Common Questions We have heard hundreds of questions throughout the years. Here are answers to some of the more common questions relating to our memorial services at sea. Of course, we welcome your further questions! Please contact us.
How much does your service cost? Prices will vary depending on several factors including the port you would like to depart out of, the number of guests in your party, length of time, and amenities, which is why we do not list set prices on our website. Be assured, the quote we give you will be your TOTAL cost. We do not believe in HIDDEN FEES. The only thing NOT included in your quote or invoice is a fixed gratuity (see below). Please be sure to contact us for up to date pricing and availability.
What about tipping the captain and crew? Gratuities are neither required nor expected, however, as with any personal service rendered, a gratuity is an accepted way to say “thank you.”
How do I pay you? We accept all major credit cards, checks, and Paypal. Cash is accepted in select ports only. If possible, we generally do not like to transact financial business on the boat as we feel it detracts from the occasion. Payment 30 days ahead of your service is appreciated, but we are very flexible with personal situations. Gratuities (tips) can either be added to your invoice and we will give to those who serve you, OR you may choose to give a tip to your captain directly.
Is it legal to ship ashes? (Unattended) Yes! You may ship the ashes by U.S. Postal Service. As of this writing, neither Fedex or UPS accept cremains for transport as their service requires a monetary value be placed on the contents. Please use "Express Mail" for your shipment, as we cannot be held responsible for cremains during transit. This will give you a tracking number. Label your box "cremated remains." Please email us for our detailed shipping instructions and forms to make it easier for you.
What size box must I use for shipping? (Unattended) Ask your mortuary or crematory to give you a box the right size for shipping. As long as the box has sufficient padding, you may use any size. Usually you will use the same box that you were given by the mortuary.
When will you scatter the ashes? (Unattended) Barring unforeseen occurrences, such as inclement weather, we will scatter the ashes within 2 weeks of receipt. In California, new laws require scattering take place within 60 days of receipt. After tthe scattering of ashes, we will email you a pdf memorial certificate listing the date, latitude and longitude, and vessel. We also have printed memorial certificates personalized with your loved one's photo and laminated for additional cost.
How can I be sure the ashes are scattered? (Unattended) Ashes on the Sea wants to ease your mind regarding the scattering of ashes of your loved one. We've been doing this since 1997 and follow California's strictguidelines for Cremated Remains Disposers (CRDs). GPS is used to verify the exact latitude and longitude where the ashes are scattered.
You are issued a memorial certificate with the coordinates, as well as the date and vessel name. You can be assured that everything will be done in a manner that will give you true peace of mind, knowing that your wishes and those of your loved one are carried out in a timely and caring manner.
You can request a phone call the day before or the day of the scattering of ashes - no charge. For an additional fee, you can reserve a special date and we will coordinate with you the exact date and time. This requires a private charter/no passengers.
Do you use a special prayer or recite something at your services? We do not have a religious or other specific ceremony for our families. Why? Our wish is for our families - you - to have a memorial service for your loved one that best suits your family traditions and values. We can offer some suggestions, if you wish, and we do help facilitate the proceedings, but this is your time. Any reasonable accommodation that can be made for your family will be made! Please request our new "Family-Led Services Guide."
How much notice do you need in order to plan a service? It depends. If our schedule is open and all paperwork is in order, we have scheduled services for the next day. If we need to obtain a permit, it will take time for you to mail us the death certificate, and permits are obtained Mon-Fri only. Of course, the more notice we have, the better. Please call us as soon as you arethinking about a date or a range of dates so that we can check our calendar and pencil you in!
Will my loved one's ashes travel the ocean currents? We have heard many tales from families who were told things such as: While it is may be a romantic notion to think that your loved ones ashes will be caught up in an ocean current and travel to far away exotic places, the reality of the situation is that most of the ashes go straight to the bottom of the ocean. The remainder, the beautiful ash cloud you see drifting below the surface of the ocean may travel on the current for a relatively short distance.
