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Origin of: "Fair Winds and Following Seas." ("Safe Journey, Good Fortune")

Researched by Samuel Loring Morison

First, like probably everyone else, I though the quote "Fair Winds and Following Seas" wa one quote lifted from some poem, phrase, or the like. It wasn't. The actual quote is "Fair Wind" and "Following Seas".

There is no precise origin for the two phrases' joint usage. The joint usage as a "nautical blessing" quote has evolved over at least the last one hundred years and probably more.

It really is two quotes originated 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 "IT'S VOYAGE IN LIFE". IF ONE EXAMINES THE QUOTES' USAGE, IT IS ALWAYS USED AT A "BEGINNING" CEREMONY SUCH AS A COMMISSIONING CEREMONY OF A SHIP OR PEOPLE. YOU NEVER SEE IT AT THE "END" OF SOMETHING SUCH AS A "DECOMMISSIONING" CEREMONY.

First, "Fair Winds": The Dictionary of American Regional English defines "Fair Wind" as "safe journey; good fortune." An early example of the phrase's use is in Herman Melville's Moby Dick, published in 1851, where it says near the end "Let me square the yards, while we may, old man, and make a fair wind of it homeward."

In other words, let me square the yards (add on all sail) and make a safe journey home. "Following Seas": Defined by Bowditch's American Practical Navigator as "A sea in which the waves move in the general direction of the heading."

It goes on the define "Tide" as "the periodic rise and fall of the water resulting from gravitational interactions between the sun, moon, and earth. . . . the accompanying horizontal movement of the water is part of the same phenomenon." In simple terms, what the above says is that the movement of the water, the waves, on the surface, corresponds with the movement of the tide.

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