Saturday, February 9, 2008


Pensea certificate
Traditions and folklore for today's marinerROBERT DAVIS
In Phuket, the yachting lifestyle is growing in popularity.They are called "yachties". People who choose to travel the world by boat, living and sometimes, even working for their passage aboard all types of sailing vessels. Some would even say that yachties are a different breed of people. You are very likely to find them in places like Teddy's Bar in Kupang, Timor Leste, or Suda's Bar and Jimmy's Lighthouse in Chalong Bay, Phuket, sharing information about the best anchorages, safest passages and cheapest marinas.

And when you listen to them talk about where they have been or where they might be going next, it often sounds something like this; Togians', Moorea, Solomon's, Port Moresby, and Balikpapan.

Some have been lifelong sailors, and others are just ordinary people who one day decided to sell the house, roam the world and live on a boat.

One couple who have certainly seen much of the world from the deck of a sailboat is American expats, Bob and Bianca Hein. They have sailed together from the Atlantic to the South China Sea. They have been shipwrecked, chased by pirates and narrowly escaped being tattooed by New Guinea natives. Today, they live just outside of Pattaya, where their sailboat, Jersey Lily is moored. How they met is the type of story typical to the yachties lifestyle.

Bob was the captain of a sailboat in Maui, Hawaii. Bianca needed a job and saw an advertisement that Bob had tacked up in the marina looking for crew. So, Bianca did what every out of work sailor would do - she swam out to his boat for an interview. That was more than 20 years ago, and they have been together ever since, "stuck together like barnacle to a boat," Bianca likes to joke.

Pattaya-based American expats Bob and Bianca Hein, aboard their boat Jersey Lily.

Today's yachties are well equipped with the latest and most modern navigational instruments and safety equipment, but even so, for many they remain superstitious and strict followers of marine tradition. Bianca is combining her enthusiasm for the yachting way of life and carrying on of traditions into a new project, the Pensea Mariner's Certificate. Three-hundred and fifty of these were issued at last year's Darwin to Bali Rally.

Bianca created the Pensea Mariner's Certificate, so I will let her tell the story here, of why and how it came to be.

"The open seas had been a subject of myths and legends since the beginning of seafaring. Mariners of the ancient times made animal sacrifices to Neptune - the Roman god of the sea - to please him, asking for protection from the monsters and storms.

"Fifteenth century explorers pondered what lay beyond, and at the same time, looking both for something to ease their fear of falling off the edge of the world as well as tokens to display their maritime achievements.

"Somewhere along the line, the line crossing ceremony was born. The most well known is when a sailor crosses the equator for the first time. 'Shellback' sailors who had previously crossed the equator test 'pollywogs' - first timers - for their capability to endure the long voyages, and at the end of the ceremony induct them into a fraternity of seasoned sailors. Now there is a new line to be crossed, The Pensea.

"The Pensea Mariner's Certificate follows in the wake of many traditional line crossing ceremonies to live on in the Southeast Asia realm, and for many mariners of the world making a first time crossing in the region, it constitutes a rite of passage for sailors.

Yachtsmen show off Pensea certificates for navigating across a Southeast Asian peninsula.
"Sailors who cross the waters around one of the many peninsulas, from The Cape York Peninsular, Australia to Sri Lanka - travelling east or west - have earned the right to receive a certificate to commemorate the event. As they round one of the many peninsulas in Southeast Asia, the pollywogs are then initiated into the ranks of the shellbacks, by way of various embarrassing tasks.

"The artwork decorating the certificate depicts the sea legends of local lore. The mermaid is from a sea cave in Indonesia and the strong armed sea dragon resides in the 'Dragon's Triangle' where three seas converge, and King Neptune, he is a man of his time.

"Having The Pensea Mariner's Certificate made and sanctioned was a group effort: Capt Ronny Malinan Fordatkosu, and Patti Seery, owner of Silolona, told the story of the Indonesian mermaid; Capt Jeroen Deknatel owner of Ocean Rover recommended the modern Neptune look and documented the first certificate signing. A nonfiction book with photos of unaccountable sightings and events in the Dragon's Triangle developed the sea dragon.

"There are other similar ceremonial line crossings in the world. For instance, the Dragon Ball took place on the return trip across the equator. When first-time sailors cross other major lines or landmarks, such as the Arctic Circle, International Date Line, or the Panama or Suez canals, similar ceremonies are held.

"For sailors of all nationalities, their recollections of their line crossing ceremony remains one of the most memorable experiences. Now with the new Pensea Mariner's Certificate - the maritime legend continues in Southeast Asia."

For details on the Pensea Mariner's Certificate, check out

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