Archive for the 'Seafaring' Category

Water is Wide, The

h1 Friday, June 1st, 2001


I remember going to see Pete Seeger in concert at Orchestra Hall in Chicago many times in my teen years. His 12-string guitar was always tuned down so that the bass notes were big and round, filling the hall as would a string quartet. His voice was clear, full of emotion and youthful exuberance. That was the first time I heard The Water Is Wide. Now I'm on concert tour in England. I decided to recorded this song live at the Jazz Caf in London.

The water is wide


I cannot cross over


And neither have


I wings to fly

D F#m

Build me a boat


That will carry two


And both shall roam


My Love and I

A ship there is

And she sails the sea

Sailing as deep

As deep can be

But not so deep

As the love I'm in

And I know not

How I sink or swim

I leaned my back

Against some young oak

Thinking she was

A trusty tree

But first she bent

And then she broke

And thus did my

False love to me

The water is wide

I cannot cross over

And neither have

I wings to fly

Build me aboat

That will carry two

And both shall roam

My Love and I

Catch The Greenland Whale

h1 Thursday, March 1st, 2001

I first heard this song on a whaling album. I've tried to keep as close to the original as possible, including the key and tempo.

The banjo is tuned in an open Dm tuning, and the 12-string is playing melody. It's all in Dm.

On the [Am] twenty-third of [Em] March, my boys,
We [Am] hoisted our [Em] topsail,
Crying, [Am] 'Heav'n above [Em] protect us
With a sweet and a [D] pleasant [Em] gale.'
We never was down-[Am] hearted
Nor let our courage [Em] fail
But [Am] bore away up to [Em] Greenland
For to catch the [D] Greenland [Em] whale,
For to catch the [D] Greenland [Em] whale.

And when we came to Greenland
Where the bitter winds did blow,
We tacked about all in the north
Among the frost and snow.
Our finger-tops were frozen off,
And likewise our toe-nails,
As we crawled on the deck, my boys,
Looking out for the Greenland whale
Looking out for the Greenland whale.

And when we came to Davis Strait
Where the mountains flowed with snow,
We tacked about all in the north
Till we heard the whalefish blow.
And when we catch that whale, brave boys,
Homeward we will steer.
We'll make them valleys ring, my boys,
A-drinking of strong beer.
We'll make them lofty alehouses
In London town to roar;
And when our money is all gone,
To Greenland go for more,
To Greenland go for more.

Greenland Whale Fisheries

h1 Tuesday, February 1st, 2000


This is a slightly different version of a very popular whaling song.
They signed us with a whaling crew
C Em D
For the icy Greenland ground
G Em C Am
They said we’d take a shorter way,
Am G D G Em
While we was outward bound brave boys
Em G D G
While we was outward bound

Oh the lookout up in the barrel stood
With a spyglass in his hand
There’s a whale there’s a whale there’s a whale he cried
And she blows at every span brave boys
And she blows at every span

The captain stood on the quarter-deck
And the ice was in his eye
Overhaul overhaul let your davit tackles fall
And put your boats to sea brave boys
And put your boats to sea

Well the boats got down and the men aboard
And the whale was full in view
Resolve resolve let these whaler men know
To see where the whale fish blew brave boys
To see where the whale fish blew

Well the harpoon struck, the line ran out
The whale give a floody with his tail
And he upset the boat, we lost half a dozen men
No more, no more Greenland for you brave boys
No more no more Greenland for you

Bad news bad news the captain said
And it grieved his heart full sore
But the losing of that hundred pound whale
Oh it grieved him ten times more brave boys
Oh it grieved him ten times more

Oh Greenland is a dreadful place
A land that’s never green
Where the cold winds blow and the whale fish go
And the daylight's seldom seen brave boys
And the daylight's seldom seen

Traditional / Arr. Roger McGuinn
(c) 2000 McGuinn Music / Roger McGuinn

Liverpool Gals

h1 Tuesday, June 1st, 1999


Another song with a warning for for seamen.
When I was a youngster I sailed with the rest
On a Liverpool packet bound out for the West
We anchored a day in the harbor of Cork
Then put out to sea for the port of New York
And it’s row, row bullies row
Them Liverpool gals they have got us in tow

For thirty-two days we was hungry and sore
For the wind was agin’ us and the gales they did roar
But at Battery Point we did anchor at last
With the gig-boom hold to and the canvas all fast
And it’s row, row bullies row
Them Liverpool gals they have got us in tow

Them boardinghouse masters was a-boarding us twice
And shouting and promising all that was nice
And one fat old crimp took a fancy to me
And he said I was foolish to follow the sea
And it’s row, row bullies row
Them Liverpool gals they have got us in tow

Then being as a doorman is awaiting for you
With rations of liquor, and nothin’ to do
Now what do you say, what would you jump up to
Says I you won’t linger, and danged if I do
And it’s row, row bullies row
Them Liverpool gals they have got us in tow

But the best of intentions they never goes far
After thirty-two days at the door of a bar
I dust off me liquor and what do you think
That rotten old skipper he’s doctored me drink
And it’s row, row bullies row
Them Liverpool gals they have got us in tow

