From the early days of sailing among the British Navy, there has been an equator crossing tradition. Although tradition has changed and altered with time, the Robert C. Seamans crew has been eager to experience this mysterious “celebration.” The tradition names those who have yet to cross “Polliwogs,” or unexperienced sailors. Those who have crossed then transition into “Shellbacks.” Another notch in our belts of strange ancient sailing ways. Many of us have been eagerly checking the GPS display in the charthouse constantly to know approximately when we would be crossing the big Zero. Within the last couple days the RCS crossed the equator and entered the Southern Hemisphere! Myself and 22 others were mere Polliwogs before this celebratory crossing. Crossing the equator with a fully able crew, experienced captain, and good Ole Booby C. (capable of motor sailing & plenty of fuel) may seem entirely reasonable. Yet it was no easy task. I will now describe this momentous crossing; unfortunately some information is bounded to Neptune and the sea.
Good tidings land dwellers; my name is Duane Keohane, assistant engineer aboard the RCS. The crew, friends, and family know me as Dewey. I joined the ship in early May and S310 is my second program aboard. Although many days have blended together, main ingredients being sweat, smiles, and sun, July 15 was very dissimilar indeed. 0330-I was awoken begrudgingly by Caleb to pump out our waste water tanks while we were still outside the Pacific Remote Island Marine National Monument boundary. Although pumping waste water is not my favorite way to start the day, I was able to visit Supi in the lab. I learned about the critters we’ve collected from our “Tucker Trawl,” our midwater trawling net, and the science we would be conducting around Howland & Baker sea mounts. I enjoyed the rest of the morning watching the sun climb from the horizon over the mountainous cumulus clouds.
0700-After breakfast I grabbed my morning coffee (for those who know me well this is by no means a regular occurrence, but after living on a boat for almost 3 months it has become ritual), it was time to start my daily checks. Water’s good, fuel’s good, generators are happy, heads are surviving…engine needs an oil change. Marshall (chief engineer) and I spent most the morning servicing our propulsion provider. We drained the old beast of oil and proceeded to change the filters.
1000-Break for snack, a heaping of peanut butter & lots of Reverse Osmosis made water re-fueled us.
1030-Finally topped off with over 20 gallons of fresh “blood” (15-40W diesel engine oil). A good wipe down and final inspection had completed our 500 hour service.
1220-The engineers are fashionably late to lunch, coming drenched in sweat and oil from the engine room, carrying with us a strange petroleum filled aroma very different to the rest of the smelly crew. Lunch was immaculate, thanks Ashley & Meredith.
1430- Now things get interesting! Polliwogs are gathered in the saloon where out of the darkness of the Focs’le Davy Jones addresses us who are unworthy to cross the equator (bizarrely Rich is nowhere to be found). Polliwogs are warned that Neptune & Amphitrite await our appeal. We decided to leave aspects of our lives behind with us as an offering to Neptune & his reign. In groups of three we did our best to impress the royalty of the sea (Captain Rick sure looked like Neptune, guess they’ve both been at sea for a while). We were all denied a pardon, meaning we had to enter the gauntlet of Neptune and earn our passage. Unfortunately I have to spare you of what happens next, for we have to keep our secrets with the sea. Catch the next crossing of the equator aboard RCS if you want to learn the secrets of Neptune’s gauntlet…if he finds you worthy.
1600-We are Shellbacks! Earning our place on both sides of the ocean!