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  • Anna Welscott

What’s in a boat name? The re-naming of our sailboat

Updated: Jun 23, 2020

Sailors are very superstitious people! There is a long list of “dos and don’ts” that the nautical community lives by. Some are very interesting and some are quite funny. For example, it’s extremely bad luck to have bananas on-board, this dates back to the 1700s in which many ships that sank, were transporting bananas. Also, whistling into the wind is forbidden as it could “whistle up a storm”. Tattoos of a pig and rooster on a sailor’s feet are meant to prevent them from drowning. And the list goes on and on…

One of the most prominent sailing superstitions is the renaming of a boat. Sailors have sworn that if you do not properly rename your boat, you are doomed to a lifetime of bad luck. We did not take this lightly! We took this opportunity to invite our families to see our boat for the first time and partake in the de-naming, re-naming, and re-christening ceremony shortly after we purchased her. My mom came from Colorado, my sister Sara came from Seattle, Doug’s parents came from Michigan, and Doug’s Aunt Ruth and Karen came from Arizona.  

You might be asking how we chose the name Karuna, and what does it mean? In the boating community, you essentially take on your boat’s name, so we wanted a name that would represent us as we traveled. We researched many words and their meanings before deciding on Karuna. We were focusing on words like peace, empathy, and tranquility. Our research landed us on the word Karuna, which means compassion in the Buddhist philosophy. Karuna is the result of knowing one is part of a greater whole and is interdependent and connected to that whole by having empathy and compassion towards oneself and others. We felt like Karuna was the perfect name for our boat and represented something we value: compassion for others.

The ceremony

First things first, it takes champagne, and lots of it!  When preforming the de-naming ceremony, you must prepare by removing every trace of the boat's current or past identity. Once everything that has the old name is removed, you have to make a metal tag with the old name written on it in water-soluble ink. During the ceremony, you ask Poseidon to remove the past names from his records and recollection while the tag is dropped into the water and the past name disappears, hence the water-soluble ink. Champagne is poured into the ocean as a homage to the great ruler of the seas. Since we are the third owner, our boat had two names prior to Karuna. We did not want to take any chances, so we de-named our boat of both prior names. Once that was complete, more champagne was poured and toasts were made. The renaming ceremony must be conducted immediately after the de-naming ceremony.

For the re-naming portion, we started with asking Poseidon to take the new name into his records and to protect Karuna while at sea. More champagne is poured into the ocean. We then asked the four Greek gods of wind: Boreas, Zephyrus, Eurus, and Notus to watch over Karuna and give her the strength throughout our endeavors. And again, more champagne is poured into the sea. Once we made amends with all the Greek gods, we poured champagne across the bow and laid a branch of green leaves on the deck to ensure a safe return. The grand finale, was Doug smashing a bottle of champagne across the bow, re-christening Karuna with her new name. More toasts were made and my mom ended the ceremony with giving the Navigator’s Blessing:

May you see the way wherever the journey takes you,

sailing safely over rough water

and weathering the waves’ dips and crests.

May you find treasure in Earth’s infinite variety,

beauty, and surprise.

May you hear the ocean’s music in every shell you hold to your ear.

May your boat fill with insight, laughter, generosity, and love

as you discover new landscapes.

Boats are said to nurture and care for us while at sea, so we affectionately refer to them as ‘she’. We feel that we properly renamed Karuna and believe that she will in turn be cared for by the sea and the wind during our journey. We couldn’t be more content with her name and what Karuna represents. We were filled with so much happiness that our families could join us for this special occasion and be able to share in the experience of the traditions of sailors past.

In your free time, do some research on sailing superstitions. Perhaps next time you see Doug and I, we will have matching rooster and pig tattoos on our feet, who knows! 😊

If you’re interested in a full copy of our de-naming, re-naming, and re-christening ceremony, drop me an email at and I’ll send it your way.

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