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sail_the_stars 26-07-2003 06:46

Do Boats Have 'Souls' ?
Hi everyone; Is it bad luck to rename a boat? Or is it just a myth? While I am looking for a serious answer humorous ones would be greatly appreciated as well.


Pblais 26-07-2003 14:48

It is perfectly fine to rename a boat.

The generally accepted process is to first remove everything on the vessle that has the old name on it. As in everything! All markings on the boat itself or gear should be totally removed.

Then a proper de naming cermony is performed to clear the slate as it were. This may then be followed by a proper naming ceremony right away.

John Vigor has short be acceptable language that can be used for each ceremony. Quality champange or rum is also required for both ceremonies. Using cheap or poor libation is considered very bad luck.

The key is to properly remove the old name before application of a new name. The dtails of the process can be debatable and of course you can certainly come up with something on your own.

Jeff H 26-07-2003 15:26

Here is one prior string on the subject: It began with a fellow questioning why we stick to sailing superstitions in the 21st century.

In Reply to: Superstition be damned.
I'm not sure I get your point but it is clear to me that must be right that there is no place for silly superstitions. Now ritual which has definite cause and effect you must respect. Take the one about changing the name of a boat. I am sure this is just coincidence but of the twenty plus some boats owned by myself and my family, we only changed the name of three, that was the two that lost their masts and the one that was sunk on the rocks at Fort Toten. Not a large scientific sampling mind you, but a 100% correlation sounds like cause and effect to me. I don't believe in superstition only what can be proven by scientific method. I am glad you are willing to continue our testing where we left off. Bravo, my brave man.
Jeff (Think he bought that?)

With you all the a safe distance! Posted by ACB on July 08, 1998 at 23:23:10:
It's a funny thing, but I have spent my life in commercial shipping and
while we do have to rename ships we are a deeply superstitious lot!
Actually, superstition has a sort of place in keeping up morale; if you
have complied with all the superstitions you feel better, and are
perhaps likely to perform better. We should know the physics of sailing
well enough by now, but the tired human brain after a few days at sea
needs all the support it can get!

Reply to: If you don't believe in senseless superstitions, why name a boat at all?
Perhaps it is my fault that my point did not come through, since I gave the posting a somewhat inflammatory title. I certainly was not slamming "respect and celebration of the world around us". I was making a much more focused point. I was trying to say that we should not be bound by practices which no longer make sense (see me examples re departure date and hull color). Particularly when these practices are in lieu of proper seamanship. As to your specific points, I am sure you would agree that something failed which resulted in those rigs coming down, and there is nothing mystical about things failing on sailboats. My rudder did not fall off because of bad Feng Shui. The pin ate through the wood after swinging back and forth for 15 years. Also, I understand and agree with your point about boats having a personality, but of course the original name did not have the benefit of those years of experience in naming the boat. Why not give the boat a name that captures its essence PLUS your relationship to it. This is why I am waiting to put my hew boat's name on the transom until I am sure it fits. Of course, a name also has many practical advantages, as an aide in hailing, recognizing friends out cruising, etc.

And I suppose, next you're going to tell me that whistling doesn't affect the wind strength! Posted by Jeff H
Of course the fact that you changed the name of your boat had nothing to do with the fact that your rudder functioned perfectly for 15 years but chose to break after you changed the name of the boat. The fact that it broke clearly PROVES nothing at all. I think it is important that you keep testing. We all admire your bravery. And I suppose next your going to tell me that whistling doesn't affect the wind strength! After 37 years of testing and noting a direct correlation between wind speed and whistling, for me, I think that "superstition" has been proven to be actual scientific fact. I have tested this many times. Whenever I whistle on board the wind eventually increases in velocity. OK, so it doesn't happen immediately but sooner or later the winds increase. Ok, maybe it is a few days later, but it still works! Keep up the good work!
(For those of you who are about to have me locked up, I want to point out that to some extent my comments on this are meant to be a bit tongue in cheek but only a bit.)

