Issue: October 2002
Bluewater Boogie

Eileen Quinn entertains boaters with her own “bluewater” style of cruisin’ tunes.


     When Eileen Quinn and her husband David Allester moved aboard their 36-foot sailboat to go long-term cruising, they figured they’d get by on their life savings and what they could earn along the way. Then Quinn began penning song lyrics inspired by her boating lifestyle and singing them for whoever would listen when they came dockside. Her songs addressed the “real” cruising life, how (in her words) “anchoring leads to marital breakdown” or “why weather forecasters shouldn’t be trusted.” Now, eight years and three CDs later, Quinn’s music has become a staple for East Coast cruisers.

     Witty and sublime by turns, Quinn may remind you of humorist Christine Lavin, or Them Eastport Oyster Boys-with a feminist twist. She plucks her guitar and recounts the realities of life afloat in a folksy, largely unadorned style, with some percussion and harmony thrown in.

     Her latest CD, Mean Low Water, ranges from the hilarious “Speedboat Babe,” where she offers to have her brain liposuctioned in order to be a boat bimbo, to the more introspective “Hit the Road,” about getting older: “Hit the road hard enough / Road gonna hit you back.” She points out the vagaries of group dinners ashore, when hungry boaters line up for the “Piranha Potluck”: “Where they’ll knock you flat / With their boarding house reach . . . There’s no more food, no more wine / So they’re eating the guy / Who was first in line. . . .” And she ponders how to answer the question “What Do You Do All Day?” “Do you say a cruiser’s life is a life of ease? / I’m lying in a hammock in a tropical breeze / Working on my margarita recipe.” . . . Or do you admit that you’re “breaking the bank / Busting my ass / A slave to a hunk of fiberglass” ?

     Her rhythms vary from samba (“If I Killed the Captain”) to the bluesy title song “Mean Low Water,” but it’s her words that make her music slide into your heart. She’s a capital storyteller, bringing tears to your eyes when she sings about the fellow who decides to build a boat: “He’s not getting any younger / So the doctors say / And he wonders how it is / All that time has slipped away / It’s not that he’s unhappy / With the farm or the wife / It’s just that haunting feeling / There may be more to life. . . .” 

     You can order Quinn’s three CDs (No Significant Features, Degrees of Deviation and Mean Low Water) by phoning 800-448-6369 or going to on the web. West Marine carries Degrees of Deviation. If you’re heading to the sailboat show this month in Annapolis, you can buy them from her in person when she performs at the following locales: Oct. 11  Ego Alley, 7–10 p.m. (410-263-3353) Oct. 12  Port Annapolis/Seven Seas Cruising Association, 7:30–9:30 p.m. (advance registration only; 954-463-2431) Oct. 13  The Eastport Clipper, 8–11 p.m. (410-280-6400) Oct. 15  Sean Donlon’s Irish Pub, 9 p.m.–midnight (410-263-1993).