Sooner or later, most musicians find themselves booked to perform on a boat. I remember playing on several local vessels including the Lady Catherine, Becky Thatcher, and the somewhat infamous Liberty Belle which for those who remember, a converted tugboat.
Each of these “venues” presents a musician some unique challenges:
Starting with the “load in”, one usually finds that a long, narrow and unwieldy walkway or gangplank is the vehicle to get from the dock onto the boat. I had the misfortune to carry my trusty but heavy and bulky Roland KC550 keyboard tight to my chest one time only to have one of the caster wheels drop into the water below – gone forever. Once on the boat with my now three wheeled amp and other keyboard gear, I was faced with a near vertical gangway stair to get to the top deck. By the time I hoisted my keyboard, amp, trap box, stands, and seat to the “outdoor performance space”, I was exhausted and had yet to play a single song.
By now, you have ascertained that I am a keyboard player. Keyboards are essentially computers at this point in time and can be quite temperamental to electricity and weather conditions. I recall a gig with the Elm City Blues Project on the Liberty Bell where the electricity was “browning out” at about 95 volts (instead of 120 volts on land) and in the middle of a piano solo, my keyboard suddenly “morphed” into a church organ patch. Everybody turned and looked at the newest cast member of the Phantom of the Opera …..yours truly.
Secure your Gear
Speaking of the Liberty Bell again, boats encounter waves and on one memorable occasion, our evening cruise on Long Island Sound did so. Our main PA speaker – a rather large 15” speaker – was placed on the side seat in an attempt to make best use of the sparse space afforded the band. One particular wave came through and when the ship “landed” in its wake, our PA speaker went overboard and into the water. Needless to say, everybody in the band laughed as this seemed rather hilarious – excepting to the one bandmember who owned the speaker. If anybody is interested in a soggy Electro Voice PA speaker, I can give you a rough estimate as to where to begin looking!
This consideration really isn’t very common, but I actually had this happen once – again on the Liberty Bell – where the tide went out and left us stranded in LI Sound. Of course, the band was expected to play until the tide came back in some eight hours later and I don’t recall if we were paid any more than our agreed upon rate. I do remember our bass player commenting that he could see my house (then in Morris Cove) from our stranded location and was encouraging the band to “walk” to my house from the boat seeing as the water was only 3 feet deep. Had I had beer and other refreshments at home for the boys, I might have taken him up on the offer……
When cruising the seas, you will find that your gear accumulates a certain amount of salty sea spray which is awful for the health of your acoustic and electronic instruments. It’s a good plan to bring your gear inside after a marine gig and treat it to a thorough wipe down so that things don’t get cruddy, rusty, and possibly temperamental next time you need to rely on your gig toys.
Stay dry you landlubbers and Happy gigging !