Because the cremains are heavier than water, it may take a few hours, but the ash cloud will eventually filter to the ocean bottom. If the current is traveling at a speed of 2 miles an hour, the ashes may very well scatter over a distance of 2 to 4 miles of sea bottom. If the current is faster, the distance may be a little more.
For those wishing the ashes to stay together, there are biodegradable urns that can be used for that purpose. Or, consider building the ashes into an Eternal Reef.
[Off the coast of California] 'His ashes will travel the Humboldt Current, and next year at this same time you can revisit the same spot where they will have come back.'
[Gulf Stream] 'This is where his ashes will travel.' A real currents map is then provided to the family outlining where the person's ashes will go.
What is a memorial service? In general, the service is a ceremony of proven worth and value for those who mourn, whether this is simple or elaborate. It provides an opportunity for the survivors and others who share in the loss to express their love, respect and grief. It permits facing openly and realistically the crisis that death may present. Through the service, the bereaved can take that first step towards emotional adjustment to their loss.
What type of service should I have? Only you can answer that question. The type of service conducted for the deceased, if not noted in a pre-plan, is decided by the family. The service may vary in ritual according to religious denomination, culture and tradition, or the wishes of the family. The presence of friends at this time is an acknowledgment of friendship and support. A private service is by invitation only where selected relatives and a few close friends attend the service. A memorial service can vary in ceremony and procedures according to the family's community and religious affiliations.
Can I personalize my service? Absolutely, in fact, we recommend it. We are happy to discuss all options and ensure your service is tailored to your wishes. It may be personalized in many unique ways. Contact us at (858) 277-2799 to explore the possibilities.
Do we need an obituary notice? It is helpful to friends and the community to have an obituary notice published announcing the death and type of service to be held. We can assist you to place a notice in a local newspaper, and can incorporate the obituary into an online memorial website of your choice.
Is cremation a substitute for a funeral? No, cremation and burial at sea or other means is an alternative to a traditional earth burial or entombment for the body's final disposition. We can assist you with the necessary information for a memorial service.
Are there any special permits required?
If this is a California service, yes. All burials, whether a full body land burial or a scattering of ashes require a permit issued from the County. We make it easier on you by obtaining one on your behalf if you do not already have one. If the death occurred in California, you may already have the correct permit. If the death occurred out of state or abroad, we will definitely need to obtain a permit.
We will need an original or certified death certificate in order to obtain the permit. This is "on loan" with us and you will get it back. If you haven't received a death certificate yet, we may be able to use the State Transit Permit. We cannot obtain the permit with a photocopy of a death certificate, even if it is full color.
Unusual cases: If the deceased was an American citizen and died abroad, you will receive a document entitled "Report of an American Citizen Who Died Abroad" from the Embassy. We can use that. If the death certificate is in any language other than English, the County requires that we present a Certified Translation along with the death certificate.
In California, if a family wants to separate out some of the ashes to put in a keepsake urn, a permit is required for each portion. Each permit will show the fraction of cremains, i.e. 90/100, 10/100; 1/100, 99/100 etc.
May I keep some of the ashes (keepsake ashes)?
Yes. See above for permitting requirements (California).
Our usual routine is to scatter all of the ashes that come in the urn at one time.
Our policy regarding keepsake ashes is as follows:
Please tell us as far in advance as possible about your wishes to keep some of the ashes. We will make a note of this in your file and will instruct you regarding the permit requirements (see above). Making this decision in advance will eliminate any last-minute concerns.
Some families have made a last-minute decision to retain some ashes afterboarding the vessel. In this case, families are required to remove and retain the portion of ashes they want to keep before they go into any scattering container, such as a basket, vase, or biodegradable urn. This will ensure that the ashes are not inadvertently scattered all at once. We can assist you to remove the portion you want to keep.
If you decide at the last minute to keep some ashes, you will need to go to the Vital Records Office with the death certificate to obtain a permit for the keepsake ashes on the next business day following your service.