Crossing the Line
Seafarers in the old days were highly superstitious, as I was told because I am not yet centuries old, so there were lots of rituals and traditions that have been carried over to this day. Be it in the Navy Fleet (Military) or the Merchant Navy ships, this “crossing the line” ritual is an occasion to behold by a first-time seafarer. It is analogous to initiation rites when someone joins a fraternity. Originally, the tradition was created as a test for seasoned sailors to ensure their new shipmates were capable of handling long rough times at sea.
Crossing the line or “Binyagan” as what my former colleagues on my first ship calls it, is a ritual that a new seaman must be subjected to for him to be considered a true seafarer. It is normally performed when the newbie seaman crosses the Equator or the International Date Line for the very first time onboard a ship. In my case, it was when passing the IDL on a calm and warm night. I kid you not, but I was actually expecting to see a lighted line on the sea surface that the ship have to cross. As an innocent Boy I would usually believe what my veteran shipmates tells me.
For what I’ve been told, the “crossing the line” ritual is to submit thyself to Neptunus Rex (King Neptune) who is the ruler of the seven seas. The new seamen who have not crossed the line are called “Slimy” or Pollywogs and the seasoned seafarers are known as the “Trusty” or Shellbacks (sons of Neptune).
The original photos of my “crossing” have been lost during a typhoon in my hometown few years back. All were prints (no digicam yet during that time) and I really should have thought of converting those prized possessions into to digital format. The photos and my “crossing” certificate, yes we were issued a certificate, may have been lost but the memories of that “Binyagan” night will linger in my mind forever.
Anyway, I found some “crossing the line” photos taken on a Shell Tanker where my cousin served few years back.
Here is Neptunus Rex… with a Pollywog on his knees.
The Pollywogs being summoned to the High Court by the King’s Shellbacks…
Here comes the Barber! Don’t worry about it he’ll do it for free 🙂
But it’s a haircut you wish you never had hehe 😀
If you think the ritual stops there…. you wish it did 😀
Here’s the bathing…. seawater mixed with all the fluids you can imagine hehe
And yes… don’t forget about the drink… a drink that only a Pollywog would take hehe 😀
Here’s King Neptune and his Shellbacks…
I know King Neptune personally…. I mean the guy who acts as him on this ritual.
He is Chief Engineer Gerry Blaney, we sailed together when I was Chief Mate on the Shell Tanker HATASIA back in 2001 cruising the sunny Caribbean, then once again on the sister ship HAMINEA back in 2003 doing Australia – New Zealand regular runs before navigating back up to the Northern Hemisphere.
On his left is my cousin, Laurence, who owns the photos I posted here…
I am hoping that the “crossing the line” rituals will be carried over to the future generation of seafarers for them to experience the fun we had during our heydays.