Monday, October 09, 2017

Speech #E1: Oh No We're Gonna Die

Umatilla, Florida

[I am finished with the 10 speeches and have achieved the exalted rank of "Competent Communicator" within Toastmasters.  Next step is "Advanced Communicator Bronze" (followed by silver then gold.) with 10 more speeches.  I'll try to do the 10 before leaving for next summer.

This is project 1 from the Entertaining Speaker  series.  My goals are: 1) Entertain the audience be relating a personal experience. 2) Organize as entertaining speech for maximum impact.

Blog readers will be happy that my subject is cruising.]

Oh No, We're Gonna Die

Picture yourself in this situation. It's the middle of the night. You're out at sea 200 miles from land on a little sailboat. Your spouse is asleep, and you are all alone standing watch.

The weather is mild. The boat cuts through the waves at about 5 miles per hour. There is no moon, so it is too dark to even see the water ... except that the boat's wake stirs the water causing little creatures to glow in the dark. That leaves a streak of pale green light trailing behind us. The boat steers itself so you are free to stand your watch on the forward deck where you can walk around and have good visibility. Your primary duty is to watch out for ships that might run you over.

You stand up, spin around and look in all directions. There's nothing to see except the North Star high in the sky straight ahead. Since you're supposed to be heading north, that's good. You have radar and electronics to watch for ships, but there's nothing showing. It's hard to stay awake because you haven't slept much for 48 hours.

One more time you stand up and spin around to look out for ships. OMG What the hell is that! There a huge red light to the east. It's so big and so high in the sky that it must be a ship only 100 yards away. Oh no, we're going to die.
...
Oh wait. That's not a ship. It's the moon rising. Never mind.
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You may have heard the phrase, “hours of boredom punctuated by seconds of terror.” Well, its true. In twelve years, my wife Libby and I lived and sailed on our 32 foot boat for more than 60000 miles. That's nearly 3 times around the world. Our boat is sea worthy, so we were safe at all times. Nevertheless, we experienced moments of terror many times.
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OK, now we're back at sea again. Libby is on watch, while I'm asleep down below. It's the usual routine. The weather is warm and mild. Moonlight made the sea sparkle beautifully. Libby loves that. It makes her feel very alive. She's an excellent watch officer.

But this night was different. … Suddenly, a dim orange light appeared in the sky right in front of her. It wasn't the moon this time. Libby could see that a big black mass blocked her view of the stars. It was a freaking submarine. It surfaced right in front of us. But Libby didn't panic. She steered around it. She tried calling it on the radio, but she got no answer. There was no need to wake me up.

Later, I learned from a submariner friend that subs can hear motor boats with their sonar, but not sailboats.
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Normally, it's very quiet at sea. We sail, so there is no engine sound. The gentle slapping of waves against the hull is about the only sound. Of course, during storms it is violent and noisy, but we've experienced that only a few times, and those times were mistakes. Our preference is avoid bad weather and to be out at sea only when the weather is nice.

Libby has been startled by dolphins. They like to swim alongside us, but at night we can't see them. But every few seconds they come up to breath making a loud sound Whoosh-whoosh woosh-woosh. I too was startled by a dolphin. This young guy was frolicking beside the boat showing off doing somersaults. One time he misjudged and bam he ran into the side of the boat.

But I also have a confession to make. We were heading south, about 20 miles east of the Saint Johns River near Jacksonville. I was on watch, but the truth was that I was snoozing. Sleeping on watch is a capital offense, so I'm ashamed to admit it.

A man's voice woke me. “Sir, SIR, wake up SIR.” What the heck! How could there be a man's voice in the middle of the ocean. But as the fog of sleep cleared from my brain, I noticed a red blinking light. I turned around. There was a coast guard zodiac boat right beside me. A coast guardsman was saying, , “Sir. Were searching for a boat reported missing near here. Did you see anything.” Still stunned, I just shook my head no.
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The reality is that every one of us can tell stories about our own seconds of terror. But those seconds don't traumatize us or ruin our lives. On the contrary, they provide us with great stories to tell to grandchildren and to tell to fellow toastmasters.


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