Sailors are a superstitious lot, but you don’t have to sacrifice an ox, like the ancient Babylonians, to carry on the tradition of christening your new boat. Here are some tips to ensure a jinx-free first launch.
1. Out with the old: If you’re renaming a previously owned boat, drop something with the old name on it over the bow (make sure to be responsible and choose a pollution-free item, of course).
2. Don’t say it: Resist the temptation to tell everyone as soon as you come up with the perfect name. Make sure every instance of the old name is removed from the boat (not just painted over) before you say the new name aloud for the first time.
3. Get ready to go: The christening ceremony should be followed by a maiden voyage, even if it’s only out to your mooring, so make sure the boat is rigged and ready. You’ll also want to gather up a branch with green leaves on it, a bottle of champagne and a bottle of red wine. Place the branch onboard for the ceremony and the maiden voyage, as it symbolizes a safe return to shore.
4. Say a few words: Welcome your guests to the ceremony, say a few words about your boat (its history, its merits, where you hope to sail with it) and ask for safe passage from your deity of choice. Pour a little of the red wine into the water as a sacrifice. You can enjoy the rest of the bottle with your guests after the ceremony.
5. Break the bottle: Perhaps the most famous part of a modern christening ceremony, the bottle breaking, should be done by a woman after saying the words, “I christen thee [boat’s new name].” Make sure to break the bottle against a metal fixture to avoid damaging your gel coat. Consider enclosing the bottle in a bag, so the glass doesn’t go everywhere. You can get pre-scored bottles from places like West Marine that come complete with their own bag. But if you don’t have one, use regular champagne and hit hard. As is the case when shaking a soda bottle, if it takes multiple swings the champagne will explode when it finally breaks. Many also consider it a bad omen if the bottle doesn’t break on the first try.
6. Set Sail: Enjoy your maiden voyage aboard your newly christened boat.