Today we finally held the ‘crossing the equator’ ceremony that we had presumed would happen on the day we crossed the equator.
I think they just like to keep us guessing.
Mid afternoon all passengers were summoned up on deck over the ships tannoy, by the captain. Having some inkling of what might be about to happen, we dressed in clothes we didn’t mind getting dirty/wet.
As we arrived, the Captain (in shorts and t-shirt) grabbed Lauren’s hand and said he had a job for her, she needed to wake up Neptune, God of the Sea, who just happened to be having a nap in the cupboard off the bridge…. She went over with him and ‘woke up’ Neptune and his helper (?!), who turned out to be two of the mid ranking officers with mops on their heads and dressed in sheets. ‘Neptune’ also had a crown made of silver foil, a beard made of cotton wool that kept shedding bits and a ‘sceptre’ that looked suspiciously like a broom covered in silver foil.
Lauren was then told to sit in a chair, and ‘Neptune’ muttered something or other over her, pronounced her new name to be Betta Splendens, and bonked her on the head with his staff and the chief mate poured water over her head. She squealed a bit (it was cold!) but took it in good part.
All the other passengers were then called up in turn, and we all got a new name, and a certificate to prove we are now veteran sailors… it’s in Latin but I swear the penultimate paragraph says we have to buy all the crew a round of drinks…
After the passengers, who got off rather lightly on the soaking front, it was the turn of the two ‘baby sailors’ or cadets. They are just 19 and 20, and this was their first crossing. They are funny boys, clearly not the best students (they keep telling Lauren to study hard so as not to “be like us”), and desperate to get onto cruise ships where they can ‘meet girls’. They seemed genuinely not to know what to expect, perhaps thinking they’d get the same treatment as the passengers. No such luck. After the initial ceremony, the first one went to get up and the captain said ‘oh no, we’re not done with you yet’ (or equivalent, in Italian). At that moment, the chief mate, who had mysteriously disappeared, loomed over from the top where the flags are, and poured a huge bucket full of very dirty water (I think it had coffee grounds and other kitchen waste in) over him. As if that wasn’t enough, the captain then produced some hair clippers, and shaved both sides of his head, leaving a silly little mini-mohican in the middle. The chief engineer then stepped up with a tub of grease, and proceeded to ‘paint’ his arms with it! The same procedure was followed with baby sailor number 2, although this time the captain completely shaved only one side of his head.
After the ceremony, the cadets were hosed down with sea water – not that this achieved much in terms of cleaning them up – and Lauren of course jumped in with them, along with one of the French guys.
After this, the cadets were sent off to scrub themselves down and the rest of us changed into dry clothes for the traditional BBQ dinner. The piri piri went down very well on the grilled chicken off the BBQ – was almost like being back in Mozambique!
And of course, the evening was rounded off with table football…