12 Days of Boatmas: Christmas at Sea

12 Days of Boatmas: Christmas at Sea

Christmas at Sea by Robert Louis Stevenson

For our 12th Day of Boatmas, we present not a song but a poem! Read through the words, try speaking them aloud, take in the rhythms and sounds, and be transported into the mind of a young sailor on stormy seas during Christmas. Check out this more in-depth article about this particular poem if you’re interested. With love, reflection, and gratitude in our hearts – Happy Holidays from Grays Harbor Historical Seaport!

The sheets were frozen hard, and they cut the naked hand;
The decks were like a slide, where a seaman scarce could stand;
The wind was a nor’wester, blowing squally off the sea;
And cliffs and spouting breakers were the only things a-lee.

They heard the surf a-roaring before the break of day;
But ’twas only with the peep of light we saw how ill we lay.
We tumbled every hand on deck instanter, with a shout,
And we gave her the maintops’l, and stood by to go about.

All day we tacked and tacked between the South Head and the North;
All day we hauled the frozen sheets, and got no further forth;
All day as cold as charity, in bitter pain and dread,
For very life and nature we tacked from head to head.

We gave the South a wider berth, for there the tide race roared;
But every tack we made we brought the North Head close aboard:
So’s we saw the cliffs and houses, and the breakers running high,
And the coastguard in his garden, with his glass against his eye.

 The frost was on the village roofs as white as ocean foam;
The good red fires were burning bright in every ‘long-shore home;
The windows sparkled clear, and the chimneys volleyed out;
And I vow we sniffed the victuals as the vessel went about.

The bells upon the church were rung with a mighty jovial cheer;
For it’s just that I should tell you how (of all days in the year)
This day of our adversity was blessèd Christmas morn,
And the house above the coastguard’s was the house where I was born.

O well I saw the pleasant room, the pleasant faces there,
My mother’s silver spectacles, my father’s silver hair;
And well I saw the firelight, like a flight of homely elves,
Go dancing round the china plates that stand upon the shelves.

And well I knew the talk they had, the talk that was of me,
Of the shadow on the household and the son that went to sea;
And O the wicked fool I seemed, in every kind of way,
To be here and hauling frozen ropes on blessèd Christmas Day.

They lit the high sea-light, and the dark began to fall.
‘All hands to loose top gallant sails,’ I heard the captain call.
‘By the Lord, she’ll never stand it,’ our first mate, Jackson, cried.
… ‘It’s the one way or the other, Mr. Jackson,’ he replied.

She staggered to her bearings, but the sails were new and good,
And the ship smelt up to windward just as though she understood.
As the winter’s day was ending, in the entry of the night,
We cleared the weary headland, and passed below the light.

And they heaved a mighty breath, every soul on board but me,
As they saw her nose again pointing handsome out to sea;
But all that I could think of, in the darkness and the cold,
Was just that I was leaving home and my folks were growing old.

The 12 Days of Boatmas: The Bonnie Ship the Diamond

The 12 Days of Boatmas: The Bonnie Ship the Diamond

Musician Marc Gunn describes ‘The Bonnie Ship the Diamond’ as:

An old Scottish song popularized by The Corries. Over-fishing in the Greenland sea during the early 19th century had a devastating toll on the whale stocks. A new hunting ground, the South-West Fishery, was discovered in the region of the Davis Straits and it was mostly here that The Diamond fished. In 1830 The Diamond, Eliza Swan and The Resolution along with seventeen other whaling ships were caught in the ice of Melville Bay. The ships were lost and many sailors lost their lives.

Note: The tunes, lyrics and history of a single sea song or shanty are often diverse and debated, given how these songs were passed along and changed (often simultaneously on many ships all over the seas). This is part of what is beautiful and fascinating about them. What we’re representing in this blog post is only one, and certainly not the only, version of a song and its history.

