Tuesday, December 10, 2013

A Sailor's Christmas






Sail on the horizons, gotta landfall rendezvous

Captain steers a well known course, he steers straight and true

As he trims the sheets, he sings a song he learned on boats and bars

Sailor spends his Christmas in a harbor 'neath the stars

He's traveled through the doldrums, typhoons and hurricanes

He's logged a million soggy miles with water on his brain

But Christmas is the season better suited for dry land

He'll tell some lies, meet some spies and dance barefoot in the sand

The sailor spends his Christmas in a harbor on the hook

Caye con les, no work today, let's shell the ol' log book

The waterfront is reveling, the season has begun

The sailor spends his Christmas in a harbor having fun

There's a party down at Le Selecte, music, rum and cheers

Faces in the shadows, God, I haven't seen for years

A mast and shroud fill with lights 'neath the waning of the moon

They're an airy celebration in the realm of King Neptune

The sailor spends his Christmas in a harbor on the hook

Caye con les, no work today, let's shell the ol' log book

The waterfront is reveling, the season has begun

The sailor spends his Christmas in a harbor having fun

Jesus was a fisherman who walked upon the sea

The North Pole is ocean's remote frozen balcony

The continents keep drifting but the children sing and play

'Cause nothing really matters, after all it's Christmas day

The sailor spends his Christmas in a harbour on the hook

Vaye con les, no work today, he read it in a book

The waterfront is reveling, the season has begun

A sailor spends his Christmas in a harbour having fun

A sailor spends his Christmas in a harbour having fun Havin' fun, havin' fun, havin' fun



Songwriters JIMMY BUFFETT Published by Lyrics © BUG MUSIC

Read more: Jimmy Buffett - A Sailor's Christmas Lyrics | MetroLyrics

Monday, December 9, 2013

The Christmas Tree Ship



Sailing into Eternity


"One hundred years ago, Christmas trees were delivered from northern Wisconsin to cities throughout the state and Illinois by schooner. The schooner Rouse Simmons was loaded with 5,000 Christmas trees and bound for Chicago when she encountered a violent winter gale. Unfortunately, she wasn’t able to withstand the waves, wind and ice and she sank off the coast of Two Rivers on November 22, 1912.

To commemorate the schooner, also known as the Christmas Tree Ship, the Wisconsin Maritime Museum and the Door County Maritime Museum are celebrating Christmas the entire year."

Yuletide Cargo

Visit the Wisconsin Maritime Museum for more information and schedule of events.

Christmas at Sea





All day we fought the tides between the North Head and the South
All day we hauled the frozen sheets, to 'scape the storm's wet mouth
All day as cold as charity, in bitter pain and dread,
For very life and nature we tacked from head to head.

Thograinn Thograinn
Thograinn thograinn bhith dol dhachaidh
(I wish we were going home)
E ho ro e ho ro
Gu Sgoirebreac a chruidh chaisfhinn
(To Scorrybreck of the white-footed cattle)
E ho hi ri ill iu o
Ill iu o thograinn falbh
Gu Sgoirebreac a' chruidh chais-fhionn
(To Scorrybreck of the white-footed cattle)
E ho ro e ho ro
Ceud soraidh bhuam mar bu dual dhomh
(The first blessing from me, as is my right)

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:
We saw the cliffs and houses, and the breakers running high,
And the coastguard in his garden, 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 'longshore 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 blessed Christmas morn,
And the house above the coastguard's was the house where I was born.

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 blessed Christmas Day.

Poem by Robert Louis Stevenson / Music by Sting

Saturday, December 7, 2013

January 8 Song Circle Venue/Sponsor the PT Pizza Factory, hosted by Mike James


Tis the Season to Give Gifts - Last of our Sing Shanties & Songs About the Sea Songbooks Available !


Christmas is a great time to give our Sing Shanties & Songs About the Sea songbooks for gifts! We have 36 songbooks left in our retail inventory. If you live in the area, contact us at singshanties(at)gmail(dot)com to arrange local pick up and payment, or to have shipped. Price: $11.95 + 9% tax in the State of Washington + S/H $4.50.



