After 11 years cruising with her husband aboard their Bayfield 36, Canadian singer/songwriter Eileen Quinn is still having fun…or so one hopes, despite the litany of inconveniences and troubles cited in her folksy songs about the cruising life. She’d have us believe she’s not really griping, just having fun with words and tunes and making light of the darker side of life afloat. This, her fifth CD, continues to find a little mirth in every disaster, and a little meaning in the bigger picture of why she, or any other soul out sailing, chooses to be there.

The first cut is titled “Don’t Make Me Dock,” which, unfortunately, reinforces the stereotype of the female first mate who can’t steer.

please baby please…
I am down on my knees
begging you please
please baby please don’t
don’t make me dock

But then she injects humor, and we feel relieved:

left a trail of broken pilings
and dockhands in the drink
taken [sic] out the pumpout station
raised a royal stink

Most of the other songs, however, are more introspective and wondering than in her previous four CDs. In “Going Home” she looks forward to flying home to see her mom and dad, sisters and brothers.

of all the significant others
we tell the same old stories
and roll laughing on the floor

Of course she also must endure the questions about her unconventional lifestyle, like when is she going to grow up, come home and get a “dental plan, mortgage, pension, lawn”? When she says goodbye to all at the airport, she realizes she is indeed going home — to her boat. And that’s a nice feeling, having that sort of confidence in yourself and contentment in your place.

But one begins to detect a change in Quinn’s tone, creeping into the lines here and there. In “Always a Choice,” she challenges those afraid to leave the security of their shoreside lives, as if they’re all miserable drones.

and a really bad day
hits once or twice a year
so go sit in the basement
have another beer
you’ve got yourself a mortgage
a day job, a wife
may not love it right now
but you’ve got yourself a life

but there is always a choice…

It’s easy to feel smug, sitting in the cockpit in some warm-weather anchorage, where your biggest problem is deciding whether to work on the broken water pump or just read another dime novel from the laundromat exchange. But does such a life really have more meaning than that of the husband with a mortgage? One is tempted to ask if that Bayfield 36 is free and clear.

At times, Quinn’s lyrics seem to grow strident. “Where Have All The Pirates Gone?” voices anger and a sense of betrayal by those who are no longer cruising.

Jimmy Buffett bought a trawler
he’ll talk about the seven seas
with anyone who’ll sit
by his side and buy his drinks
and buy his charming bullshit

Taken collectively, the 12 songs on Miss Inclined touch on the many aspects of cruising, from celebrating freedom from the workaday world to fearing storms to wondering why we have come to this gypsy life.

Perhaps Quinn sums it all up in her song “Cruising Too Long”:

these are the signs…
all the islands look the same
West Marine knows our name
we haven’t cut our hair this year
all our t-shirts mention beer
cruising far too long
we’ve been cruising far too long

Hey, she said it. Not me.

Miss Inclined a music CD by Eileen Quinn (2005; 46:26 minutes)