Posted by Evelyn Keller on June 04, 1998 at 07:26:12:
I am looking for information, or a source or reference, where I can find out how to perform a ceremony (some suggested words to say & actions to take) to rename a boat formerly owned by someone else. A couple of years ago, there was a short item in Cruising World magazine that described a ceremony, or some kind of protocol, to use when you want to rename a boat. I haven't been able to locate that item. We certainly don't want to do anything to displease the gods of the sea or any other concerned gods--but we're about to purchase a used boat and want to put "our name" on it. I'd appreciate information from those who may have done this before, or the date, page number where I can find this information.

Posted by Jason on June 10, 1998 at 12:57:47:
If you have already bought the boat, it's too late! However, if you buy the boat without a name (have the current owner take her name off, and sell her without a name) you are free to name her whatever you wish. best of luck!

Posted by Carl Miller on June 05, 1998 at 05:40:24:
In a spirit of cooperation with the Name Gods, I would offer the following technique in renaming a boat:
An alternate method involves scraping off the old name and painting on the new name. However, first it is recommended that you empty the contents (internally of course) of a good 200-yr. old+ "Jose Cuervo" or "Sauza" Tequila.
This process cleanses the soul and prepares the boat for a proper skipper!
Then, there is plan "B" discovered ages ago by the Vikings. It will permanently remove the old name without the use of paint removers, putty knives, heat guns, but does employ the use of natural elements. This requires the flame as a result of natural lightning. One may arrest the Fire Gods thru the use of a torch. In the 2nd and final stage of the cleansing, one simply burns the sucker down to the water line and sets the boat adrift in a quiet place of your own choosing. There is an upside to the also removes stuff from those dark corners of the lockers, eliminates those old unsightly PFD's that are never thrown away, and at the same time, stains on the decks disappear forever.
p.s. the yellow stuff with a worm is probably Mescal not Tequila. Salud amigos!

Posted by ACB on June 05, 1998 at 01:51:07:
I am extremely superstitious about boats; the result of long experience. Re-naming a boat is a BAD IDEA and will certainly lead to trouble; better buy a different boat. Never paint a boat green or disaster will ensue (I know this to be true - bought a green painted boat, did not rename her but thought I would get through the first season without a repaint - lost rudder in North Sea.) Never start a cruise on a Friday. Never EVEN MENTION the long eared fellow on a boat and with due respect to Bob G I would advise against using the foot of the animal in any ceremony close to a boat. All Christian priests of whatever persuasion should be carefully avoided in any ceremonies to do with boats.

If you MUST do it, I have found during a career in merchant shipping in Asia that Shinto priests are capable of performing the renaming ceremony without ill-effects, and that a visit by a Feng Shui practitioner usually gets rid of residual ill-luck. If you cannot manage this them at least pour a libation to Tin Hau, the Taoist Queen of Heaven, who takes a special interest in small boats.
This is a true story. Two cargo passenger ships were built to run between Japan, Hong Kong and Australia. One was a perfect ship and nothing went wrong. The twin sister went aground twice (expensively, on Japanese oyster beds!) The Hong Kong crew demanded a Feng Shui man or they would not sail. He came on board and located the source of the trouble. In an alcove in the first class smoking room was an antique statue of the Buddha. He pronounced that this was a "land Buddha" and was always trying to get ashore, hence the groundings. No problem - he had a solution. He removed the rather expensive statue and reappeared with a very cheap and nasty one which he pronounced was a "sea Buddha" and installed in the alcove. The ship ran for the next 20 years with no more trouble!

Posted by ray on June 04, 1998 at 17:12:12:
Check out the 48 North (PNW magazine) web site. They have a "Boat De-naming Ceremony" that you can down load and use. The author finds it critical that you "de-name" the boat correctly or you are in deep .... It's all in good fun however, for the those who are not sure about the sea gods that live below us, it will give'em peace of mind. Remember that the primary purpose of a de-naming ceremony is "another excuse to party" so have a good one for the CW BBS crew.

