Christening and Naming Your Vessel: A Comprehensive Guide to Maritime Ceremonies

Christening and Naming Your Vessel: A Comprehensive Guide to Maritime Ceremonies

Welcome to this comprehensive guide on christening and naming your vessel! Whether you’re a proud new boat owner or a seasoned sailor curious about maritime traditions, this article will provide you with everything you need to know about christening ceremonies, renaming events, and more.

What Is a Ship or Boat Christening?

Christening a ship or boat is a ceremonial tradition that dates back to ancient times. The event usually involves smashing a bottle of champagne against the hull of the vessel. But why do people do this? What's the big deal about throwing a liquid at a large piece of floating metal or wood?

Why Is It Done?

The purpose of christening is to bestow good luck and ensure the safe passage of the vessel and its crew. Just like many of us won't move into a new home without some sort of housewarming event, the maritime world has its own way of welcoming new (or newly-renamed) vessels.

Historical Origins of Christening

This practice is rooted in various global traditions and beliefs, with some accounts suggesting that the Vikings were one of the first to perform ship-launching ceremonies. They would offer sacrifices to their gods in the hopes of being granted a safe journey, which over time evolved into the more modern practices we see today.

The Steps Involved in Christening


The christening ceremony is often a social event involving family, friends, and maybe even some dignitaries. Invitations should be sent well in advance to make sure everyone has the time to attend. And hey, it's not every day you get to witness the birth of a ship, right?


The location usually depends on the size and type of the vessel. Larger ships will require a spacious dock or a marina, while smaller boats can often be launched from more confined spaces. The key is to choose a place that's convenient for the guests but also suitable for the boat.

Choosing the Champagne

Selecting the right champagne bottle is crucial. Not just any bottle will do; after all, you're looking to impress the maritime gods, not anger them! While the quality of champagne doesn't have to be top-shelf, it should be something you'd actually enjoy drinking.

The Ceremony Itself

The Blessing

Before the bottle meets the hull, a short blessing is usually offered. This can be a religious prayer or a well-crafted speech that wishes the vessel and its future occupants a safe and prosperous journey.

Smashing the Champagne Bottle

The highlight of the ceremony is smashing the bottle against the boat's hull. This act is intended to bring good fortune and safe travels, and it's often met with cheers and applause.

After the Ceremony

After the bottle has been smashed and the boat is officially christened, it’s time for some celebration! This usually involves food, drinks, and a general sense of camaraderie. After all, it’s not just the boat that’s being welcomed; it’s a community of people gathering to share in this joyous occasion.

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Latin words carpe diem translated as meaning 'seize the day'. The name of a boat seen in dry dock in the port of Numana on the Adriatic coast in Italy

Boat Renaming vs. Boat Naming

The Importance of Names

Names have significance, especially when it comes to ships and boats. Some believe that a boat's name can even influence its character and fate. Renaming a boat isn't as simple as just deciding on a new name and painting it on the hull. There's a whole ceremony for that too!

The Renaming Ceremony

If you decide that your boat needs a new name, you’ll first have to ‘de-name’ it. This involves a special ritual to remove the boat’s old name from the “Ledger of the Deep,” a mythical record believed to be kept by Neptune, the god of the sea. After the de-naming ceremony, you can proceed to christen the boat with its new name.

The Naming Ceremony

For those with a brand-new boat, the naming ceremony is much simpler than the renaming one. It involves much of the same process as the christening, but there's no need for a de-naming ritual. Simply choose a name that speaks to you, and proceed with the regular christening process.

Unique Christening Practices

Soda Bottle Boats

If you’re eco-conscious, consider a soda bottle boat christening. This is similar to the traditional champagne christening, but with a more environmentally-friendly twist. Instead of champagne, a bottle of soda is used.

Ships in Bottles

While not directly related to christening, the art of placing ships in bottles has always fascinated people. These miniature models are meticulously crafted and slid into bottles, capturing the magic and complexity of seafaring in a palm-sized vessel.

Modern Takes on Traditional Ceremonies

Today, many people incorporate their own traditions and twists into the ceremony. From reading a poem to playing a favorite song, the options are endless for making your boat's christening uniquely yours.

Locations for Christenings

Yacht Christenings

These are often the most elaborate of all boat christenings. Held at prestigious marinas and featuring high-profile guests, yacht christenings are big events that often attract media attention.

West Marine Wilmington as a Popular Venue

West Marine Wilmington is a popular venue for boat christenings, known for its excellent facilities and services. If you're in the Wilmington area and are looking to christen a vessel, it's worth considering.

Unconventional Locations

Some people opt for more unconventional locations, like a secluded bay or even a backyard pool for smaller vessels. The key is to choose a location that is meaningful to you and suitable for the type of vessel you are christening.

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