The Shifty Sailors are releasing their new album on May 18th at the Penn Cove Water Festival. It is called Howling Gales, Raging Seas.

by Carolyn Tamler 1st April 2024


This album will include 17 songs and a poem. Eight of the songs and the poem are original compositions created by various members of the group.


Jim Lightner assumed the role of director of the Shifty Sailors in 2021. After a break in performances due to concerns about Covid, the group is performing again on Whidbey and Fidalgo Islands and various locations around the Pacific Northwest.


Jim says the goal of the group is "The preservation of historical shanties and songs of the sea and sharing them with like-minded maritime audiences.


Thirty years ago Vern Olsen got five friends together to perform songs at the Island County Historical Museum in Coupeville to promote the sale of an historical book about trade and transportation on Whidbey Island from 1850 to 1900. It was called “Sails, Steamships and Sea Captains.” Everyone who participated said “It’s great fun singing these songs, let’s do it again!” 


Each Shifty Sailor show led to another. Those who came to see the shows enjoyed the songs of the sea and the old shanties that were written and song mostly on tall ships by sailors around the world in the 1700-1800’s.


Although Jim has led the group out of the pandemic in mid-2021, Vern Olsen officially passed his director’s baton to Jim Lightner in October of 2022. Jim says he is pleased to be leading one of the few groups keeping the spirit of these songs alive in the United States.


The Shifty Sailors have thrilled crowds as well as the sailors at the Tall Ship Festivals on the West and East Coasts and in Europe. They perform shows throughout the Pacific Northwest on a yearly basis and are back to a full schedule after the pandemic interrupted their time on the stage. 


The group currently includes 14 members. Over the years the size has varied but the quality of the sound and the professional presentation has remained consistent. They are one of the few shanty groups that sing in harmony, which adds to the entertainment value. All the guys sing, but four of them also play tenor banjo, guitar or accordion, which gives the songs a more robust sound than just singing a Capella like most shanty groups do. While one of the members lives on Fidalgo Island, all the rest live on Whidbey; they are all islanders and proud of it. In 2023 they did 18 shows. Below is the concert schedule so far, for 2024.



Come to one of their shows and enjoy the fun and entertainment of Whidbey Island’s own Shifty Sailors.


You can also log into their website at to view more information on the group or to purchase any of their 7 CD’s. Also, you can follow them on the Shifty Sailors Facebook page.



2024 Shifty Sailor Concert Schedule


Penn Cove Water Fest                                                                   May 18th 12:00 to 12:45

Anacortes Water Fest                                                                    June 8th 11:15 to noon

Whidbey Island Fair                                                                       July 27th   Noon till 1:00

Oak Harbor Main Street Busking                                                  Mid-August

Wooden Boat Fest. (Pt. Townsend)                                              Sept 7th Noon

Cider Fest (Coupeville)                                                                  Sept 28th mid afternoon

Posted by WhidbeyLocal
1st April 2024 6:24 am.
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