On a trip to Newfoundland, travel writer Mike MacEacheran was expecting glacial fjords and friendly locals—but he wasn’t prepared for the province’s baffling fish-kissing tradition.

In a boat at the edge of one of Canada’s most spectacular fjords, near where the Gulf of St. Lawrence meets the Atlantic, a group of newcomers are experiencing a deeply-rooted Newfoundland tradition in all its absurdity.

At the starboard bow, dressed in bright yellow oilskins and ill-fitting sou’wester, is Captain Reg Williams and he’s holding a frozen cod, as well as a bottle of 40 per cent rum, known as Screech.

“I’ll fair warn you,” he says, his lilting, Irish-influenced accent lingering above the calm of Bonne Bay, “but there’s a certain procedure to go through to become one of us.” Reg interrupts what he’s doing—namely, lining up a series of boozy shots—to break down the head-scratching ‘Screech-In’ ceremony that’s about to begin.