Fair Winds and Following Seas

It wasn’t long before Speech 4 came along, on 17 September 2012; a bit more personal this time.  In brief, the objectives for Project 4 in the CC Manual “How To Say It” are to: –

  • Select the right words and sentence structure to communicate your ideas clearly, accurately and vividly.
  • Use rhetorical devices to enhance and emphasize ideas.
  • Eliminate jargon and unnecessary words. Use correct grammar.

This is the speech I gave: –

Toastmaster, fellow toastmasters and welcome guests – “Fair Winds and Following Seas”

This is a mariner blessing wishing you a safe voyage, with the right winds to fill your sails and the right waves to help you along. We would all wish for ideal sailing conditions in our life, cruising through calm waters with no storms to bother us, threatening to sweep us overboard or crush us on the rocks of life’s struggles.

The sea has been a central part of my life since I was born. As the tides ebb and flow so the sea enters and leaves my life. My earliest memory is of being with my parents and older brother and the excitement they felt on seeing some seals in the bay. We had parked the caravan in a large grassy field and were out walking on the nearby coastline. On describing this scene to my father a few years ago he told me it was the Isle of Skye and I was nine months old.

All of my siblings and I were taught to swim at an early age. We spent every summer in Garrettstown, Co. Cork, first in a caravan in Ted Manning’s Park along with approx. 100 other caravans. I gradually made friends with two girls living locally and we spent hours roaming the rocks, sometimes collecting periwinkles which we later cooked in a saucepan of saltwater. We would then settle down with a plateful and a needle, carefully extract each tasty morsel, and feast like kings and I can tell you nothing ever tasted so good. 

The years passed and my father eventually bought a plot of land and built a “summerhouse”. When I was around twelve years old he also bought a rubber dinghy which was to prove a fortuitous purchase a month later. We had made friends with another family who had given us permission to borrow their surfboard whenever we went swimming. It was a large heavy wooden board, nearly six feet long, and difficult to carry but we overcame that and the daily agreement was whoever changed fastest could get first go of the surfboard. One particular afternoon, when the tide was low and the sun blazing down we raced to get that first shot at surfing. My younger brother Ronald was the quickest and immediately headed for the water. The rest of us were changing when we heard a faint panicked shout “Dad, Dad”. It was my brother on the surfboard, already thirty feet offshore and heading outwards. The offshore breeze and outgoing tide had caught the board in its grip and wasn’t letting go. Dad roared to Ronald to lie down flat on the surfboard and hang on.

He then started running up the beach heading for that recent purchase. A stranger saw what was happening, ran to his car, shouted to Dad to hop in, drove up and threw the rubber dinghy on the roof and sped back down to the water’s edge. He later had to get assistance to get his car back off the beach. Dad immediately started rowing furiously after my brother who at this stage was nearly a mile offshore. He eventually reached him and to the relief of all onshore dragged him successfully into the boat. The battle was not yet over however. Because of the offshore breeze, and the outgoing tide, my father was unable to row back to shore. He instead made for a beach further up the peninsula and finally made it successfully to dry land, where he was met by the coastguard and my very relieved mother. We never did find out who that stranger was that had driven my father to the water’s edge but I do know it could easily have been a tragic outcome had he not intervened. Despite that incident our love of the sea never diminished. We continued to swim and surf every day, although we now waited for our parents and gave the sea the respect it deserved. 

The years passed until January 2001 when I found myself in Hawaii. Kathleen the friend I was staying with and I headed up the coast every weekend to sunbathe and swim on Maili Beach or at the man-made Ko Olina beach resort. None of this waiting for each inch of your shivering body to go numb as you slowly entered the Atlantics frigid waters (and that was in July folks!). This was Pacific splendour, lukewarm water and gently lapping waves. Ahhh bliss – the perfect swim and then out to sunbathe once again on a golden beach under a clear blue sky and warming sunshine. What’s not to recommend about Hawaii? During my stay there I developed a daily morning routine of buying a sundae at McDonalds then sitting on Waikiki Beach to enjoy the sun and sea. And this was a holiday that had come out of being made redundant the previous year!

Two ends of the spectrum in these stories but both thankfully with happy endings. Like the seas unending cycle, life will never be all plain sailing, but it is up to you to decide whether to sink or swim, so grab that lifebuoy and take that hand of friendship to guide you through rough waters. I close by wishing each and every one of you here today “Fair Winds and Following Seas”.

I hope you enjoyed this speech and if you have any comments or questions about Toastmasters please feel free to contact me.





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