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The bite was slow. It was cold and rained every day. And his trailer got a flat tire on the way home. These were the lowlights of a trip to Lake of the Woods, the North Woods angling paradise, as recounted by my good friend Chuck Larson. That trip is an annual adventure for Chuck, who feels at home among his Scandinavian clan, which predominates in Minnesota. He usually comes back with a couple of really nice walleyes, and a new Ole and Lena joke to share at the Lake View Inn:
Feeling their relationship is in a rut, Ole and Lena decide to try marriage counseling. On a visit, the counselor asks, “Do you have mutual orgasms?”
“Oh no,” Ole replies. “We have Mutual of Omaha!”
But this year, Chuck’s trip to the lake was an unmitigated bummer, more so because it was his first serious expedition with his new Alumacraft battlewagon, now bristling with more electronics than a guided missile destroyer. Chuck assumed he would leverage technology to a significant advantage over the fish.
“Maybe I just missed the shiner run this year,” Chuck said.
Bartender Wally wiped a clean glass on his white apron.
“Perhaps the gods are displeased,” Wally said. “What have you named her?”
“What do you mean?” Chuck asked. “It’s an Alumacraft Competitor.”
“Maritime custom dictates that for good luck, you bestow a name upon a new boat,” Wally replied. “For bad luck, you don’t name the boat. And since Alumacraft gave your boat the same name it gave hundreds of other boats, you need to rename it. And that can be tricky business.”
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We explained to Chuck that if he ever hoped to catch a fish from his new boat, he must follow tradition by removing every trace of the previous name, asking permission of Neptune to rename the vessel, and making a suitable and generous offering.
The next Friday evening, I joined Chuck, Wally and the Swanson kid aboard Chuck’s boat, now sans its Alumacraft graphics. The setting sun shimmered on the glass-calm water. A loon called. Standing at the bow, which pointed due north, Chuck spoke with a ceremonious voice.
“Oh great and powerful Njord…”
“Who is Njord?” Wally asked.
“The Norse god of the sea,” snapped Chuck, and he continued, “Oh great and powerful Njord, wise ruler of lakes and fishes, we implore you to protect us upon all passage and take into your records this worthy vessel, known for all time henceforth as Nokomis. In your honor, we offer these libations to your majesty and your court.”
On cue, we each opened a 16-ounce can of Hamm’s, took a swig, and poured the rest into the lake.
Chuck applied Nokomis in vinyl letters to the transom as soon as we had the boat on the trailer.
“Watch out, walleye,” Chuck mumbled. “Njord and I are coming for you.”