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Fair Winds And Following Seas

April 15, 2009

This was a phrase that we heard over and over at Fran’s retirement ceremony. Of course we had to find out what it meant, and here it is according to the Department of the Navy – Naval Historical Center:

The origin of the quote “Fair Winds and Following Seas” is unknown. It is often said to have been lifted from a poem, phrase, or literary work, it wasn’t. Over the last century at least, the two quotes “Fair Winds” and “Following Seas” have evolved, by usage, into a single phrase which is often used as a nautical blessing.

“Fair Winds”: The Dictionary of American Regional English defines “Fair Wind” as “safe journey; good fortune.”

“Following Seas”: Defined by Bowditch’s American Practical Navigator as “A sea in which the waves move in the general direction of the heading.”

“Fair Winds and Following Seas” is really two quotes originating from different sources. The two quotes are a nautical phrase of good luck–a blessing as it were–as the person, group, or thing it is said to departs on a voyage in life. It is often used at a “beginning” ceremony such as a commissioning ceremony of a ship or people, as well as in retirement, change of command, or farewell ceremonies.

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