How Do I Scatter Ashes at Sea?

The amount of people choosing cremation in the United States has been significantly increasing over the past few decades. About 25% of people who passed in 1999 were cremated, which has jumped to over 50% today. According to the National Funeral Director’s Association cremation is expected to increase to nearly 80% by 2035. One of the main drivers of this major shift in preference is the lower cost of cremation (vs. burial) as well as more and more families that are less traditional. In line with this major shift towards cremation, many people are looking to do a water burial, or scattering ashes at sea.

What is a Sea Scattering?

sea scattering

A sea scattering involves scattering cremated ashes of a person or pet in the ocean.  U.S. federal law requires that this takes place at least three nautical miles from shore (approximately 3.45 miles).

Types of Sea Scatterings

There are two main types of scatterings at sea – attended and unattended.

Attended Scattering

Most harbors in the U.S. have a boating service that can be hired to perform a sea scattering. Many families prefer to be present on the boat during a sea scattering, which are referred to as attended scatterings.  For attended sea scatterings it is important to get a boat large enough to accommodate the size of the group. In addition, if you have a specific place in mind for the scattering, it is important to confirm beforehand that the boat captain is willing to take you to that location. For an attended sea scattering, you typically have the flexibility to design your own service – this can be as informal or formal as you wish and can be done on the boat or on shore before or after the scattering.

Unattended Scattering

In some instances, family may not be able to attend the scattering of a loved one at sea. This can be for a number of reasons, including the age of a spouse or other family, illness, family members live far away, among many other reasons. Many boating services perform unattended scatterings at sea and will even accommodate special requests such as certain music being played during the scattering, saying a prayer or reading a poem, or other special things. For unattended scatterings, you can either provide the ashes of a loved one directly to a boating service in person, send the ashes to the service via USPS, or make the arrangements through your funeral home and have them transfer the ashes to the service.  In addition, some boating services will do unattended scatterings in site of the shore and family and friends can gather on the shore to celebrate their loved one.

Ceremonies at Sea Scatterings

Many families include a ceremony with their loved one’s sea scattering. This can be done on the shore or on the boat either before, during, or after the scattering.  The ceremony can be as formal or informal as you would like. Most ceremonies for people who are scattered at sea include the actual scattering as part of the ceremony - some will let as many people who want to participate in the scattering, while other ceremonies will designate one person or a select few. Ceremonies can also include music, a eulogy by a family member or close friend, people reflecting on the loved one who passed and the memories they shared, and sometimes a religious person.  Some families will also toss leis or rose petals out into the water during the scattering or release doves.

Themed Celebrations

Many times a loved one’s family will plan a special event around a sea scattering. This can include a day of fishing, brilliant firework display over water, bonfire on the beach, among many other ideas. It’s an opportunity to not only scatter a loved one’s ashes, but also honor them with family and friends present with an activity where everybody can enjoy themselves and reflect on a loved one who passed.

What Do You Use in a Sea Scattering?

With the increase in the number of families looking to scatter their loved one’s ashes at sea there are many new urn options to perform this service in a beautiful and dignified way.  Some of the more popular ones include the following:

Eco Water Urn

The patent pending Eco Water Urn makes for a beautiful way to spread ashes in water. This unique urn is 100% natural, made from recycled plant materials with only heat and pressure (no glues or toxic chemicals). It floats upright like a buoy for up to a few minutes then the bottom breaks open, gracefully scattering a loved one’s ashes in water. This beautiful biodegradable urn comes packaged in an eco-friendly cylindrical shaped bamboo case - perfect to securely transport the urn holding your loved one’s ashes to that special place on the water. Many families also include the attractive bamboo casing as a decorative piece in ceremonies. Offered at $129, the Eco Water Urn is an affordable option for most families.

Flow, the Ice Urn

The patented Ice Urn is the most eco-friendly way to memorialize a loved one. It’s made entirely of ice and floats beautifully on top of the water for a few minutes before melting and sinking - dispersing the ash in the most natural way.  This special urn has been offered in Montreal for some time, and was just introduced to the U.S. market. Flow, the Ice Urn was designed by Diane Leclair-Bisson for the Memoria Collection and has won multiple prestigious global design awards. This includes the Gold Award for Design Society and Silver Award for Eco-Sustainable Design at the European Design Awards and the Consumer Product Award at the Core77 Notable Design Awards.

Scattering Urns

There are a few different scattering urns on the market that are designed with a long cylinder-shape, helping people to scatter away from their body which helps prevent having the ashes blow back on them. The most popular scattering urns available today include ones made from paper and others made from bamboo, a sustainable resource. The Eco Scattering Urn line made 100% from bamboo has become a popular option for funeral homes and families nationwide. This patent pending urn has a proprietary open and close locking mechanism on top that gives families the ability to scatter cremated ashes with control and ease. In addition, with this special urn you can scatter at one location with some of the ashes then secure the remaining ashes in the urn to scatter at another location or to take home.