Why are ships always female?
Old sailors used to answer this with a sexist joke: "Like a woman, a ship is unpredictable." A more likely suggestion relates to the idea of goddesses and mother figures playing a protective role in looking after a ship and crew. Linked to this is the common practice of giving ships female figureheads and names, often after deities or members of a shipowner's family. Christopher Columbus famously crossed the Atlantic in a ship called La Santa Maria, named after the Virgin Mary.
Another theory comes from the roots of language. Many Indo-European languages have "male", "female" and sometimes "neuter" words. English instead has evolved into using neuter words such as "the". So it could be that making ships female and calling them "she" is an example of a really ancient, English-speaking practice of giving a gender to an inanimate object. It's worth noting that Lloyd's Register of Shipping now calls ships "it".
Significance of Naming a Boat
Naming a sea vessel is an important tradition before the inaugural launch of the ship. The majority of vessels are named after important female figures, either historical or personal, with the names often including important women in the captain's life. There is an extensive, precise ceremony that most captains follow to ward off any bad luck. The name is chosen, mounted or painted on the ship, and the ship then cast off on its maiden voyage following the blessing.
Yacht spotters will recognize the 130-foot Christensen Motor Yacht Sweet Escape, previously as Lady Zelda (2003-2010); and as the former Alteza, 1993-2003. (Alteza is a title of respect used when addressing a person of noble rank.) Furthermore, Sweet Escape was launched in 1993 by Christensen Shipyards, after many delays as a result of changes in company ownership and ownership of the actual hull being tied up in those issues. At one very brief time with Christensen Sweet Escape was hull #10 and sometimes even more confusing was actually hull #11!
It’s well known that renaming a boat can bring bad luck. Sailors have sworn since the dawn of time that the unluckiest ships of all are those who have defied the gods and changed their names.
The Boat Renaming Superstition, and how to get around it…
According to legend, every vessel is recorded by name in the ‘Ledger of the Deep’, and is known personally to Poseidon, or Neptune, the god of the sea. To change the name of a vessel without consulting Poseidon is to invoke his wrath, so in order to change a boat’s name, a traditional ceremony is used to appease the gods of the seas.
The first thing that must be done when renaming a boat is to purge its old name from the Ledger of the Deep, and from Poseidon's memory. This will involve wiping out every trace of the old boat name, and reciting a short ceremony to remove the boat’s name from Poseidon’s records. Poseidon did not have the internet so this has been a challenge for Yacht Sweet Escape, to say the least, as she had 3 previous names.
You must conduct the renaming ceremony immediately after the purging ceremony. The next step in the renaming ceremony is to appease the gods of the winds. This will assure you of fair winds and smooth seas. You re-christen the boat with alcohol. First offer some to the water, some to the boat, then to everyone else to toast the new vessel.