ETA equator - Midnight!!
Before we left San Jose Del Cabo, I looked up what sort of maritime rituals were involved in becoming a SHELLBACK.
Pageantry usually plays a big part in these ceremonies-in fact, the whole show was most likely, originally invented to break up the inevitable monotony of extended sea voyages, especially those that cross such a roasting hot latitude! A boost to morale and a cure for the boredom of a long passage at sea.
But what exactly are these ceremonies?
Different Navies celebrate this longstanding custom, and as with many traditions, in the armed services, the objective is always slanted to bond the greener Men to the Old Guard and in general, a fair amount of hazing seems to be in order.
The "pollywog" was a lowly sort of creature-uninitiated and naive and the "Shellback" was a venerable, wise and competent thing to behold. Pollywogs were subjected to various unpleasantries, like crawling through garbage, eating refuse, being harangued and bullied, ridiculed and forced to complete inane tasks.
Pollywogs are then made to face the court of Neptune and upon judgement (and crossing the equator) be deemed worthy and thus receive a "stamp" of some sort, declaring one an official SHELLBACK. This card, once stamped, is to be carried at all times, or a Seaman could expect to repeat the process again, should he cross the equator on another ship.
Well, far be it from the crew of Pura Vida to turn down a chance to get into costume--but hazing? We have had quite enough of crawling around our own refuse these past few weeks and putting up with various humilities doled out by our great ocean and I was thinking of a ceremony more along the line of a nice party with some champagne--and, maybe, a pretty dress in there somewhere.
However, sailors ARE a superstitious bunch and as we don't like to stray far from tradition, we wondered how we could incorporate elements of the naval ceremony--only without all the nasty bits.
So, how did these rituals begin?
What is their origin story?
Out here in the big Yonder, we have no Wikipedian Oracle to run to, so we were left to mutter our questions aloud and ask the flying fish and the Booby birds--but no one seemed to remember where the story of the POLLYWOG and The SHELLBACK came from.
We began to despair about what we would do for a ceremony.
That is, until this morning...
While becalmed, on the flattest sea imaginable, Kai spotted a bottle floating towards us.
In the spirit of environmentalism, we looked to fish this spoilage from the sea and as it approached the boat ,
we discovered, to our astonishment, a NOTE inside the bottle.
This is what it said:
To Whom it may concern,
It has come to our attention, that yea proclaim to be seekers of a certain knowledge of certain mysteries, occurring hereabouts, a longy time ago.
Thus have we consulted on the question and repaired unto Yea, a short transcription of such events, that did in fact take place.
We vow this account to be,
the Truest True of all the possible Truths.
-there were no signatures, only (what looked like) a large fish scale stamped into the paper.
Inside the bottle was a second scroll:
The TRUE tale of how the SHELLBACK became so wise.
In the Deep and Long ago,
The Queen of the Universe sat on her throne, inspecting all that she had made.
The Earth was beautiful and it's creatures a marvel of all the galaxies.
The Queen was filled with Joy and she laughed out loud.
But alas, she had no one to laugh with.
So then she took a tooth from a from a playful dolphin and a hair from a silly monkey and swirled them together in a net of Starshine,
And this is how the first Children of Man were born.
The Queen adored these children and she spoiled them terribly.
She called them her "Pollywogs".
They had full run of the Earth and could go where they pleased and have whatever they wanted of the bounty of her world.
They were fun and clever and always getting into everything.
The Pollywogs ran wild and the world was filled with their songs.
But as they grew and grew, their appetite was huge and they ate everything in sight.
The more the Queen gave them, the more they wanted and they fought and cried, yelled and screamed,
and left their garbage everywhere.
They even burnt down parts of the beautiful palace and smashed things.
Always they wanted more form their Mother, until one day, the poor Queen had no more to give.
She lay down and could not get up.
The children were frightened.
"Why won't our mother get up?" They cried.
"We are hungry and there is no more food!"
But the Queen did not answer.
There was no one to answer, for the sea was empty, the birds and the whales were all gone.
What shall we do? The Pollywogs cried.
Just then, a tiny jellyfish floated by.
"You could try King Neptune, who sleeps in the middle of the world, he is as old as Time and he will know what to do."
So the Pollywogs went to the Equator and called for King Neptune.
They awoke him from his nap and he was grumpy.
His beard was long and full of sea cucumbers.
"What have you done? You naughty children!" He scolded them.
"You are not babes anymore, look how big you have grown! "
The Pollywogs hung their heads and cried. They had not meant to do so much harm.
King Neptune felt pity for them.
He took out two beautiful cloaks woven from Love and Understanding.
He placed them on the shoulders of the children and they turned into shells.
"You are no longer Pollywogs, silly children, who take and take with no thought for future generations.
Now you are wise Shellbacks and you have seen the truth..."
He looked at them sternly.
"She's not only your Mother but the Mother of us all".
Then he stamped their Passports with sticker-stamps to show that they had travelled far and wide in a genuine quest for knowledge.
The children returned to their mother, not as spoiled Pollywogs, but as wise and venerable Shellbacks.
They treated the Queen well and appreciated her, and they always cleaned up after themselves,
and when she gave them things, they never took more than their share.
The Shellbacks gave the Queen presents of flowers and they put up flags and danced to disco music,
and the Queen was joyous and laughed and wore a pretty dress and drank champagne and baked them a cake in the solar oven because no matter how our children behave--Our Mother will always love us.
As long as we learn from our mistakes.
And this is the exactly how it happened.
Well, now that we are armed with the WHOLE story...
here's a chance to don a costume and toast some grog!
So, today in the middle of the flat and endless sea, as we approach the equator,
We will re-enact the Shellback story to the best of our abilities,
write the final names on cotton, of all of you who have been so wonderful and joined us on our journey this far,
We will prepare our disco playlist...
And get that cake out of the solar oven!
Then as we pass that final countdown, we will raise our consciousness to our Mother Ocean,
and toss all of our prayers, into the Sea.