If you’ve been following along on Instagram, you know by now that my silence in this space is the result of a very happy thing. We’ve officially shoved off from the docks and begun making our way east, towards the Caribbean. I’d be lying if I said I’ve been too busy with all important work things to blog. Because the truth is, I’ve been too busy watching dolphins and mastering how to tie a bowline knot and doing my best to catch a fish that’s large enough to eat. (The first two are a thumbs up, the last one, a solid thumbs down…for now, fishies.)
I have a lot more to fill you in on in terms of what it’s actually like to live – and cook – on a 40-foot cruising boat but before we can get to all of that, we need to start calling her something besides “Boat,” yes?
Now, in case you’re unfamiliar with the rules of the sea, let me just say that sailors are about the most superstitious bunch of humans I’ve ever met. Maybe it’s because sailors way back when, the ones who crossed oceans to explore a world that was flat, were bored to tears from months of seeing nothing but seawater and had to think of ways to entertain themselves. Nevertheless, when it came to changing the name of our boat, and, according to superstition, the health of our beloved sailing vessel and crew were at stake, we didn’t want to take any risks. So before we did anything with the name, we did what Christopher Columbus and Ferdinand Magellan probably did too – we pulled up Google and banged out “Proper Ceremony for Renaming Your Sailing Vessel” on the keyboard.
There are many variations that exist on boat renaming. Too many variations, perhaps. But this is the one we settled on and then modified to fit our own preferences. I remember this borderline chilly winter day too clearly. Friends and family came over, the wind was howling at twenty knots, blowing all of the plastic glasses and paper plates around my mom’s bayou-front yard, where our boat was docked. Just as we gathered the necessary equipment for the ceremony to take place – two bottles of champagne, a chisel for Poseidon, and a couple of already-cracked plastic glasses for the two of us – and gathered friends and family on the dock by our boat, the heavens opened up and rain poured down on us. Like the most amazing friends and family in the world, they stayed out there as we read off of our script and poured champagne to the gods of water and wind and thanked each and every one of our loved ones for their support and encouragement over the last several months.
By the end of the ceremony, my eyes were foggy from the rain and the deck was slick. We ripped off the flag that was hiding her new name – La Moelle – and just like that, the rain stopped. The clouds parted and the winds died down and we were left with the kind of soft winded sunny day that would make any sailor smile. I like to think it was Poseidon and Co’s way of saying they’d been thoroughly appeased. We could carry on, our journey blessed with fair winds and following seas. (We had given them good champagne, after all, and that chisel was the wooden-handle kind, not the cheap plastic kind.) And though the jury’s still out on what kind of journey this will be, we like to think it was blessed that day. By the gods and by those who helped us make a sleepy bayou in Lacombe, Louisiana our first home.
Why S/V La Moelle?
Maybe you’re wondering what La Moelle means. It sounds pretty doesn’t it? Much prettier than, say, “Marrow”? We thought so, too. But that’s what it means. Bone marrow. As in the thing that runs through each of our bones, part of our shared humanity. As in one of the richest most indulgent ingredients ever and also the best part of osso buco. As in Henry David Thoreau’s quote from Walden, the same one that inspired the birth of this little blog and that continues to inspire both Barrett and I to seek out the simplest, most essential parts of this life. To suck out all its marrow. And, in our case, to live it on La Moelle.
Food, Cooking, and Life on LaMo
I know I’ve been absent from this space for some time. I truly am getting my sea legs in more ways than one right now – both scrambling around learning about life on a boat that cruises the seas and also learning to cook and photograph on it. Bare with me here. I promise, food is still as much a part of my life as it is yours. It will return to this space with recipes that I hope will continue to inspire you in the kitchen. Because, and I say this with total confidence, if I can cook it on a boat, you can absolutely cook it in a house. Or yurt or camper or whatever other kind of space you may dwell in.
With that said, I’ll also be sharing more about boat life in this space too. When I do that, I’ll title each post with “Life on LaMo,” our little nickname for La Moelle. Feel free to read those and comment as usual or to move on if you’re only into the food and recipe parts of this blog. My feelings will not be hurt. (Though I do secretly hope you’ll enjoy our traveling sailor-y posts just as much as the recipe-based posts!)
How to do Your Own Sailboat Renaming Ceremony
Now, onto the important part. Let me start this off by saying that I am not, very much not, an expert on sailing, sailboat living, or sailboat superstitions. But, with that said, I think those of you looking to ever buy or rename a vessel, might like the way we did it. A blend of an old ceremony with little touches of newness that were born from the love that surrounded us in the little bayou-side community that we started our journey in. Here’s how, with words and steps largely borrowed from this article on BoatSafe:
- Invite anyone. We invited close friends and family as well as many of the neighbors in the community that had helped and encouraged us along the way. We were lucky to have many smiling faces there that day but realize that many do these ceremonies in marinas with only strangers nearby. If that’s the case for you, invite some strangers! Everybody loves the excuse to gather, especially when there’s bubbly involved.
