Burials at sea were common during the Age of Sail (the fifteenth through nineteenth centuries). While much is known about the history and structure of the burial at sea ritual, scholars have not yet explored its function as a rite of passage. This paper examines the burial at sea service as it was practiced aboard English and American vessels during the Age of Sail. Although it would have been easy to dispose of a body at sea by simply dropping it over the side, sailors considered it their duty to conduct a formal burial service. Proper burial, it was believed, was needed to prevent the deceased mariner from becoming one of the unquiet spirits of the deep. Thus, the chief function of the burial at sea service was to separate the dead from the living and place the spirit in the afterlife so that it would not return to haunt the ship. The restless nature of the sea, however, prevented it from being turned into a permanent barrier between the living and the dead. Even after being properly buried, the ghosts of dead mariners sometimes returned to haunt their former shipmates.