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How to Scatter Ashes at the Beach

Image of Couple embracing each other

The ocean holds a special meaning for many people. Often, people choose to scatter ashes at the beach to honor loved ones who were in the Navy, Coastguard, or Marines. Some choose it as a final resting place for fishermen or those who loved the sea. Because these ceremonies differ from typical funerals, many people have questions about how to scatter ashes at the beach. 

While you can’t scatter ashes directly on the beach, you can take them onto a boat and scatter them on the open water. Burial at sea is legal as long as you abide by the EPA guidelines under the MPRSA general permit for burial at sea, which states that ashes must be at least 3 nautical miles offshore.  We recommend choosing an ash scattering service that operates in compliance with these guidelines. This frees you to focus on your family or friends during the ceremony.

In this post, we offer ideas, poems, prayers, and Bible verses that you can add to your ocean ash scattering.

Table of Contents

Burial at Sea Ceremony Ideas
Prayers for Burial at Sea
Poems for Ocean Ash Scattering
Bible Verses for Ocean Burial

A burial at sea stands as the perfect way to reflect on the lives and loves of individuals who felt a special connection with oceans and seashores. 

Burial at Sea Ceremony Ideas

Burial-at-sea ceremonies can be conducted together at the dock before setting out to sea, or at some other designated location. With attended burial-at-sea scatterings, a ceremony could also be held on the boat itself during the trip (observing the boat’s passenger limit).

Scattering Ceremony

Many families will want to take an active part in scattering the ashes of their loved ones. In some ceremonies, someone is designated to release the ashes, while in other ceremonies, guests will take a portion of the ashes to scatter individually. Guests may choose to share something before they release the ashes, or the group may choose to release the separated ashes all at once.

Lighting candles or casting flowers, petals, or wreaths on the water along with the ashes are all lovely choices. This gives the family a beautiful, lasting scene to gaze upon as they finish their ceremony and celebration of life. There may be music played, memories shared and glasses raised in honor of the deceased.

Floating Ceremony

In this ceremony, as opposed to physically scattering the ashes over open water, the cremation ash is placed in a specially designed water-soluble urn. (These can be found on several online sites.) The urns can be simple or very ornate, according to your taste.

After, or as a part of, the memorial, the urn is placed in the water. The urn floats for a couple of minutes before it begins to sink and dissolve. To conclude the ceremony, guests will often toss live flowers, petals, or wreaths into the water as one final tribute.

Prayers for Burial at Sea

The following prayers for a burial at sea ceremony offer hope and comfort. 

Excerpt from Burial at Sea prayer from The Book of Common Prayer (1928) of the Protestant Episcopal Church

Burial at Sea

The Book of Common Prayer (1928) of the Protestant Episcopal Church (Source)

Unto Almighty God, we commend the soul of our brother departed, and we commit his body to the deep; in sure and certain hope of the Resurrection unto eternal life, through our Lord Jesus Christ; at whose coming in glorious majesty to judge the world, the sea shall give up her dead; and the corruptible bodies of those who sleep in him shall be changed, and made like unto his glorious body; according to the mighty working whereby he is able to subdue all things unto himself.

A Fisherman's Prayer Graphic

Fisherman’s Prayer

Anonymous

God grant that I may live to fish for another shining day. 
But when my final cast is made I then most humbly pray, 
When nestled in your landing net as I lay peacefully asleep, 
You’ll smile and judge that I’m ‘good enough to keep’.”

Excerpt from  The Lord's Prayer Bible verse

The Lord’s Prayer 

Matthew 6:9-13, KJV (Source)

Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come;
thy will be done;
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation;
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
the power and the glory,
forever and ever.
Amen.

Poems for Ocean Ash Scattering

These poems focus on the beauty of the ocean as a final resting place.

"Immersing my soul in water where first life and memory began." excerpt from Burial at Sea poem by John Companiotte

Burial at Sea

By John Companiotte (Source)

There will I lie, 
Forever with a moving element,
Not sunk in the leaden earth
Missing the sullen music of whales
For a lullaby to soothe my sleep.
Small fish with vermilion scales,
Haloing wide purple faces, will dart
In and out of my long dream
With no disturbance, their colors
Shimmering and enlivening my eyes
Closed to the pink revelry of dawn.
The swell of the shifting current
Will tug at my stuffed shirt, waking 
Me from being human, immersing
My soul in water where first
Life and memory began.

A Fisherman's Prayer by Jeanette Hoppes

A Fisherman’s Prayer

By Jeannette Hoppes (Source)

God grant me a little more time
To pick up my rod, and cast my line.
Work and worry disappear
When I pick up my fishing gear.
With boat on trailer, I will go
Anywhere the fishing’s not too slow.
Work just doesn’t seem so fine
When I see what’s at the end of my fishing line.
When I am feeble, old and grey
Please don’t take my pole away.
When the Pearly Gates open wide
Please find this old fisherman, one good lake inside!