The next I remember I awoke in the morn
On a three-sky-sailed yarder bound south round the horn
We ‘ad no suit of oilskins and two pairs of socks
And an IOU nailed to the lid of me box
And it’s row, row bullies row
Them Liverpool gals they have got us in tow

Now all you young seamen take a warning by me
Keep an eye on your drink, when the liquor is free
And pay no attention to Reniour the whore
When you’ve had some, you’ll lose all you owned on the shore
And it’s row, row bullies row
Them Liverpool gals they have got us in tow

� 1999 McGuinn Music / Roger McGuinn

Blood Red Roses

h1 Thursday, April 1st, 1999


The chanteyman often used improvisation and parody in his solo lines to the advantage and amusement of the crew, but the chorus lines, on which the work action was based, were repetitive and changeless. For example, in using Blood Red Roses to raise the top-sails, top gallant sails (t'ga'n's'ls), or sky-s'ls, the chanteyman, who on some ships also put his back to the task, would have sung:

Chanteyman: Our boots and clothes are all in pawn

Crew: Go down Ye blood red roses. Go down

Chanteyman: And its flamin' drafty 'round Cape Horn

Crew: Go down Ye blood red roses. Go down

The word Go, was the signal for the men to haul back on the halyards.

Our boots and clothes are all in pawn
Go down, you blood red roses, Go down.
And its flamin' drafty 'round Cape Horn,
Go down, you blood red roses, Go down.
cho: Oh, you pinks and posies,
Go down, you blood red roses, Go down.
My dear old mother said to me,
My dearest son, come home from sea.
It's 'round Cape Horn we all must go
'Round Cape Horn in the frost and snow.
You've got your advance, and to sea you'll go
To chase them whales through the frost and snow.
It's 'round Cape Horn you've got to go,
For that is where them whalefish blow.
It's growl you may, but go you must,
If you growl too much your head they'll bust.
Just one more pull and that will do
For we're the boys to kick her through.

Bonny Ship the Diamond, The

h1 Tuesday, December 1st, 1998


This is another fine example of a joyous departure
song. The whalers would bolster their spirits before departing on an
ocean voyage that might take years. The thought of young women waiting
for them, and of new conquests, gave them the courage to continue.
[Dm] The Diamond is a [C] ship, my lads, for the [Dm] Davis Strait she’s [C] bound,
And the [Dm] quay it is all [C] garnished with [Am] bonny lasses [Dm] ’round;
[Dm] Captain Thompson gives the [C] order to [Dm] sail the ocean [C] wide,
Where the [Dm] sun it never [C] sets, my lads, no [Am] darkness dims the [Dm] sky,

cho: So it’s [Dm] cheer [C] up my [Dm] lads, let your hearts never fail,
While the bonny [C] ship, the [Dm] Diamond, [C] goes [Dm] a-fishing for the whale.

Along the quay at Peterhead, the lasses stand aroon,
Wi’ their shawls all pulled around them and the saut tears runnin’ doon;
Don’t you weep, my bonny lass, though you be left behind,
For the rose will grow on Greenland’s ice before we change our mind.


Here’s a health to the Resolution, likewise the Eliza Swan,
Here’s a health to the Battler of Montrose and the Diamond, ship of fame;
We wear the trouser o’ the white and the jackets o’ the blue,
When we return to Peterhead, we’ll hae sweethearts anoo,


It’ll be bricht both day and nicht when the Greenland lads come hame,
Wi’ a ship that’s fu’ of 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’


� 1998 McGuinn Music – Roger McGuinn

Handsome Cabin Boy, The

h1 Friday, May 1st, 1998


A popular broadside ballad of shipboard carryings-on.
This version from Louis Killen; it derives from that sung by one of the
greatest ballad singers of all times, Jeannie Robertson of Aberdeen.
The sailors made up these tales to amuse themselves on their long

The guitar on this is a Rickenbacker 730L/12 acoustic, in two
inversions, E and with a capo on the second fret in the D position.

It’s of a pretty female as you will understand
Her mind was set on rambling into a foreign land
She dressed herself in man’s attire and boldly did appear
And she engaged with a captain to serve him for a year.

The captain’s lady being on board, she seemed in great joy
To think that the captain had engaged such a handsome cabin boy
And many’s the time she cuddled and kissed, and she would have
liked to toy
But ’twas the captain found out the secret of the handsome cabin

Her cheeks they were like roses, her hair was all a-curl
The sailors often smiled and said, he looks just like a girl
But eating the captain’s biscuit, well, her color it did destroy
And the waist did swell of pretty Nell, the handsome cabin boy.

It’s doctor, dearest doctor, the cabin boy did cry
My time has come, I am undone, surely I must die
The doctor ran with all his might, a-smiling at the fun
For to think a cabin boy could have a daughter or a son

Now when the sailors heard the joke, they all began to stare
The child belongs to none of us, they solemnly did swear
And the lady to the captain said ‘My dear I wish you joy
For it was either you or I betrayed the handsome cabin boy.’

