The other day I organised a “Crossing The Line” ceremony for the cadets onboard. A celebration for crossing the equator, the transition from Pollywog to Shellback.

From my experience in recent years it has dropped off in it’s usage. Nobody really makes an effort or cares anymore. It’s a shame, because as proved this week, it’s a great crew morale builder. Especially when usually if you are on a run between ports that includes an Equator crossing it will generally involve a considerable amount of time in open water – this time for us it has been 26 days between ports.

Obviously it’s not quite the same without beer now that dry ships are becoming more & more prevalent, but you can still have a good time with it. Mine was a beer fuelled, fish stinking, paint & foodwaste extravaganza.

You can still cover the Pollywogs in food, a bit of sludge, make the hair sacrifice, throw them in the swimming pool, feed them their suspect food & drink, let them kiss the fish then kneel before Neptune & kiss his ring. Before joining the fraternity that is the Shellbacks.

It sounds bad I know, but there is no malice, & we’ve all done it & been there, I was covered in paint & food waste (A whole liver was produced from somewhere!). It probably Could be counted as hazing, but as with all things, there’s hazing and there’s hazing. Know boundaries, respect people & always use the threat of doing things much worse than you actually do. I used flour, eggs, water, bit of sludge on the face, swimming pool, the drink was mainly fish sauce with vinegar & Tabasco (about 2 thimbles of the mix to drink) & food, prawn paste onions & ginger. All smells worse than it tastes.

Afterwards all the cadets came & told me how much fun they had & how it was great & now they felt like they were part of the club.

No malice is the key ingredient. As soon as one person stops having fun, it stops being fun for all. Creative controlled carnage.

Also in this day & age where less & less Bris are deep sea & more & more are just in the Offshore Industry or Ferries, crossing the line for a young British seafarer is a rare thing. I plan to keep it going as long as I can for cadets I sail with.

It helps crew morale
It helps break the trip up
It gives this childish 2nd engineer an excuse to do silly stuff & dress up.

So please don’t stop us having fun at sea, the Crossing of The Line is an important ritual of the Deep Sea, sea passage. Just let us be, just let us have our fun. For once.


2nd Engineer
Sheriff of the High Seas