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Sailors be warned—boat naming is no joke

To the non-boater, naming a boat seems like a fun Saturday afternoon event. Bring the family around, tap into the terrible wonderful world of puns, Google some Greek mythology and voilà.

Shiver me timbers.

But boat naming is serious business. To some boaters, it’s the most serious aspect of boating.

Why name a boat

You don’t display a name on your car, but you’d never set sail without a proper name proudly plastered on your vessel. Why? It’s tradition, and it’s luck.

Boat naming started over a thousand years ago, when sailors named vessels after gods, goddesses or saints hoping to bring good fortune to their travels. The wrong name was the difference between good luck and being lost at sea.

Name christening usually included an elaborate ceremony with wine or champagne poured on the boat as an offering during high tide, a full moon or even when the sun’s out. Since then, boat names have evolved to reference cities (like Christopher Columbus’ flagship the Santa Maria), monarchs, lovers and the like. Today’s boat-namers still seek luck, as vessels are often named after winning lottery tickets, companies and, still, the occasional god.

Perils of renaming a boat

In some superstitious circles renaming a boat is tantamount to defying the deities. According to myth, every vessel’s name is recorded in the Ledger of the Deep, which is Poseidon’s (the Greek god of the sea) personal record book. To actually change a boat’s name, you must purge its original name from the ledger.

So, to stay on Poseidon’s good side, you must obliterate every single mention of the boat’s name. Think removing it from the vessel, removing it from log books, destroying key chains, T-shirts, oars, life jackets and whatever else you might have created to proudly display your vessel’s original name.

Once every mention is removed, then you must perform a ceremony of transferring the name that reads more like a spell from Buffy the Vampire Slayer than a boating event.

According to legend, the proper ceremony bears ye good fortune. And, of course, failure to do so could invoke the wrath of Poseidon and just might earn your boat a permanent reservation in one Dave Jones’ Locker.

You are your boat name

Off the waters, you might be Jane from accounting or Dan from the cul-de-sac. But on the open waters, you’re Dan of the “Marino” (or whatever you name your boat). Your actual name, of course, is secondary.

It sails well beyond the bragging rights of having a cool or funny boat name. It’s about your legacy on the sea. Do you want to be the clown on the water? The majestic sailor? A casual or cultural cruiser? A sailing legend? Or an esteemed angler? Or do you want to be forgotten with a lame boat name?

It starts and ends with your boat name, which may prove even more telling than your sailing escapades.