How to Christen a Boat


By Mike Montgomery, Updated 3/15/17


We christened the new boat and now we're taking a little shakedown cruise.

Whether you own a small fishing boat, sailboat or a larger yacht, a boat christening ceremony is a fun way to welcome your boat to the world, celebrate with friends, and ensure safe passages for a lifetime of adventures on the water. Boat christening ceremonies date back thousands of years and vary slightly around the world.

Boating is a fun social event and should be enjoyed with your close circle, and we do not recommend drinking a bottle of wine by yourself and then taking a maiden voyage. Second, after the ceremony, you do need to take a small maiden voyage, so we suggest already having the boat docked or in a harbor. A branch full of green leaves symbolizes safe returns. The leaves only need to be on the boat for the christening and maiden voyage. We used a branch off a lemon tree, but there is no specific requirement for the type of leaves.

What you need to christen your boat

  • Some friends to join in the ceremony
  • Your dock or harbor
  • A branch of green leaves
  • Red wine, champagne or sparkling cider
  • A small poem or a few words about the boat
  • A name for your boat

Boat christening ceremony explained

The components of a proper christening ceremony are designed to give you some structure and context to why the traditions have lasted throughout time. Follow these steps, modify them based off your preferences, and have fun!

Boating is a fun social event and should be enjoyed with your close circle, and we do not recommend drinking a bottle of wine by yourself and then taking a maiden voyage. Second, after the ceremony, you do need to take a small maiden voyage, so we suggest already having the boat docked or in a harbor. A branch full of green leaves symbolizes safe returns. The leaves only need to be on the boat for the christening and maiden voyage. We used a branch off a lemon tree, but there is no specific requirement for the type of leaves.

The traditional drink during a christening is red wine. Captains used a nice red wine to make a sacrifice to the sea gods and to celebrate with a toast. We suggest using a specific christening bottle as a sacrifice for the boat and a bottle of medium priced red wine for the toast. We like the Galleyware Christening Bottle because it is scored or weakened in the middle so it easily breaks, and has a decorative net to capture all broken glass.

If you prefer cider or something else, go for it! Finally, the actual christening ceremony consists of saying a few words about your boat, toasting to the honor of your new boats name, and then either breaking the bottle on the bow or pouring the liquid on the bow. This entire process can take less than five minutes, and then you take a small maiden voyage with all of your guests! Be careful not to hurt your boat with the bottle. If you are not comfortable, please opt to pour out the contents of the bottle. If you do want to break a bottle, we suggest finding a safe spot on a cleat or bow roller.

Best Times to Christen a Boat

We get it that everyone is busy and you will likely want to christen your boat on a weekend with nice weather, when all of your friends are free. Great – Saturday and Sunday are awesome days to do a ceremony. The following days however, are considered unlucky due to significant religious events.

  • Friday is unlucky likely because Jesus was crucified on this day of the week. In fact, if a new Coast Guard boat is finished on a Friday, they always wait until Saturday to christen it.
  • Thursday is a bad day to be on the water because it’s Thor’s day, and he's the god of thunder and storms. Don't want to mess with him!
  • The first Monday in April is the day Cain slew Abel. It might also be April Fool's Day.
  • The second Monday in August is the day the kingdoms of Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed.
Looking down

The big moment as I break the bottle over a stainless steel anchor roller. No scratches in my gelcoat! Notice the leafy lemon tree branch on deck.

How to rename a boat

There is a lot of superstition around renaming a boat…and for good reason. If you talk to enough boat owners, or walk around your local harbor, there are always a handful of boats with wacky names because people are afraid to rename their boat. Okay, some folks just don’t have good taste!

If you do not properly rename your boat, you are doomed to a lifetime of bad luck. Fortunately, properly renaming a boat is not impossible if you follow this systematic process. Before you rename a boat at a christening ceremony, you must systematically remove/cover all instances of the boat’s old identity. It is critical that the old name is completely removed before you say the new name out loud, or bring anything on the boat with a new name. Be patient and thorough while removing all instances of the previous name. If you get through the whole process, christen your boat and then find a trace of the old name, we suggest christening again!

Remove the old name on the boat itself. Removing the exterior paint or lettering is obvious, but you also need to check if the boat has ever been repainted. If so, you need to get down to previous layers and literally scrape off the old name. It is not enough to just paint over the old name.

The same applies for the interior of the boat. Make sure any fixtures; badges, engravings, upholstery, or decorations with the old name are obliterated or removed.

Looking down

My friends are enjoying the show.

You must get rid of any accessories with the old boat name. Common accessories are floatation devices/rings, brass bells, clothing, coffee mugs, floating key chains, license plate frames, and the list goes on.

The tricky part is what to do with all the paperwork like a cruising journals, maintenance logs, and receipts. It is ok to keep the paperwork, but you must cover the old name with white out every time it is written.

Facebook and digital media in general has surely complicated things and obviously we cannot look to history for answers on what to do here. To stay consistent with the tradition of removing the old boat’s identity, we suggest looking at your digital footprint. Archive any Facebook posts or photos showing the name. If you belong to any online boating communities, make sure your boat’s name is not in your signature. You do not have to delete all previous photos of the boat, just make sure the name is not visible.

Conclusion

Thank you for reading about boat naming and christening ceremonies with us and congratulations on your new boat! We welcome you to share your experiences with us on your favorite social media sites.

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About Mike Montgomery: Growing up in Northern California, Mike traded in a life dedicated to surfing the white wave (snowboarding) for new adventures on the coast of the Pacific Ocean. In 2013 he joined the Marketing Team at West Marine and enjoys listening to a passionate set of Customers, learning about unique products and being an advocate for a life well lived on the water. Mike’s adventures on the Monterey Bay include sunrise paddleboarding alongside sea otters, learning how to sail on West Marine's company sailboat, Promotion, and most recently purchased his first boat, a 17ft. Arima Sea Ranger. Mike is quickly learning the “ins and outs” of boat ownership the way any millennial does, through hours of YouTube videos, hundreds of internet searches and bouncing ideas off seasoned boaters. He invites you to follow his journey through West Marine!