I loved visiting my grandma's when I was a child. especially routing around in her cellar to find the old photo albums of my granddad, who spent 35 years in the Royal Navy, beginning as a 15 yr old deckhand at the Battle of Jutland in WW1 and ending with his last ship, as a Chief Petty Officer aboard the Merchant Ship Voltaire, which was sunk off Cape Verde during WW2, an action that caused him to spend the rest of the war as a Prisoner of War in Germany.
I was enthralled by pictures that he took when in the early nineteen thirties, when he was in the far east, Japan in particular, but the one that caught my imagination was of the Neptune Ceremony which featured a swimming pool on a naval ship with sailors dressed as mythological characters from the sea. throwing other sailors into the water. This my grandma explained was the ceremony that happened to sailors when they first crossed the Equator. It looked like so much fun I wanted to experience it!
By the time I got to sea, the ceremony had completely changed. When I 'crossed the line' in the middle of the Pacific, on my first trip to sea, onboard the 'Medic' it was not fun at all. I was tied to the mast, covered with paint, and garbage and had my much-loved hair hacked away by a bunch of drunken seamen with a blunt knife. Not at all romantic and with bad sunburn, it was a painful experience that I was happy I would never have to relive.
The next time I crossed the line in the Atlantic off the west coast of Africa, on the MV Westminster Bridge. I was sure glad I had been there and done that, but oh my gosh, did I ever feel sorry for the galley boy who had one of the worst sunburns and blistering that I had ever seen, and suffered in agony for weeks afterwards, as a result of removing the paint and oil that were poured onto him.
By golly gum. Those were the days! Photo of the crossing-the-line ceremony was found on Wikipedia. Medic is from http://www.shipspotting.com/gallery/photo.php?lid=2806919 and Westminster Bridge is from http://www.clydeships.co.uk/view.php?ref=11208#v