Sung with kind permission of Barry Skipsey.
When I was a’fishing up in the Gulf,
Out on the open sea,
I think of those pretty girls back on shore,
And wish that they were out here with me.
So step on board (step on board) the ocean liner,
Step on board without delay, me lads.
Step on board, there’s nothing finer,
And together we’ll sail away.
Well I made up me mind to follow the waves,
Hearing of good returns.
And the very next morning I found myself prawning,
And me stomach it began to churn. (Chorus)
Working twenty-bloody-four hours a day,
With me eyes hanging out of me head.
Twenty-fours hours barely making a wage,
And wish that I was bloody-well dead. (Chorus)
Well I’m a long way from mother up here in the gulf,
A long way from family.
And I’m a bloody long way from being a sailor,
That my mother oh so wanted me to be. (Chorus)
Well the Captain’s a big man, he stands so high,
His head’s nearly touching the rigging.
And the crew they’re all druggos and they’re so high,
I think they’ve left the land of the living. (Chorus)
Well we’re catching and shelling and sorting prawns,
Till they bloody-well come out of our ears!
And the cook gives me the chills in more ways than one,
And I think I’m on my very last run. (Chorus x2)
Many thanks to The Boekaniers (and Bert Hobo in particular, who has since moved on from that group) for not only providing us with a copy of the lyrics, but an audio sample of the tune to refresh our memories. Bert said they got it from The Rocky River Bush Band. We did some digging around and received this letter:
An Australian friend of ours, Barry Skipsey, wrote Ocean Liner. When he was a young lad seeking adventure, he went to work on a sixty-nine foot prawning trawler in the Gulf of Carpentaria. He found it wasn’t quite the romantic job he had anticipated and subsequently went to live as far away from the sea as possible, Alice Springs! Barry’s version was a song with instrumental accompaniment but we “shantified” it, recorded it on our “Sea Boots And Swags” CD and have performed it on our last 3 European tours, which is where De Boekaniers heard it. It’s a great song and quite a few people have asked for the words.
[Peter Thornton, Rocky River Bush Band]
Further, apologies to Barry Skipsey for our customizing of his lyrics to fit our particular presentation style.