myths debunked: not all tallships people like sea shanteys

Posted in tallships by bowsprite on 2009/11/28

A beautiful tallship sailed into a particular harbor and tied up for a few day’s stay (name of vessel and port withheld until plied loose with drink.)

One day, a visitor approached the ship, identifying himself as part of a small singing group, “Could we come onto your ship and sing sea shanteys?”

“Get them away from me,” muttered the captain to his crew. The visitor was politely turned away with some sort of excuse, of a meeting or event, much apologies.

That evening, more shanteyeurs came to see if they could board the ship to sing sea shanteys.

“Sorry, not tonight, but maybe tomorrow.”

That night, the ship cast off and crept out to sea.

Reported by FL, a tallships sailor, so it’s got to be true. Thanx, Frank.

27 Responses

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  1. tugster said, on 2009/11/28 at 11:32

    twas the flying dutchman, no doubt. i hear tell the dutchman fears shanteys are intended to charm him ashore so that accounts due are satisfied.

  2. Monkey Fist said, on 2009/11/28 at 21:00

    I’d have pulled a shot gun on them.

    • bowsprite said, on 2009/11/29 at 20:09

      ah, about as subtle as a crack on the head with a–moneyfist!

  3. Allen Baker said, on 2009/11/28 at 22:42

    “Cisne Branco”?

    How about a rousing rendition of Stan Rogers’ “Barrett’s Privateers”?

    “Oh, the year was 1778, how I wish I was in Sherbrooke now…a Letter of Marque came from the King to the scummiest vessel I’d ever seen……”

    Ok, I’ll stop there…

    • bowsprite said, on 2009/11/29 at 20:20

      Hello, Allen!
      I do have a big collection of shanteys, but I don’t know either. I found the former on youtube, and well! it is so Russian Navy (with the flags of Brazil). The second search yielded this great clip. Such lovely ruddy complexions! Must be the air of Sherbrooke. I liked Sherbrooke (Canada). Thank you!

  4. Kennebec Captain said, on 2009/11/29 at 11:49

    Ha! great story and I love that last sketch, it’s both funny and sad, but sad in a funny way.

    As to the tall ship sailors and shanteys, I have no tall ship experience but from what shanty experience I have, I would say that there are three main factors to consider, location, which shanty, and blood alcohol levels. First, you can’t be at work and second you have to have had a least two drinks, then you will enjoy it, with three or more drinks the right pub and the right shanty those tall ship sailors will all have tears in their eyes.

    • bowsprite said, on 2009/11/29 at 20:24

      by the time i’ve had enough drink to want to sing, I’m too far gone to remember the lyrics; the audience is always spared.

  5. Mage B said, on 2009/11/29 at 11:52

    Darling doodle. Leaves me smiling. Here you can find those folks singing on the main deck of the Star of India. 🙂

    • bowsprite said, on 2009/11/29 at 20:26

      hey Mage! thanks!
      hey Will: liver needs a break!


  6. tugster said, on 2009/11/29 at 15:16

    vessel name–i gather from my staff after plying them with many casks of frothy bitters–is dolmar . . . or dolmar fortress . . . or pc . . . or liberator of bergen; port in question . . . ?? well, staff needs another drink and so do i. so ply me with drink and i’ll tell you more.

  7. […] art, maritime heritage | Tags: Bowsprite, maritime art, maritime heritage That’s according to a short sea story told by Bowsprite, one of the most amazing ports of call on the Internet. Please do yourself a […]

  8. paulthepirate(yar!) said, on 2009/11/29 at 22:01

    Bill Bonyan was a remarkable historian who I crossed paths with in the mid 90’s up in Eastport, Maine. He was in his late 80’s by then, but he still could sing and play any of a thousand or more shanteys- his foster father was the last captain of a sail-powered whaling ship in the US, and he taught Bill the whaler’s songs. Remarkable man. There are still some LP’s of those songs around. Yankee magazine published them in the 70’s.

    There is nothing like having a few drinks to make one wish to sing Stan Rogers “The Mary Ellen Carter.”

  9. O Docker said, on 2009/11/30 at 04:22


    Maybe the captain was looking for shanteyeuses.

    An English ship sailed from the west
    Into the port of Brest.
    They heard only shantys
    While looking for panties,
    Thinking the spelling was ‘Breast’.

  10. Capt. Mike said, on 2009/11/30 at 08:59

    Personally, I do like Sea Shantys. But if Jimmy Buffet showed up on the dock with a guitar over his shoulder he would be getting the cold shoulder from me and if he started singing Margaritaville he would thrown over the side in no time! I really really am sick of hearing that song. Especially blasting out of bars in tropical locations!

  11. tugster said, on 2009/11/30 at 09:37

    if i were marooned to a deserted island, i’d pack some gordon bok. if gordon bok stood on the dock wanting to step aboard my overloaded canoe, i’d throw someone off to let him board. but there are some worn-out shanteys that could drive me to violence . . . at least of the verbal sort.

  12. Jed said, on 2009/11/30 at 15:59

    The Captain’s Wife’s Lament

    • bowsprite said, on 2009/11/30 at 20:06

      huh! HER problems some of us would love to have.
      (you know, having so much property to take care of, like a yard, a larder, stairs…)

  13. tugster said, on 2009/12/01 at 00:29

    jed . . . i gotta say . . . i’m impressed by your good judgement. please rec us some more hearty abd new tunes!

  14. Tim said, on 2009/12/01 at 03:09

    Love the tall ship sketch, we have no sea shanty singing on my ship either. Not for dislike of the sea shanty, I’m partial to “As we rolled out around Cape Horn, etc.” but the Filipino crew prefer karaoke, it’s the social gathering event for them! I go along too and belt out a few songs for good measure!

    • bowsprite said, on 2009/12/05 at 21:49

      how I would love to hear old sea songs in Filipino or Tagalog! –or, are there any old Filipino songs, as the language was only designated the official language in 1987, a fact I did not know until a few moments ago?

  15. Buck said, on 2009/12/01 at 10:51

    Wonderful drawing!

    I’d heard it was bad luck to sing a shanty unless you’re working. Not that tall ship sailors are prone to superstitious beliefs or anything…

  16. naveganteglenan said, on 2009/12/01 at 13:20

    Lovely day for a gorgeous vessel 🙂

  17. Rick Spilman said, on 2009/12/04 at 20:02

    I know those guys, or at least half of them. As Paul and Storm, they often open for Jonathan Coulton. Very funny.

    I can almost understand the captains feelings, as much as I like shanties. Some shanty singers sound like barbershop quartets.

    I read that shanties were only popular on Yankee and Brit windjammers anyway. They were apparently never sung on German and the Scandinavian square riggers. And of course the navies never allowed singing.

  18. Jolea said, on 2009/12/06 at 21:03

    Hi there! Great blog! I just ran across it. I am a schooner wench myself, keep up the good work!

  19. […] Essex-built schooner Adventure, paired here with steel trawler Sea Farmer II.   For Bowsprite, here’s are some shanteys;  it’s the best I can offer after an unsuccessful search for […]

  20. Robert said, on 2009/12/21 at 11:50

    Am ambivalent myself about shanties; as someone above said, usually by the time I’ve had enough to drink to want to sing, I’ve forgotten all the lyrics. But, a comment from a schooner captain: “Friends don’t let friends sing sea shanties.”

  21. Franck Bootsma said, on 2012/03/09 at 11:04

    Reblogged this on The Adventures from an Old Seadog Scallywag.

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