 

Full Lyrics - The Bonnie Ship the Diamond

The Diamond is a ship, my lads

For the Davis Strait we’re bound

The quay it is all garnished

With bonnie lasses ’round

Captain Thompson gives the order

To sail the ocean wide

Where the sun it never sets, my lads

Nor darkness dims the sky

Chorus:

For it’s cheer up my lads

Let your hearts never fai

l For the bonnie ship the Diamond

Goes a-hunting for the whale

 

Along the quay at Peterhead

The lasses stand around

Wi’ their shawls all pulled around them

And the salt tears runnin’ down

Don’t you weep for me, my dear

Though you be left behind

For the rose will grow on Greenland’s ice

Before we change our mind

 

Chorus

 

Here’s a health to the Resolution

and Eliza Swan by name

Here’s health to Battler of Montrose

And the Diamond, ship of fame

We wear the trousers o’ the white

The jackets o’ the blue

When we get back to Peterhead

We’ll have sweethearts anew

 

Chorus

 

It will be bright both day and night

When the Greenland lads come hame

Our ship full up with oil, my lads

And money to our name

We’ll make the cradles for to rock

And the blankets for to tear

And every lass in Peterhead sing

“Hushabye, my dear”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The 12 Days of Boatmas: Ten Thousand Miles Away

The 12 Days of Boatmas: Ten Thousand Miles Away

This shanty comes as a suggestion from Lady Washington’s Captain Ben ‘Tiny’ Saint! The separation from loved ones and holding true to them is often a theme in maritime songs. The history of this shanty is debated but one version holds that ‘Ten Thousand Miles Away’ refers to the distance between Britain and Australia, where the singer’s lover Meg has been transported.

The version of ‘Ten Thousand Miles Away’ linked below is a favorite of longtime crew member and captain James ‘Shiney’ McClurg. It’s sung by a fellow tall ship sailor, John Kraus, who fell in love with tall ships as a youth and eventually pursued a maritime license to become a captain.

Note: The tunes, lyrics and history of a single sea song or shanty are often diverse and debated, given how these songs were passed along and changed (often simultaneously on many ships all over the seas). This is part of what is beautiful and fascinating about them. What we’re representing in this blog post is only one, and certainly not the only, version of a song and its history.

Full Lyrics - Ten Thousand Miles Away

I sing Ho for a brave and gallant ship

with a fair and a following breeze

With a bully good crew and a captain too,

to carry me over the seas

To carry me over the seas me boys

to my true love far away

I’m taking a trip on a government ship

ten thousand miles away

 

Chorus:

Blow me bully boys, blow

and a roving’ I will go

Stay no more on this old shore

hear the fiddler play

I’m on the morning train

and I won’t be back again

I’m taking a trip on a government ship

ten thousand miles away

 

Chorus

 

My true love she was beautiful

my true love she was young

Her eyes they shine like the diamond brine

and silvery was her tongue

And silvery was her long me boys

and though she’s far away

I won’t forget my own my own true love

ten thousand miles away

 

(Chorus)

 

Dark and dismal was the day

when last I’d seen me Meg

She government band around each hand

and another one around the leg

And another one round the leg me boys

as the big ship sailed away

Adieu, she said, remember me

ten thousand miles away

 

(Chorus)

 

I wish I was a bosun bold

or a sailor without fear

I build a boat and away I’d float

and straight to my true love steer

And straight to my true love steer me boys

where the dancing dolphins play

And the whales and sharks are having their larks

ten thousand miles away

 

(Chorus)

 

The sun may shine through the London fog

or the river run quite clear

Or the ocean brine turn into wine

or I forget my beer

Or I forget my beer me boys

or the landlord’s quarter pay

But I won’t forget my own true love

ten thousand miles away

 

(Chorus)

The 12 Days of Boatmas: The Mermaid

The 12 Days of Boatmas: The Mermaid

The sighting of a mermaid on the seas was considered a portent of a shipwreck, a topic that gets taken up in this rollicking tune from the mid-1700s. With its upbeat tempo and catchy tune, ‘The Mermaid’s verses are the discussion between men on a ship in stormy seas while the chorus cheerfully talks of a sailor’s dangerous duty to go aloft when needed during a storm.

Check out lyrics and a live version of ‘The Mermaid’ below!

Note: The tunes, lyrics and history of a single sea song or shanty are often diverse and debated, given how these songs were passed along and changed (often simultaneously on many ships all over the seas). This is part of what is beautiful and fascinating about them. What we’re representing in this blog post is only one, and certainly not the only, version of a song and its history.

As you can see, the lyrics we often use on the ships and the lyrics from this musical group are slightly different. Embrace it!