Posted by Jeff R on June 04, 1998 at 15:15:01:
My wife has been wanting to rename our boat since we bought it, 3 years ago. I really don't care. I had heard something about not doing it until the boat has run aground 3 times, I did not know that was a power boat requirement. Unfortunately, we have bounced off the bottom 3 times (not really hard aground, but did damage the keel). So that excuse is gone. Will the gods be more upset if you rename the boat after sailing her with her old name than if you renamed it right away? Also, if you are supposed to eliminate all references to the old boat name, what about postings about her on the net? There is no way I could ever eliminated every reference to her name in all the places I have posted it. Fortunately my wife still has not picked a new name, so this may never be an issue.

This is EXACTLY what you must do
Posted by tomC on June 04, 1998 at 08:50:11:
Here it is, from the Fishmeal FAQ:
Yes, there *is* a way to change a boat's name without upsetting the various deities of the sea and air. First time out with the new name on the boat, luff up into the wind and drift to a complete stop, then allow the boat to sail backwards. This represents "backing over" the old name. Sailing backwards is hard -
requires a good breeze, some waves usually help, and a fair amount of skill. But the goddesses and gods that are concerned with these matters are not easy to impress! If the boat is a fin keel type with a separate rudder, you should be able to stabilize in backward mode and do it for at least a few boat lengths. For a full-keeler, the spirits will most likely be appeased with a half-boat length or so. Under no circumstance should you do this under power! If the boat is a powerboat, you will have bad luck with the new name until you have run aground three times. I don't know if these can be intentional groundings - perhaps someone with more experience in this area could clarify this.
>>Originally from:

What I did
Posted by bp on June 04, 1998 at 08:15:31:
In Reply to: Ceremony to Rename a Boat posted by Evelyn Keller on June 04, 1998 at 07:26:12:
If the boat is on land walk around it counter clockwise three times, then remove all traces of the old name. Then you should never mention the old name again. If the boat is in the water, maybe swimming around it three times would be allowable. The important thing is to enjoy your new boat.

here's what to do...
Posted by bernie on June 04, 1998 at 10:11:28:
In Reply to: Ceremony to Rename a Boat posted by Evelyn Keller on June 04, 1998 at 07:26:12:
hi evelyn,
here's what to do. get lots of champagne, good appetizers, lots of KY jelly, go sailing with your favorite man, anchor somewhere beautiful out of the way and have the time of your life.

A bit risky, this
Posted by harryj on June 05, 1998 at 07:21:13:
The problem is that you often end up with another crewmember and then have to get yet a new boat to have enough room for the little sucker, thus repeating the process. It is somewhat offset, however, by the fact that you will at some point be able to justify getting a Valiant 40. There is a tried and true method used here in Africa, (although not applicable in this case): sacrifice a virgin. Since the rules are a bit vague, you can usually figure out how to do this in a way acceptable to the sacrifice.

This works
Posted by S/V Triumph on June 04, 1998 at 10:31:46:
I used this plan published in 48 north to rename my Mason 43. If you follow it religiously you will satisfy all the gods.

The only safe way
Posted by Bob G on June 04, 1998 at 11:45:37:
Materials required:
2 bottles champagne (preferably imported, but domestic has been successfully used) 1 rabbit's foot
1 red hair ( must be from a genuine redhead and must be exactly six inches long.
1.Wrap the red hair around rabbit's foot.
2. Soak rabbit's hair in champagne.
3. Rub soaked rabbit's foot over old boat name (very vigorously)
4. Without turning around, throw rabbit's foot over left shoulder into the sea. If boat is positioned where this can not be done, it is permissible to have a second person catch the rabbit's foot in a bucket and run it to the sea.
5. Drink remainder of first bottle of champagne.
6. Apply new name to boat.
7.Have a boat christening ceremony, but DO NOT BREAK SECOND BOTTLE ONBOAT. Just sprinkle some on the new name and drink the rest.
8. Final step...most important! Go sailing and have a happy life.

