Ohana Sailing Adventure

King Eolo


Crossing the equator by boat in your own vessel is a huge deal. Not only is there the crossing itself (and teasing your kids that they should look for a line in the water), but there is the long-standing nautical tradition of being initiated from a Pollywog to a Shellback.

Honestly, before I started writing this post, I hadn’t thought about this tradition very much, I was just excited to cross the equator as a ‘rite of passage’. I’d seen personal videos of other cruisers and their line-crossing ceremonies – fun, light-hearted, part of a maritime tradition that is entertaining. But in doing a quick internet search, I ran across surprisingly harsher aspects, too.

Pikin dressed as King Eolo-Neptuno, complete with trident

The tradition stems from proving your worthiness to cross the equator – often given a subpoena to appear before the court of King Neptune, you must defend your actions as a seafarer to that point. It’s a tradition that seems to cross cultural lines and is found from the smallest vessels to the largest naval ships. But apparently not terribly long ago, naval vessels would make the ritual more of a hazing, from difficult physical tests of endurance, to can’t-eat-it spicy meals, to drinking a mixture of all alcohol on board (or all non-toxic liquids including soaps, etc), to much worse; you can find descriptions of all kinds on the web.


But thankfully, the ceremonies vary widely and on cruising boats tend to be more benign; it also varies as to whether it involves King Neptune (the sea) or King Aeolus (the wind) – Eolo in Spanish – or even Davy Jones. If you haven’t sailed across the equator before, you’re called a Pollywog. And it’s the job of the person (or persons) on the boat who has crossed before to initiate you into the ‘club’. Pikin set up a great ceremony for our family. Dressed as King Eolo and Neptuno, he dumped ‘equator’ water onto us, gave us a new seafaring name, then cracked “the egg of Christopher Columbus” on top of our heads, followed by flour, along with clipping “the earring of Christopher Columbus” onto our ear. When we had all been initiated, we jumped into the water and celebrated no longer being Pollywogs and now being Shellbacks! And the girls are already planning how to host their own line-crossing ceremony next time…



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: