Monday, 14 May 2012

Renaming a boat.

Or How to Avoid Neptune's Wrath.

Legend has it that King Neptune personally records the names of all ships in his Ledger of the Deep, and that he knows by heart who is who, especially those who venture into his high seas realm.  Now, imagine the anarchy, not to mention the insult, that would ensue if one were to simply rename a boat without first removing the original name of the boat from the Ledger.  You may be certain that once Neptune’s civil servants straightened out the mess, all fingers would point to you as the guilty party and there will be hell to pay. 

The appropriate procedure is to first humbly request that Neptune remove the original name from the Ledger and then appeal for a formal recognition of the new name.  Having spent more than 10 years working as an international civil servant myself, I sensed instinctively that such requests would require considerable grovelling of the “I’m not worthy” type as well as various offerings and submissive postures to help move the request from department to department up the chain of command.     

The documented instructions for making the request are, however, many and varied, and seem to have both regional and cultural variants.  Nevertheless, a comparative analysis suggests that there are two fundamental rules that must be respected regardless of the method chosen; 1) the ceremony simply must be done, and 2) wine or champagne have proven to be acceptable to Neptune when a blood sacrifice is not possible, but faking it with water is worse than no ceremony at all.  Two ships who disobeyed these rules, respectively, are the Titanic and the USS Arizona.    

The ceremony is carried out in two-phases.  Phase I:  Removing the existing name from the Ledger.

In general, this involves removing all items from the boat bearing the current name.  This includes not just the name on the transom, but ALL documents, logbooks, charts, life buoys, pictures, books, inflatable dinghies, oars, life vests, and key chains.  Numerous web resources provide advice on cleaning products that can help you to erase or otherwise obliterate the name on just about any textile or support.  The mantra for this phase of the work is Be Ruthless.  One reference suggests that White-Out is acceptable for removing the name from any documents that you must keep aboard, but I would suggest using this with caution. Ideally, this phase of the ceremony should be carried out a full 24 hours before moving on to Phase II.  If you cannot remove the name from the transom before heading out to sea for the ceremony, it is acceptable to cover over the name with tape, making certain that the name does not show through the tape, of course.  It goes without saying that the new name of the boat should not appear anywhere on the boat or any of the materials she carries, and the new name should not even be uttered until the appropriate moment arrives. 

Once you’ve ensured that there is not a single scrap of identification lingering anywhere, you are ready to make the formal request to Neptune.  This involves writing the current name of the boat on something and casting it off the bow during an outgoing tide.  Some suggest a metal tag with the name written in water-soluble ink, while others suggest a more formal sacrament that involves writing the name on a piece of paper, placing this in a small wooden coffin, burning the ensemble, and then offering the ashes to the sea from the bow.  My personal view on this is that while the later ceremony certainly has the potential to dazzle, it also carries the risk that some of the ashes may be caught up by the wind and not actually make it to the deep in an expedient manner.  This would be like having part of your carefully-prepared application file sent to the wrong department and possibly lost.  

The act of submitting this request to Neptune is to be accompanied by incantations and blood sacrifices, where it has been previously established that wine or champagne may be substituted for blood where necessary.  While there are numerous ceremonies and incantations that have proven to work over the years, each with its own particular cultural or religious flavour, I’ve chosen to base our ceremony on John Vigor’s “Interdenominational Boat Denaming Ceremony”guidelines.