phrases, sayings, idioms and expressions at

Nautical terms, sea hanties & 'bout ship

Posted by Leonard on October 18, 2004

About sea shanties

There are many famous sea shanties (going back to the days of steamers and clippers) one such song is 'Paddy, Get Back' also known as "The Liverpool Song", "Paddy, Lay Back", "Mainsail Haul" and "Valparaiso Round the Horn". Since The Panama Canal was opened to general traffic in 1914. Therefore, this shanty (the second one which sings of rounding the horn) dates before that time. At least to the time of the Liverpool-New York packet ships (mid 1800s).


I was broke and out of a job in the city of London;
I went down to the Shadwell Docks to get a ship.

Paddy, get back, take in the slack!
Heave away your capstan, heave a pawl,
Heave a pawl!
Bout ship and stations, there, be handy,
Rise tacks 'n sheets, 'n mains'l haul!
And here is
The Liverpool Song
Traditional - Lyrics from Capstan Bars, by David Bone

'Twas in th' cold month of December,
When all my money I had spent,
I shipped in the Clipper ship "Defender,"
An' away to the west-ard I went.

An' it is "Get ye back." Ho!
"Take in yer slack." Ho!
Heave away th' capstan. Heave a pawl.
Heave a pawl!
'Bout ship: stations, boys, be handy.
Raise tacks, sheets, an' mains'l haul!

The chorus is similar in many of these shanties, I am familiar with some of the nautical terms but there is one I don't get at all:

1) 'Bout ship: stations,

It was also used by Herman Melville in 'Typee' and Alastair Crawley in 'Not the life and adventures of Sir Roger Bloxham'.

I would accept any reasonable explanation 'bout the meaning or origin.