Full Lyrics - Mermaid

Friday night when we set sail

And we were not far from the land

We spied a little mermaid sitting on a rock

With a comb and a glass in her hand

 

Chorus:

Oh the ocean waves do roll

And the stormy winds do blow

And we poor sailors go skipping up aloft

While the landlubbers lie down below, below, below

While the landlubbers lie down below

 

Up spoke the captain of our gallant ship

And a fine looking man was he

“I have a wife down in fair Liverpool

that I nevermore will see”

 

Chorus

 

Up spoke the first mate of our gallant ship

And a well-spoken man was he

“I have me a wife in Salem by the sea

And tonight she a widow will be”

 

Chorus

 

Up spoke the bosun of our gallant ship

And a brave young man was he

“Well I’ve got a sweetheart at St. John’s by the sea

And tonight she be weepin’ for me”

 

Chorus

 

Up spoke the cook of our gallant ship

And a greasy old butcher was he

“I care much more for my pots and my pans

Than I do for the bottom of the sea”

 

Chorus

 

Then up spoke the cabinboy of our gallant ship

And a dirty little rat was he

“I care no more for my wife and my babe

than I do for the bottom of the sea”

 

Chorus

 

Then three times around spun our gallant ship

And three times around spun she

Three times around spun our gallant ship

And she sank to the bottom of the sea

 

Chorus

The 12 Days of Boatmas: The Last Shanty

The 12 Days of Boatmas: The Last Shanty

This contemporary shanty is a favorite of Hawaiian Chieftain’s Captain Ryan ‘Otis’ Downs. “It’s perfect for what we do”, he says, because while we admire the old square rig sailors, “modern conveniences have changed the world so much for us. It’s impossible to truly work and live like they did”. The song is an upbeat chronicle of how the environments that sailors work in have changed through time. It takes us from the Age of Sail in the Royal Navy through the Age of Steam and on through to the present day, with radar and sonar. At the end of the day (or the last line of the song),  there are some things that don’t change! Even when a ‘sailor ain’t a sailor, ain’t a sailor anymore’ in some ways, ‘a sailor’s still a sailor, just like he (or she) was before’.

Note: The tunes, lyrics and history of a single sea song or shanty are often diverse and debated, given how these songs were passed along and changed (often simultaneously on many ships all over the seas). This is part of what is beautiful and fascinating about them. What we’re representing in this blog post is only one, and certainly not the only, version of a song and its history.

 

 

Full Lyrics: The Last Shanty

My father often told me,

when I was just a lad,

A sailor’s life was very hard,

the food was always bad,

But now I’ve joined the navy,

I’m on board a man-o-war,

And now I find a sailor ain’t a sailor any more!

 

Chorus: Don’t haul on the rope,

don’t climb up the mast,

If you see a sailing-ship

it might be your last,

Get your ‘civvies ready for another run-ashore,

A sailor ain’t a sailor, ain’t a sailor any more!

 

The ‘killick’ of our mess,

he says we’ve had it soft,

It wasn’t like this in his day,

when he was up aloft,

We like our bunks and sleeping-bags

but what’s a hammock for?

Swinging from the deckhead or lying on the floor?

 

Chorus

 

They gave us an engine

that first went up and down,

Then with more technology

the engine went around,

We’re good with steam and diesel

but what’s a mainyard for?

A stoker ain’t a stoker with a shovel any more!

 

Chorus

 

They gave us an Aldiss Lamp,

we can do it right,

They gave us a radio,

we signal day and night,

We know our codes and ciphers

but what’s a ‘sema’ for?

A ‘bunting-tosser’ doesn’t toss the bunting any more!

 

Chorus

 

They gave us a radar set

to pierce the fog and gloom,

So now the lookout’s sitting

in a tiny darkened room,

Loran does navigation

the Sonar says how deep,

The Jimmy’s 3 sheets to the wind, the Skipper’s fast asleep.

 

Chorus

 

Two cans of beer a day,

that’s your bleeding lot!

But now we gets an extra two

because they stopped The Tot,

So, we’ll put on our civvy-clothes

and find a pub ashore,

A sailor’s still a sailor, just like he was before!

