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Old 02-08-2008, 07:16 PM   #1
Nausikaa's Avatar
Join Date: Sep 2005
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Years ago, in 1971, when I crossed the Line (Equator) for the first time in a ship there was a "Crossing the Line Ceremony" held.

The ship's company was joined by a number of characters who came over the bow". The list of suspicious characters included King Neptune, Queen Amphitrite and the Royal Baby as well as the Royal Barbers, the Royal Constables and the Tritons. All of these roles were, of course, played by members of the ship's company who previously have crossed the Line. Their dress was, well bizarre to say the least; attired in outlandish costumes created from whatever odds and sods there was to be found in the ship.

After much cursing by Neptune the entire entourage took a large glass of whisky (being a Scottish ship) before returning to the forward main deck where a makeshift swimming pool had been constructed of planks and tarpaulins and duly filled with seawater. A band of bearded constables (the beards made of teased out hemp ropes) came aft with the list of names of those who had not previously crossed the line and required, forcefully, the aforementioned to accompany them.

The sorry gang of those who had not previously crossed the line was soon stripped of all clothing bar underwear and one by one seated on the platform with their backs to the Heath-Robinson pool. The grotesque barbers flourished their huge razors and shaving-brushes whilst Neptune, sitting in state, surveyed the scene. Much to the amusement of those witnessing the event the poor offer (me included) were well lathered and roughly shaved. The lather, I should point out, was not the normal shaving soap and bore no resemblance to that which squirts out of cans these days. It was a vile concoction made from grease, soot, and any available bilge scrapings. After being "shaved" we were tossed unceremoniously backwards into the pool. Any residue of the "shaving foam" was then scrubbed off by the Tritons armed with deck scrubbers and a fire hose. Those who made their escape and, as a rule climbed a mast trying to take the "high ground", were dragged back for a second scrubbing by the constables.

Was it all good clean fun? Well, it was good fun really although none too clean. Nobody suffered and a good time was had by all. Even those who had been plagued by Neptune and his gang soon found solace in a tot of good highland spring water.

Well, that is the account of my "crossing-the-line" ceremony. In contrast, my sons, the youngest by the age of 7, had crossed the line many times in a 747 or an Airbus and celebrated with a Coke and a bar of complementary airline chocolate or something similar. At 30,000 feet they did not even "feel the bump" as the line was crossed! Have they missed out on something?

What I would like to know, now that I have shared my experience, is how do today's cruisers celebrate crossing the line?

Yacht NAUSIKAA | Call Sign: 2AJH2



= Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Lithuania
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Old 02-08-2008, 09:02 PM   #2
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Ah the infamous Shellback Ceremony... ... Mine began in the lowest levels of the ship (a Naval Flagship) we had to crawl our way through the hottest dankest parts of the ship all the while being tared and feathered and mombarded with rotten food and various unknown concoctions ... once out of the dark underbelly we made our way through the galley where we were forced to eat an unidentifiable insanesly spicy breakfast, washed down with tabasco orange juice... making our way on deck we were blasted with firehoses while we rowed/wiggled a blow-up swimming pool across the deck in a mock storm. Reaching Neptune on his throne at the bow of the ship we had to lay prone and recite a long prayer in order to attain his blessing....

As you said... lots of fun but not at all clean... I'm looking forward to the day I can get my Golden Shellback (cross the international date line and the equater at the same time)... I'm of course out of the Marines now but I still fully plan to make an event of it.
The world turns aside to let any man pass who knows where he is going. (Epictetus 55 - 135 AD)

"To see new things, and live day to day, is better than wine or poppy, and fitter for a man." (Theseus)
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