The title of a fascinating exhibition in the museum at Whitstable about the history of the local shipbuilding industry, it seemed too good a phrase not to be in a song. It occurred to me that although seafaring might be essential to the life of a community, some might be grateful to escape the dangers and hardships which it entailed.
The wisest choice I ever madeWas to sign on for the shipwright's tradeI work all day by the salt sea strandBut I sleep each night upon dry land
I learned my trade the best I couldI choose the trees, I shape the woodWith a careful eye and a steady handFor a hull that will the waves withstand
CHORUSOak knees and copper nailsTo build a boat to bear the sailsTo carry a crew of Kent-born menSafely out and home again
My brother works on an oyster smackHe says the dredging damn' near breaks your backIt's hard enough work for little payBut he seldom sails beyond the bay
While the colliers ply 'neath skies like leadTo keep the fires of London fedOn the cold North Sea far out from shore From Tyne to Thames and back once more
And there's not a family along this shoreBut knows the danger sailors do endureAnd when their loved ones on the seas must roamThey hope for fair winds to bring them home
So as I labour by the water's sideI watch the sky, the waves and tideAnd I pray my work it will not failTo bring men safe through storm and gale