Crossing the Equator for the first time is a rite of passage for a sailor. Before you cross, you are but a pollywog. If you cross the Equator and survive the requisite hazing, then you are elevated to a trusty Shellback, an honored member of King Neptune’s Realm. In days gone by, sailors seeking to become a Shellback had to endure a days worth of fraternity-like initiation. Those who were already initiated as Shellbacks were to preside over the ceremonies, and had wide latitude in the activities so required. Pollywogs would be tied up in ships ropes and thrown overboard, to be drug beneath the ship from one side to the other. If the sailor survived, he then had to partake in various humiliations aboard the ship including being required to dress as a woman, drink an overabundance of grog, and crawl on the ships decks covered in tar or tacks. My research on the Googlebox also indicted that Neptune enjoys good prose, particularly in Haiku form. This, I can do.
Our first problem in determining how best to honor Neptune came from the fact that we do not have any Shellback sailors on board. The only true Shellback here is….Sonrisa. So, Sonrisa agreed to become master of ceremonies. She did not, however, approve of keel hauling any of the crew. She consulted with Neptune and he indicated that that particular tradition was done away with in the early 1900s and it has since not been a requirement due to the frequency of resulting drownings. That was a relief to me.
So, on the morning of April 19, 2016, as the Equator neared the entire crew gathered on deck, each dressed as a member of the opposite sex, ready for the requisite humiliations to begin. This motley crew included Andrew and me, of course, but also Osmond the comfort owl, Sully the ship’s lucky black cat, and Sergio the Parrot. We were all ready to make the crossing.
As Sonrisa sailed toward the line, Andrew readied some pressurized Grog (Champagne) to commence the festivities. I had rum in hand. The wind was quite light at this time of the morning. We drifted ever so slowly, each crew member happily anticipating the moment we cross. We counted down with Sonrisa as the GPS neared 00.00.005N, 00.00.004N, 00.00.003N, 00.00.002N, 00.00.001N and POP! The champagne cork and a loud cheer flew into the air.
Sonrisa directed us to the side decks where we offered a portion of our grog to Neptune.
We read to him our poetry and then offered it to the deep along with flowers from the leis we received upon our departure from land.
We were forced to crawl upon Sonrisa’s decks, while dressed quite ridiculously as the opposite gender.
And upon completion, Sonrisa humbly requested that Neptune acknowledge us as Shellbacks, and it is my understanding he agreed. He issued the following decree declaring our new status, and now, we are welcome members in Neptune’s Realm.
Continuing on as Shellbacks, we had only one day left until we arrived at the Galapagos. By the end of my watch at 8 a.m. on April 20, we had our landfall in sight.
The wind was light, the water almost glass that morning. We were well within striking distance through the use of the engine, so Sonrisa's motor chugged along taking us to land at a speed of four knots, or approximately four miles per hour. You could walk faster. Patience, patience, patience is the name of this game. I read Jenny Lawson's Lets Pretend This Never Happened to pass the time.
Suddenly, from the belly of Sonrisa's engine came a screaming wail of a banshee. My heart dropped and my stomach became sick. We only had 7 miles more to land, but this day isn't to be without excitement, either. In the most honorable fashion, fit a newly inducted Shellback, my eyes grow wide and I wave my hands in panic: "WHAT IS THAT? WHAT IS THAT?" While Andrew yells from below: "TURN IT OFF! TURN IT OFF!"
Turn what off? I think.... Oh, the engine. Now my brain and body split into two separate humans. My body bends down to the engine control panel and pulls the choke out to stop the engine while my mouth screams "I DON'T KNOW HOW????" This was a strange experience. Andrew's face falls with a look of shock, "what do you mean you don't know how?"
I pull out the genoa sail to catch whatever light wind I can while Andrew takes apart the stairs to access the engine room. He checks the belts, the oil levels, the transmission fluid, the oil and water temperature, every system he can think of. He jumps overboard (while tied on) and inspects the propeller and its shaft. All looks normal and well. We never do figure out what went wrong. Soon, we turn the engine back on, in neutral to see what happens.
She purrs like a kitten.
We put the engine in gear.
We increase the RPMs and begin motoring forward.
Thankfully, the engine remained docile for the remainder of the trip. We arrived in port and set our anchor at the back of the pack.
When all of our milage was tallied, we put on approximately 600 extra sailing miles zigging and zagging for a total trip of 2500 miles. By the time we finished the check in process, we were ready to hit land. We caught a water taxi to town and headed to the beach. We found our first land food in 21 days: A banana hot dog.
Really, I'm not sure what they call it or what exactly it was comprised of, but it was a grilled plantain banana they split in half, spread a cliantro (?) mayonnaise sauce, and then tucked in two sticks of cheese that had the flavor and texture much like a dry mozzarella. It was amazing. We took our banana hotdog to the beach and admired the "sand" which was more like a pile of identifiable but small sea shells.
When a sea lion approached to join our little beach party, I decide this place is worth the drive.