The journey from Pollywogs to Shellbacks


By Lee Scott

A few years ago, Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman starred in a movie called, “The Bucket List.” Since then it has become popular for people to create their own bucket list; the things they want to do before they die. My spouse and I have prepared ours too. We were pleasantly surprised to find we had many of the same interests on the list including the desire to become Shellbacks. We are both Pollywogs. A Pollywog is one who has never crossed the equator. A Shellback has already made the journey. But our visions for this undertaking appear very different.

I dream of us sailing our boat south. We would start here in Beaufort, the boat fully provisioned with food and water. We would sail along the coast aiming towards the equator. The boat would steer towards Freeport in the Bahamas, then down to the Turks and Caicos and then to Trinidad just north of the South American border. Then we would follow the eastern shore of South America. We would calculate our equator crossing and create our own ritual Line Crossing Ceremony. There the Captain, my husband, would change into the traditional King Neptune garb. I would turn my clothes inside out and backwards as tradition demands. Then after a rousing ceremony, which I will have invented, he would hold up his scepter and demand that I rub my face into his bare belly (part of the traditional ceremony) after which he would declare us both Shellbacks, a son and daughter of Neptune.

Unfortunately, my dream scenario does not align with his dream. He pictures himself in a white dinner jacket, think James Bond, with a glass of champagne poured into a crystal flute and a trio of musicians playing in the background. I would be dressed in an elegant evening gown. The Captain of the cruise ship would come out in a King Neptune outfit and declare us one and all Shellbacks as the ship quietly slips over the equator heading for places like Bora Bora and Tahiti. Hence, there would be no initiation rituals like the ones so popular on the Naval ships. Now as we contemplate our future transformation from Pollywogs to Shellbacks, I have begun to rethink my dream. Frankly, I think his vision is much more compelling than mine.

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