Ships of Light

Fireship Columbia
Fireship Columbia

By Alice Winship

Chorus: Dark is the night
            Black is the water
            Bright are the ships that gently glide
            Vessels of light
            Gleam on the water
            Peace can be found by the waterside

The city streets are full and the season rushes on
So much to do this glad holiday
Ships strung with lights bring a moment of calm
So come down to watch, let your cares drift away


The old ships are tied to the wharf in a row
Stories are told and children can see
Ships now at rest from the strong winds that blow
The sea’s winter storms are old tales that they keep


A steeple reaches high while in warmth down below
Voices are raised in songs of the sea
Words from the past that were heard long ago
When sailors would watch the old year fade and flee



This holiday song could be about any town that has maritime music and old ships.

In Seattle, Argosy Cruises runs annual ‘Christmas Ships’, but many other boat owners string their vessels with lights for the holiday season.

The inspiration was the four National Historic Landmark vessels at the Historic Ships Wharf in Seattle: the 1889 tugboat Arthur Foss, the 1904 lightship Swiftsure, the 1909 fireboat Duwamish, and the 1922 passenger ferry Virginia V.

Another inspiration was the maritime music events at Immanuel Lutheran Church, a few blocks from the Historic Ship Wharf at Lake Union Park. A maritime music band, The Cutters, organized an annual Christmas Concert there for many years, sponsored by Northwest Seaport. The Whateverly Brothers have continued this as the Yule Tide Concert. In December, the monthly chantey sing is often at the church as well.


  • Written by: Alice Winship
  • Arranged By: Alex Sturbaum
    • Mary Wilson: lead vocal
    • Chris Roe: harmony vocal
    • Alex Sturbaum: bouzouki