Tales of the sea have enriched humanity for thousands of years. One of the most popular items of nautical folklore is the notion that changing the name on a boat will somehow “anger” the Sea Gods, cursing the boat with bad luck.
As boat name specialists, it is incumbant on us to denounce any sort of bad luck associated with re-naming a boat. At risk of provoking the Sea Gods, we offer a rational explanation of why changing a boat name was considered bad luck in days of early mariners and mysticism.
For thousands of years, boats were built exclusively for commercial or military purposes. Commercial boats, defined as fishing boats, cargo, utlity and passenger vessels were owned and operated by businesses whose primary goal was to make a profit. Taxes, fees and assessments on these transactions were awkward to define and enforce. Unless a "change of ownership" was documented and provided to the taxing authorities it was difficult to collect taxes associated with these transactions.
Changing the name on a vessel was perhaps the most obvious way to advertise that a large transaction had just taken place, attracting unwanted attention from taxing authorities and other opportunists. It was therefore considered “unlucky” to bring attention to the change of ownership. Keeping the vessels original name implied that all her documents and affairs were in order. To this day, most US ships are registered in foreign countries to avoid these "unlucky" taxes and regulations.
There is a hint of truth to give the myth some credibility. Keeping the original name of a commercial vessel helps to maintain or enhance her status in her given industry. These vessels are more easily identified and welcomed in familiar ports as an asset to maritime commerce. Changing the name of a commercial vessel is also considered unnecessary unless the old name adversely impacts the new business interests.
Ships are identified primarily by their name to reveal their origin and purpose. They are relied upon, tracked, assisted and defended by friendly flags or targeted, sabotaged, attacked, even destroyed by their enemies. This good or bad luck depends on who when and where they are, not if their name was changed. As such, changing a military ships name in particular makes no stretegic sense.
Things to Ponder:
Does Neptune punish re-named boats in the order they were re-named in?
Does boat insurance cost extra for boats with changed names?
If you change a boat name, then change it back again, is Neptune okay with that or is he twice as angry??
If your boat had it’s name changed in the past, should you make every effort to find out the original name and change it back?
If you remove the old name because you do not want a name on your boat, have you “changed the name”?
If you name an un-named boat, did you “change the name” by giving it a new name?
Does Neptune, God of the “SEA”, care if you change the name of a boat on a lake or river?
If not, when a re-named boat re-locates from freshwater to salt will Neptune become angered?
If a re-named boat re-locates from saltwater to fresh is the curse broken?
Almost 90% of all named boats have already been re-named and those other 10% of newer boats will be re-named in the future. Are they all cursed?
For thousands of years, mythology dominated the story line in theatre. Boats and their names have an ancient, compelling and mystical component that lends itself nicely to this "story telling".
Proper maintenance and good seamanship know-how has proven to overcome the most luck-challenged of boats.
For an amusing ceremony on how to appease the Sea Gods when changing your boat name, please visit Boat Renaming Ceremony and enjoy!