Wednesday, March 23, 2011

From Slimmy Pollywog to Trusty Shellback

Pacific Ocean---Today I Crossed the Line.

In Panama we knew we were heading towards the Galapagos which meant crossing the Equator Line, something I had always wanted to do. We Googled traditions of crossing the equator for the first time. Turns out that we would go from "Slimmy Pollywogs" (Wogs for short)  to "Trusty Shellbacks" at that moment. It's a good thing we were not on a military ship because their traditions sound very much like a College Greek house hazing ceremony. Tradition, initiation, ceremony are more accepted words in the Military now due to the 1997 instruction, which reemphasized the Navy’s zero-tolerance policy for hazing and explained that ‘crossing-the-line’ ceremonies are only meant to celebrate and recognize the achievements of individual Sailors. Sure.

But for OUR occasion Shannon and I were determined to celebrate it. The problem was, we had no idea what time of day we would actually pass the line. One sure thing about sailing is you never know what time you will arrive anywhere. But as the countdown got closer, we knew we were lucky. We did not have to crawl out of bed at 3am for a silly ceremony. Since we were all exhausted by waking at all hours to go on watch anyway, to do it as an extra activity? Well we knew we would never be able to drag either Jake or Andy up. But alas! the line was getting closer and the estimated time was predicted to be close to 7pm!


As our tiny boat rocked amidst the vast sea and the sun set on a moonlit sparkling ocean we checked the GPS like checking voice mail for the love of your life. We knew that the actual crossing of a 50 foot boat would last a second. Maybe two.

Shannon wrote a speech to Neptune, god of the sea. We all wrote wishes on pieces of paper, ready to be thrown into the sea. The skipper promised beer, which was UNHEARD OF during a passage, and rum was readied to be pored into the sea as another token to the Sea God.

Our Equator Celebration at Sea...and 3 new Trusty Shellbacks
The GPS ticked down and Shannon and I put dresses on for the occasion, out dressing the men by a significant amounts of style as always. Then, the moment came, I quickly scooped up some ocean water, beers were popped, Shannon read her thoughts to Neptune, papers baring our wishes were launched overboard and a toast to the Sea was made, thankful for safe passage. Our Skipper, a three-time Shellback, gave a fine speech to us and our "Wog" abilities and proving ourselves to be sea worthy.

Someone once wrote, "The sea is eternal, they say, and so are the traditions that accompany it. As long as there are imaginary lines by which we travel, we will attach a special significance to crossing over them---a significance which also bonds the crew together in a way few things can."

And yes, I will always have a bond with this crew and that tiny space in time. March 23, 2011, 7:31pm PST. The time Jake, Shannon and I became Trusty Shellbacks.

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