Dav'y Shellback

Dav'y Shellback Talks to Recruits

Updated 03/21/2003 11:45


 One of the great joys of Sea Scouting in “the good old days” was to have a ‘gam, or talk, with Dav’y Shellback, a wise old sailor who had sailed the Seven Seas for many a year.  Dav’y had finally “swallowed the anchor” and was laid up on dry land.  Dav’y spoke to young Sea Scouts through the Sixth Edition of The Sea Scout Manual, published between 1939 and ____, and imparted wisdom and advice that is timeless in its nature and still a great treasure today.  “Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear, as Dav’y Shellback gams again.”



A VAST and belay, sailor!

Where away, me hearty?

Headin' fer Sea Scoutin', ye say!

Well, blast old Davy Shellback fer a web­ footed swab, ef ye ain't a likely 'ppearin' lad an' I hope ye'll come to the notice o' yer Skipper, I do! An' that's gospel, me bucko.

Hark, now, Davy Shellback's an old A. B.; deep water has gurgled abeam me weather ear from Cape Stiff to the Baffinlands an' I've l'arned to pull me forelock on deck an' take me ease below in clipper, frigate and whaler. 'Tis a hard life but a glorious one an' yer shipmate Davy Shellback don't regret a watch o' it, he ­don't. Not him, lad. I only wisht I was yer own years ag'in; keel haul me fer a cook's cat, ef I wouldn't sign on all over ag'in. But all's I can do is sit on a pier-head an' watch the tall ships speed by, manned by the likes o' yerself, an' yarn an' gam sentimental o' the old days. But I takes small comfort from it, laddy-mate, fer in me old heart I know that those days be still with us. It matters not that yur ships ain't my ships. The heart o' 'em are the same, be it a noble spread of strainin' canvas or a honest thump in' Deisel, an' the men as man 'em are the same. Sailors all, matey, a whoop in', land­hatin', lovin', growlin' crew o' the finest cre'tures as ever lived atween the two poles. God bless 'em, says Davy Shellback reverent, an' keep sendin' 'em forever an' forever to love the little ships as follows His mighty oceans!

But this helps ye not, shipmate, an' old Davy is fer seein' yer to sea all standin' an' Bristol fashion; yer keel sturdy with the spikes o' truth an' yer canvas pullin' with the sartin wind o' knowledge.

'Twould be a pleasure to spin yarns with ye, lad. A pleasure indeed fer no sailor ever lived who couldn't make a whopper outen the littlest forepeak happinen'. 'Tis one o' the sports o' sailorin'! But 'tis far better to tell 'em than listen. So Davy Shellback will rig yer for to meet yer ship an' wait impatient fer the day ye return with yer own yarns. What fun ye'll have a'gatherin' em! Laddy-mate, the thrills ye have a'comin'! Oh, I can see ye, a stalwart upstandin' 'pprentice, risin' to yer skipper's notice like I predic'. Ord'nary seaman they'll rate ye, lad, an' then Able Bodied an' then one day all hands will be piped an' ye'll be Quartermaster! Quartermaster, bucko-boy, with yer silver stripes, all handsome an' the watch respectful an' yer heart within ye nigh to bustin' with the pride o' achievement! An' Mate! An' Skipper! Ah, lad, 'tis a noble course to sail, this Sea Scoutin'!

But, belay that, old Davy Shellback, says I, ye mis' able shellback yer! Mind yer manners an' speak respectful, says I, fer this lad is gain' in the hawse-hole, seaman style, an' he's a'comin' out on the quarterdeck an' won't be lookin' at the likes o' ye. The lad's a seaman born, says I, an' yer can best sarve 'im by givin' 'im the course an' tumblin' below. So, pawl the capstan, old Davy, an' give 'im o' yer l'arnin' fer he's afire to go to sea!

'Twill be too much fer ye to remember, matey, so I'll set it down neat an' tidy like a schoolmarm, all stowed an' labeled regular like the signal flags in the Old Man's flag locker. Ye reach fer what ye want and thar she be, handy, fer It minutes studyin' or a passage to China-land.

So, "Bong Voyage", as the Frenchies have it, me hearty. Old Davy Shellback do wish ye the merriest an' smoothest o' cruises in yer fun o' Sea Scoutin'.  Mind yer halyards and braces an' don't ferget that yer Skipper's lookin' fer the man in ye, not the sailor.

There'll be another word I'll have fer ye when ye come up fer 'pprentice. Ye may lay to that, matey-lad!


  Gams since 21 March 2003
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