As the latitude degrees were dropping, the equator mark was almost upon us. As every good sailor knows, the equator crossing is accompanied by strict rituals which allow safe passage into this bewildering time zone. In the hours prior to the crossing, the crew or “pollywogs” pranks “Neptune’s Court” made up of the captain (Anna), experienced sailors (Maggie as Davey Jones, Millie as The Baby and Winnie as The Queen) and the shellback (Dani – traitor to Team 3). Once the equator line “00” is surpassed, Neptune’s court takes revenge on the guilty crew: inducting them in the “mysteries of the deep”.

At 0 24 21 North and 87 59 17 West, we decided to snatch Steve – the crew’s (especially Maggie’s) mascot, which is an adorable light blue stuffed Narwhal. In swift espionage, we kidnapped the helpless Narwhal until our mortified 1st mate Maggie came to the surface in the middle of the evening yelling “Where is Steve??!” Yes…where was Steve..? While he traversed various bed bunks of the crossers, the experienced sailors did not find him (they seemed to be better sailors than Sherlocks) and a disturbing rumour got out that perhaps he may have fallen overboard…or had been cut into tiny whale pieces …

We had it in for us as Neptune’s court would rule at 06:30am and they would take no prisoners! For once, the night was warm and dry. Team 3 was on night watch and our first cup of tea tasted suspiciously salty…. Was this already a revenge plot by the captain and her devastated mates or were the mugs simply “accidentally” rinsed in saltwater? We had our suspicions as an English-led sailing team would never serve a sub-par cup of Builders Tea.

At 00:29am we were due to cross the equator. A few minutes prior to that, everybody in the bunks got an immensely loud drumming wake up call to not miss out the crossing (and not to perhaps ever hear again…). We appeared on deck dressed oddly (looking a bit like pirates, a bit like the childish brutes from Lord of the Flies with colourful pants over our leggings and musty tea towels adorned to our heads and ankles). We were adorned in our finest rapscallion outfits; ready to celebrate the moment with a spontaneous party.

Punctually at 06:30am the court started to reign its initiation process just before the sun came up. The court that is King Neptune himself, his queen, Davey Jones, the baby and the shellback. The members of Neptune’s court were woefully avenged by a hanging light blue Narwhal with duct tape on his mouth and threats pinned to his breast. A terrorised Steve was found at last!
The crew was excited for what was to come. We were fed well by the court: with delicious overnight oats – served to us with a large spoon then smashed against our noses. We received a heavy beating of sautéed onions and wet potato skins. The demanding ceremony required us to pretend to swim and do push ups covered in wet damp vegetables.

The finale was a smoking hot horror of a mandatory gulp of the hottest hot sauce from the Caribbean, a kiss to Baby’s coconut oiled tummy (she was dressed in diapers), and a kiss on the gilded stick of Neptune (Captain Anna). We then swore our allegiance to King Neptune and the Sea. Our hair was thus snipped, and the wisps thrown into the sea. Fully initiated as shellbacks, we all danced hooked to one another towards the bow and the red footed light blue billed birds’ “boobies”.