It was our utter respect for a ritual that dates way back that heralded the baptism of five members of the crew of Race For Water, who had never before crossed the equator via the sea; King Neptune was there, watching over proceedings…
“Approaching a distant cape this morning, the sea took on a grey, leaden quality, keen to see the sky and the skyline merge into one. We crossed tacks with a lone fishing boat equipped with two Ecuadorian sailors, little specks of bright blue and yellow punctuating all this greyness. They’re busy working around a net, which they toss over the side without deigning to pay any attention to our spaceship silently slipping across their wake close to them.
This same morning, at 0 degrees 1 minute North, the Pacific Ocean seems as smooth and flat as a dab.
Looming over the endless horizon on their proud charger Ocean Ride, like 3 riders from the Apocalyse, King Neptune himself suddenly appears in front of our solar bow, accompanied by his two assessors.
As we slowly approach them, we can make out the large sign they’re holding in front of their chests marked… (The Line)… Our valiant captain is forced to kill the engines and they climb aboard.
Five members of the crew have never crossed this mythical line separating north and south at sea before: Anne, Annabelle, Lucas, Peter and Yoann. So, there they are lined up on the upper deck, anxiously listening to the haranguing of the owner of the gaff, equipped with his formidable trident.
“I Neptune king of the oceans, it is my right to baptise you before opening the door to the formidable southern seas, to the kingdom of sea monsters, howling winds and gigantic waves, as well as the languid mermaids on the enchanting islets…”
With this, each candidate for the southern seas is required to join Neptune on the port gangway to be anointed in fresh humpback whale oil before answering the ritual question: “Why is the sea salty?*”
Whatever their response, these established ignoramuses must then down the sour liqueur of the roaring forties, then receive the unction of the royal albatross egg, before being thrust into the marine depths by the royal trident in order to be purified and finally given a pass to traverse all oceans.
This was done on 7 March 2018 aboard Race For Water with the blessing of the god Neptune, who then allowed the captain to set sail once more on his solar vessel bound for Peru, cradle of the Incas who worship the star by the same name.
This morning, we crossed the line and for the past few hours it’s felt like we’ve been walking upside down. However, it is but an impression! The only difference is that, for some months, we’ll be writing the never-ending log from the southern latitudes as opposed to the northern ones. Contrary to some speculation, the sun will still set in the west towards the empty horizon that favours the green flash and will rise in the east behind this range of high mountains we can now make out, that belongs to the Andes cordillera, which we will now make our way along as far as Lima.”
* “Pourquoi la mer est salée? Et autres récits de marins” (Why is the sea salty? And other sailors’ tales) is a book written by Eric Loizeau and published by Gallimard in September 2017.
Like French sailing legend Eric Tabarly, for whom he crewed for four years aboard Pen Duick VI, Eric Loizeau is one of sailing’s greats from the eighties. The seventeen tales that make up this book retrace his most striking memories and the numerous human adventures, which have punctuated his maritime journey, marked by his passion for risk and exploit, but above all freedom. The skipper’s shots – he is also a photographer for the Gamma Agency – illustrate his extraordinary daily life.