Books also available in Port Townsend at the Northwest Maritime Center, Crossroads Music and Olympic Trading Post.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Greenland Whale Fisheries with Lewis Kane

November's Sing Shanties Song Circle was so much fun. Dan Roberts showed up to lead a rousing shanty sing with the other two members of The Whateverly Brothers, Matthew Moeller and Chris Glanister. Laura Martin brought a newcomer to our song circle - Lewis Kane, a traveling minstrel from Inverness, Scotland. What a delight to have Lewis with us for the evening. We hope he'll join us again, next time he visits Port Townsend!


Lewis posted a blog on his website about his time with us at our shanty sing on Friday, November 8th 2013:

"... The next day I went outside to find Dolly surrounded by the friendly neighbourhood deer. I then went off to find the local Coop for some groceries and also met mouth-organist, Roger from The Roadhouse the night before. After a few errands, I followed a tip I’d received and went back to the Coop to jam. I think the first time I’d jammed at a super market but it went down really well and I had loads of fun. I also met Laura who’d also been at The Roadhouse. She told me about a sea shanty song circle that was happening that night. So after more music and a bite to eat, we headed up to catch the song circle, hosted by Port Townsend favourites, The Whateverly Brothers.  
The Whateverly Brothers
It was such a good time and I won a draw for a free copy of the group’s songbook of maritime folk songs. I did a rendition of Greenland Whale Fisheries, which was a special moment for me in a night of great music and company. I felt like I was exactly where I was supposed to be. I actually pressed record for my turn at the circle so you can listen by clicking here
Afterwards I headed to the Boiler Room for their open mic night. A great comfy, accessible haven, mainly aimed at youth. The highlight was jamming Smells Like Teen Spirit with a local young guitarist. Then it was a late-night stroll down the town’s grand Victorian streets with Laura before sleeping in her vacant gypsy caravan."

Go to Lewis' website to follow his travel adventures, listen to his music and read the rest of his blog post Port Townsend.

Listen in as Lewis introduces himself to the group and leads a famous Irish tune "Greenland Whale Fisheries" with his accordion. The Whateverly Brothers, Mike James and the rest of us join in.



Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Shantyman and Storyteller Captain Daniel Quinn Returns to Lead December 5th Song Circle!




Please join us on Thursday, December 5th, for a fun and festive shanty sing with Captain Daniel (Dano) Quinn. Dano, who now captains the SS Legacy, spends a lot of time off shore, but will landing again here in Port Townsend to lead our December song circle. Not to be missed! So much fun! His stories are a hoot! Be sure to bring your family and invite your friends!

Here is a repost of Deborah Bach's Three Sheets NW blog post from November 2, 2012 about Dano Quinn and his CD Salty Stories and Tall Tales. Click on the title link below to hear the audio of Hawaii Blues, a maritime story that Dano authored and performed live at the 2011 Stories of the Sea.


Salty stories and tall tales on Dano Quinn CD 
by Deborah Bach

"Perennial audience favorite Dan “Dano” Quinn is a four-time winner of the annual Stories of the Sea competition. Dan “Dano” Quinn grew up with a father who loved to tell jokes and ballad-style stories, sometimes in a faux Cockney accent. 

So it’s not surprising that Quinn grew up to become a storyteller himself. The 55-year-old ship captain is a four-time winner of Seattle’s annual Stories of the Sea competition, captivating audiences with his comical, ribald rhyming poems of hijinks on the high seas. 

Quinn is now sharing his tall tales on a broader scale through his recently released CD “Slightly Salty! Sea Stories, Tall Tales and Outright Lies.” The dozen original stories, written over the past decade, tell of shipwrecks and pirates, of green young sailors and scallywags — good for listening during a road trip or ideally, Quinn says, onboard on a chilly evening while enjoying a rum toddy. 

If Quinn’s delivery seems effortless, it’s likely because he’s long loved telling jokes and eventually found his way to rhyming poems. 

“I just always thought it was a fun way to tell stories,” he says. 
 
A lifelong reader, Quinn was inspired by English poet and writer John Masefield, whose best-known works include “Sea-Fever” (“I must down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky … “), and Robert Service, an England-born writer who lived in the Yukon during the Klondike Gold Rush and became known as “the Bard of the Yukon.” 

Reading the two poets’ works gave Quinn the idea to give rhyming storytelling a try, and Stories of the Sea provided the impetus to begin writing. His stories often start with the kernel of a joke or anecdote he’s heard somewhere. If it’s not maritime-themed, it soon will be. Embellishment, as the CD title makes clear, is a given. 

