Renaming a ship

A coworker of mine has had a sailboat for years, named the Breaking Wynde. He and his wife have decided that calling over the VHF radio to make reservations for Breaking Wynde doesn’t have the appeal he thought it would years back, and he’d like to rename the boat. However, he claims that if a boat is renamed without a certain ceremony, that the boat will be cursed. The problem is that no one seems to know what the ceremony is. I’ve heard this superstition myself, but I’ve never heard what, exactly, this boat-renaming ceremony entails. Anyone know what the story is here? And, in particular, what this ceremony is?

And then of course there’s Cecil’s take on the matter…

I’ve never understood the “don’t rename the ship - it’s bad luck” bugaboo. In the 18th century the Royal Navy’s tonnage included a large percentage of ships retaining French names, prizes of war sent back against their original owners. Who could resist the 'Neener-neener-neener" factor of that? I imagine the English, who have always looked down on braggarts, concoted the do-not-rename superstition to cover their glee.

Of course in the world of international shipping, vessels change their name all the time. Damage cargo today, new name, new owners tomorrow! (OK, slight exaggeration, but this sort of thing does happen).

And believe me there is little ceremony or sentimentality. I had a client a few years ago who was so cheap he didn’t like to have to employ a signwriter to paint a new name when he bought a new vessel. So after he’d bought it, he’d change the name by just painting out a few letters (nothing that a crewmember armed with some black paint couldn’t handle). So if he bought the “Breaking Wynde” he would no doubt rename it the “Reaking Wyn” or something.

Just don’t change it to the Belgrano, or you might find your luck finally runs out.

I believe the only time the US Navy ever renames ships is in extreme circumstances, as in the case of the case of the USS Squalus, a submarine which sort of sank and killed some crew members. It went down intact and was raised, renamed, and served in WW II under a new name and probably new hull number. I’m sure there are probably a few other instances like the Squalus, but I can’t think of them.

USS Squalus , hull number SS-192 was renamed USS Sailfish.She kept the same hull number and was finally scrapped after the war.

The notorious Exxon Valdez was renamed Sea River Mediterranean and used to haul oil across the Atlantic.

US warships often change names when they are given non-combat jobs. Probably one of the most famous is the battleship U.S.S. Kearsarge, which, as the redesignated AB-1, helped to refloat the Squalus. She served with distinction as a crane ship well past World War II and into the 1950s.

Another famous one was the U.S.S. Merrimack, which was raised (after being burned & sunk), retrofitted as an ironclad, and recommissioned as the C.S.S. Virginia.

A way to avoid the risk of a curse is to keep the current name but translate it into a foreign language. I’ve seen it done several times on the Great Lakes and I haven’t seen a new Edmund Fitzgerald-like accident.

A cruise ship I went on a few years back (97?) was an old Royal Carribean ship re-named to the MS Sundream. Mediocre cruise ship at best.

My Navy ROTC unit had a 42-foot ketch that we used for sailing training. It had a brass plaque down below that said, in part:

“SEA OWL (ex-Gypsy North)
Confiscated by U.S. Coast Guard on [some date]”

Apparently it was some drug runner that the Coast Guard nabbed. So anyway, the boat was renamed. I wonder if the sea and wind gods were appeased? :slight_smile:

Andy: of course, the Belgrano herself had been renamed…

“In 1982 the 10,650 ton ship was already aged. As the USS Phoenix she had survived the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour forty years before.”

…Which reminds me that the USCG’s Tall Ship “Eagle” was formerly the Kriegsmarine’s “Horst Wessel”.

But I still don’t believe that the Navy ever renames its major ships without a major change of status (as with the Kearsarge) or disaster (Squalus/Sailfish). This despite some damn weird or obscure names. Pretty much the first question everyone reporting about the Vinson has is “Who’s this Carl Vinson guy, anyway”?

Eagle was in fact the Horst Wessel, a former German naval training platform. It became a war prize after WWII. IIRC, it was the second such prize for the CG, the first one a little too unseaworthy. The Coast Guard routinely receives old Navy ships, which are renamed. The historic CGC Tamaroa, of “Perfect Storm” fame, was formerly the USS Zuni, US Navy. Most Coast Guard specific cutters are turned over to 3rd world nations, and subsequently renamed. One bit of lore I heard when naming your boat, is never name it anything that could be considered “challenging” to the elements. Storm runner, wave dancer, et al, will find their way to bottom faster than most, according to the superstitious. Not very superstitious, myself, but I can’t help thinking about the space shuttle disaster.


I checked the links (near the o.p.) and found nothing about another one wrinkle in renaming that I recall. No cites, but I’ve messed about in boats and read more on them than I care to think about.

What’s missing concerns placing a silver coin (I believe it’s supposed to be a real silver dollar) under the mast. I think it had to do with removing the previous silver coin, throwing it overboard (over your shoulder?), and than replacing it with a new coin of your own.

Anyone out there know more?

Ekblovanta Postajxvent’ :smiley:

For true typographical accuracy, the ‘jx’ should be replaced by a j with an accent circonflexe instead of a dot (unicode character 0309 decimal for the lower-case version)

[sup]and you should have seen my first translation! :eek:[/sup]