Singing sea shanties is a thing right now. And while it may seem as hard to predict and understand as any other pop culture trend, it’s not a surprise to me that we’d find comfort in classic and modern versions of the 19th century sailors’ songs. 

No, we’re not performing physical labor together like the original singers. But from what my husband, Dan Golden, has told me about old-time sailing, there are a number of parallels with the way many of us are living now.

What we have in common with the original sea shanty singers

  1. We are separated from people we love. Just as the sailors sang of far-away wives and families, so do we long for connection with the special people we cannot associate with right now. 
  2. We are confined in close quarters. The crews of sailing ships had to live together whether they liked each other or not. The ships were crowded and private space was scarce. Sound familiar?
  3. Life is uncertain and uncontrollable. Well, truth be told, it always is. But sometimes that unpredictability is more apparent than usual. When you’re in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, you can never be sure what challenge you’ll confront next. Same thing when you’re in the middle of a pandemic.
  4. The supply chain is often disrupted. Sometimes the sailors ate well, but often the rations were limited and miserable. We may not be suffering from scurvy, but we have been encountering shortages in key supplies. 
  5. No one knows how long the trip will last. The sailing ships had schedules, but often they were delayed by all manner of circumstances and disasters. The same is true of the pandemic. When will we all be vaccinated? When can we go without masks, fly on airplanes, go to sporting and cultural events, hug each other? There are no answers, only the probability that it will be longer than we wish.

No wonder, then, that the sailors’ songs are resonating for us today. They are songs of sadness and loss, but also of courage and resilience. Here one of my favorites, “Frozen in Frobisher Bay” by the Canadian singing group, Tamarack. While not a classic sea shanty, it is a powerful and evocative song which may help us to navigate our way through our own stormy seas. 

If you are looking for guidance on how to help yourself and your “crew” navigating through this tough time, contact us at ggolden@gailgoldenconsulting.com