While there’s an “element of truth” in all his stories, Quinn says, “If I just told a straight story, it’s not going to be as humorous.” 

Several poems on the CD include nods to the Northwest, including “Changes,” an wry lament on the gentrification of Seattle’s waterfront and surrounding areas. 

“The folks that thought the fleet so quaint when they moved into the ‘hood now want those rusty hulks to move; it’s for the common good,” Quinn recites. “There’s 20 different restaurants and a lot of little shops, but no place to get your welding done or fix a dinged-up prop. 

“I thought I saw a little place where I could get some bait, but it’s just too damned expensive when it’s called a sushi plate.” 

The one serious poem on the CD is “Yearning,” in which Quinn speaks of the powerful pull of the sea: “They say you can never go back but I sure would like to try, to cross an ocean under sail again before I die.” 

It’s a tug that endures for Quinn, who is currently the captain of Wilderness Discoverer, a 76-passenger cruise ship that travels to quiet anchorages in southeast Alaska. He grew up in Connecticut and spent 15 years working on tall ships before moving to Seattle with his wife and their son. He’s crossed the Pacific several times, sailed through the Panama Canal and on the Great Lakes. 

And after 35 years of working on ships, Quinn says, it still hasn’t gotten old. “I still love what I do,” he says. 

“I still think it’s a pretty romantic lifestyle. I get paid to do something I enjoy doing. You can’t beat that.” 

“Slightly Salty! Sea Stories, Tall Tales and Outright Lies” is available at Captain’s Nautical Supplies in Seattle or by emailing Dano Quinn at danmast3@gmail.com. The cost is $12, plus $3 for shipping. Quinn is also available for parties and events."

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Whateverly Surprise

Dan Roberts showed up to lead our November Sing Shanties Song Circle with a "little surprise"... a couple of friends, the other 2/3rds of The Whateverly Brothers - Matthew Moeller and Chris Glanister. Good time had by all!  More good news - The Whateverly Brothers will be back to lead our Song Circle at the Northwest Maritime Center on November 6, 2014! Thanks Dan, Matt and Chris!!!



Listen to some of their tunes at cdbaby.


Friday, November 1, 2013

Sing Shanties Song Circle Returns to the Northwest Maritime Center in 2014!



Do you remember? Did  you attend our very first Song Circle where we gathered in the Chandlery/Cafe area of the Northwest Maritime Center back on January 6, 2011? Nearly a hundred folks crowded together, sitting on chairs, on the floor, standing where ever they could. Good times!


Though crowded, anywhere from forty to a hundred folks, everyone loved that we were able to sing in a maritime environment.  This was the perfect venue for such a community event and most certainly fit the mission of the Northwest Maritime Center - "to engage and educate people of all generations in traditional and contemporary maritime life, in a spirit of adventure and discovery."

When the cafe management changed, we moved upstairs to the Maritime Meeting Room, a room with a sweeping view of the bay and more space to create a true song circle. Even of a warm summer's night with Concert on the Dock happening across the park new folks trickled in out of curiosity, wandering upstairs following the wave of robust singing filtering out through the doors. Seventy-five folks filled the chairs and joined in the singing. More good times!



I am very pleased to announce that starting on February 6 of 2014, we will once again be holding our Sing Shanties Song Circle upstairs at the Northwest Maritime Center in the Marine Room - West, from 6:00-8:00 p.m. We will also be hosting a Sing Shanties Workshop from 5:00-6:00 p.m. just prior to our group shanty sing. Anyone is welcome to attend - this is the perfect opportunity to learn along with others some of those traditional maritime songs in our songbook that no one ever seems to know! 

Through the end of this year, 2013, we will continue to meet at the Uptown Community Center on Tyler Street from 6:00-8:30 p.m on November 7 (Dan Roberts leads) and December 5 (Dano Quinn leads) [Calendar]. Although we won't be meeting every first Thursday of the month in 2014, as we have for the past couple of years, we will continue to meet on the first Thursday of the month on February 6, May 1, August 7 and November 6. Thank you to the Northwest Maritime Center for continued support and sponsorship for our maritime community gatherings. If all goes well, the NWMC will remain our permanent home for our seasonal shanty sings, four times a year! Our song circles will continue to be free, family-friendly community events, where "singin' is encouraged, but knot required!"

