Oct 24, 2019

Graduation CeremoniesBrentwood Bay the Power Squadron graduation ceremonies 2019

Valedictorian speech by Coral Payne

“Good evening. I am not really sure why I was asked to talk at our event this evening, but I am aware of the friendly rivalry between power boaters and sail boaters, so I can only guess is that I am being punished for being the only sail boater in this group of fine graduates.

I feel that I need to confess something right up front here. When I signed up for this course, I had absolutely no idea (as in pretty much clueless) about what I was really getting myself into. I had read the course outline, called Dawna and asked her a few questions, talked to a friend who had taken the course, and blindly signed up thinking, OK this will be a nice refresher, four months in the middle of the winter, no big deal. Wow, was I way off the mark, on that one It didn‘t take long for me to realize that this was a serious undertaking.

Search and Rescue DemonstrationSearch and rescue demonstration - a hands-on practical art of the course

Three hours of class time per week (running into the evening hours that I must confess actually extended past my normal bedtime), and then an additional 2-3 hours of reading and homework each week. And I will tell you that I came in a bit arrogant, thinking most of this would be reviewed for me considering my extensive boating experience.

I have been on the water my entire life. Growing up, we had a cabin cruiser, and we spent all of our holidays and most weekends in the summer exploring lakes and rivers in Ontario. It wasn’t until I was well into adulthood that I discovered the joys of sailing, and in particular the racing of big sailboats all around the cans on Wednesday nights all the way up to long-distance races including a 15-day race all the way around Vancouver Island – which I have done twice now. I have also been a boat owner for over a decade, but lacked some critical skills which included navigation and radio handling. This is something I left to my partner to take care of, and now that he is not that interested in boating anymore, I find myself lacking in those departments, so I signed up.

I am giving you a bit of background on my boating experience because I think it is relevant to this next part of the story, and the reason we are here today. Over the weeks and months of the course we have just finished, I cannot tell you how many times I was silently screaming in my head – I can’t believe I owned my own boat, and have been on the water my entire life, and I did not know this stuff. It was actually a very humbling experience, and one I hope to never forget. It doesn’t matter how much you know, there is always more to learn. And I actually think that is one of the attractions of boating. It keeps us engaged and hungry for more.

I can probably guess why the majority of us signed up for this course. We may be new to the sport and want to have some sense of what we are doing out there on the water. We may have found ourselves the owners of a new or new to us boat, and want to feel more comfortable when we venture away from the dock. We may be venturing out with family and friends, and the weight of the huge responsibility of keeping everyone safe was keeping us up at night. We all have our personal reasons for taking this course and I am sure that a major motivator is to be as safe as possible out there on the water. Although boating can give us the most amazing adventures and happy memories, it can also be absolutely terrifying when things go wrong, or the weather decides to throw us a curveball, or we find ourselves in a dangerous situation.

So, while I can make an educated guess on why the graduates are here tonight, what really piques my curiosity is all the other people in this room tonight, and countless others who relentlessly give of their time and energy, to teach what they know about boating safety to the rest of us. Week after week I could feel the silent presence of people who were not actively enrolled in the course. Yes, there were the students, sitting in our high-school desks, paying attention, and trying to absorb as much as we could. But what about the others. The revolving cast of characters at the back of the room? The proctors. What would possess them to give so generously of their time, always happy to help us with any questions, checking our homework for accuracy, filling in the blanks if we missed a point or two and responding to raised hands and puzzled faces with patience and encouragement.

And what about the people who stood in front of us week after week, enthusiastically and patiently teaching us the course content. Often with pictures, stories, and props. Remember, I think it was our first week, when they had those ships and beacons on the floor outside the classroom? And remember the electrical demonstration with fried cords, and the sailing demonstration with the fan and real sails and sheets, and all the boat parts that were passed around the room, including holding tank pipes (OK they had not been used yet, but I could have done without that one)?

And Len, the leader of the instructor pack. Showing up week after week, making it as real as possible for us. Sharing his lifelong love of the water and boating. Little pre-class slide shows of engine room photos of some of the ships he has worked on during his career on the water. And a shout out to all of the other instructors who showed up on Wednesday nights to share their knowledge and expertize on the various topics, not to mention answering all of our questions. I am afraid to name names for fear that I will miss someone.

And what about Dawna, whom I like to think of as our den mother. Collecting our homework each week and putting those little sparkly stickers OK (which I must confess, I rather enjoyed receiving a little more than I like to admit). Answering our questions via email.

Man Overboard DrillClarifying what homework was required each week. Making sure we had all the tools that we needed, protractors, parallel rulers, magnifying glasses, mechanical pencils and erasers, charts, name tags, and on and on. And lugging in a coffee pot and some sugary treat week after week? I don’t know about the rest of you, but I felt so cared for and supported and looked after while I was taking this course.

And if this was not enough, remember the day on the water and our trip to Genoa Bay? When Brentwood Bay Power Squadron members gave of their time, their boats, their wisdom, not to mention their fuel to take us out on the water to experience firsthand what it is like to navigate while under way? To give us a real- life experience of looking for buoys, locating them on the chart, taking compass readings, etc. As I mentioned earlier, I was the only sailor student, so Rod and Roland (who did a stint in the navy) took me out on a beautiful Catalina and patiently guided me through the entire day. I am not going to lie, it was at times very stressful, being the only student and all, because there was no hiding behind anyone, it was all on me. I learned so much and it was great to have the hands-on

real -life experience. And what about the barbeque waiting for us when we arrived at the marina. Someone actually drove to the Genoa Bay Marina ahead of time and set it up so it would be ready when we arrived. Really? I find that rather incredible.

And a shout out to the SARs group that gave us a memorable demonstration – including a real live emergency of a boat sinking at the dock? Honestly, way beyond the call of duty.

To find out more about the people I have been talking about and the organization that promotes safe boating, I had a look at the Canadian Power and Sail Squadron website. If you haven’t visited the website, I highly recommend you do. This not-for-profit group is a committed community of experienced boaters inspiring others to adopt a safe boating attitude through education and training. It started in 1938 with the formation of the Windsor Power Squadron. And in 1985 the name was changed to include sailors as well as power boaters. In 2013 when they celebrated their 75th anniversary, there were 26,000 members in 155 squadrons across this country.

Core values of the group include Safety, Education, Environment, and Community. And this is where the volunteers come in. They depend on volunteers of all ages, levels of experience, and skill.

And I think the Brentwood Bay Power Squadron has shown us that they live by these core values. They show up, they share, they encourage, and I am sure they would be happy for the rest of us to follow suit so this organization can continue to do this good work. If you haven’t become a member, you might want to consider it. First-year membership is only $35. A few of the benefits include a subscription to the Canadian Yachting magazine, discounts on group insurance, hotels, boating equipment, C-tow, and future courses. And also the opportunity to join a group of enthusiastic boaters out on the water.

So on behalf of my fellow students, thank you to all the instructors and proctors and all those who made this learning experience a pleasant and fruitful one. I wish everyone an excellent boating season. Stay safe out there.”

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