Don’t give up the ship

Not long ago I read a story about a sailboat that sank in Northern California during one of our recent rain storms. The sole survivor on board was a dog named Daisy. Daisy is an American Stafforshire terrier that opted not to go down with the ship in a storm.

Instead, she swam over a mile to shore when there was no other choice but, to give up the ship.


“No one would have crossed the ocean if he could have gotten off the ship in the storm.”

– Charles Kettering

So how did these words – DON’T GIVE UP THE SHIP – come into our non nautical lives. I don’t ever recall having used them in the past.

” In June of 1813, Captain James Lawrence, in command of the U.S.S. Chesapeake, engaged the British frigate H.M.S. Shannon just outside Boston Harbor. After a short, bloody battle, the Chesapeake was seriously damaged and her captain lay mortally wounded.

Reportedly, Lawrence died with his three last commands:

1). ‘tell the men to fire faster.

2). fight ’til she sinks, boys.

3). don’t give up the ship.’ (Not even if she sinks?).

The Americans lost this battle and were compelled to surrender the Chesapeake, but Lawrence’s dying words lived on.

Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry, who is frequently and incorrectly credited with being the source of the phrase, had Lawrence’s words –

‘don’t give up the ship’ – stitched onto a battle flag.”

Perry later coined his own phrase:

“We have met the enemy and they are ours.”

From “When a Loose Cannon Flogs a Dead Horse There’s the Devil to Pay: Seafaring Words in Everyday Speech” by Olivia A. Isil (International Marine/Ragged Mountain Press, McGraw-Hill, 1996)

When Captain Daisy decided that abandoning the ship was the better option she probably swam for shore,  similar to a dog going on a dinghy ride; head stuck out of the water, smelling the air, wind, rain and saltwater against her face and dog fur.

On this trip she probably didn’t care where she was going.   Daisy was enjoying the journey and saving her life.

Daisy taught us one thing – Remember, it’s the journey not the destination that matters the most.


Daisy’s story also got me thinking about two border collies I met while heading up the inside passage towards Alaska. The dogs owner said that when a grizzly gets close to his cabin both dogs go crazy with wanting a go at the bear.

He says he usually only lets one out the door but, on this one occassion the bear was putting up a fight so he let number two dog out the cabin door. Both managed to send the grizzly swimming into the water and swimming to the other side of the island.

The bear kept going but a strong ebb tide caught both dogs and whisked them away.

He felt the two dogs would soon drown so he fired up the dinghy and headed out – after the start of the slack tide. Unbeknownst to him the dogs must’ve treaded water for the duration of the tide; then made it to shore.   They were waiting for him at the cabin when he got home.

“Many dogs grow up without rules or boundaries.

They need exercise, discipline and affection in that order.”

– Cesar Milan

About trawlercat

Retired and now moving on from the cruising life jeeps, adventure bike, gardening, and travel. Always in search of the next great adventure!
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