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Sail On, Chalk Ginger Blue

Words & music by Charlie Ipcar 2002 (4/20/02)
Inspired by A Bride's Passage by Catherine Petroski 1997
Tune: Adapted from Darling Nellie Gray

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Now, when I was a young girl,
I dreamed I'd sail the world,
Voyage, to lands beyond the foam;
I'd leave this Kennebec pier
My friends and family dear,
A noble bark would be my home sweet home.

I remember, oh so well,
How our bow cut through the swell,
As we left old Savannah far behind;
Yes, I stood there by your side,
So proud to be your bride,
That picture still lingers in my mind.

Now she was your first command,
Bark-rigged with sails so grand,
With a chance of wind she'd show what she could do;
Once she set so fierce a pace,
That the pride glowed in your face,
As you told me, “She sails chalk ginger blue!”

Sail on, my Jode, sail on,
Sail on, my love so true;
I miss you more than words can ever tell;
Now it’s been many a-year,
Since I’ve seen your face so dear,
Sail on, sail on, chalk ginger blue.

If you've wondered ’bout the ways
I found to spend my days,
Sailing in my bark upon the sea;
There was needlework and chores,
And I helped keep track of stores,
And at night we’d read each other poetry. *

Then I learned to navigate;
I played nursemaid to the Mate,
Who almost died before reaching shore;
I'd walk the deck and watch the sails,
See porpoises and whales,
There was so little time left to be bored. *

Chorus *

To the south our course aligned,
With a load of Georgia pine,
Santiago, Cuba, was our goal;
The Windward Passage we did thread,
Soon we spied El Morro Head,
Slipped in the Bay and anchored off the mole.

That night in a foreign land,
I never saw anything so grand,
Tall mountains silhouetted by the moon;
We were so young and hale,
As we stood there by the rail,
We could not know our time would pass so soon.


With rum and sugar in the hold,
We set our course so bold,
For the Atlantic in the winter sailors dread;
Though the billows loud did roar,
And our sails to shreds were tore,
After sixty days we sighted Beachy Head.

As we cruised into the Downs,
We heard a welcome sound,
A sidewheel tug signaled with its horn;
They offered us a tow,
Up the Thames we’d go,
At St. Katherine’s Dock be dropped off in the morn.

We soon settled in on shore,
Each day would bring a tour,
The Crystal Palace, then the Wax Museum;
We'd go on a shopping spree,
Spend a heap of our money,
Looking back now it seems so like a dream.


We bade good-bye to London Town,
For Cardiff we were bound,
Loading for Savannah iron rail;
Sailing west was a wild delight,
Soon we spied Tybee Light,
Only to be blown off by a gale.

When we docked in Savannah at last,
My sailing days were past,
We returned to Richmond Town by the train;
There I gave birth to a baby girl;
She became my world,
And my Captain, sailed off to sea again.


Sad news came to our town,
That fever struck him down;
He was off in Trinidad, far from me;
Loading sugar in the hold,
And rum, so I've been told,
Another cargo bound for London quay.

Now I’m old and gray;
And I’ll soon see my last day,
But before I go I’ve this to say to you;
Set your own course and sail away,
And you’ll not regret the day,
The day that you sail chalk ginger blue.


woman with sextant

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Newly married, Susan Lennan Hathorn and her husband Captain “Jode” Joseph S. Hathorn, Jr. embarked in 1855 on a year-long voyage taking them from the small ship-building town of Richmond, Maine; to Cuba; to England; and then back across the Atlantic to Savannah, Georgia. Their adventure was carefully recorded in Susan’s diary. After his wife gave birth to a baby girl in Richmond, Capt. Hathorn sailed off alone only to die of some tropical disease in Trinidad, Cuba, on May 8th, 1856; he was just 23 years old. Susan, eventually remarried, had 3 more children and died on December 2nd, 1906. Their family bark was the J. J. Hathorn, named after Jode’s late uncle.

*  I sometimes leave these two verses and chorus out.

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