Posted by Nancy Smith on December 09, 2002
In Reply to: Following sea posted by ESC on November 08, 2002
: : : : : : Any help is greatly appreciated.
: : : : : All I could find is what you probably already know -- it's a "traditional navy blessing."
: : : : Well, I found the Naval History Center online at http://www.history.navy.mil/ It has (under Traditions of the Naval Service) information about famous Naval quotes and traditions. But the U.S. Navy site said don't e-mail any questions because there's no staff to answer them. I did a search of "fair winds and following seas" and came up zero. The plot thickens.
: : : I looked on the Royal Navy web site, also with no luck. However, there are many naval based sayings on part of the site - link below
: : Are we puzzled about the origin or the meaning? I don't know when the phrase was first used, but it's a nautical benison. 'Fair wind' = 'may the wind fill your sails favourably for the duration of your voyage.'
: : 'Following sea' refers to a sea swell that doesn't overtake the ship. It is very difficult to control any boat or ship when the swell overtakes it and shoves it forward, causing the boat to skew broadside-on to the wind and swell. Boats often capsize under such conditions.
: I was trying to find out the origin of the phrase -- was it originally a poem, a song, a prayer, etc. I may have to actually get a stamp and envelope and write the U.S. Navy since they don't answer e-mail.
I have seen it written as fair winds and fallowing seas, but have been unable to verify. It is a Navy benediction of sorts, seen/heard at retirements and other shipmate departures.