Please take a moment to read what Jake Beattie, Executive Director of the NWMC & Wooden Boat Foundation, wrote as the foreword to our Sing Shanties & Songs About the Sea songbook, published in 2012.

Nearly every book of shanties includes a well-written passage that describes the value of work songs for traditional ship’s work. I’ve read that shanties were as good as having an extra crewmember on the halyard, and that shanties were the only way that sailors could publicly express discontent with the officer ranks. This could be true, and likely is, but while I have given an enthusiastic voice to these old songs more than a few times as crew on traditional ships, it was always as much as a re-enactment as the vessels themselves. While I’ve been onboard more than one vessel with a captain whose lack of ability was only surpassed by their ego, I’ve never faced capital punishment for saying so. As much as I read, and as close to the original experience as I’ve gotten sailing and working in traditional maritime education, for me the true value of shanties in our modern times can be boiled down to a single word: community.

It’s been years since I’ve given up the quarterdeck and began managing maritime programs from the office. They don’t make shanties extolling the arduous navigation of a tough budget year, but as the first Thursday of the month rolls around, voices from the shanty sing downstairs rise up through the floorboards and lift my spirits. Downstairs, on good nights, there are as many as 80 people sharing in the community of song. Even on the nights where there are fewer each person is connecting to the simple melodies in their own way, out of their own experience, but doing so in a way that draws them closer to those around them. Outside of church services and baseball games, sharing in song is increasingly rare in a world full of social media, guarded irony, and entertainment largely left to professionals. You can connect with multitudes of online “friends” through short updates about your cat, but I would argue that song is more a powerful way to build community since it draws people together through the celebration, courage, and vulnerability of looking your neighbor in the eyes and offering your voice alongside of theirs. Shanty circles are a chance to do just that.

Shanties are songs of hardship, of victory, of toil and mockery. They are songs of participation that are better to sing along with than to watch performed. For better and worse, the age of sail is an echo of a memory generations removed from anyone who actually worked under the conditions in which these songs were created. We can't possibly connect with their original meaning and purpose. Yet, despite that they are a vestige, despite that for all of the scholarly research, I will never as a modern individual understand them in the same context as the sailors who created them. When a heartfelt group gathers to join in the fellowship of songs of the sea, at that moment at least a part of me is part of the crew that is bound for South Australia.

Jake Beattie


Keep on Singin' Shanties!

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Ahoy, Mateys! Dan Roberts leads November 7th Song Circle!

Sing Shanties Song Circle &
Sing-Along with Dan Roberts
1st Thursday in November
6:00-8:30 P.M.   
Uptown Community Center, 
620 Tyler St., Port Townsend
FREE! All Ages Welcome!
Singin’ encouraged, but knot required.
Join us Thursday,
  NOVEMBER 7th 

for our monthly community, family-friendly gathering to learn, sing and enjoy shanties and other maritime music.

Join us on Thursday, November 7th for a rousing song circle and sing-along with shantyman and minstrel Dan Roberts!


 “A voice as masculine as John Henry’s biceps and as rich as a well-oiled wooden boat’s deck.” – “Playing music that can be fun, enriching and participatory… Dan does this about as well as anyone.” - Victory Review 

Dan Roberts… with his big baritone voice and whose musical background ranges from opera to street singing, is an engaging entertainer, known for his powerful voice, various vocal stylings, and encouraging audience participation on choruses and familiar songs. Dan’s performances are always fun and interesting. In addition to the release of his own solo CD “Rowing Minstrel,” he is a featured performer on the albums “Victory Sings at Sea” and “The curse of the Somers,” both by Victory at Sea. Dan also performs with the groups The Whateverly Brothers and Seattle Labor Chorus, and as a soloist at fairs, festivals, aboard several historical ships and many other venues around the Pacific Northwest. Besides singing, Dan has a background in radio and theater. Dan plays the guitar, mandolin, spoons, penny whistle and Appalachian mountain dulcimer. Among all the styles of music he performs, Maritime music is one of Dan’s favorite genres to play and sing.

Go here to LIKE the Whateverly Brothers on Facebook. 

