Columbus Sailed the Ocean Blue: Send a Boat

On August 3 in 1492, Christopher Columbus set sail from the port of Palos in Spain. On that date, he hoped to find a western passageway that would take him to China and India. By the end of the year, he found land and landed in the Bahamas, but he did not realize he had discovered a New World.

Every school child knows the year he sailed and the names of his ships, the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria. During the journey, the largest ship and the only one with a deck, the Santa Maria, ran aground and was destroyed. The Pinta disappeared for a period after a storm, but later joined the Nina in returning to Spain. Columbus returned on the Nina.

Kentucky singer-songwriter Chris Knight sings about a different kind of boat in “Send a Boat,” from his excellent 2006 album A Pretty Good Guy. The people in the song are less famous than Columbus, but they are no less familiar.

As in a lot of Knight’s songs, the characters are facing hard times. Each verse features a different setting. The first verse is about a lonely woman left behind by her children. The second verse features a lonely old man with a bottle. The final verse is about a hungry and abused child. They could be from the same family at different times, or they could be anyone. Knight foresees the tragic results of our neglect of our fellow humans when, after describing the abused child, he notes, “If he ever grows up, he’ll get him a gun.”

Knight hints at the solution in the chorus: “While we try to stay afloat./ If you would, Lord, send a boat.” But from the sound of the dark song, it does not seem there are enough boats like the Nina and the Pinta to get everyone home safely.

What is your favorite Chris Knight song? Leave your two cents in the comments.

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