Planning a Funeral or Memorial for Someone Who Loved Boating or Fishing? We’ve Got Ideas.

Our editors have put together some great inspirations for all the aspects of an On-the-Water themed memorial (or farewelling, as we like to call it). We’ve broken down the ideas into categories to help you create a beautiful vision. 


A formal setting for a Marina  Memorial


The mood you want may be more formal--something at your local yacht clubhouse for example. Or you may want something more intimate, at a cabin on their favorite lake or on the beach where they used to love to fish. Or even truly on-the-water--a floating memorial in the quiet of morning or with a dramatic sunset. The spirit can be solemn and elegant, or more like a beach party with a bonfire, stories, and s’mores. What feels right to you?



Would you like to have your sailor or fisherman’s funeral or memorial actually take place waterside? Does a beach or pier feel like the right choice? A boat can be a great venue, as long as you choose one that will accommodate your group size, and that you take weather into account (have a rain date!). One option is to gather on a rented sailboat, chartered fishing boat, or rented yacht. If that doesn’t seem just right, here are a few other ideas:


  • Host a service or reception in an indoor space that has televisions and play videos of the water.
  • Gather on the beach, on a pier or a terrace with a harbor, view, preferably a spot that had meaning for the person you’re honoring.
  • Get together dockside and enjoy the smell of the water and the view of the boats.
  • Set the time for sunset, and if permitted, add a bonfire.
  • Choose a seafood restaurant for a memorial reception.
  • Host a casual clambake in the backyard.



Whatever location you choose, it can add meaning to display items from your loved one’s adventures. This could mean decorating their actual boat with flowers and photos, or creating a backdrop with sailcloth, or hanging up their favorite hat, jacket and fishing pole with a boating motif or logo. 


Choose tablecloths and napkins in various shades of blue and white and print cocktail napkins or signs with fun facts attendees might not know about your dear sailor. Make an “altar” for them on a beach or pier and invite friends and family to bring small objects as offerings (photos, notes, flowers, fishing lures, etc.).


The Spoken Word.

There is a vast literary tradition around poetry, songs and literature rooted in a love and respect for the sea, lakes, rivers and the like. Ask that friends and family share a water-related memory of your loved one. Cite passages that celebrate the spirit of the sea. Here are a few examples, but you can find many more ideas in our Farewelling Planning Toolkit:


I Am Standing Upon The Seashore

I am standing upon the seashore.

A ship at my side spreads her white

sails to the morning breeze and starts for the blue ocean.


She is an object of beauty and strength.

I stand and watch her until at length

she hangs like a speck of white cloud

just where the sea and sky come

to mingle with each other. 


Then, someone at my side says;

"There, she is gone!" 

"Gone where?"

Gone from my sight. That is all.


She is just as large in mast and hull

and spar as she was when she left my side

and she is just as able to bear her

load of living freight to her destined port.

Her diminished size is in me, not in her. 


And just at the moment when someone

at my side says, "There, she is gone!"

There are other eyes watching her coming,

and other voices ready to take up the glad shout;

"Here she comes!"

And that is dying.

~Henry van Dyke


Poem for A Sailor

No more a Watch to stand, Old Sailor. 

For you are drifting on an ebbing tide. 

Eight Bells has rung. Dog Watch is done. 

A new Berth waits you on the other side. 


Your ship is anchored in God’s Harbour. 

And though his sailors are of equal rank

There'll be Shipmakes on the deck to greet you. 

Ane Pipe, as you ascend the Plank. 


Her boilers with full head of steam, 

Cargo stowed and Galley stored. 

Just waiting to get underway

When the last Hand comes aboard.


Look sharp! That Hand is you, Old Sailor.

And you’ll be sailing out on Heavenly Seas. 

So may the wind be ever at your back. 

Fair Weather. And, Godspeed. 



Few things can set a scene like music. No matter where you are, set up that wireless speaker and enjoy the tunes, whether old-style (but newly fashionable) Sea Shanties or “Sailing” by Christopher Cross. Timeless Yacht-Rock tunes may also be a hit. There are even ocean-inspired rock classics like “Come Sail Away” by Styx, and “Southern Cross” by Crosby, Stills and Nash. 



Do you have images of your loved one on the water? Add them to a guest book table or a slide show. Display their favorite compass or regatta trophies, or give away treasured books they loved. 


Food and Drinks.

Seafood might be the perfect (if obvious) choice. If you’ll host a more formal reception, filleted whole fish, a raw bar, steamed lobster or sushi might be a good option. If you’re thinking a more casual mood would be better, opt for finger foods, and keep it light with fish tacos (how about a great food truck?), crudite, chips and dips. For non-alcoholic drinks, lemonade and ice-tea are always boating favorites. For those who want to include cocktails, anything from Margaritas and Bay Breezes to classic or craft beers or light-style wines will work.


If you’re feeling like a sea-themed menu  might be too much, choose their favorite cuisine--Italian antipasto, cheeseburgers, or veggie tacos would all be great.



If you’re planning to scatter ashes on the water during (or just before or after) the event, consider this biodegradable container that will keep wind from creating a problem and will break down over time so as not to impact the environment.


Another lovely idea comes from Parting Stone, who create smooth stones from cremated ashes. You can keep them in your home or garden, carry one in your pocket, or share them with close friends and family as a beautiful memento.


Want to keep your dear one even closer? This sailor’s knot bracelet is stylish and holds a small pinch of ashes.

Wish lanterns at an evening beach tribute.


Our Farewelling Editors are constantly reviewing and curating resources to help you with your planning.  We may receive a small commission from any purchases made through the links.