate, into the water, this time from west to east.
4. Appease the four wind gods.
Renaming a boat also involves asking for fair winds and calm seas for your pending voyages. Recite:
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 (say your boat’s new name) the benefits and pleasures of your bounty, ensuring us of your gentle ministration according to our needs.
Next, address each wind god individually. In facing north, pour champagne into a champagne flute and toss the libation to the north as you say:
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.
Next face west, repeating the champagne pour and toss while 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.
Face east, repeating the champagne pour and toss while saying:
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.
Lastly, face south, pouring the champagne and tossing it while reciting:
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.
5. Finish Off the Champagne
If you have any champagne left, indulge in honor of completing the ceremony.
Now, at long last, you can take your first item bearing the new name onto your boat. Hopefully you haven’t had the transom graphics changed yet. If scheduling issues prevented waiting until after the renaming ceremony, though, keep the new name covered until you finish all the steps.
Yes, this is incredibly detailed, and incredibly superstitious. But would you rather tempt fate?
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Editor's Note: This article was originally published in May 2017 and updated in January 2020.