It’s quite possible that there are more nautical superstitions than there are nautical facts. With so many unknowns out on the high seas, and with so many variables that a sailor has no control over, it’s natural that we have become prone to grasping at any whisper of order, any trace of a pattern that might just give us an edge and allow us to survive one more crossing. Perhaps the most well known of all these superstitions is the decree that bad luck shall curse a vessel if her name is changed.
So imagine our quandry when we bought a sailboat who was on her third name, and that third name was “Cocomo.” Never mind the soundtrack that would run through our heads incessantly, the bigger crime was the glittering holographic stickers that spelled out that dreadful name. Now, the act of changing a boat’s name may irk Neptune to some degree, but I can’t imagine his blinding fury every time he gazed up and saw that huge, shimmering decal besmirching his tranquil waters. I don’t know what he was waiting for, but looking at that audacity printed large upon the superstructure made me want to sink the boat. Something had to be done.
Her first name was Erica. Not bad, but obviously somebody else’s; that was a name that didn’t belong to us. Her next name was Selkie, the seal woman goddess that Scottish sailors fell in love with after not seeing a human for a few months while out to sea. It had a nice ring to it, a good story for us to tell, a maritime theme, and best of all: it wasn’t “Cocomo”!
So we did our research and found that there was a way to circumvent the wrath of Neptune and still change her name. Like all of man’s deities, He was kind enough to build in a loophole where we could still do as we pleased to suit our own desires, we just had to give him a little kickback.
The kickback was in the form of a renaming ceremony. We basically threw a party on our boat (yet again, a pretty sweet deal for us mortals) where we packed on as many of our friends as she would hold, beseeched the blessings of the winds from the four corners, and popped a bottle of champagne out on the bowsprit. Neptune drank amply from the bottle first, and we drank amply from the bottle second. It was enough fun that I’d recommend changing any boat’s name, just for the sake of the party you get to throw.
About a week later we set sail from that port with freshly emblazoned letters reading “Selkie” and we embarked on our Mexican adventure. We had chubascos and tropical storms threaten, but none found our sails. We had whales surface within yards from us, a super-pod of dolphins storm the boat, even some mating oarfish, but all arrived with friendly curiosity.
We saw drug deals go down while anchored in the same bay, but no cartels ever bothered us. We drug anchor once and had to flee into the stormy night, but the bottom we did not touch. We saw a seamount within feet of our keel a mile offshore, but again we passed unscathed. Neptune certainly had opportunity for reprisal, had he wished to inflict it. Personally I think he was just grateful that we did away with the hologram.
Look Insurance contacted us about writing a story about our sailing superstitions, and with our new boat, Dowitcher, in need of a name change as well, we figured it an appropriate time. Click on this link to fill out a quick survey and tell them about your own nautical superstitions. While you’re at it, share your wisdom with us in our comments too.