But wait! There's more!
Posted by Chuck Munson on June 04, 1998 at 12:31:01:
All of the fore-dated advice is good and accurate, as far as it goes. The primary omission was that ALL TRACES of the old name must be removed from all material on the boat. I know from sad experience that trouble will trouble you until you heed this advice. The dinghy that came with the boat in question had diminutive version of the mother ship's former name. When a raftup buddy took his dog ashore in the aforementioned dinghy with another buddy's outboard on the back, it sank out from under him as he was preparing to climb back aboard. He clung to the painter with one hand and the stern ladder with the other as the flotation foam bobbed to the surface, a puzzled look on his face. He finally let it go. The local Voltaire fire department divers could find neither trace of the dinghy, nor oil slick from the motor. Rum works as well as champagne, and is more traditional in some quarters. What ever your libation, be sure to give a glass to old King Neptune, or the name change might not take.

sail_the_stars 26-07-2003 18:37

Thanks. That was very informative. Funny, too. While it'll be a while before we buy a boat I wanted to prepare.


Shas 02-05-2007 10:33

I think it depends on WHY you are changing the name
and WHAT you are changing it to!

Yes, boats have "souls" and the name matters.
How would YOU like to be called
Titanic 2
Mom's Mortgage
Fastern U


TaoJones 02-05-2007 10:56


Originally Posted by sail_the_stars
Hi everyone; Is it bad luck to rename a boat? Or is it just a myth?

Do you think it's just a coincidence that a boat is referred to as "she?" Are you familiar with William Congreve's observation in The Mourning Bride that, "Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned / Nor hell a fury like a woman scorned." :smiling:


hellosailor 02-05-2007 11:06

Its been four years and the poster hasn't been heard from since. Obviously, they insulted Poseidon and his daughter, and met a hard fate.

44'cruisingcat 02-05-2007 16:46


Originally Posted by sail_the_stars
Hi everyone; Is it bad luck to rename a boat? Or is it just a myth? While I am looking for a serious answer humorous ones would be greatly appreciated as well.


Depends on whether or not you believe in luck.

Starbuck 02-05-2007 17:59

Please, Stop and Think Rationally

To have a co-incidence, you must have two "incidents" which occur closely in time/space, but which are not actually related in any conventional way. Pulling up to a stop light and discovering that the person in the car next to you is playing the same radio station you are is a coincidence. What is "coincidental" about referring to boats in the feminine gender? You don't understand the term.
*** *** *** ***


The habit of referring to objects of beauty, grace and speed using the feminine gender is simply a bit of metaphorical thinking, and a reflection of the imagination of the human race. It is common across many cultures, but not all.

I'm a fun-loving guy, really, but this topic really gets under my skin. I believe I'm justified in my derision, though. Allow me to rant on…

As for sailors, I've observed them to be a seriously superstitious group (oxymoron intended). I just cannot understand usually intelligent people behaving as if the gods of the old pagan pantheon actually exist, and wanting to appease their wrath, as if we live in some magical universe— "make sure you remove every trace of the old name from the boat" (or the gods might notice, become irked, and nudge a container in front of you some moonless night) It's simply beyond me.

It is a truism that people display what they really believe by their behavior. I smile when someone spills salt, then quickly tosses a pinch over her shoulder. But you people can't really believe the world works this way, can you? You don't believe any of this stuff, do you? Surely you're just repeating the nautical urban legends you've heard, and are confusing them with tradition. I usually don't laugh out loud at people, but really, everyone: stop and think: superstition is not a tradition!

If you accept this kind of pagan rite, you must also accept the idea that you will fall off the edge of the flat earth if you sail too far from shore, and that the flat earth resides on the back of a giant turtle (or that Atlas himself holds it up), and that grains of wheat left in a bucket will spontaneously generate mice in a few days, because these ideas are all of the same cloth: take one, take them all.

Some religious convictions can be quite rational, but this pagan fetish about avoiding the anger of sea-gods and being fastidious about the details of the ceremony to avoid "bad luck" is a continual puzzlement to me. Are any of you actually that gullible?

