“Tacking Ship Off Shore”


In a storm the ship is driven toward "the lighthouse tall on Fire Island Head" but the skillful captain and crew avoid "a dangerous shoal" and "steady the helm to the open sea"

Supplemental text

Tacking Ship Off Shore
  Partial text(s)

          *** A ***

Tacking of a Full Rigged Ship Off Shore

From Helen Creighton, Songs and Ballads from Nova Scotia, #147, pp. 321-323.
"Sung by Mr. Ben Henneberry, Devil's Island."

The weather leach our topsails shiver,*
  Bowline strain and our lea shrouds slack,
Our braces taur and the least boom quivers,
  The waves was a-coming storm cloud black.

(14 additional stanzas)

* According to Creighton, informant Ben Henneberry found this in
a book and fitted a tune. His text, however, does not fit the
published version, which begins "The weather-leach of the topsail


The author, according to Creighton-NovaScotia, is "a native of Nantucket Island"; perhaps the Fire Island lighthouse is the one on the Long Island shore of New York. - BS

The title "Tacking Ship Off Shore" does not seem to be found in tradition, but it appears to be the author's title. The poem seems to have been fairly popular; _Granger's Index to Poetry_ cites five anthologies, mostly of the sentimental sort, containing the piece. - RBW


  1. Creighton-NovaScotia 147, "Tacking of a Full Rigged Ship Off Shore" (1 text, 1 tune)
  2. ST CrNS147 (Partial)
  3. Roud #1845
  4. BI, CrNS147


Author: Words: Walter F. Mitchell
Earliest date: 1932 (Creighton-NovaScotia)
Keywords: sea ship storm sailor
Found in: Canada(Mar)