Luff in an age of coronavirus

Belgium, where I work and am effectively now trapped, is under severe restrictions; and my boat is miles away in Italy, which is in lockdown. I hope the electrician and the sail repairer are able nonetheless to visit her for maintenance works, though the voyage I planned for early May down the Amalfi coast must now be in jeopardy.

I can’t help thinking this would be an ideal time to do that transatlantic crossing. I’ve been promising it to myself for years. I guess we’ll be grounded for at least twelve weeks, possibly sixteen, so almost nobody would notice.

But since domestic considerations restrain me, perhaps I can at least put together a compilation of songs about sailing, to keep the heart alive.

What would yours include?

I was never a great fan of his, but I think I’d start with Rod Stewart’s Sailing (1975). Then add The Beautiful South’s I’ll sail this ship alone (1989) and Tom Waits’ Shiver Me Timbers (1974)... The 1966 recording of Sloop John B by The Beach Boys has to be among them, as do Lyle Lovett’s If I had a boat (1987) and John Denver’s Calypso (1975). Al Stewart’s Old Admirals (1973) and James Taylor’s recording of the Irish folk song The Water is wide (a surprisingly late 1991) merit inclusion too. And of all the best modern songs about sailing, I guess the most seasoned would be Dylan’s When the ship comes in (1964, when I was just eight years old).

If I were a reggae fan I might include Boney M’s I see a boat on the river (1981). And though I am not a pop fan I might squeeze in Abba’s Our last summer, if only to remind myself of the wonderful classic yacht in the film Mamma Mia - here we go again.

In honour of my Celtic roots I’d probably add the Skye Boat Song, though the version I’d choose might be of Raya Yarbrough singing Bear McCreary’s version for the cringeworthy Outlander. She sings it well.

Though they are not about sailing, Katie Melua singing If you were a sailboat would probably get in; as would Tom Paxton’s 1969 recording Wish I had a troubador, which has the wonderful chorus line ‘I wish I had a wind, I’d bring it by’. Becalmed in Brussels, Belgium, in the doldrums of COVID-19, that sounds about right.

I’d welcome your suggestions to add to my playlist!