Name your boat whatever you want. Change it to whatever you want. If you're going to painstakingly follow re-naming ceremonies, at least be consistent, and carry a few live chickens aboard with you, so that you can sacrifice them to Neptune when a squall catches you. After all, it's the same world view, isn't it? Oh, if only Odysseus had had chickens, he wouldn't have had to spend fifteen years trying to get back to Ithaca. (Here's a secret: it was a myth! Those gods don't actually exist.)

Of course, if you want to go through these silly rites because they're "charming," or for some other ridiculous reason, it's your own business. But you've got to feel a bit foolish if you do. And if you hear someone laughing at the other end of the dock, it might be me.

(More than) 'nuff said, and Jeff, feel free to add me to your list: I'm sure this one is every bit as entertaining (and for once, I hope, thought-provoking) as the ones you posted.

Fair Winds to all (but they're generated by large air masses heated by the Sun, not by Poseidon passing gas).

Lynx 02-05-2007 20:12

Do boats have souls, only that of the Captian and Crew.

Don't choise the name of the boat that you do not want to be called.

rebel heart 02-05-2007 20:20

I was in the Navy for a few years; never heard anyone mention the idea of renaming boats being bad. Sailors love to tell sea stories, and ones with superstition are even more common place. There were two USS California's; it doesn't really matter.

If you're a person of faith, and you want to do what's right, give some thought about how you can conduct yourself and your affairs while traveling that is in concert with that faith.

For example, if you're a Christian (and this is probably applicable for every religion), you might want to consider trying to do some volunteer work that you might be qualified for along your route.

Surely the big guy in the sky cares more about how you treat your fellow man, and what overall impact your ship has on society, than the vinyl lettering on your stern.

coot 02-05-2007 20:26


Originally Posted by TaoJones
Do you think it's just a coincidence that a boat is referred to as "she?"

I think it is just a left over from one of the various languages that contributed to modern English. Nautical terms tend to have a lot of archaic usages -- how do you pronounce "forecastle"?

In other languages, different conventions apply:

In Spanish, large boats are male (el barco), but small boats are female (la barca).

In French, large boats are male (le bateau), small boats are female (la embarcation), but dinghys are male (le canot).

In German, boats and ships are both neuter (das Boot, das Schiff). In English and German, it is possibile to have a neuter: "it" instead of "he" or "she" in English, or "es" instead of "er" or "sie" in German.


Originally Posted by CaptainJeff
Some religious convictions can be quite rational, but this pagan fetish about avoiding the anger of sea-gods and being fastidious about the details of the ceremony to avoid "bad luck" is a continual puzzlement to me.

I always wonder if practicing Christians adher to these rituals.

Terra Nova 02-05-2007 21:42


Originally Posted by sail_the_stars
Hi everyone; Is it bad luck to rename a boat? Or is it just a myth? While I am looking for a serious answer humorous ones would be greatly appreciated as well.


Yo Paul,

"Do boats have souls?"

Fiberglass boats have polyester souls, so I would not worry about it.

When I bought my last boat, it occurred to me that if you had adopted a child, you would not change his name because all-of-a-sudden he belongs to you!

So I left the name alone.

best, andy

44'cruisingcat 02-05-2007 21:48

There was a guy at the marina the other day, cutting rust out of his steel boat, who seemed to believe that not only did his boat have a soul, it actually WAS soul personified. At least I think that's what he meant - he kept saying to it - " You ARE soul, you f***ing ARE soul"

Well, that's what it sounded like he was saying.....

Starbuck 02-05-2007 22:06

Here He Comes Again

coot, he say:
I always wonder if practicing Christians adher [sic] to these rituals.
Commenting on CaptainJeff's post:

Some religious convictions can be quite rational, but this pagan fetish about avoiding the anger of sea-gods and being fastidious about the details of the ceremony to avoid "bad luck" is a continual puzzlement to me.
If they do ("adhere to these rituals"), it's despite the fact that it's completely contradictory to their world view, and likely an affront to their God. You've hit one of my nails on the head. If they're professing Christianity, but turning around and doing things like this, they can't be practicing it very well.

The way you see the world determines how you live your life.

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