Come all of you bold fellows and we’ll drink success to trade
And likewise to the cabin boy who was neither man nor maid
And if the wars should rise again, us sailors to destroy
Well, here’s hoping for a jolly lot more like the handsome cabin
� 1998 McGuinn Music – Roger McGuinn

Bound To Australia

h1 Wednesday, April 1st, 1998


I am leaving old England, the land that I love
D A7 D A7
And I’m bound for across the sea;
Oh, I’m bound for Australia, the land of the free
D A7 D
Where there’ll be a welcome for me.

When I board me ship for the southward to go
She’ll be looking so trim and so fine,
And I’ll land me aboard, with me bags and me stores
From the dockside they’ll cast off each line


So fill up your glasses and drink what you please
D A7 D A7
For whatever’s the damage I’ll pay
So be easy and free, while you’re drinkin’ with me,
D A7 D
I’m a man you don’t meet every day!

To land’s end we’ll tow, with our boys all so tight,
Wave a hearty good-bye to the shore,
And we’ll drink the last drop to our country’s green land
And the next day we’ll nurse our heads sore.

We’ll then pass Cape Looin all shipshape and trim,
Then head up for Adelaide Port,
Off Semaphore Roads we will there drop our hook,
And ashore boys we’ll head for some sport.


When I’ve worked in Australia for twenty long years,
One day will I head homeward bound,
With a nice little fortune tucked under me wing
By a steamship I’ll travel I’m bound

So ’tis good-bye to Sally and good-bye to Sue
When I’m leavin’ Australia so free
Where the gals are so kind, but the one left behind
Is the one that will one day splice me.


� 1998 McGuinn Music Roger McGuinn

Cold Cold Coast of Greenland, The

h1 Thursday, January 1st, 1998


This is a variation of a mid seventeenth century
naval war ballad, The Lowlands of Holland. A newly married couple is
torn apart by the practice of recruiting young men against their will,
and placing them in harms way on whaling vessels. As a result of losing
her husband, the young woman goes insane and vows never to enjoy the
pleasures of life again. The last verse is a common theme in Greenland
whaling songs.
Dm C
Last night I was a-married and on my marriage bed
Dm C Dm
There came a bold sea captain and he stood at my bed’s head
Dm C
Saying ‘Arise arise you brisk bonny lad and come along with me
Dm C Dm
To the cold cold coast of Greenland and the sperm whale fishery’

She held her love all in her arms a-thinking he might stay
Till the cru-el captain came again he was forced to go away
‘It’s many a bright and bold young man must sail this night with me
To the cold cold coast of Greenland and the sperm whale fishery’

Her love he went on shipboard and a lofty ship was she
With a score of bold young whaler men to bear him company
But the main mast and the riggin’ they lie buried in the sea
Off the cold cold coast of Greenland in the sperm whale fishery

Said the father to the daughter ‘What makes you so lament?
There’s many a lad in our town can give your heart’s content’
‘There is no lad in all our town, no lord nor duke said she
Can ease my mind now the stormy wind has claimed my love from me’

No shoe nor stocking I’ll put on nor comb go in my hair
Nor broad daylight nor candle light shall in my room appear
Nor shall I wed with any young man until the day I die
Now the cold cold coast of Greenland has parted my love and I

Oh Greenland is a dreadful place, a place that’s never green
It’s too wild a habitation for a lover to be in
Where the icebergs grow and the whales do blow and the sunset’s
never seen
And the cold cold coast of Greenland lies between my love and me

� 1998 McGuinn Music – Roger McGuinn

Wild Goose

h1 Wednesday, October 1st, 1997


'Wild Goose' is a sea chantey, that some say has political overtones; the implication being that the 17th century Irish patriots who fled their country to take service with foreign kings were known as 'Wild Geese.'

But the song is also a subtle joke on the sailor's difficulty in luring pretty young women. The wild goose is a fresh water bird and would not be seen flying over the ocean for any extended period of time.

When we were in Anchorage last month, a flock of wild geese flew in and landed on a portion of Cook Inlet, behind our hotel. We were walking after dinner, and loved the sight, and sounds of the birds honking in the twilight. I sang this song to them, and as I sang, they stopped honking and listened. As soon as I finished, the honking resumed! I repeated this several times, and each time they would quiet down during the song. It was amazing!

Did you ever see a wild goose
Sailin' o'er the ocean?
Ranzo, Ranzo, Way- hey-ay!
It be just like one of them pretty girls
When she gets the notion
Ranzo, Ranzo, Way- hey-ay!

The other day I was walking down by the river
Ranzo, Ranzo, Way- hey-ay!
When I spied one of them pretty girls, her topsails all a-twitter
Ranzo, Ranzo, Way- hey-ay!

I said 'Fair young maden, how you doin' this mornin'?
Ranzo, Ranzo, Way- hey-ay!
She said' 'None the better for the seeing of you.'
Ranzo, Ranzo, Way- hey-ay!

Did you ever see a wild goose
Sailin' o'er the ocean?
Ranzo, Ranzo, Way- hey-ay!
It be just like one of them pretty girls
When she gets the notion
Ranzo, Ranzo, Way- hey-ay!