Waterlines: Appellation Controlée

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The author’s boat was named Star Cruiser before he renamed her Lunacy. It seemed a good idea at the time!

The author’s boat was named Star Cruiser before he renamed her Lunacy. It seemed a good idea at the time!

Naming a boat properly can be harder than you think

A rose is a rose, it is said, and smells just as sweet by any other name. If only it were true of boats! In fact, it seems all too many boats these days have perfectly horrible names. This can be very dangerous, in that your boat’s self-esteem may be so threatened by its bad name it might at any moment, out of sheer embarrassment, cease to be a boat. Needless to say, there could be grave consequences if you happen to be on board when this occurs.

Sailors who need to change their boat’s name may complain that doing so will bring bad luck. Certainly the gods will take offense if a boat’s name is changed improperly, but they will also cause trouble if a boat’s name is just plain silly to begin with. By taking appropriate measures you can un-name your boat quite safely.

First walk (or swim) around your boat three times in a counter-clockwise direction (clockwise, if you are in the Southern Hemisphere). Next take one human hair, wrap it around a rabbit’s foot three times in a clockwise direction (counter-clockwise, if you are in the Southern Hemisphere), then soak the rabbit’s foot liberally in rum. Rub the rum-soaked rabbit’s foot vigorously over your boat’s existing name, then drink the rest of the rum. Throw the rabbit’s foot over your left shoulder into the sea. Next remove all traces of the boat’s old name from the boat and all its equipment.

To re-name your boat, simply follow the usual procedures. Smash a bottle of champagne on her bow and utter some appropriate christening-type words, then distribute more champagne and other inebriants to whoever happens to be around. Be sure to replace the coin under the mast with a new one or the new name won’t take.

If this sounds drab, you might try a Viking christening. They believed that a ship’s keel must taste the blood of a virgin prior to touching water, so they lashed virgin slaves (both male and female) to the keel blocks they used when launching a ship. The ship neatly crushed the bodies of the slaves as it slid into the water and so lived happily ever after. Unfortunately, this procedure is now illegal in many jurisdictions, so be sure to consult an attorney before performing it.

The trickiest part about re-naming a boat is selecting a new name. After all, you don’t want to have to go through all this again. Success can never be guaranteed, but there are some simple rules to follow.

First, never make your boat’s name a pun. This is easily the most common mistake. Remember, your boat needs a name that will dignify it, not humiliate it, and there is no such thing as a dignified pun. You should also not choose a name that is so obscure and esoteric, or blatantly unintelligible, that it’s meaning is known only to you. Nor should your boat’s name be scatological. Remember, more than anything else, a boat’s name should be easy to pronounce and easily understood over the radio. More than that, it should be legal to pronounce it over the radio, and foul language is technically impermissible when communicating via VHF.

You may find it takes a few boats to get the hang of naming them correctly. Take, for example, my old boat Crazy Horse. I thought this was perfectly acceptable, but it turns out hardly anyone now remembers the once-famous Sioux chief who defeated Custer at Little Big Horn. Most people thought I had named the boat after an old rock band (pretty tacky) or a Parisian strip joint (possibly a violation of the scatological rule).

I didn’t do so well with my current boat, Lunacy, either. I thought I was being clever naming her after both my daughter (Lucy) and stepdaughter (Una). But whenever I say the name out loud, people always think I’ve named the boat Luna-Sea. Which is a clear violation of the pun rule and is so horribly cliché I absolutely want to shrivel up and die.

SAIL’s Cruising Editor, Charles J. Doane, sails his Tanton 39 on the Maine coast and down in the West Indies whenever he gets the chance. He is the author of The Modern Cruising Sailboat, published by International Marine, and is a contributing blogger at SAILfeed.com

June 2016

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