From ballads by Van Morrison and Neil Young to the 80s Duran Duran hit, Rio, and the haunting vocals of Nick Cave, these songs will certainly suit any sailing mood
In no particular order, this is our sailing playlist. We would love to hear yours! Share it with us at @ybw
‘Into the Mystic’ – Van Morrison
Possibly one of the most iconic songs to sail to.
Van Morrison’s lyrics tell of a sailor heading home to his lover, although there has been much debate as to whether there is a deeper meaning.
Whatever the answer, this warm ballad will certainly get you singing along.
‘The Ship Song’ – Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds
Named as one of the 30 best Australian songs of all time, The Ship Song is a beautiful, tender ballad, which will leave you with a lump in your throat and have you wiping the tears away before you know it.
It has been covered by the likes of Pearl Jam, Martha Wainwright and Crowded House.
But none of them reach the depths of Nick Cave’s version. Best for a night sail.
‘Lost Sailor’ – Grateful Dead
No list would be complete without a song from the eclectic American rock legends, The Grateful Dead.
Not the ideal song to play if you’re nervous about your navigation or you are adrift, but otherwise a solid classic.
‘Sail On’ – The Commodores
Written by Lionel Ritchie, this Commodores hit from 1979 will particularly resonate if you’ve gone sailing to get over a breakup.
The crew will definitely be belting out the chorus, helping to lift the mood.
‘Sail Away’ – David Gray
In 2001 you couldn’t escape David Gray’s song – it was being played everywhere!
Years later, and this song of escape has certainly grown on us. Best to listen to while passage planning – it will certainly inspire.
‘Rock the Boat’ – Hues Corporation
Catchy and instantly recognisable, this somewhat cheesy disco hit from 1974 is a guaranteed deck filler – with moves that won’t make the skipper nervous. A great team builder.
‘Sailing’ – Rod Stewart
No playlist would be complete without including Rod Stewart’s international hit from 1975.
The whole crew will be singing along!
‘Ship to Wreck’ – Florence and the Machine
Despite its sobering message, this upbeat indie folk/soft pop rock was a hit in 2015 for Florence and the Machine.
Good for reflective moments onboard.
‘Night boat to Cairo’ – Madness
For when you need to lighten the mood on board, the silliness of Madness is guaranteed to put a smile on the face of even the most hardened crew member.
Might be best to leave the Madness dance moves for dry land though!
‘Proud Mary’ – Creedence Clearwater Revival
Finally a song about an actual boat..or is it?
Originally, John Fogerty of Creedence wrote the lyrics with the story of a maid in mind before Stu Cook introduced the boat aspect. Inspired by a paddlewheel going round on a river boat, Fogerty then wrote the memorable opening chords and the rest was history.
A sing along 1969 classic, and one that any guitarist amongst the crew will be happy to accompany.
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‘When the Ship Comes In’ – The Pogues
Originally written and performed by Bob Dylan, after he had trouble checking into a hotel room because of his unkempt appearance (something all long term cruisers can relate to!), When the Ship Comes In has been covered by Peter, Paul and Mary, The Chieftains, The Hollies and Billy Bragg.
We particularly like this version by The Pogues, as it’s a guaranteed foot tapper, and will get any boat party started.
‘Ship of Fools’ – Robert Plant
This 1988 rock hit from Robert Plant is perfect for the passive-aggressive skipper who is frustrated by his crew.
‘Come Sail Away’ – Styx
Impossible to listen to without the version sung by Eric Cartman from the adult cartoon South Park coming into your head.
This eclectic song, which features a ballad opening and a guitar heavy second half, is a great play for those with frustrations on board.
Just hope you don’t meet any aliens on passage! (Styx fans will know what we mean!)
‘If You Were A Sailboat’ – Katie Melua
Perfect for wooing a fellow crew member (although we will skip over the selfish lover part of the song), this beautiful 2007 Katie Melua hit is sublime to listen to. Great for relaxing onboard.
‘Shipbuilding’ – Elvis Costello
Written by Elvis Costello during the Falklands War in 1982, this haunting song, featuring sublime piano and trumpet, still resonates today. For those reflective moments on board while discussing the state of the world with the crew.
‘Single-handed sailor’ – Dire Straits
Guitarist Mark Knopfler wrote this 1979 hit as a tribute to one of the world’s greatest single-handed sailors – Sir Francis Chichester. This has to feature on the playlist of anyone skippering solo.
‘Cripple Creek Ferry’ – Neil Young
Sailor and legendary singer Neil Young’s song, Cripple Creek Ferry has a cheery feel, and is ideal for bringing the crew together.
‘There is a ship’ – Peter, Paul and Mary
Nothing better than the sweet vocals of Mary Travers for when you need a quiet moment on board.
‘A Sailor’s Life’ – Fairport Convention
This traditional folk song from the 1700s is about a young woman searching for her missing lover, a sailor. It has been covered many times, but Fairport Convention’s 1969 version stands out because of the unique way it merges folk with rock.
Despite the sad nature of the song, it is a feast for the ears. A must listen while winding down from watch.
‘Rio’ – Duran Duran
Okay so this song title is about a woman not a boat, but we had to include it not only for Simon Le Bon who also happens to be a sailor, but just so we could ogle the stunning 70ft ketch with Fife lines used in the music video.
Called ‘Eilean’ – the yacht didn’t fare well after being made famous as a result of Duran Duran’s classic 80s song. It sank while awaiting repairs and had to be salvaged and then was abandoned. Decades later she was lovingly restored.
And for those who prefer something more traditional, there are plenty of sea shanties to choose from.
Uffa Fox sings songs of the Salty Sea or Uffa Sings Sea Shanties and Jack Ashore Songs are both classics!
Or if you are a fan of the spoken word, then ‘The Alec Rose Story’ Lively Lady features the famous globe trotting sailor narrating his voyages set to orchestral music.