Friday, October 26, 2012

Prize Winning Speech

The following speech recently won a first prize at a Toastmaster's evening. 

Maybe some of you can relate to it.


What do you call a boomerang that doesn’t come back to you?

A stick.

No, in fact, tonight I’m not going to talk to you about Contests or jokes.  No, tonight I am going to talk to you about something that in fact is not a laughing matter at all.  It is…my honey’s obsession – the bounding main, the open sea.  Because my man is a sailor.

I didn’t know he was a sailor.  I thought he was a lawyer.  But lawyers who sail call themselves sailors, not lawyers, and it is the witchery of the bounding main that does that.  It makes all men who love water and boats, sailors.  Their neurons get all squashed up and they think a sheet is a rope and that seasickness is fun. 

You think you’re having a perfectly interesting conversation with them and they stop and freeze, sort of like a setter flushing quail.  All you have to do is follow their line of sight to find the boat in the landscape.  And it doesn’t even have to be on the water; sailors get like that even when they see one on a trailer on the N 165 going at 110 km an hour.

I didn’t get it at first when early in the courtship he proposed romantic weekends in seaside towns.  My kids figured it out before I did.  I was once delightedly looking at a photo of the new man in my life looking at me with love in his eyes, and my young daughter looked and said, oh look how he’s looking, Mom, you must have been standing in front of a boat.

My man, my sailor lives in Abu Dhabi, where he belongs to the sailing club and races little boats called dinghies every weekend.  He misses me though, and his dearest wish is that we sell everything we own and sail around the world for the rest of our lives.  His second dearest wish is that I would get on a boat with him. So I decided one day to give it a really serious try.

The entire sailing club got involved.  Pam said “here are my kneepads, you’ll need these, my knees are shot since last summer on the boat”, and John found me a helmet, saying “you’ll need this so you don’t get a concussion from the boom”, and Sue lent me these funny gloves with no fingers, telling me I needed them to not get rope burn, and as for my sailor – he was as happy as Captain Ahab sighting Moby Dick as he put me in a strange outfit sort of like an overall, except it had a hook right here.  We sailed off to start the race, half the club on the shore to watch us, and as we waved I said to my sailor, sweetheart, what is this hook for?  “The trapeze” he told me.  The trapeze?

Have you ever seen those action shots of world-class sailors where they are suspended from a wire, leaning backward over the water to keep the boat from tipping over?  That’s called the trapeze, it seems.  And this is what my sailor wanted me to do.

You have to stand up on the gunwale, that is, the side of the boat, and hook the wire attached to the mast to the hook on your overalls, and for a heart-stopping moment you have to let go and drop back, trusting that it will catch you before you fall into the sea.  Well, I let go, and it caught me.  So far so good.  In fact I was so thrilled I yelled to my sailor:  “Look!  Look!”  I felt great!  A champion!  On the cover of Sports Illustrated! And he grinned and yelled back, his hand on the tiller, his hair in the salty breeze, his eyes squinting in the sunlight:  “And we’re making great time too!  We’ve left those stragglers behind!”

However, ladies and gentlemen, let’s not forget that the boat in the meantime is not static.  It is not only moving forward; it is dipping back and forth over the waves and rolling over at a sharp tilt.  My victory was short-lived; in fact it only lived about three seconds before I was not standing on the gunwale, I was dancing on it, and then skittering on it, and then I wasn’t on it at all.  Like an enormous pendulum, the boat swung me around on my wire in a half circle around the front of the boat.  My sailor looked up just in time to see me whizzing past him across the bow to smack into the sail and capsize the boat.

Ladies and gentlemen, I will not trouble you with the details of my struggling out from under the sail and the ropes; or helping heaving the boat back up again; or being unable to get back up into it because my muscles were quivering so much; or the sailing club member fishing me out of the sea by the seat of my pants to heave me into a rubber dinghy, and mercilessly tossing me back in the boat to help sail it home. 

No, rather, when I was finally dry, warm and with a frozen daiquiri and a plate of peanuts in front of me in the bar, as I listened to all the sailors talking about what a great time it was, I thought to myself…I wonder if I could get him interested in something simpler…like boomerangs.



  1. Hehe; Love it. Oh, and girls *can* get the bug too;

  2. You haven't sailed until you've swung around the forestay on a trapeze!


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