Haul on the Bowline

Short-drag or Short-haul chantey. This may be one of the oldest around: the bowline is a knot and also the line used to pull the weather edge of a square sail as far out to windward as possible when reaching as close to the wind as possible, the vessel being said to be “sailing on a bowline” once this is achieved. It was somewhat obsoleted by the introduction of staysails in the early eighteenth century.  Both Tim and Rick each have their own versions of this work song; any good chanteyman would improvise according to his preference, so it really was not a case of the same man singing the same song the same way each time, much less the chanteyman for every ship singing it the same way!

A bowline knot is thus:


A ship sailing on a bowline is difficult to show to an unexperienced person, but the picture below shows something like it… angling the sails tight to one side or another to catch the wind while sailing as close to that wind as the ship can handle…  From The Visual Encyclopedia of Nautical Terms Under Sail : “Bowline: Line attached to the LEECH ROPE (side) of a square sail, and leading forward. It is used to hold the weather side of a close-hauled sail forward and steady, enabling the ship to sail as close to the wind as possible.

Jos. Morneault



Haul on the bowline, our bully ship’s a-rollin’
Haul on the bowline, the bowline Haul!

Haul on the bowline, Kitty is my darlin’

Haul on the bowline, Kitty lives in Liverpool,

Haul on the bowline, the old man is a-growlin,

Haul away your bowline, our ship she is a-rolling

Haul on the bowline, so early in the mornin’

Haul on the bowline, it’s a far cry to payday,

Haul away your bowline, and belay, belay that bowline


Or this set of lyrics…

So long, my boys, you been to sea You cannot tie a bowline

Chorus: Haul on the bowline the bowline haul!

So long, my boys, you been to sea You cannot tie a bowline

Chorus: Haul on the bowline, the bowline haul!

Well, breeze & storm & sun & rain, I never seen a girl like Lucy Jane

I pulled her dress above her knee; she says “Young man, now let me be”

I’ll tell me Ma when I get home them Windward girls won’t leave me ‘lone

They spend me money quick on shore. Pack me bag, to sea once more!

One thought on “Haul on the Bowline

  1. Chris

    Love this chantey. Actually heard it the first time in the video game Assassin’s Creed III. Really grabs your attention.


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