Dogwatch Nautical Band

The Current Dogwatch Crew, July 2018
Photo: Lori Keep

DOGWATCH: The afternoon and evening watches on a sailing vessel when the crew would all gather to spin yarns, mend clothing and sing foc’sl songs.

The members of Dogwatch are (left to right):

Gary Keep - mandolin, octave mandolin, concertina, penny whistle and guitar
Steve Aultman - marlinspike
Shay Black - banjo, guitar
Craig Johnson - piano, accordion and guitar (and web-rigger for this site.)
Roger Bramble - harmonica
... and of course, we all sing!

The Band | Upcoming Events | Our CD | Future Gigs | The Music

Last updated on Monday, August 20, 2018, the web code having been carefully hand-spliced using traditional, time-proven technology.

The Band

The Dogwatch Nautical Band, hailing from the San Francisco Bay Area, was formed in 1978 for the purpose of recreating a mid-19th century sailor band. Large sailing ships often had a number of musicians within the crew. During a long voyage they would entertain the crew and any passengers that might be aboard. The music would range from the chanteys (work songs) and foc’sl songs to hymns and popular music hall numbers. We performed for six years at the Dickens Christmas Fair and immediately found that there were other venues for traditional maritime music.

Over the years we have performed live on three Bay Area radio stations, including Sedge Thompson’s “West Coast Live” during the years it aired on KQED FM. We have performed for museum events, yacht clubs, festivals, weddings and a brief live TV appearance on KPIX, Channel 5, during the Golden Gate Bridge 50th Birthday Celebration. In addition to our land-based performances the band has also entertained many times on a variety of large sailing vessels on the bay, including the State of California’s official tall ship, The Californian, and the 1891 scow schooner, Alma, from the San Francisco National Maritime Historic Park’s collection of historic ships.

In addition to public performances, we’ve performed nautical music at weddings, fundraisers, rehearsal dinners, and cocktail parties. We’ve also released our first CD (more on that in a bit). Feel free to use the links above to contact us for more information about the band’s availability...

Upcoming Events

Dogwatch doesn’t have any gigs on the horizon for now, but we plan to be at the Dickens Fair at year’s end, we’ll post our schedule as soon as we know it. Of course, we’ll update this site as soon as we discover where our next port of call is.

Our CD

After over three decades of planning (and procrastinating), our CD “Like a Proper Deep Sea Rover” is out! You can buy it from iTunes, CDBaby, or at any of our events. You can also listen to us on Spotify. Here’s what’s on the CD (all traditional unless otherwise noted): Blow the Man Down, Ramblin’ Sailor, Whup! Jamboree, Billy Taylor, Sugar in the Hold, Bye Bye my Roseanna, Shawneetown (Dillon Bustin), Ranzo Ray/Cheerly Man, The Casca and The Whitehorse (Bob Bossin), Old Moke Pickin’ on a Banjo, I’m Bound Away/Fire Marengo, Swansea Town, One More Day, Deep Blue Sea.

Future Gigs...

If you’d like to be notified whenever new gigs comes up for us, send email saying so, and we’ll email you a month before every one of our public gigs.

Speaking of month’s notice, don’t forget to check out:

Hyde Street Pier Chantey Sing
The first Saturday of every month, 8pm

Not a Dogwatch gig, but we’d be remiss in not mentioning the chantey sing that starts at 8pm the first Saturday of every month at the Hyde Street Pier in San Francisco. Come join in the choruses or lead a chantey you know. Don’t forget to bring a mug for hot cider! There’s no admission (no audition either!), but reservations are required: call (415) 556-6435. For more information, see the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park calendar page, way down below in the “Music” section.

The Music...

Shipboard music falls roughly into two types: chanteys and forebitters.

Chanteys are the working songs of the days of sail - crews would “all heave together” in time to the songs they sang. Certain chanteys were used for certain tasks: hauling chanteys for running up the sails, pumping chanteys to clear the bilge, or capstan chanteys for the grueling work of raising anchors.

Forebitters, or foc’sl songs, were sung while not on duty - while on deck making repairs to one’s gear, below deck during periods of rest, or any other time music would lift the spirits.

Over the next few months, we hope to get the lyrics to many of the songs we sing up on this website, for now, there are a few dozen apiece of forebitters and chanteys up. Soon we’ll put up more information about the music, along with some graphics and links to other nautical music websites, so make this page one of your ports of call!

Thanks for checking out our site!

 - The Dogwatch Crew