Sailing to Isla Isabela in the Galápagos Archipelago

Crossing the Line—Changing From a Polliwog to a Shellback

The screen of the Garmin GPS as we crossed the equator (latitude 00°00.000', longitude 090°05.159') just before 11:00 p.m. local time (which happened to be Central Standard Time).   Here's the official proclamation from King Neptune, suitable for framing. You can click on this picture to enlarge it (36kb); use your browser's "back" command to return here.

It was a dark night, at first due to the lack of a moon then due to clouds masking the moonlight. As we motored north I monitored the GPS closely, watching the latitude steadily count down as we got closer and closer to the equator. I set up my camera on the mini-tripod and took a few test pictures of the GPS to check the exposure. Just before we crossed the line, David and Marcie came up into the cockpit. I cut the throttle so we would coast over the equator at slow speed, giving me time to snap a picture. Once we crossed the line, "Happy Equator!" wishes were exchanged, then we had a little celebration—on our little boat, perched on the Earth's waistline, late at night on the dark, dark, sea. Marcie said a short prayer of supplication and appeasement to Neptune, God of the Sea, and Aeolus, God of the Wind, then offered them a shot of rum as a friendly gesture. David held a certificate in his hands and by the light of a flashlight recited this solemn proclamation:

TO ALL SAILORS WHEREVER YE MAY BE and to all Mermaids, Sea Serpents, Whales, Sharks, Dolphins, Skates, Suckers, Lobsters, Crabs, and other Living Things of the Sea, GREETINGS:

KNOW YE: That on this the 8th day of April in the year 2004 in Latitude 00°00', there appeared within Our Royal Domain the good ship Nine of Cups bound for Easter Island.

BE IT REMEMBERED: That said Vessel, Officers and Crew thereof having been inspected and passed on by Yourself and Our Royal Staff,

AND BE IT KNOWN: By all ye Sailors, Mariners and Land Lubbers, who may be honored by his presence, that JOHN SANTIC, second mate, having been found worthy to be numbered as ONE OF OUR TRUSTY SHELLBACKS, has been gathered to our fold and duly initiated into the SOLEMN MYSTERIES OF THE ANCIENT ORDER OF THE DEEP.

BE IT FURTHER UNDERSTOOD: That by virtue of the power invested in me I hereby command my subjects to show due honor and respect to him whenever he may enter Our Realm.


Neptunus Rex
Ruler of the Raging Main

Having crossed the equator on a sailing ship, I had been transformed from a mere polliwog into a noble shellback, by authority of Neptunus Rex, King of the Sea. Gee thanks, Neptune, that's really neat! Adding to my enjoyment, David graciously offered to stand the rest of my watch to give me more sleeping time. Gee thanks, David, that's really neat! A few minutes later, we crossed the equator again as David reversed course to take us to Puerto Villamil, our next port in the Galápagos. This time there was no celebration—we were all shellbacks now.

Friday, April 9, 2004 (Day 12 in the Galápagos Archipelago)

While I was on my morning watch today, Marcie, David, and I finished the rest of last night's equator-crossing ceremony. Each of them had given me an assignment that I had to complete to earn my shellback rating. David's assignment was for me to name at least five "animals" on the boat (for example, gooseneck). Marcie asked me to compose and perform a song about crossing the equator.

For David, I recited this list of "animals": gooseneck, sea cock, hatch dogs, sole (a fish and the cabin floor), leech (an edge of the sail), shaft seal, rail (a bird), sail track slugs, clamshell vent, pelican hook (a lifeline connector), outboard motor crane (even though it's in storage). Then I recited some puns: "fowl" weather gear, shaft "bear"-ing, "ant"-enna "tuna" (antenna tuner), "bull"-wark (bulwark), and gun-"whale" (gunwale). As a real stretch, I also mentioned Australian sandpaper (pronounced "sandpiper" in an Australian accent). David and Marcie added a few more to the list: wind-"lass", gypsy (part of the windlass), "tern"-buckle, and "horse"-shoe buoy.

Then Marcie asked me to sing my song, and I performed this little ditty (to the tune of "Way Down Upon The Suwannee River"):

Way down upon the South Pacific
Far, far, from home
That's where I became a shellback forever
That's when I crossed the yellow line.
All the world thinks it's not yellow
Little do they know.
Sailing on Nine of Cups proves this for certain:
The equator's a yellow line.

My ditty played along with a standing joke that when we got to the equator, we'd see a line painted on the ocean. In fact, on the Nine of Cups web site, Marcie and David have posted a picture they took when they sailed across the equator the first time. Sure enough, the yellow line is clearly visible, running ruler-straight across the surface of the sea (see the picture here). According to the joke, the countries of the world chip-in for paint and upkeep. Unfortunately, I crossed at night, and the countries of the world haven't chipped-in enough yet to pay for a lighted yellow line.

Previous Page   Next Page   Section Contents Page   Main Contents Page   Sailboat Cruising Page   Home Page