Everyone warned us that it’s bad luck, but Harriet and I did it anyway: We changed the name of our boat. Our Dolphin 460 cruising cat was called Hands Across the Sea after the Caribbean child-literacy nonprofit we founded in 2007. After we retired from running our charity in 2020, we decided to rename the boat Ocean, because that’s where we’re headed next.
After 14 years of “commuting to work” by sail from New Bedford, Massachusetts, to the Windward and Leeward islands of the Eastern Caribbean to create 473 libraries of new, amazing books in local primary schools and high schools, we’re going bluewater cruising again. Ocean seemed like the right name, given our new horizons. We’re sailing from New England to Bermuda, then to Puerto Rico, the Panama Canal, the Galapagos, French Polynesia, Fiji, and on to the Bay of Islands, New Zealand. That’s about 10,300 nautical miles of voyaging. Neither Harriet—my voyaging wife of 35 years, three boats and 60,000 miles—nor I believe in sailors’ superstitions, but we’d sure welcome some good luck along the way. What if there’s something to this name-changing jinx?
Fortunately, a good friend of ours, Reverend Wendy Reardon, volunteered to research the mystery. Wendy discovered that the name of everything afloat on this ocean planet—every rowboat, every cruising yacht, every container ship—is entered in the Ledger of the Deep. All boats are known personally to Poseidon, or Neptune, the god of the sea and keeper of the ledger. If you change your boat’s name without purging the old name from Poseidon’s memory and the Ledger of the Deep, well, that’s serious bad luck.
Wendy advised us that a rechristening ceremony was needed. So, on a sunny fall Saturday, friends and family gathered in Ocean’s cockpit.
After Harriet and I had removed every trace of the old name, the crowd chanted to Poseidon: “Oh mighty and great ruler of the seas and oceans, to whom all ships are required to pay homage, we implore you in your graciousness to expunge for all time from your records and recollection the name Hands Across the Sea, which has ceased to be an entity in your kingdom.”
On cue, I poured a bottle of champagne from east to west over the bows.
Wendy continued: “We ask the sea gods of old and the God of creation to accept as her name Ocean, and to watch over her, and ensure her of safe passages.”
Next, all of us chanted to each of the four winds, who are brothers—to great Boreas, ruler of the north wind; to great Zephyrus, ruler of the west wind; to great Eurus, ruler of the east wind; and to great Notus, ruler of the south wind—for permission to use their mighty powers.
On cue, our niece, Charlotte, poured wine over the side of our boat.
Wendy shouted: “We rename this vessel again into recorded history of September 26, 2021, as Ocean!” Everyone raised their glasses and hooted: “Toast to Ocean! Toast to Poseidon, ruler of the seas! Toast to great Boreas! Toast to his brothers! Toast to adventure!”
Ocean it is. Let the journey begin.
At print time, Ocean had transited the Panama Canal without incident, and Tom and Harriet were planning their sail to the Galapagos.