"Down to the unfathom'd realms, where hidded fountains flow..." excerpt from Burial at Sea Poem by Mrs. L.H. Sigourney

Burial at Sea

Mrs. L.H. Sigourney (Source)

Down to the unfathom’d realms,
Where hidden fountains flow,
Alone, his silent couch to find,
The child of earth must go.
For him no funeral bell
May weeping friends convene,
Nor dust, to kindred dust be laid
Within the church-yard green.
Farewell! one heavy plunge!
One cleft in ocean’s floor!

Bible Verses for Ocean Burial

These Bible verses celebrate faith and the hope of heaven.

"...they saw the deeds of the Lord, his wondrous works in the deep." -Psalm 107:23-24

Psalm 107:23-24 (ESV)

“Some went down to the sea in ships, doing business on the great waters; they saw the deeds of the Lord, his wondrous works in the deep.”

"Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted." - Matthew 5:4

Matthew 5:4 (ESV)

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”

"God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble." Psalm 46:1

Psalm 46: 1-3 (ESV)

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah.”

How to Scatter Ashes at the Beach

To plan a beautiful ocean burial, we recommend choosing a service that follows the MPRSA general permit for burial at sea. Then, you can plan a beautiful service that reflects on the life of your loved one. At Rest Ashured, we offer both attended and unattended burial at sea options

If you choose an attended ceremony, we will put you in direct contact with a boat captain to schedule the special day and time. On your scheduled day, you will meet him at the boat slip to begin your time on the water. 

If you choose an unattended ceremony, the boat captain will respectfully scatter your loved one’s ashes on your behalf. This is typically done within 30 days, and we will inform you on the day of release. 

Our sea scattering locations include the Outer Banks, North Carolina, Topsail Island, North Carolina, and Virginia Beach, Virginia. 
We’re here to make the process as smooth as possible. If you have any questions about how to scatter ashes at the beach, please get in touch with us by calling 434-534-4007 or emailing us info@restashured.com.

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Why Scatter Ashes at Sea

Ocean Water

With the rising popularity of cremations, burial at sea ceremonies, or scattering ashes at sea, is also becoming more common. Oftentimes, land burials can be burdensome and expensive for the deceased’s family.

People move, which can make it hard for them to visit a fixed grave. However, having one’s ashes buried at sea fixes this because there is no central location where the remains are located. Because of this, every time family members visit the sea they can think about their loved ones.

What is a Sea Scattering?

ocean funeral with boats on the water

A burial at sea, or scattering at sea, is where you either directly scatter the ashes, or place your loved one’s ashes in a biodegradable urn and let it sink to the ocean floor.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and federal law these services must take place at least 3 nautical miles from land. You also have to make sure that you don’t use any material during your ceremony that won’t break down quickly in the water.

Often, your family and friends accompany you on the boat to be present during the ceremony to sink or scatter the cremated remains.

Rivers, Lakes, And Other Countries

Scattering in rivers or other inland waters depends on the laws and regulations of the state the body of water is located in. Make sure you do research on particular states laws, and don’t trespass on private property to scatter ashes.

Other countries have different requirements for scattering ashes in the ocean than the United States does. Make sure you do your research on their scattering laws, as well as the best practices for travelling with ashes.

Why Do A Sea Scattering?

It’s Less Expensive

A standard burial can be expensive. Most of the time, these burials cost around $10,000 or more, depending on how much planning your loved one did in advance. Because of this, families will most likely need to save up (or even take out a loan) to afford the funeral.

However, cremation and scattering one’s ashes at sea can cost exceptionally less. Scattering one’s ashes at sea with Rest Ashured costs around $375, which is 20 times less expensive than regular burials. This adds a lot more flexibility to the ceremony, and will be less burdensome on one’s family.

Scattering Ashes is More Flexible

As stated above, scattering ashes can be a lot easier for the family members when considering visiting the deceased. However, scattering ashes at sea can make the process logistically easier in other ways, too.

For one, there is a longer timetable to spread ashes than there is with a ground burial. Once the deceased is cremated, family members can wait for a suitable time to spread the ashes. This makes it easier for family members to attend the ceremony, as they will have more time to schedule it.

Scattering ashes at sea also makes the ceremony less painful to plan. A standard burial requires a great deal of planning and decision-making. In the case of a casket burial, the deceased’s family would have to plan where to hold the ceremony, where to host the reception, organize extended family, and negotiate with a funeral home.

On the other hand, scattering one’s ashes at sea only requires cremation and coordinating a date with Rest Ashured for scattering either in Virginia Beach, Topsail Island, North Carolina, or in the Outer Banks of North Carolina.

In general, cremation is both simpler and less expensive than traditional burial. Burial at sea is a great option for your loved one who loved the beach, loved fishing, or was a Navy or Coast Guard veteran.