Thursday, September 12, 2013

JW Sparrow leads October 3rd Song Circle!


John Wesley Sparrow was born a long time ago and far, far away but quite near his mother. Shocked and surprised to find himself in bed with a woman, he immediately began singing loudly for his supper. His father heard the noise and believing he detected a nascent budding of musical genius, he swaddled the infant in an old coat and carried it straightway to the doorstep of a nearby conservatory of music.

John was taken under the wing of Professor Dieter Von Helgenringer to matriculate a classical music education. He was drilled in memorizing the first seven letters of the alphabet, how to count to four and to sit on his own stool. Further education was abruptly ended when he was told by the lunchroom overseer to eat every potato and pea on his plate and did.

Returning home, John was given a warm welcome by his family until the day his father bought him a suitcase for his 16th birthday and his mother packed him a lunch. Venturing out into the world, the boy began a long sojourn occasionally interrupting his natural proclivities for sloth and indolence by working for brief periods of time as a pearl diver, broomsman, sewing machine repairman and yellow journalist. The occupations did not secure his attention however, and he chose not to apply himself to anything much beyond storytelling.

His storytelling abilities can be traced back to his early years where he was very gifted in telling whoppers. It was his mother's fault. She was much too curious and rather than hurt her feelings, he began to elaborate and fabricate until he was quite good at it. Not good enough to fool her, of course, but still and all better than average. This gift lead him into many colorful adventures and form the basis for a truly remarkable set of songs.

John has been a married man for over 40 years. It was to four different women, but who's keeping count? He has no children and believes the secret to happiness is to have your grandkids first. There is some old man who stands on stages from time to time and tells everyone that he is John Sparrow. His songs have been sung and recorded by many artists. Most of them sound better than John but that doesn't discourage him from trying.

John is the founding member of Victory Sings at Sea, Vol 1. His songs have been recorded by Hank Cramer, Shangied on the Willamette, The Shifty Sailors, The Ferryboat Musicians and more, and is about ready to release a new CD… and will have it available at our Oct 3rd shanty sing.


Invite yer family, invite yer friends to our free, community song circle and sing-along. Some bring instruments, some dance a jig. "Singin' is encouraged, but knot required."Coffee, tea and songbooks provided.

Time: 6:00 - 8:30 p.m.
Location: 620 Tyler Street, Port Townsend
Need a ride from and to the Whidbey Island Ferry? Pop us an email to: singshanties(at)gmail(dot)com.

See you there, mateys!



Monday, August 19, 2013

37th Wooden Boat Festival - Sea Chantey Song Circles hosted by Wayne Palsson

This year's 37th annual Wooden Boat Festival runs from September 6th through the 8th. On both Friday and Saturday nights at 7:00 p.m. in the Marina Room, located at Port Hudson Marina in Port Townsend, Wayne Palsson from Northwest Seaport in Seattle will lead a "Sea Chantey Song Circle" (free). Check back in September for more information about our October 3rd Sing Shanties Song Circle with John Sparrow.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Join us on August 1st for our next Sing Shanties Song Circle, led by Matthew Orr!

Matthew Orr, local boatbuilder and shantyman, leads our August shanty sing. Enjoy the camaraderie and fun as we each take a turn singing a song, requesting a song, or sitting back to enjoy hearing and learning some of the tunes that were, and many which still are, sung by the working crew aboard tall ships here and abroad. Songbooks available. 


Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Join us for Our Sing Shanties July 4th Celebration & Song Circle with Mark Olson


Join us for our July 4th Celebration and Song Circle with Mark Olson. The theme of the evening is Singing Shanties Aboard American Ships. Come have fun with us - sing a song, request a song, or pass - our motto is "singin' is encouraged, but knot required." This song circle is also a community potluck. Bring your favorite dish, bring friends. Win prizes! Coffee and tea are provided. Songbooks available. Enjoy Port Townsend's fireworks display following our gathering.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Scenes from a Shanty Sing

These images are from our May shanty sing, which was led by The Shifty Sailors from Whidbey Island. We met at the Cotton Building in downtown Port Townsend. Great turn out and camaraderie!





















