Renaming Your Boat

Planning on changing the name of your boat? Need to know all the ins-and-outs of safe boat naming? Want information on how to conduct your own boat renaming ceremony? Read on...

A Dinghy Named Dante or How to Rename Your Boat

I don't know if Neptune spends his days swirling the deepness of lakes, but if he does, we will surely meet up over the unofficial renaming of a certain dinghy. According to legend, Neptune (or Poseidon, if you're talking to the ancient Greeks) keeps a ledger of all the ships sailing his vast waters, and knows each of them personally. I had taken my little boat from her native Coloradoan waters and submersed it in New York waters, dubbing it Dante. Maybe it's no coincidence, then, since I never announced the new name to Neptune, that the boat now sits in boat-purgatory (aka: my grandmother's lake house basement), ridden with holes and gutted. Dante probably thinks she's a character in her namesake's Inferno.

Choosing A New Name for Your Boat

There are several steps involved in the naming or renaming of a boat, not the least of which is choosing the name itself. It's important to take care with this step because the name will probably stick with you. You, your crew, and the boat herself will probably all be known simply by the boat's name. You can choose a name for the attributes the boat herself seems to have. If I had a particularly snazzy and happy little sailboat, I might dub her Snappy. Or you can name her for attributes you'd like her to have; as Puritan parents used to name their daughters Charity or Chastity, you could name your boat the Dauntless (as in the movie, Pirates of the Caribbean) if you wished your vessel to be brave, and, well, dauntless on the waters.

There are other conventions to choosing a name as well, including naming the boat for your wife (if you happen to be a married man), or for characters out of mythology; for celestial beings, or for the wind, sea, or sun; for some unique favorite of yours, such as a storybook character or hobby. Endless variations of the above conventions find their ways into Neptune's (and the Coast Guard's) ledgers. Unconventional names work as well, just take care that it's something easy to pronounce over the radio, in case of trouble.

Preparing to Rename Your Boat

Once you've chosen the name, the real fun begins, if you're even a little superstitious and/or like games. You've surely heard it's bad luck to re-name a boat. Here are some tips (and old-sailor's tales) for warding off the bad luck, and having a good time while you're at it:

First, obliterate all records of the boat's previous name. (Unless you're really, really sentimental. In that case, you may find that leaving a plaque with the ship's former name below board an acceptable alternative to complete obliteration.) Most sailors agree that it's a good idea to make sure you cross out the old name on all paper records, too, such as log books and maintenance records. The aggressively superstitious sailor may prefer to get new record books entirely, and simply toss out the old ones. Do not forget to check key chains, life rings, and (of course) the transom and forward boat names. If the boat's previous owner used vinyl lettering on the boat, you can purchase a variety of commercial products, such as Goo-Gone, to aid in peeling off the old letters. But turpentine will do the job as well as the Goo-gone, and is cheaper. Use a razor blade angled close to the boat's surface to aid in peeling the letters off.

Next, you will need to notify the Coast Guard of the changes by submitting proper documentation. Then you can apply the new name to the boat's hull. After you have done this, comes the real fun...

Boat Renaming Ceremonies

You have your choice of a variety of traditions including some gymnastic sailing across the equator (you do this backwards and throw the name plates overboard), and/or lots of champagne. Having a personal preference for the bubbly, I suggest you invite your least landlubberly friends and family aboard for a christening ceremony. This ceremony can be as simple or elaborate as you choose, though most ceremonies have similar elements. Generally, it's a good idea to let Neptune know that the former Ol' Sea Spray will no longer be sailing his seas by that name, but to please welcome the fabulous new Black Pearl (cf., again, the Pirates of the Caribbean) into his care.

Now, I must tell you, there are actual liturgical formulas for doing this, if you are so inclined to discover them. At this point, you can toss some (or a lot) of the champagne overboard as a libation to Neptune. Try to get some of it on the hull of your boat. In fact, some ceremonies call for cracking the champagne bottle on the hull, so that the boat and Neptune both get their fair share. You may choose to appeal to each of the four winds, as a safety net, or go straight for the rest of the champagne yourself. Either way, share it with your friends and have a good time, recognizing that hard work and good planning keep the boat (at least) as safe as a bit of good luck or favor from the gods of wind and sea.

For her part, Dante will probably confer that her basement "mooring" has more to do with her owner's negligence than the anger of Neptune. Perhaps she will have better luck with her next owner.