Crossing the Line

At 11:22 am on May 4, 2015, Helios passed 00º 00.000’ south latitude, and a glorious celebration ensued. Crossing the equator was our last major waypoint before we make landfall; it is also a significant milestone in the life of any sailor, a moment to honor the tenacity of the crew and the blessings of the gods that have brought them a safe crossing.

My dad was kind enough to forward along some of the literature explaining the traditions associated with equator crossing—the gist being that as long as there are imaginary lines circling the globe, there will be humans that celebrate crossing them. The Vikings celebrated crossing the 30th parallel, and the Phoenicians celebrated passing through the Straits of Gibraltar. The rituals vary, but involve shellbacks, more experienced sailors, inflicting some gentle hazing on the polliwogs, novice sailors making the passage for the first time. Gentle hazing usually takes the form of supplication to the sea gods and ranking crew, as well as a saltwater shower.

From these, we cobbled together our own ceremony. We uncorked the sparkling wine as we crossed the line, pouring some for ourselves and a small amount overboard as a libation to Neptune. We read a small passage of The Odyssey, ending with Odysseus’ prayer to Poseidon. We gathered coins from the US, Mexico, and Hong Kong and gave them up as offerings to the waves. We made formal declarations of our transitions from polliwog to shellback. Having no more experienced sailors onboard, we took turns sitting in the margarita seat and launching bucket-fulls of sea water at each other. This was actually really refreshing and fun, a ritual we may need to continue as we pass lines of latitude going forward.

We’ve already begun to enjoy some of the benefits of being in the Southern Hemisphere. We’ve had a steady 15-20 knot easterly wind for last 48 hours (our most consistent conditions yet!), and we seem to have left most of the squalls and their erratic conditions behind us. We’re expecting a friendly current giving us an extra knot of speed to kick in as we cross 1º S, and we’ve been brave enough to start calculating the distance to our arrival: after 22,000 nautical miles, we only have 750 left to go.