Maine Maritime Museum crosses the line

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BATH — Maine Maritime Museum is known in part for the nautical-related relics it displays, but never before has it showcased such characters as Neptune, Amphitrite and Davey Jones (the locker dweller, not the Monkee).

The Washington Street complex hosted these characters – played by museum staff – as part of its “Crossing the Line” ceremony on March 21, the main event of its spring celebration. Admission was free, and participation plentiful: nearly 500 people attended, according to Amy Lent, the museum’s executive director.

The celebration, which also featured Henna tattooing, face painting and maritime humor, went hand-in-hand with the museum’s ongoing exhibit, “The Sea Within Us.” The exhibit, running through April 19, shows the impact maritime traditions have had on land-based culture.

“We wanted to do some kind of event around this exhibit, and we realized spring was going to be right towards the end of the exhibit,” Lent said, adding with a laugh, “when you see the staff dressed up, you’ll see what I mean by ‘crossing the line.'”

She was right. At noon, Davey Jones (played by education coordinator Tad Lyford) emerged, face painted green, black and red, to herald the start of the ceremony and call on Neptune to arrive. Exhibits Curator Chris Hall strolled toward Sewall Hall playing a sea shanty on the fiddle and signaling the coming of Neptune, a boisterous character played by education associate Jim Nelson.

Along with Neptune was his lovely queen Amphitrite, personified by senior curator-in-drag Nathan Lipfert, and Baby Triton, also known as boat shop coordinator Kurt Spiridakis, who sported a winter hat graced by the face of “Sesame Street” character Bert. Lent appropriately played the captain.

The original crossing the line ceremony originated on board ships that had passengers or crew members crossing the equator for the first time. With the equator nowhere in sight on Saturday, Neptune and his compatriots had to make do.

The children called forward to be initiated into the Ancient Order of the Deep underwent a series of fake, but entertaining rituals such as being shaved, paddled and submersed with water.

The final line they had to cross before being initiated, though, wasn’t fake at all; in fact, one might consider it a true rite of passage.

They had to take a swig of Moxie.

Alex Lear can be reached at 373-9060 ext. 113 or

mmm3.jpgHenna tattoo artist Genevieve Levin works her craft on the hand of Bob Wheeler of Bremen at the Maine Maritime Museum on March 21. (Lear photo)

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mmm1.jpgJim Nelson, education associate at the Maine Maritime Museum in Bath, plays the role of Neptune during the museum’s “Crossing the Line” ceremony last Saturday. (Lear photo)

A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.