Sailor Songs: Sea Shanties for the Ages | Shorewords!

August 19, 2022

No guarantee one won't get stuck in your head!

Join Shorewords! host, Lesley Ewing, in conversation with Gerry Smyth, talking about his book Sailor Song. Explore the world of sea shanties that provided the on-board rhythm for many of the sailing clippers that would ply the oceans. For a period of 30 or 40 years, clippers were the main vessels for water-borne transportation and sailors were constantly trimming sails and hoisting lines in groups. Songs were used to get everyone to push or pull in unison, so the work would be more efficient. Shanties arose during the clipper era and have stayed firmly entrenched in seafaring lore. Gerry Smith, literature professor and shanty singer has combined his two interests in Sailor Song, in which he delves into the origins and variations of many of the shanties that are still sung today. As a Shorewords! first, he even entertains us with a song.

Show Transcription
This transcription was generated by a computer. Please excuse any errors.
Lesley Ewing

Hello. I’m Lesley Ewing, host of Shorewords!. This podcast combines two of my favorite things – the ocean and books. I learned to swim before I could walk and looked forward each summer to my family’s vacation at Ocean City, Maryland. As a student I was interested in science and engineering and became an environmental engineer before learning that there was something called coastal engineering. Both my 1 st and 2 nd mid-life crises resulted in me going back to school – first for a Masters of Engineering at UC Berkeley and later for a Ph.D. from the University of Southern California. The first crisis also moved me from DC to the SF Bay. The second crisis reminded me how much I liked to read. Getting a Ph.D. while working a 40+-hour/week job meant that my only reading was work reports, text books and technical articles. They were all important and interesting books, but as soon as school ended, I replaced my academic text books with broader literature and realized that the coast was often a character in the fiction and non-fiction that I read. I am still fascinated by every visit to the ocean and remain in awe of what others write about the coast.