Friday, May 24, 2013

Maritime Music at Northwest Folklife Festival in Seattle

May 24, 25 and 26 - This weekend, there will be a lot of great maritime music at the Northwest Folklife Festival in Seattle - Alice Winship, Victory Music Review

Friday, 3:40 pm, Chris Roe
Saturday, 11:40 pm, Spanaway Bay
Saturday, 12:20 pm, Percy Hilo
Saturday, 3 pm, Maritime Showcase at the Northwest Court: The Baggywrinkles 3:00 PM 3:25 PM (Dan Roberts, Matthew Moeller, Tom Rawson), The Great Sanger and Didele 3:30 PM 3:55 PM, Dan Maher 4:00 PM 4:25 PM, Broadside & the Handsome Cabin Boys 4:30 PM 4:55 PM, North by West 5:00 PM 5:25 PM, and Shanghaied on the Willamette 5:30 PM 5:55 PM
Saturday, 6 pm, Beer Garden Chantey Sing
 Saturday, 6:30 pm, Mary Garvey
Sunday, 4 pm, Sea Chantey Sing-Along
Sunday, 9:30 pm, Piper Stock Hill


For more information about maritime music, please read Alice's Maritime Musings column in the online Victory Review Magazine. Victory Music has a new website, you can read the May Review at VictoryMusic.us

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Join us for our June 6 Song Circle with Helen Gilbert!

 We will meet at the Uptown Community Center from 6-8:30 p.m. Bring your family, invite your friends! Coffee and tea provided. Snacks welcome! This is a free, fun, family-friendly community gathering. Songbooks available. Singin' is encouraged, but knot required."

Friday, May 3, 2013

Come Sing Shanties with us at Pocket Yacht Palooza in July!


Sing Shanties Song Circle will be sing shanties at the NW Maritime Center plaza on July 21st, sometime between noon and 3pm. Please join us. Songbooks will be available to sing from. Check back for an update as the event gets closer. 

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Shifty Sailors singin' and sailin' to Port Townsend, May 2!

 The Cotton Building is located on Water Street next to Pope Marine Park on the waterfront. See you there, mateys!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Leaving San Francisco in the Morning

John Sparrow, who will be leading our shanty sing in October, shared this fascinating video with us, produced by John Sabella from Port Angeles, WA. One of Sparrow's songs is in the documentary.


Leaving San Francisco in the Morning is a vignette from the documentary Sockeye and the Age of Sail 

About - "At the turn of the 20th Century, the Alaska Packers Association assembled the largest fleet of privately owned square rigged ships in the world to service the Alaska canned salmon trade. The vessels set sail for the north each spring. On departure day, the men gathered on the docks of San Francisco. It was a festive occasion. The Italians arrived with jugs of wine and the Scandinavians brought moonshine. Wives and sweethearts came to bid their men farewell. There were tears and laughter. Aboard ship the carpenters secured the anchors, locked the windlass, plugged the hawse pipes and fired up the donkey engine. It was important to have the donkey engine ready to handle the heavy work of raising sail in case the men were too drunk or too seasick. The voyage to Alaska was a difficult journey through uncharted waters often shrouded in fog and lashed by storms. Sometimes the ships took a coastwise route, calling on Puget Sound ports for lumber and coal, or ferrying supplies to and from the APA canneries at Point Roberts and Semiahamoo. Other ships bound for Alaska took the direct route through open ocean. For roughly a month, they beat northward against the westerly wind and current. Climb aboard, in this vignette from John Sabella's documentary Sockeye and the Age of Sail. View the full documentary on Pay Per View for as little as $4.95." -  John Sabella

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Ahoy! The Shifty Sailors are back to lead our May 2 Song Circle!

Spread the word - The Shifty Sailors are comin' back to lead us in another rousing round of sea shanties, and sing us some of their maritime favorites. Please join us Thursday, May 2 from 6:00 - 8:30 p.m. Invite your friends, share this post and flyer... and "Keep on Singin' Shanties"!





Saturday, March 16, 2013

Join us for our April 4 Song Circle with Shantyman Mark Olson


Please join us for our next, first Thursday shanty sing with our April songleader, Shanty man Mark Olson. Mark is a Port Hadlock resident, active participant in our monthly song circles and regularly posts articles on Sing Shanties, aka the Longwinded Shantyman.

Mark first took the helm of a junk-rigged schooner in fourth grade. After a childhood of racing rubber-band-powered paddle boats and collecting cartons for the Milk Carton Derby race on Seattle's Green Lake, it was just a matter of time before he stumbled upon a tall ship.

