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Christening Your Canoe

Discussion in 'Tips and Tricks' started by Benson Gray, Mar 8, 2013.

  1. Benson Gray

    Benson Gray Canoe History Enthusiast Staff Member

    A recent question in the Wooden Boat forum about Christening reminded me of the following suggestions that were published in the news group a long time ago and was reproduced on the Wooden Canoe Heritage Association web site at one time. This seemed like a good time and place to bring it back.

    Christening Your Canoe


    The Indian ritual has a good ring to it... and... I believe that you already know enough to devise a good ritual that has personal resonance. Presuming you are a "theist" of some type:

    Step 1. Select god/goddess ("god"/"God"/or "Godzilla" it's the same thing)

    Since you are asking for a "'christ'-ening" you may be presuming that Christ is there. Unless the Haida Indians are Christian, they probably do not do a Christ-ening....

    •Choice "A": "our" Christian Lord God Jahovah is a bit remote for this purpose...but, Jesus hung out with fisherman, and I'm sure he could have whipped out a solid populist boat blessing; Make up a "Cool Jesus" (rather than Church Jesus) prayer...

    "His" Jamaiican counterpart JAH could do it (Bob Marley, "Legends" playing in the background... maybe a live reggae band... "jerk" chicken, Red Stripe Beer.) You might look at some of the Holy Mother votive candles, Virgin de Cobre is the Patron Saint of Sailors...

    •Choice "B": Oxun (o-shoon') a righteous African-Carribean Goddess (sensual, erotic) of rivers, creeks, brooks, springs and lakes; I see... everybody wears white... a night time ritual... candles and melodious percussion music... check with your local Shaman for appropriate offerings. (Don't forget to begin and end with a prayer to Ellegba, the keeper of crossroads/waters to open a path and remove all obstacles...) Votive Candles, Candela de Oraciones, (available at grocery stores... Nino de Atoccha (Ellegba) or Los Sietes Potencias de Africanas)

    •Choice "C": Indiginous deity, (ask your local shaman). Align with this God/dess's personal attributes appropriate to your task, appropriate offerings...

    Step 2: Invoke Deity(ies)

    Respectfully ask the deity to bless your ritual, just talk to them... (agnostics can address the devine human archetype within all humanity or other suitable symbolic/imagistic/psychospeak) [Your vessel should be prepared for the ceremony! According to many cultures an eye,
    or eyes, have been painted on so that the boat may see (check out some Phoenician or Greek ships). This particular vessel will be the vehicle of your consciousness, so... how do you want to proceed in the spirit waterworld? You may want to use colored chalk to enscribe many "bon voyage"/mystic symbols... maybe one from each member of your family, or the primary users of the vessel.]

    Step 3: Invoke the elements/directions

    As many as you want... fire, earth, air and water are traditional. Is your boat wood? Wood! You may want to annoint the boat with these elements... (watch that fire!) A salt water boat? Salt! Just sprinkle some around... Are you hoping to travel to a special place? Ask the winds of the appropriate direction to aid your venture... Burning Sage is always good for purification! Now...very slowly, as though you were taking a child for her first swim, ease your boat into the water, splash it gently all over, marvel at her initial awkwardness... hold a vision of life for your boat... maybe go for a ride!

    Step 4: Say Thank You

    Thank the deity; Close the ceremony, start the party...

    NOTE: Your friends (and you) will (probably) fall into three categories:

    1."I'm into it"
    2."Can't hurt, could help, show some respect"

    The first two types will be wonderful. The jokers can be disruptive to your "gestalt". You could just not invite them, but you would miss the jokes... so, if you can get the lead joker - you know the one - and give him space and time to ridicule, make jokes, namecall, etc., then you have all the bases covered (the Devine Fool will have his way, anyway). Basically, the more people participate, the higher the energy will be!

    This is the stuff that traditions are made of! Your children's children will remember!


    This treatise on christening was presented tounge-in-cheek to the members of by Marlon MacAllister (Merlin Aleister), self described Majician and Foole. The Great Merlin may be reached by email at

  2. Greg Nolan

    Greg Nolan enthusiast

    In a similar spirit . . .

    A few years ago Deborah and I took a canoe trip guided by Garrett and Alexandra Conover. On the trip was couple from Scotland; the man had just finished building their brand-new canoe under the tutelage of Rollin Thurlow. Before shipping the canoe to Scotland, they were launching it for the first time and taking it on its maiden voyage through the Maine north woods on the West Branch of the Penobscot River.

    The nine of us on the trip had mostly all just met, so there was no opportunity to really plan a launching ceremony, but we all sensed that some acknowledgement of the moment was called for. We did not know each others' spiritual proclivities, and the put-in area at the Northeast Carry was fairly busy, so the required ceremony was necessarily simple and ad hoc. I donated the “spirit” invoked, a libation of Glenmorangie whisky, which was poured from a tin camp cup by one of our group over the canoe’s stern deck as the builder and his wife settled into the canoe.

    sm 100_1548.JPG sm 100_1553.JPG sm 100_1718.JPG

    The single malt uisge beatha (water of life) splashed from the deck into the waters of the West Branch, properly pacifying the divinities of the river while giving the new canoe its first taste of back-country camping. No name was given and no speeches were made, but the small spirituous sacrifice seemed sufficient to mark the canoe’s maiden voyage, which was, indeed, a resounding success (notwithstanding the weather) -- something that finishing the spirituous sacrifice as the trip progressed around evening campfires help insure.
  3. Treewater

    Treewater Wooden Canoes are in the Blood

    Thank you, I like this. I'd fit the "can't hurt" or "I'm into it" categories. Forgot to "Christian" my Arrowhead. That must be why the canvas rotted. No? But seriously, it all serves us cause to pause and reflect. With more reflection there would doubtless be fewer mistakes.
  4. ken.kelly

    ken.kelly LOVES Wooden Canoes

    drink the Champagne

    Hope this is on track with this topic. I admire the idea of smashing a bottle of Champagne against the newly launching craft and chistening it the "your name here" on its first time in the water. However, as a wine distributor and Champagne well as a wooden canoe fan...the image of smashing the bottle on a new transatlatic liner doesn't apply...why risk your finish work and what a waste of excellent wine.

    So my proposal is to photograph the Champagne by the canoe and call it good. Drink the Champagne...maybe while in the canoe during that initial water test/launch. Notice it is next to my right knee in photo this case a half-bottle of Montaudon...I didn't have any proper champagne flute glasses at the cabin (still need to fix that). I didn't actually pop the cork while in the middle of this maiden voyage, waited until when back on shore. This is my current practice until I see another good idea posted.

    Attached Files:

  5. Gil Cramer

    Gil Cramer The wooden canoe Shop, Inc.

    Excellent idea, except of course, for the color of the wine.
  6. chris pearson

    chris pearson Michigan Canoe Nut

    I just pour a can of Old Milwaukees Best over mine........just sayin.
  7. Dan Lindberg

    Dan Lindberg Ex Wood Hoarder

    I prefer a bit of fresh fish slime on the bottom, and save the beer/wine for later.


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