The 12 Days of Boatmas: Don’t Forget Your Old Shipmates

The 12 Days of Boatmas: Don’t Forget Your Old Shipmates

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A popular song on our ships for good reason! The memories and friendships made aboard Lady Washington and Hawaiian Chieftain last a lifetime. While we might not be British naval vessels (the ships that this version of the song originated on during the Napoleonic Wars) the sentiment holds strong. Enjoy music and lyrics together in the video below!

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Note: The tunes, lyrics and history of a single sea song or shanty are often diverse and debated, given how these songs were passed along and changed (often simultaneously on many ships all over the seas). This is part of what is beautiful and fascinating about them. What we’re representing in this blog post is only one, and certainly not the only, version of a song and its history.

The 12 Days of Boatmas : Jericho

The 12 Days of Boatmas : Jericho

Photo Credit: Jennifer Long

Jericho is a modern sea song that has become popular with our sailors and passengers alike. This song tells of the deep relationship between sailor and ship, and the need to care for each other. The chorus describes sailing through wintry weather in a bay named Jericho, and the of ultimate knowledge that boats, like people, are not immortal and must someday be let go.

Musician and sailor Gordon Bok describes, in 1982, that the song came about from “a  toast I made 30 years ago for the schooners we’d been sailing… in those days, it was mostly sailing skill and the shipworms holding hands that kept them in one piece.”

Learn how to wish and treat a boat well through the music and lyrics below:

 

Full Lyrics - Jericho

When she’s a tight old staver,

Then do all you can to save her;

When she drops her dear old transom,

Time to pack your gear and leave her.

 

Chorus: Ho-ro, the wind and snow

Flying o’er the Jericho

When the stormy winds do blow

Swing her off and let her go.

 

Here’s to her lodging knees

And her bobstays, if you please,

Here’s to her trestle trees:

May they never leave her.

 

Chorus

 

When the fog is on the punkin

And you hear the bells a-tunkin’

Then remember Mama’s warnin’:

Keep her off the rockpiles, darling.

 

Chorus

 

Here’s to the dear old lady,

Here’s to her paint and putty

Here’s to her chain plates, darling,

May they keep her all together.

 

Chorus

 

Keep her full and keep her going,

Never jibe her when it’s blowing;

There’s no way of knowing

When she’s going to tear it, darling.

 

Chorus

 

Don’t you go down to the city

Though the women all be pretty:

They’ll take your money, darling,

Oh, and they’ll reef your mainsail.

 

Chorus

 

So here’s to her garboard strakes

And to the water that she makes

When to the pumps we takes

Just to let her know we love her.

 

Chorus

The 12 Days of Shanties : A Drop of Nelson’s Blood

The 12 Days of Shanties : A Drop of Nelson’s Blood

A work shanty that is popular on our education sails is the ever-versatile Drop of Nelson’s Blood! The base of the verse is:

A [something you’d miss on a long sea voyage] wouldn’t do us any harm! .

The desired item changes quite a bit depending on who is singing the song. You can hear some traditional desires from grown-up sailors in the video below. Kids come up with a lot of different things as they imagine what they’d truly miss during months at sea. Some of the items that long-time crew member and officer Kori Pepper has heard:  family, chocolate, and playing soccer. And riding horses!

This sea shanty would have historically been heard after January of 1806 when Admiral Nelson was given a state funeral after his death at the Battle of Trafalgar in the Napoleonic Wars.

Get ready to keep a beat and try to keep pace with this fun and ever-changing sea shanty! Music and lyrics below.

Note: The tunes, lyrics and history of a single sea song or shanty are often diverse and debated, given how these songs were passed along and changed (often simultaneously on many ships all over the seas). This is part of what is beautiful and fascinating about them. What we’re representing in this blog post is only one, and certainly not the only, version of a song and its history.

 

Full Lyrics - Drop of Nelson's Blood

Oh, a drop of Nelson’s blood wouldn’t do us any harm

A drop of Nelson’s blood wouldn’t do us any harm

A drop of Nelson’s blood wouldn’t do us any harm

An’ we’ll all hang on behind.

 

(Chorus):

So we’ll roll the old chariot along

we’ll roll the golden chariot along.

So we’ll roll the old chariot along

And we’ll all hang on behind!

 

Oh, a little mug of beer wouldn’t do us any harm

A little mug of beer wouldn’t do us any harm

A little mug of beer wouldn’t do us any harm

An’ we’ll all hang on behind.