Mark slipped in through the hawse pipe and eventually worked his way up to Mate before becoming the Northwest Regional Port Captain of the Grays Harbor Fleet. During his many years with the fleet, Mark had the opportunity to work with many of the nation's top shanty men and women, using the traditional working songs of the sea in the context in which they were first created and sung: To hoist anchor, sail, and yard - to load and stow - to pass the time - and to pass on the multitude facets of the life of a sailor through the medium of song.

This is a FREE, family-friendly gathering where "singin' is encouraged, but knot required". Coffee and tea is provided. Snacks are welcome. We have songbooks to sing from during song circle, and new ones available for purchase.

Location: The Uptown Community Center at the corner of Tyler Street and Lawrence Street across from Aldrich's Market. 
Time: 6:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Which Watch?


We have all had them, those days from hell we wish we could forget.

At sea, days are divided into watches - and just like those days ashore, some watches devolve into awful hours that you wish you could forever erase from your mind. The nautical term “watch” finds its roots in the sailors who stood on deck, watching the waves, shore, and sky. The time pieces used to keep track of the duration of each watch became known as watch glasses. This remained constant into the modern world and is the origin of the name of the instrument strapped to your wrist - (until Apple screws us all up by renaming it the iTime).
"Crab Bait"
Standing "Chicken" watch in the San Juan Islands
Photo by Lady Washington Crew - 2002
A vessel’s watch is similar to any gathering of people who regularly face a common adversary. After a time the constant pressures of duty either draws a group of sailors together or blows it apart. For this reason watches become especially memorable and often take on names - names beyond their typical designation of First Watch, Middle Watch, Morning Watch, etc. These team names can get quite creative and often summarize the ideals or quirks of the group of sailors they brand.

A friend once ask me to pick him up some monkey pickles at the store. When I gave him the classic, “come again?” look, he explained that, to a monkey, a pickle is yellow fruit that said monkey must peel in order to eat. I returned a short time later with a basket full of musa acuminata and my mate whipped up banana splits, which we promptly devoured. His odd term retreated to the back of my mind until 2002, when I dredged it up to christen a particularly dreadful watch.

Close Quarters on Elliott Bay
Photo by Seattle Times - 2002

Monkey Pickle Watch

…So there we were - over a decade past and still not far enough back to rinse the foul taste of the whole lousy affair from my mouth. The Pacific Northwest had just survived its first modern day gathering of international tall ships - and being Washington State’s Tall Ship Ambassador, the brig Lady Washington had played host to the festival. Her crew was completely exhausted when the Lady at last docked in Eagle Harbor, in order to load a brig-full of passengers, each of whom expected to spend an epic week in the San Juan Islands, with a bright and cheery ship’s company, bent on serving their every whim. That wasn’t going to happen, given the current energy level on deck - and what our punch-drunk crew needed from its captain right then was one of those memorable halftime speeches that Hollywood shoehorns into all its feel-good family films. What we got instead was a rambling diatribe about the lack of support from the office and an hour’s forced-rest in the blistering late-afternoon sun. It was nearly dark by the time we had loaded passengers, had everyone’s gear stowed below, and were at last ready for the transit to Port Townsend.

I had already spent my day parading the brig on a crowded lake the size of a punch bowl and then threading her through narrow canals, under draw spans, and onward through the Ballard locks - nearly running her aground at the entrance to Eagle Harbor. I was now ready to swap careers to something easier… like being a matador, but I knew the route we were scheduled to transit tonight. Tomorrow’s passage up Rosario Strait was a different story. For that I needed Kevin, my alter ego (and co-Mate). I had never piloted the Lady north of Cypress Island; He had. That left me with the short straw, volunteering to stay up for night watch, to battle the currents off of Marrowstone Point during the coming flood. Kevin gladly hit the rack to rest up for the long day tomorrow.

No one expected help from our captain. Of every man (and woman) I had ever served under, he was the most useless piece of flotsam to have ever walked the decks of the Lady. I find that odd. We usually attract and train the best. Still, you play the hand you’re dealt and so I sized up the two sailors the old man pushed in my direction and tried to ignore his grunted comment about waking him before we tied up, giving back only the courtesy of a nod and “Aye Sir” before taking the helm.

