Canso Strait



A Gloucester fishing schooner returning from the Northumberland Strait stopped in at Canso (between Nova Scotia and Cape Breton Island) for supplies for the long beat back to the Westward.  The captain went ashore and got into the booze and the rest of it is in the song.  The description of heading out at dark, getting into a knock down* and the luck and skill involved in getting her out of trouble is a wonderful piece of reportage and poetry.


Gordon – 12-String guitar


In Canso Strait our vessel lay

She'd just returned from out the Bay

A schooner built both stout and strong

And to Gloucester she did belong


We were homeward bound and ready for sea

When our drunken captain got on a spree

He come on board and to us did day

Get your anchors, boy, and fill away


We got our anchors at his command

And with all sail set we left the land

We left old Sand Point on our lee

And header her out against a steep head-sea


The night come on, the dark clouds lower

The wind did howl and the waves did roar

An angry squall from the angry sky

It knocked her down about half-mast high


Her jib-sheets parted, which eased her some

She come head-to-wind and she rose again

We got our jibs in and new sheet bent

And straightaway aft to our captain went


We kindly asked him to shorten sail

Or we'd be lost in the heavy gale

He cursed and swore that if the wind would blow

He'd show us how his old boat could go


Then up spoke one of our gallant men

"There's twelve of us right here at hand

We'll reef her down and to sea we'll go

And if you refuse you'll be tied below"


The waves did roar, the wind did rave

We hardly thought our lives we'd save

But we reefed her down to her own success

She's like a bird swinging for her nest


She's headed up off the Cape Shore now

She knocks the white foam off her bow

Oh never again will I ever sail

With a drunken captain and a heavy gale



*where the wind slaps the vessel flat on her side in the water – some vessels don't come back from that

†I sang 'wave'



Canso Strait is recorded on the album In Concert