Jack TenneyExtra Point

by Jack Tenney, Publisher

August 2004

Master and Commander

There was a scene in the movie Master and Commander that featured the following toast: "To our wives and lovers, may they never meet."

That wasn't just a bit of Hollywood jocularity; it is one of the seven traditional toasts of the British Navy, one for each day of the week. Remember, not so long ago in historical terms, Britannia ruled the waves.

Following tradition at sea was a daunting task in the age of square-rigged tall ships. Officers were expected to dress for dinner and pay for their drinks. Perhaps because popping up and down below the heaving decks of a brigantine caused too many wine stains and wasted shillings, toasts were offered and accepted while seated. Some say it started when a king, upon standing to return a toast, knocked his crown off. Another version has the king being toasted bidding all to remain seated because he had no doubt of their loyalties. Whatever, remain seated when toasting at sea. It's tradition!

While serving seven days (and six nights in incredibly cramped quarters) on the brigantine Faire Jeanne out of Kingston, Ontario, I attended a formal mess on the last night of the voyage. The highest ranking officer on board, a retired Canadian admiral, banged something heavy on the table, perhaps the jug of port that was passed from diner to diner. He then proposed a toast to the president of the United States in honor of the Americans on board (not that Canadians aren't Americans). The captain, a 30-something young woman, who was the master of this training vessel that had crossed the Atlantic several times, followed with the words, "God save the Queen."

Fortunately, I didn't automatically respond with the counter-toast I learned in a Dublin pub, "for a hanging." Then the admiral offered the following toast: "Let us drink to an open sea and a willing foe."

What? It was Friday and that was the toast of the day.

Here are the Sunday through Saturday toasts of the Royal Navy. The Canadian Navy has added French and more politically correct versions. Sunday: "To absent friends"; Monday: " To our ships at sea"; Tuesday: "To our men"; Wednesday: "To ourselves"; Thursday: "To a bloody war or sickly season"; Friday: "To a willing foe and sea room"; and on Saturdays: "To our wives and sweethearts."

Thursday's toast is interesting. Bloody war or sickly season? This was a favorite of junior officers who could advance in rank only if vacancies occurred.

While sailing around Lake Champlain this summer, add one of these traditional toasts. For the Wednesday night race, the counter toast to "ourselves" is "as no one else is likely to concern themselves with our welfare." By the way, Capt. Jack Aubrey in the film should not have included the counter-toast, "May they never meet," as that is traditionally the option of the most junior officer.

For your business, consider these Monday through Friday versions: Monday: "To our customers and vendors may we get and give good value"; Tuesday: "To all employees"; Wednesday: "To ourselves"; Thursday: "To growth and opportunity"; Friday: "To our competitors and a fair marketplace."

For those of you who work weekends, Saturday: "To our families, may we see them more often"; and Sunday: "To absent friends and lost customers."

Cheers!