Renaming a boat is not something you should do lightly, for as long as we can remember sailors have thought the most unluckiest ships of all are those who have ‘defied the gods’ and changed their names. 

 

There are lots of superstitions and traditions associated with sailing and the sea - changing the name of a boat is one of the most well known, but what do you do if you acquire a new boat you love but just can’t stand the name?

 

If you absolutely must change the name of your boat, tradition states there is a specific way to do so to prevent bad luck and not incur the wrath of those deities that rule the elements. 

 

A ‘Purging and Renaming Ceremony’ must be completed before the name is revealed or anything showing the new name enters the boat. 

 

According to legend, every boat has its name recorded in the ‘Ledger of the Deep’. It is believed the name of each vessel is personally known by Poseidon, the Greek god of the sea, or Neptune, the Roman god of the sea. 

 

In order to change the name of your boat, you must remove the name from the Ledger of the Deep or from the memory of Poseidon or Neptune.

 

Purging Ceremony

Before the Purging Ceremony can take place, the owner must cleanse the boat of its former name - all traces of the boat’s old name must be removed from the boat. This includes log books, engine and maintenance records or any other documents with the boat's former name on it.

Once the name is completely removed from the boat, it’s time to start the Purging Ceremony. The first part is preparation - the old name of the boat must be written on a metal tag in water-soluble ink and you’ll need a couple of bottles of Champagne. 

With the metal tag and champagne close by, the following must be recited:- 

“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, implore you in your graciousness to expunge for all time from your records and recollection the name (old 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.”

The metal tag with the old boats name written on it is then dropped into the water from the bow of the boat and the following is recited:

“In grateful acknowledgement of your munificence and dispensation, we offer these libations to your majesty and your court.”

At this stage, the first bottle of champagne is used, at least half of the bottle should be poured into the water from east to west - the remaining champagne can be passed around and consumed by the guests at the ceremony.

Renaming Ceremony

Once the Purging Ceremony is complete, it’s time for the Renaming Ceremony. It’s very important they are done one after the other, and ideally immediately after.

The first stage of the Renaming Ceremony is to, again, call on the gods of the sea:

“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, implore you in your graciousness to take upon your records and recollection this worthy vessel hereafter and for all time known as (new name), 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 honour of your greatness, we offer these libations to your majesty and your court.”

At this point in the ceremony it’s time to offer the Champagne to the gods of the sea again. A bottle of Champagne is poured into the sea from west to east, one glass is offered for the master while a second glass is offered for the mate. 

With the gods of the sea appeased, it’s time to honour the gods of the wind. There are four gods of the wind which guide each direction of north, south, east and west. The four gods are brothers, they can be invoked simultaneously but they must also be addressed individually.

“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 (new name) the benefits and pleasures of your bounty, ensuring us of your gentle ministration according to our needs.”

The first individual to address is Boreas, the god of north wind. Facing north Champagne should be poured into a Champagne flute and thrown north as the following is recited:-

“Great Boreas, exalted ruler of the north wind, grant us permission to use your mighty powers in the pursuit of our lawful endeavours, ever sparing us the overwhelming scourge of your frigid breath.”

The next god to address is Zephyrus, the god of the west wind -  the same process is executed with the champagne, except to the west, with the following recited.

“Great Zephyrus, exalted ruler of the West Wind, grant us permission to use your mighty powers in the pursuit of our lawful endeavours, ever sparing us the overwhelming scourge of your wild breath.”

The third god to be addressed is Eurus, the ruler of the east wind:

“Great Eurus, exalted ruler of the East Wind, grant us permission to use your mighty powers in the pursuit of our lawful endeavours, ever sparing us the overwhelming scourge of your mighty breath.”

Finally, Notus, the god of the south wind is addressed and then once again the same process is executed and the following recited:

“Great Notus, exalted ruler of the South Wind, grant us permission to use your mighty powers in the pursuit of our lawful endeavours, ever sparing us the overwhelming scourge of your scalding breath.”

Once the renaming ceremony is finished, the boat is safe to be renamed and any objects with the new name can then be brought onto the boat. The name shouldn’t be written onto the boat until after the ceremony has taken place - if it must be done prior to the ceremony it’s acceptable to do so as long as the name is covered by bunting or other material, so it’s not revealed until after the ceremony is complete.