Arts and Entertainment

Whidbey’s Shifty Sailors return from Europe

The Shifty Sailors sing at the International Shanty Fest in Prague.  - Courtesy photo
The Shifty Sailors sing at the International Shanty Fest in Prague.
— image credit: Courtesy photo

Some are doctors, some are lawyers and some are retired folk, but together on stage they’re known as Whidbey Island’s beloved Shifty Sailors and they’ve just returned from conquering Europe.

As Shifty Sailors director Vern Olsen put it, “We’re fantastic ambassadors.”

The Shifty Sailors were the first American group to be invited to the International Shanty Fest which took place in Cesky Krumlov and Prague, Czech Republic this June.

The group sang among eight other shanty groups from Germany, Holland, Finland and New Zealand. According to Olsen, the Shifties would sing all day and continue long into the night at local bars.

“Beer is cheaper than water in Prague,” he said.

Before the Shifties left the states, they hired a language specialist to teach them a song in Czech for the event, which no other shanty groups did. Olsen said the idea scored them major points with the crowds who joined in the singing.

“We were one of the hits of the fest,” he said, “everybody loved us.”

The Shifty Sailors group is made up of 20 Whidbey Island men. They got their start 17 years ago when Olsen was asked to help promote a book for the historic museum in Coupeville through song.

“We’re here to educate the public on their heritage of the water,” Olsen said.

The Shifties sing a variety of nautical songs and have a few performances coming up. On Saturday, July 17, they will be singing at the 100th anniversary of the Muzzall Farm in Coupeville, and the following week they are scheduled to be at the Loganberry Festival at Greenbank Farm.

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