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Pieter Schelte ship name change to Pioneering Spirit fraught with superstitious pitfalls

Screen Shot 2015-02-09 at 15.20.49By John Donovan

Following the decision announced on 9 February 2015 that Allseas is changing the name of The Pieter Schelte to the Pioneering Spirit, Ton Biesemaat, the Dutch investigative journalist, posted the following comment on our Shell Blog, which I assume is partly tongue in cheek:

Every seaman knows that changing a ship’s name brings bad luck. Especially if you do not purge all the references to the former name. Not even Pieter Schelte can stay on any documents. However Allseas with their admiration for the Nazi Pieter Schelte Heerema has chosen to rename their Nazi ship into Pioneering Spirit. Which is still a reference to the evil SS-man and even retains the P and S of Pieter Schelte. No sane minded seaman will take the risk to sail on this ship. Evil reigns there. Beware of the bad spirits!

The following information found on the Internet confirms the degree of superstition surrounding changing the names of boats and ships:

Renaming a boat is not something to be done lightly. Since the beginning of time, sailors have sworn that there are unlucky ships and the unluckiest ships are those who have defied the nautical Gods and changed their names improperly.

First, in purging your boat, you must expunge and remove all physical traces of the boat’s old name before the ceremony. This is an involved process beginning with the removal or obliteration of every trace of the boat’s current identity. This is essential and must be done thoroughly. It is easiest to simply remove the offending document from the boat and start afresh. Take all papers that bear the name ashore, including logbooks, engine and maintenance records as well as any charts with the name inscribed. Be ruthless. Remove the old name from the lifebuoys, transom, dinghy, and oars. Don’t forget the life rings and especially the transom and forward name boards. Sand away, as painting over is not good enough. You are dealing with the Gods here, not mere mortals and they will catch any error. If the old name is carved or etched, try to remove it, or at least fill it with putty and paint over it.

Do not under any circumstances place the new name anywhere on the boat or carry aboard any item bearing your boat’s new name until the purging and renaming ceremonies have been completed, as this would be tempting fate! Once you are certain every reference to her old name has been removed from her, all that is left to do is to prepare a metal tag with the old name written on it in water-soluble ink.

12 pages devoted to ship renaming can be found here.

Mr Edward Heerema, the founder and sole owner of Allseas has hopefully taken all appropriate measures.

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