Ah, Spring! Pollen fills the air, and boats of all sizes and shapes begin to settle into their thawed berths, awaiting the attention they’ve been missing all winter.
For the new boat owner, it’s finally time to fill the lungs with the smell of that new fiberglass hull, fresh from the factory. The new boat’s adoptive family is feeling good about completing the Power Squadron or Coast Guard Auxiliary boating safety course over the winter, and even the family dog seems to sense an excitement in the air that makes this Spring different from all the others in some special way.
Getting the new boat ready for the water is largely the responsibility of the boat dealer these days. All you were required to do was pick it out, sign the paperwork and write the check. But there’s one other thing you ought to consider before taking that sparkling beauty out onto the water for her maiden voyage, and that’s to arrange a proper “christening ceremony.” Ships have been christened throughout the centuries for a reason, and I say why take a chance?
It always has been intended that a proper christening and the accompanying ceremony ensures good fortune to the lady and her crew throughout the life of the vessel. It’s comforting to think that if a vessel does have a run of bad luck, it will be because her christening ceremony was poorly written or performed, rather than sea monsters, her Captain’s incompetence, or any number of other reasons we’d rather not contemplate.
One new vessel’s christening and launching seemed to strangely forebode its fate. Following the christening of the Edmund Fitzgerald, the iron ore behemoth slid down the skids and into the water at an unusual, precarious angle, throwing a monstrous wave back onto the launch area. The giant hull then crashed back against the pier with such violence that one onlooker actually suffered a heart attack and died. An observer commented, “The Fitzgerald seemed as though it was trying to climb back out of the water!” Several years later, the Fitz broke in half and went to the bottom of Lake Superior in one of the most frightening storms ever recorded on the Great Lakes.
So for you new boat owners, don’t tempt fate. Get out that notebook and pencil, and let’s write us a modern, but classy, christening ceremony.
First of all, make certain that you invite everyone to the christening who is important to the boat. That should include your kids, the family pet, gramma and grampa, and if you think you can con Uncle Harry into buying some bait once in a while, invite him, too. Distribute plastic champagne glasses to all the attendees. If you give them glass glasses, somebody is bound to drop one, and then you have to interrupt the ceremony to sweep it up. It’s not good to interrupt the ceremony.
Someone with a strong voice, preferably who can impersonate Richard Burton, begins by saying:
“For thousands of years, we have gone to sea. We have crafted vessels to carry us and we have called them by name. These ships will nurture and care for us through perilous seas, and so we affectionately call them “she.” To them we toast, and ask to celebrate (the name of your boat).” Then everybody raises their plastic glass filled with champagne or your favorite non-alcoholic beverage and shouts, “TO THE SAILORS OF OLD?TO (the name of your boat).” Everybody takes a sip.
Lord Burton continues. “The moods of the sea are many, from tranquil to violent. We ask that this ship be given the strength to carry on. The keel is strong and she keeps out the pressures of the sea.” Again the glasses are raised, and the assemblage shouts, “TO THE SEA…TO THE SAILORS OF OLD…TO THE SEA!” Everybody takes another sip.
Continue. “Today we come to name this lady (name of your boat), and send her to sea to be cared for, and to care for the (name of your family) family. We ask the sailors of old and the mood of God that is the sea to accept (your boat’s name) as her name, to help her through her passages, and allow her to return with her crew safely. ” Again, with the raising of the glasses, “TO THE SEA…TO THE SAILORS BEFORE US…TO (the name of your boat).” A last, long sip by all.
Now pour champagne over the bow to appease King Neptune, and lay a branch of green leaves on the deck to ensure safe returns. (Breaking the bottle across her prow is optional for a recreational vessel, and should be done only if all safety precautions have been taken, and after the bottle has been properly scored for a clean break.)
What in the world does all this have to do with boating safety? Well, I guess it all depends on how superstitious you are. And there’s no endeavor that carries with it more superstition than that of going off to sea.
(By the way, if you’re in need of a ceremony for the denaming/renaming of your vessel, you might find this to be helpful.)