Confessions of a Burial at Sea Planner - Captain’s Authority Edition
One might think that once an ash scattering memorial charter is scheduled and folks know where to board armed with a complete understanding of the process and what to expect, there wouldn’t be any problems. They'd be wrong.
Murphy's law is a popular adage that states that "things will go wrong in any given situation, if you give them a chance," or more commonly, "whatever can go wrong, will go wrong."
Captain’s Authority defined: All persons on board, particularly during navigation, including public authorities, state authorities, officers and crew, other shipboard staff members, passengers, guests and pilots, are under the captain's authority and are his or her ultimate responsibility. Simply stated - You must listen to the captain.
Here are instances when passengers didn’t...
The other evening one of my captain’s texted me to say all went well on the ash scattering trip EXCEPT! Oh No!!! I’m bracing myself because I never know what’s going to be said next. Was there a client complaint? Did someone get seasick? I waited as the next few texts came in. It seems the family scattered without waiting for the captain’s go ahead. He explained to them that when he reached the site of internment he would position the boat and assist them. The captain merely slowed his boat down to avoid a big wake, but the passengers took this as their cue to scatter the ashes. Without waiting, the clients removed the end cap from the scattering tube and proceeded to pour out the remains. The captain turned his head to check on his passengers only to see them scattering with the wind pushing the ashes back onto the side of the boat. Once he saw this he just stopped the boat to check on their progress as there was nothing more he could do and he certainly wouldn’t chastise a family mid ceremony. They sensed they jumped the gun a bit and saw the dust and remains sticking to the boat; with this they began to wipe the remains off with their hands. While the captain appreciated the gesture, he had only just had his boat painted to the tune of $35,000.00. The sandpaper-like texture of the remains was scratching into the newly painted gunnels. Thankfully this captain is one of those fellows that takes everything in stride and I can only hope his boat didn’t suffer any permanent damage.
Tis the season - temperatures are warm and the boating season is in full swing. Our charter boat captains put in a long day, often waking at 3:00 AM to get to their boats before dawn. That said, most burial at sea memorial services are held after the daily scheduled charters and late arrivals mean both captain and crew will be delayed returning home as well. Being a few minutes late isn’t a big deal, but being one or more hours late is certainly cause for consternation. Given the circumstances, our captains must remain composed, without showing any signs of annoyance...Until, that is….the family not only arrives late, but with fourteen more passengers than the boats capacity. To make matters even worse, many of these passengers flew internationally to attend the funeral, all insisting they must be in attendance. So at this point you might be saying, “Ok, the family was late, but didn’t they know the vessels passenger limit?”. Yes, most certainly!! All vessel information specifies passenger maximum limits and is included with every Booking Confirmation. When a captain is faced with leaving passengers at the dock, he or she feels quite badly. Unfortunately, even if the vessel can physically hold the added passengers, the Coast Guard-certified capacity can not be exceeded or the captain faces losing his license.
Planning a burial at sea requires not only an understanding of what to expect, but also what is expected of you. Your safety and that of your guests is first and foremost. We know these are difficult and challenging times, for some facing very tragic events. It’s our wish to meet and exceed your expectations and knowing before you go will help to insure your burial at sea service is everything you hoped it would be.