Single Handed Sailor

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Dire Straits - Single Handed Sailor Lyrics

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Two in the morning dry-dock town The river rolls away in the night Little Gypsy Moth she's all tied down She quiver in the wind and the light Yeah and the sailing ship just held down in chains From the lazy days of sail She's just a lying there in silent pain He lean on the tourist rail A mother and her baby and the College of war In the concrete graves You never wanna fight against the river law Nobody rules the waves Yeah, and on a night when the lazy wind is a-wailing Around the Cutty Sark The single-handed sailor goes sailing Sailing away in the dark He's up on the bridge on the self-same night The mariner of dry dock land Two in the morning but there's one green light And a man on a barge of sand She's a gonna slip away below him Away from things he's done But he just shouts, "Hey man what you call this thing?

Written by: Mark Knopfler. Nominate as Song of the Day.

Dire Straits - Single Handed Sailor live at Boston 1980 (FUNKY VERSION)

General Comment Mark Knofler is the single handed sailor. He can't sleep and is wandering Greenwich at 2 am and the scene unfolds. The mother is pushing a baby carriage for some unkown reason on one side, the "College of War" is on the other and between them are the sad sights of two great ships held down in chains.

DIRE STRAITS lyrics : "Single Handed Sailor"

The line "What do you call this thing" is indeed spoken by a man sliding by on a barge, not by the man on the river bank in Greenwich. The river is rolling away in the night the Thames is tidal at this point so the barge is slipping away downriver. A boat going downriver shows its starboard side to Greenwich, so from Greenwich you would see a green light on the boat. Perhaps Mark Knofler is thinking of going it alone rather than staying with the band at this point, perhaps he's conttemplating the fact that great success can end in concrete graves or, worse empty tourist-trail popularity.

In any case he is the single handed sailor in dry-dock land who could say that these boats are the pride of london but he just wanders off away from the scene in the dark without resolving anything. General Comment It could be allegorical as others have said. However it could also refer to the ghost of Sir Francis Chichester that goes "sailing away in the dark". I'd say the man "upon the bridge" in verse 2 is not Sir Francis Chichester at all, but a nameless guy who is a shadow of his former self.

What's That Song About?: "Single-Handed Sailor" - Dire Straits, (blues rock)

He's lost his way, he's vaguely decided to quit by hopping into the river, why else should he visit the boat at two in the morning? We don't get to know the reason, there's just a veiled reference to "the things he's done" and which he cannot live with. So he cries out, presumably drunk, "Hey man, what you call this thing? Sure, this is a bit speculative, but Mark Knopfler remember, he's a literate man is really using the same "iceberg method" as Ernest Hemingway here, and many of the songs on "Communique" are stories about men who try and fail "News" or veer into the psychopathic "Where Do You Think You're Going?

Two years later, Mark would return to this vein in "Private Investigation", also a song about a disturbed man. Beautiful guitar work. General Comment Yes, I agree with the previous answers, but I also think the the "mother and her baby" is another reference to the big Cutty Sark and the baby Gypsy Moth, right outside the Naval College of War.

Incidentally, the Cutty Sark has just been extremely badly damaged by fire, possibly started deliberately.

Dire Straits:Single-Handed Sailor Lyrics

It made me think of this song again, after many years. General Comment Though I've been to London, I wasn't fortunate to stay long enough to check out the riverboats of the Thames. I wonder if anyone who knows can confirm the location of the Riverboat "Pride of London" thamesriverboats. Seems likely, it is mentioned in a different 'scene' two in the morning on the self same night , so he may not be talking about the Gypsy Moth in this scene.

Perhaps he's strolled down the Thames a bit and come upon the Pride of London. This is one of my favorite songs, and Mark Knopfler one of my favorite artists forever. As Douglas Adams once ventured, he could charm the angels down from heaven with his guitar. Knopfler's voice sounds a bit sarcastic to me in the line "He could have said 'Pride of London'".


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I don't hink it refers to the real-life river boat that trickyelf mentioned, it sounds more like some kind of comment about futility. I'd agree "mother and child" is a metaphor for the big Cutty Sark and the small Gypsy Moth. Still thinking the man in the second verse has nothing to do with Chichester, and still enthralled by Knopfler's guitar playing.

Flag tinderbox on December 04, General Comment I love all the contributions, thanks folks.


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The only bit I would want to contribute is - as Skippy19 also mentioned - I think the single-handed sailor is Chichester himself and the song isn't so much that he was actually there at am he could have been several times! It's really a negative or forsaken attitude portrayed toward the sailboat Gypsy Moth IV which was factual - Chichester disliked it very much after the global journey and didn't hesitate to quickly detach from it for several reasons " Found this after reading up a bit on the topic. They were next to each other at one point, perhaps they still are.