Equatorial Baptism                                        Return to Index Page

This certificate about the equatorial crossing baptism became the most important document next to the passport and seaman's book during my sea trips. Today the name "Kugelfisch" has its full meaning to me....(Kugelfisch = ball-fish)

We already mentioned that I was so imprudent on board the "Anna Katrin Fritzen" to explain that I had already crossed the equator several times without baptism. So there I stood, without a presentiment of what was to happen, as No. 1 on the list of the Baptism Committee.  On a voyage from the Caribbean to Australia, it came to pass. On the afternoon of the equatorial crossing, the sea god Neptune and his wife Thetis emerged, and placed the ship under his reign.  Us candidates must be abstinent before the ceremony, that is, we must not smoke or drink alcohol. If caught with a bottle of beer, we were taken into custody by the Board-Police, taken to the stern, and must throw the beer bottle overboard and call "Auf Wiedersehen" for at least ten minutes while watching the bottle bobbing and blinking in the water.  An hour before the Baptism, the sun was an incandescent red, spreading on the horizon.  With the red glow came a terrible smell, so one must puncture a can of air spray with a nail and spray in a small room for ten minutes to "neutralize" the smell.  Spruce needles and boat varnish - a good mixture.  We were joined together with chains and brought before the Minister. He gave a flaming speech about our bungled lives and misdeeds, and recommended the doctor to examine the Candidates. The doctor and nurse seized the patient, put him on the operating table, and tied him down with chains.

The baptism candidate will brought before the Minister who 
gives a speech about his many misdeeds. Look at the 
"submissive bearing" of the candidate. In the background, 
Neptune, the king of the seas with his wife Thetis. The hatch
cover must be damn hot, Thetis is just pulling her feet out of 
the water bucket..

 I was diagnosed with stomach ill-humor with extreme bad breath, and a funnel was stuck in my mouth and the medicine poured in. The  vile brew (medicine) was left-over soup left three days in the warm sun, decayed fish, and waste water,  seasoned with Tobasco and Maggi. It was clear that as the funnel was drawn out of my mouth, that with the intake of this disgusting brew, I was the sacrificial victim.  "Ah," said the doctor, "the bad breath has escaped."Presently the barber worked on us.  He washed our heads in shampoo, then applied shaving cream with yellow dye, and variously shaved our heads and cut hair.  After the Baptism, I had innumerable yellow clumps that would not wash out, and went to Australia in a half-bald condition. The actual christening ceremony verged on being barbaric. I was held in place under water in the swimming pool so long that I had almost no air left.  As a signal that I couldn't take it any longer, I held up my hand with a finger up.  The Bathmaster took it as a signal that I was ready, let me out, and gave me one can of beer.  That was decreed not enough!  After a short time to take air, I was again gracelessly re-baptized. (submerged)  This was repeated until I had at least six cans of beer.

Operating preparations: The doctor and 
his nurse with white coats "covered with 
blood" examinating the patient. The patient
 is lying on the operating table, a ladder. 
The patient will very soon lose his grin.

Thus was the Equatorial Baptism at that time.Today we cannot say whether it has any meaning, is sense or nonsense.  For us young people, it was a self confirmation or understanding of the limits of actual humanity.  I do not know if this custom is also practiced in the merchant marine and navy of other nations, and will be pleased to receive a small E-Mail about your experiences.  


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