The Procedure for Scattering a Dead Person's Ashes Into the Sea

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When a friend or loved one chooses to be cremated, you may wish to scatter her ashes into the sea. Many areas permit this type of scattering ceremony, although local laws and regulations vary. There is no set procedure for scattering a loved one’s ashes into the water. How you choose to go about it is largely a matter of personal preference or the final wishes of the deceased.

1 Preparation

Check your local laws and regulations pertaining to scattering ashes. Your city’s city hall or municipal office can give you information on specific regulations regarding spreading ashes into bodies of water. The Environmental Protection Agency’s only stipulation for scattering ashes at sea is that you must scatter ashes at least three nautical miles from land.

Licensed pilots often offer their services to scatter the ashes from the air over the sea. Private boat captains and yacht services often scatter ashes at sea as well. Check with your funeral director for a recommendation.

If the deceased individual is a military veteran, the United States Coast Guard will scatter the ashes at sea for no cost, but it will not allow anyone to be present. The Coast Guard does this the scattering at its convenience. Contact your local Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) office for more information on scattering ashes of veterans at sea.

2 Scattering Ceremonies

Most scattering services will conduct a ceremony that fits your wishes and those of your deceased loved one. Talk with the person in charge of the ceremony about any special requests, such as speeches you want given or passages you want read. Host your own scattering ceremony on a boat that you or someone you know owns or rents if you prefer not to go with a scattering service.

If you wish, talk with your funeral director about planning a ceremony. You may also opt to simply gather family and friends on the boat to do a private service. Try to choose a day with predicted clear weather and little to no wind to prevent the ashes from blowing back onto the boat.

3 After Scattering

Ask your scattering service if it offers repeat trips to the place where your loved one’s ashes were scattered for follow-up memorials. Ask the service for the latitude and longitude of the site where you scatter the ashes so that you can hire a boat to revisit on your own if you wish. Report burials at sea to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in writing within 30 days of scattering the ashes. Include the name of the deceased, date of burial, type of remains, the latitude and longitude where you scattered the ashes, the distance from the shore, the depth of the water, the name and contact number for the vessel or scattering service, the port of departure and the name and phone number of the person responsible for the burial arrangements. See the link in the Resources section to find your local EPA office.

4 Water-Soluble Urns

Consider using a water-soluble urn to place a friend or family member’s ashes in the sea. Wind over the water can cast ashes back into the boat or cause them to cling to the side of the boat when you simply scatter them over the edge. Water-soluble urns allow the ashes to float on the surface for a few minutes so that loved ones can say final goodbyes. They then sink into the sea and release the ashes into the water gradually as they degrade and melt into the sea.

Amanda Knaebel is a self-professed gadget geek and loves all things tech, both new and old. Amanda has been working as a freelance writer for over 10 years on topics including technology, health, fitness, nutrition, gardening and many more. She has also worked with Fortune 50 tech and financial companies, both in technical support and content production.