A girl and a boy. That’s what I got. A giant of a girl to be sure, but a girl non-the-less: A pretty, fresh-faced teen who, up until now had seemed inseparable from her equally young and attractive girlfriend. She was either Prairie or Cherlynn - (I couldn’t ever keep the two of them straight.) Glancing at Kevin’s watch bill, I saw the roll of the dice had awarded me Cherlynn and Jesse. Peering closer at the lad I determined him to be less of a boy and more of a Neanderthal. That general assumption stemmed from posture, dreadlocks, choice of clothing, and general demeanor. My first impression about people is generally wrong, so I smiled brightly and put them to work: Asking Cherlynn to do boat checks and Jesse to stand bow watch.

Cherlynn didn’t have a flashlight. Jesse couldn’t find his glasses and was blind without them. Both shrugged their excuses and just stood there. Sighing heavily, I handed the tall blonde a red penlight, tightened my grip on the tiller, and ordered Jesse to remain where I could keep an eye on him.

Thus began Monkey Pickle Watch. Better than nine hours at the helm… following a twelve hour day… after two full weeks. One exhausted watch leader and two green kids. And all three of us must have been completely bananas to have even attempted that run. No current chart. No on-deck radar. Only the watch on my wrist, a compass, a log and a lead-line, guiding two hundred tons of Lady - smashing her way forward - all of Puget Sound flooding against her - the brig being driven alternately by a three-hundred-horse surplus landing craft engine and over one thousand unrestrained white mustangs overhead. Onward we plunged, through a sleep-deprived nightmare the color of our captain’s soul.

And that my dear reader is why there are shanties. And you better believe we sang them loud enough to rouse the dead.

Safely at anchor off Port Townsend
Photo by Mark Olson
The Wind Blows Free
(Monkey Pickle Version)
Copyright 2013 Creative Enterprise

I know now,
Just what I will be,
A sailin’ Jack,
In the Royal Navy.

Boats and ships,
Are the life for me,
An’ I’ll spend my days,
On the deep blue sea.

Yo ho, ho,
The wind blow free,
The life of a sailor,
Is the life for me.

I’ll sober up,
And I’ll make bail,
I’ll stagger to the sea,
An’ I’ll learn to sail.

I’ve got webbed feet,
So has me Mum,
She’s a flippin’ mermaid,
Tattooed on me bum.

Under my pants,
There is a tail,
That’s ‘cause me Da,
He’s a bloomin’ whale.

Yo ho, ho,
The wind blow free,
The life of a sailor,
Is the life for me.

Bless my whiskers,
Bless my tail,
I’ll waddle to the sea,
An’ I’ll learn to sail.

Well, imagine me,
A sailing Jack,
With my bosun’s pipe,
An’ my sailor’s cap.

A lovely brig,
Lyin’ on the bay,
Well, let’s hoist the yards,
An’ get underway.

Yo ho, ho,
The wind blow free,
The life of a sailor,
Is the life for me.

We’ll sober up,
An’ all make bail,
Stagger to the sea,
An’ we’ll learn to sail.

Note - This shanty has not been sung for eleven years (as far as I know). It was retired after that fateful voyage.

P.S. “My first impression about people is generally wrong”… It was. Cherlynn went on to sail Lady Washington to the Caribbean, acting as the sailing double for the mute pirate in Curse of the Black Pearl, and Jesse, oops… I meant to say the handsome man who is now Captain Jesse… Both are brilliant sailors who I would follow into hell.

By Mark Olson, The Longwinded Shantyman


Sunday, February 17, 2013

Join Us March 7 - Song Circle and Sing-Along with Tugboat Bromberg

1613 Wood Carving

Will March be comin' in like a lion this year? Well, even if it does, don't let the wind and the weather keep you away from comin' out to our March 7 Sing Shanties Song Circle with Tugboat Bromberg. Warm up yer vocals with a hot cuppa tea or coffee, and get yer feet a stompin' to stave off the chill.
March Comes in Like a Lion

For more information about Tugboat, visit his website. We will meet in downtown Port Townsend at the Cotton Building next to Pope Marine Park. Please share this post and flyer with your family and friends, and email us at singshanties(at)gmail.com with a request to be added to our email list for future gatherings and events.