- Many of our guests asked what they could bring as a “boat warming” gift. We had everything we needed at this point but asked anyone who inquired to bring a bottle of something special — wine, champagne, jarred olives. The one criteria was that they had to (or we would) write their names on the bottle or jar they’d gifted us. We stowed each one in our boat and when something special happens (we roasted our first chicken!), or when we have a rough day (Bourré has – already – landed himself in the emergency vet!), we open one of the inked gifted bottles and remember how much love we carry with us on this journey. We are never, truly, a crew of two.
- Before the big ceremony day, purge everything bearing the old boat’s name. The ink on the transom, key chains, log books, you get the point. According to good ole sailor lore, keeping anything on board that bears the old name only angers and confuses Poseidon, keeper of the boat records in the Ledger of the Deep.
- Re-ink the transom with the new name but keep it covered until the ceremony has concluded. We did this the morning of.
- Gather the following items for the official renaming occasion:
- 2 bottles of (good, I say $20 or more but do whatever your budget allows) champagne for the ceremony plus more for sharing with guests afterwards.
- 1 piece of metal that bears the old boat name. We used a chisel and a sharpie to write the old name.
- Enough glasses for each (human) member of your crew.
- On the day of, gather friends and family around the vessel.
- Begin the ceremony by purging the old name from the Ledger of the Deep, guarded by Poseidon:
- Read the following: “Oh mighty and great ruler of the seas and oceans, to whom all ships and we who venture upon your vast domain are required to pay homage, implore you in your graciousness to expunge for all time from your records and recollection the name [old boat name] which has ceased to be an entity in your kingdom. As proof thereof, we submit this ingot bearing her name to be corrupted through your powers and forever be purged from the sea.
- Throw the metal object baring the old boat’s name.”
- Pour half of the first bottle of champagne into the sea, from East to West. Set remaining ½ bottle aside.
- Inform Poseidon of your vessel’s new name, to be recorded in the Ledger of the Deep:
- Read the following: “Oh mighty and great ruler of the seas and oceans, to whom all ships and we who venture upon your vast domain are required to pay homage, implore you in your graciousness to take unto your records and recollection this worthy vessel hereafter and for all time known as [new boat name], guarding her with your mighty arm and trident and ensuring her of safe and rapid passage throughout her journeys within your realm. In appreciation of your munificence, dispensation and in honor of your greatness, we offer these libations to your majesty and your court.”
- Open the second bottle of champagne. Pour a small glass for each member of the crew, making sure there is some left for Poseidon. Pour whatever remains into the sea from West to East.
- Call out to the four wind gods, one for each direction, asking for fair winds and following seas.
- Read the following: “Oh mighty rulers of the winds, through whose power our frail vessels traverse the wild and faceless deep, we implore you to grant this worthy vessel [your boat’s new name] the benefits and pleasures of your bounty, ensuring us of your gentle ministration according to our needs.”
- Read the following: “Great Boreas, exalted ruler of the North Wind, grant us permission to use your mighty powers in the pursuit of our lawful endeavors, ever sparing us the overwhelming scourge of your frigid breath.”
- Pick up the first bottle of champagne, which should be half full. Face north and pour ¼ of the remaining into the seas.
- Read the following: “Great Zephyrus, exalted ruler of the West Wind, grant us permission to use your mighty powers in the pursuit of our lawful endeavors, ever sparing us the overwhelming scourge of your wild breath.”
- Face west and pour another portion into the seas.
- Read the following: “Great Eurus, exalted ruler of the East Wind, grant us permission to use your mighty powers in the pursuit of our lawful endeavors, ever sparing us the overwhelming scourge of your mighty breath.”
- Face east and pour another portion into the seas.
- Read the following: “Great Notus, exalted ruler of the South Wind, grant us permission to use your mighty powers in the pursuit of our lawful endeavors, ever sparing us the overwhelming scourge of your scalding breath.”
- Face south and pour all the remaining bottle into the seas.
- Rip off the paper/flag/sheet that’s covering the new boat name to show it.
- Grab the glasses you previously poured from the second bottle and toast your crew (or yourself if cruising solo) and those who have patiently sat through this lengthy ceremony, especially if, like our friends and family, they did so in the pouring rain.