A sea shanty, chantey, or chanty is a type of work song that was once commonly sung to accompany labour on board large merchant sailing vessels. The term shanty most accurately refers to a specific style of work song belonging to this historical repertoire. However, in recent, popular usage, the scope of its definition is sometimes expanded to admit a wider range of repertoire and characteristics, or to refer to a “maritime work song” in general.
Sailors' work was hard and dangerous, the rhythm of songs helped co-ordinate their movements in heavy seas and high winds. Working in unison most crewmen worked alternating 4 hour shifts, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Shanties were usually sung in the form of a call and response. A long haul or halyard shanty was used to raise the topsails with up to 20 verses. Short drag or sheet shanties would be quicker but needing more force so 'Way, haul away, Joe' was used, everyone pulling hard on the word Joe. Capstan shanties were smooth sounding for a steady continous force such as 'Drunken Sailor'. There were also pumping and fo'c'sle shanties. Some shanties developed lyrics and stories about lost loved ones and heroes. Joyful shanties were sung on outward bound voyages, songs of home on return homeward bound journeys. Fisherwomen also had songs to gut and cure fish or repair nets. Shanties dissapeard when sail was replaced by steam and diesel engines not requiring syncronsed hard labour by the crew. (From Fisherman's Freinds - Sailing at Eight Bells)
The Port Isacc Shanty Singers are well known, here is one of their songs
The following list below is an anthology of sea shanties that were written for the Yorkshire area.
In May 1917 a trawler was attacked by a German U boat, the crew escaped in a small coble and sang 'sailing home' as well as a mixture of hymns and sacred songs. words are 'o'er life's wild sea all trustingly, with dauntless hearts we roam, our lord shall save from wind and wave, we're sailing, sailing home'.
Chorus - sailing home, sailing home, over the ocean deep and wide, and o'er and o'er the stormy tide, we're sailing home, sailing home, and Jesus shall our pilot be, we're sailing home.
The harbour light is gleaming bright, across the rolling foam, no storm we fear - the haven's near, we're sailing, sailing home.
Tho's tempests sweep across the deep, and fiercest gales should come, god's loving care is everywhere, we're sailing, sailing home.
Elsie Duncan Yale.
Another was 'pull for the shore' by P.P.Bliss - found in Sankey and Moody collection of sacred songs, solo number 1063.
Light in the darkness, sailor day is at hand, see o'er the foaming billows fair haven's land, drear was the voyage sailor, now almost o'er, safe within the lifeboat sailor - pull for the shore.
Chorus - Pull for the shore sailor, pull for the shore. Heed not the rolling waves, but bend to the oar, safe in the lifeboat sailor, cling to self no more, leave the poor stranded wreck and pull for the shore.
Trust in the lifeboat sailor, all else will fail, stronger the surges dash and fiercer the gale, heed not the stormy winds, though loudly they roar, watch the bright morning star and pull for the shore.
Bright gleams the morning sailor, uplift the eye, clouds and darkness disappearing, glory is nigh. Safe in the lifeboat sailor, sing ever more, glory, glory hallelujah pull for the shore