Over the years while chartering my sailboat—mostly doing “cruise and learns”—I had many requests to do spreading of ashes ceremonies at sea. I really did not look forward to these occasions as I teared up a lot, and being the sensitive kind of guy I am, often went home sad—which is curious since never once did I know the deceased or the family who hired me. Maybe that was why I was referred to as the “go-to” guy for such occasions and treated to food, drinks and stories as if part of the family. Since recycling is my forte and philosophy, I consider this an opportunity to be truly useful.
My favourite story from my brief career in ash spreading, is about a widow I will call Suzy who hired me to spread her deceased husband’s ashes in Oak Bay. She proposed a location near his favourite spot, a bench beside Cattle Point where he enjoyed watching sailboats cruising around the bay.
The day for the spreading was near perfect: the skies were blue and the winds were light; just enough to enjoy our sail and blow the ashes away from my boat when scattered. I checked to make sure all was ship-shape, and my stash of tissues would be easy to find when needed. But all concerns over tears were erased by the happy arrival of my client and her minister who waltzed arm in arm down the ramp at Oak Bay Marina to where my Beneteau was moored! Perhaps they were good friends of long association? They were encumbered by a heavily-laden wicker picnic basket which held much promise. When asked if they had everything they needed, Suzy suddenly remembered her husband Freddy’s urn was left behind in the car!
With Freddy retrieved, I remembered thinking that for the first time in this unsolicited business of mine I might actually enjoy myself! As we cruised to the appointed burial spot, Suzy shared a few stories about her deceased husband’s love of the sea and their love for each other.
As I was about to drop anchor in preparation for spreading Freddy, I saw to my horror that Suzy had already opened the urn and had walked out on the boat’s swim grid to toss his ashes overboard. “Stop,” I hollered, “We need to turn the bow into the wind first!” Fortunately, Suzy stopped just in time.
With the boat properly anchored and positioned, the signal was given and Freddy’s ashes were dutifully scattered, followed by a few rose petals. Unexpectedly, an errant gust of wind blew some ashes back onto the floor of the cockpit! “Jesus Mary, Joseph, I did not expect Freddy to come flying back like that!” exclaimed Suzy.
“No problemo,” said I, deftly brushing Freddy’s last remains out of the cockpit (using a whisk broom and dust pan conveniently located for just such an emergency). On “automatic idiot mode” I could not resist blurting out: “I bet this is the first time your husband ever got the brush off.”
After what seemed an eternity of silence, both Suzy and the minister erupted with laughter.
I just sat demurely, then wondered if they were now going to share their basket of goodies with me. No worries: my companions quickly spread out the table cloth, and invited me to join.
I suspect Suzy and her late husband had many such laughs during their lifetime together. Maybe Freddy had a hand in creating that sudden gust of wind; his last laugh?