Crossing The Line

Having left Bali, we set a kind of NNW direction to Singapore. This journey was to include two full days at sea during which time, we would be crossing the Equator. On cruise ships, this ceremony is conducted so as to formally request King Neptune’s permission to move from one half of the hemisphere (in our case the southern half) to the other half (that’ll be the northern half 🙂 ). Naturally, everybody was keen to ‘Cross the Line’ as for so long new, we had been upside down and desperately wanted to get to our own half and once more be the right way up. I dare say the Aussies might have felt the other way round but this is all about me, me me.

The ceremony of Crossing the Line is an initiation rite in the British Merchant Navy, Dutch merchant navy, Royal Navy, U.S. Navy, U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Marine Corps, Russian Navy, and other navies that commemorates a sailor’s first crossing of the Equator. The tradition may have originated with ceremonies when passing headlands, and become a “folly” sanctioned as a boost to morale, or have been created as a test for seasoned sailors to ensure their new shipmates were capable of handling long rough times at sea. Sailors who have already crossed the Equator are nicknamed (Trusty/Honorable) Shellbacks, often referred to as Sons of Neptune; those who have not are nicknamed (Slimy) Pollywogs (in 1832 the nickname griffins was noted). Source: – Wikipedia – Visit Wikipedia Line Crossing Ceremony for far more detail 🙂

Having crossed the equator a couple of time now, I suppose I could technically call myself a Shellback but whatever I am, the ceremony is always great fun, noisy, raucous and messy. Believe me, it’s messy. So messy that they have to shut the pool, drain it, clean it, clean it again, clean it some more then refill the pool (not with a hosepipe -see last photo – as Mrs Me believed).

There are numerous variations of the ceremony, one where an elected passenger is found guilty of nefarious crimes and sentenced to all sorts of punishments such as disembowelling (sausages, spaghetti, etc., ‘removed, from victim and tossed onto the deck / pool), beheading (not really, but lots of goo covering head), and other unsavoury deeds including the covering of miscreants (normally those who have overeaten on the cruise) with ice cram and chocolate sauce, etc.

We on the Arcadia however are so much more civilised and opted for less gruesome activities. These were split initially into three challenges between the ships officers and ships crew. It was at this point that the Captain quoted some ancient sea faring rule that dictated that the Captain must remain in charge of his ship at all times and as such he would not be allowed to take part in any pool activities. How could he, after all, run a ship when sinking and drowning in goo while in his uniform. So with that, his deputy for the proceedings appointed, the ships doctor put on alert (he’s the one in the blue gown with suspiciously looking blood stains all over) the proceedings begun.

  • Challenge 1 – One member from each team had to dive into the pool and extract as many items of cutely, that had previously been thrown in, in 20 seconds. Results:
    • Crew – Loads
    • Officers – None
  • Challenge 2 – A relay swim of two lengths consisting of 4 members of each team, with a bucket on their heads and sitting in a lifebelt ring. Results:
    • Crew – lost – one member fell off while another ended up in the Officers Lane.
    • Officers – Won by a mile.
  • Challenge 3 – A relay swim of two lengths (wearing a boiler jacket, which had to be swapped each time) consisting of 4 members of each team. Trying to get a wet boiler suit off then onto the next swimmer didn’t look too easy, though it did look quite pleasing on the eye for some no doubt 🙂. Results:
    • Crew – lost – last girl couldn’t get out the suit in time for last guy to put it on.
    • Officers – Won by a mile.

Following this, there was the hearing by Neptune after which he was to judge whether the ships officers were worthy enough to be allowed to switch hemispheres. As they had won the challenge overall, they were indeed worthy. Before such permission was granted however, each had to pledge allegiance by kissing the fish, which didn’t look too fresh while the losers had to pay the penance, along with selected passengers, of being coated in runny jelly, blancmange, gravy and who knows what else. Needless to say this descended into absolute mayhem when everybody was coating everybody, even watching cruisers were caught in the cross fire: not me though, I was sensible and hid behind Mrs Me. And then, it was all over: Neptune granted his permission and strutted around greeting all those present before pushing them all into the pool. This included the Captain. Not sure how many Captains would have actually allowed that so, way to go Captain Aseem Hashmi.

With the conclusion, the mess now obvious and the surfaces under feet way to slippy for passengers, the pool was closed and out came the army of pool cleaners who had the somewhat unenviable task of cleaning everything up and refilling the pool. All of course overseen by a big bossy sear gent major type person who stood there and barked commands / instructions; he was scary.

With that, Mrs Me and I returned to the Bar, avoiding The Fish, which was being paraded around the deck for all passengers to ‘kiss’, and settled down for a glass or two of our favourite fruit based drink (Rioja for me, Rosè for Mrs Me) before preparing for dinner. Life at sea can be gruelling.

Next Stop: Singapore…..

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