 

Chorus:

So we’ll roll the old chariot along

We’ll roll the golden chariot along.

So we’ll roll the old chariot along

An’ we’ll all hang on behind!

 

Oh, a [ insert what you’d miss on a long sea vogage ] wouldn’t do us any harm

A [ insert ] wouldn’t do us any harm

A [ insert ] wouldn’t do us any harm

An’ we’ll all hang on behind.

 

Chorus:

So we’ll roll the old chariot along

We’ll roll the golden chariot along.

So we’ll roll the old chariot along

An’ we’ll all hang on behind!

The 12 Days of Boatmas : Mingulay Boat Song

The 12 Days of Boatmas : Mingulay Boat Song

Another type of sea song that is often sung on Lady Washington and Hawaiian Chieftain are ‘leaving songs’ for the homeward leg of a journey. The lyrics of this particularly gorgeous leaving song, Mingulay Boat Song, was set to an older Gaelic tune in the 1930s by Sir Hugh S Roberton. Passengers and sail trainees on our boats might join in a live rendition of this or another beautiful leaving song, depending on the crew members on board at the time (as with all sea songs and shanties passed down through oral tradition).

Click below to learn the melody and lyrics.

Note: The tunes, lyrics and history of a single sea song or shanty are often diverse and debated, given how these songs were passed along and changed (often simultaneously on many ships all over the seas). This is part of what is beautiful and fascinating about them. What we’re representing in this blog post is only one, and certainly not the only, version of a song and its history.

Full Lyrics - Mingulay Boat Song

(Chorus)

Heel y’ho, boys,

let her go, boys

Heave her head round into the weather

Heel y’ho. Boys,

let her go, boys,

Sailing homeward to Mingulay

 

What care we how white the Minch is

What care we boys for windy weather

When we know that every inch is

Closer homeward to Mingulay

 

(Chorus)

Heel y’ho, boys,

let her go, boys

Heave her head round into the weather

Heel y’ho. Boys,

let her go, boys,

Sailing homeward to Mingulay

 

Wives are waiting at the pierhead

Gazing seaward from the heather

Heave for head round and we’ll anchor

Ere the sun sets on Mingulay

 

(Chorus)

Heel y’ho, boys,

let her go, boys

Heave her head round into the weather

Heel y’ho. Boys,

let her go, boys,

Sailing homeward to Mingulay

 

The 12 Days of Boatmas: South Australia

The 12 Days of Boatmas: South Australia

Photo Credit: Jennifer Long

South Australia is a work shanty that can often be heard floating across the water from our boats. While there are many interpretations of the ‘sea shanty’ genre, a broad definition is as a particular type of work song that sailors use to keep entertained (and coordinated!) during tasks on a boat. These songs became popular during the Age of Sail and are kept up in modern times by tall ship sailors and folk singers, among others. Sometimes there is a shantyman, or lead singer, who is responsible for setting the tempo of the song and for making witty variations on the verses.

Work task or no, take a few minutes to sing South Australia! Music and lyrics below.

Note: The tunes, lyrics and history of a single sea song or shanty are often diverse and debated, given how these songs were passed along and changed (often simultaneously on many ships all over the seas). This is part of what is beautiful and fascinating about them. What we’re representing in this blog post is only one, and certainly not the only, version of a song and its history.

 

Full Lyrics - South Australia

In South Australia I was born

(To me) heave away, haul away

In South Australia round Cape Horn

We’re bound for South Australia

 

(Chorus):

Haul away you rolling kings

(To me)heave away, haul away

Haul away, you’ll hear me sing

We’re bound for South Australia

 

As I walked out one morning fair

‘Twas there I met Miss Nancy Blair

I shook her up and I shook her down

I shook her round and round the town

 

(Chorus)

 

I run her all night and I run her all day

And I run her until we sailed away

There ain’t but one thing grieves me mind

To leave Miss Nancy Blair behind

 

(Chorus)

 

And as we wallop around Cape Horn

You’ll wish to God you’d never been born

In South Australia my native land

 

(Chorus)

 

Full of rocks and thieves and fleas and sand

I wish I was on Australia’s strand

With a bottle of whiskey in my hand

 

(Chorus)