Crossing the Line - A Special Celebration at Sea

gps at the equator  

Some celebrations are very special at sea and reserved expressly for sailors. Crossing the equator, known by sailors as “crossing the line”, is one of them. That imaginary (or is it?) line encircling the world and stretching some 25,000 miles (24,901 miles/ 40,075 km to be more exact) is cause for joy when you're in a boat. You're heading into a new hemisphere. The GPS latitude changes from N to S (or vice versa) and there's a chance you'll have to begin hanging from your toes to hold on if you're heading south.


tribute to neptune


The first time we crossed the line, we celebrated in a rather lackluster manner, mostly because it was in the middle of the night. David was on watch. He woke me. He gave Neptune his token tot of rum. I snapped a photo at 0º latitude and went back to sleep. In truth, we had to cross a couple of times to get the exact 0.00º reading on the GPS. That was the extent of the excitement though. We were heading to Ecuador at the time, which in Spanish, by the way, actually translates to Equator.

When our friend, John, joined Nine of Cups as our crew mate and we sailed from Salinas, Ecuador to the Galapagos, we specifically went a few miles north out of way to cross the Equator once again. This time we celebrated in earnest. If you've never crossed the equator, you're a slimy “pollywog”. Once having crossed and gone through the initiation ceremony aboard, you become a trusty “shellback” and member of King Neptune's Court.

So what does the initiation ceremony entail? On naval ships, it's quite the elaborate the procedure. On Nine of Cups, we were a bit more reasonable. At least we thought so. First of all, Neptune received another tot of rum as we crossed the line. John had to make and serve us breakfast, name five “animals” on Nine of Cups (gooseneck, wildcat, etc), compose an appropriate song and sing it to us and kiss the belly (that would be Jelly's furry belly). Being the good sport he is, he complied without complaint. Good thing, because walking the plank was the alternate choice! Read more on John's website. For all his efforts, he was rewarded with an official Crossing the Line Certificate … suitable for framing.


Crossing the line certificate


Trivia: You become a Golden Shellback when you cross the Equator and International Dateline (0° Lat/180° Long) at the same time. Then there's the ultimate crossing at the so-called Golden X, the point at which the Equator and the Prime Meridian meet (0° Lat/0° Long). All those crossing at this point become initiated as an Emerald (USA) or Royal Diamond (Britain) Shellbacks. Aboard Nine of Cups, we are mere Shellbacks, but very trusty .

Have you crossed the Equator? How did you celebrate?