(NECN: Peter Howe) – Living in a corner of the world so defined by its coasts and bays, many New Englanders dream, after their deaths, of the simple majesty of being burined at sea, or their remains scattered to the waters.
That’s something that’s helped Captain Brad White here to build over the last six years a booming business — New England Burials at Sea LLC — that, after many special requests, he’s just formally expanded to include burials of family pets at sea.
“What I’ve found is that when people pass away, and they’d like to be buried at sea, they want to go with Fluffy, or Fido,” said White, himself an owner of three Belgian barge dogs, called Schipperkes, bred to serve as watchdogs, chase off water rats, and work the horses that would tow barges down Belgian canals.
“People that have their dog or cat with them — or parakeet, or even horse, as we’re starting to do equine horse burials at sea — we find that people get closure when they see the cremated remains travel off into the water behind the vessel,” White said.
Working off his 33-foot sportfish picnic boat, White Cap, or other vessels, White and his colleagues set an informal altar to hold an urn of remains before they are scattered and use a Plimoth Plantation antique handbell to ring “eight bells,” the nautical end-of-watch signal. Services start at around $95 for pets and $395 for humans for a simple 20-minute ride out to the three-mile federal waters limit to dispose of ashes, and can include more involved services with videography, flowers, and other services. White, who used to handle product development and store openings for the high-end Sharper Image, has even designed a biodegradable canvas shroud for full-body animal burials at sea. As with a human version, it is weighted down with cannonballs made by the same factory that makes them for the U.S.S. Constitution in Charlestown, also known as “Old Ironsides,” to ensure the body sinks, and the shroud itself decomposes along with the body in three to six months. Bear in mind, it requires substantial government approvals to do this — a Coast Guard license as a master captain to take people to see, plus an Environmental Protection Agency permit to dispose of bodies in federal waters. Through partners in ports along the East Coast, he’s offering at-sea burials to customers from Maine to Miami.
Two numbers that give an indication of how big a business this could become: Every year about 2.5 million people die in America, but it’s estimated probably 11 or 12 million pets do. At the same time, over the last 25 years, estimates of how many Americans choose to have their bodies cremated have risen from 12 to 15 percent to now as many as 60 percent. With more and more families spreading across the country, interring remains in a cemetery family members would have a hard time travelling to visit may be less emotionally meaningful than a ceremony placing the ashes for eternity at a special place. For someone who keeps the ashes of a beloved pet in an urn, choosing to have those ashes scattered in the sea when their own ashes go there too just may have a special appeal.
“It’s beautiful,” White says. “When the cremated remains go in the water, they leave here from Boston or Cape Cod, they go up to Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, over to Europe … ”
With videographer David Jacobs.
Article originally posted at www.necn.com