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File:Drunken sailors 5912.jpg

They're gonna need more long boats.


What shall we do with The Drunken Sailor
What shall we do with The Drunken Sailor
What shall we do with The Drunken Sailor
Earl-aye in tha morrrnin'?

—Folk song

Sailors and alcohol go together like white on rice, going back to Homer (no, not that one). In fiction, if a sailor isn't already drunk, expect to be well on the way to it or pining for the lack of it. Often a defining quality of a Father Neptune, expect also a Seadog Beard and some Talking Like Pirate Yarrrr!

This is a case of Truth in Television due to the disinfecting abilities of alcohol; mixing it with water was the only way to keep water potable during long voyages. Especially on early boats when cooking had to be limited due to fire risk (or on open decked boats impossible to do). And a drunk crew was a crew less capable of The Mutiny due to the horrific conditions, the strength of alcohol being varied as punishment or reward as the captain saw fit. It continues to be true because when you take a bunch of generally adult persons and put them in a cramped space for an extended period of time with limited and ever diminishing supplies... well it rather built tension.

Especially prevalent during in works set in the era of Wooden Ships and Iron Men or in the future since Space Is an Ocean. As a sidenote the British Navy only stopped the official grog rations in 1970. There were some very uncomplimentary epithets leveled at the Admiral responsible.

Whatever the origins, The Drunken Sailor is an unavoidable character, specific Sub-Trope of The Alcoholic.

Examples of The Drunken Sailor include:

Anime and Manga

  • The Black Lagoon crew. They quite rarely are drunk, though, it's just that they usually don't see how a couple of beers could really hinder them. On the other hand, when they're hanging in the Yellow Flag, all bets are off.
  • Captain Harlock and his glass of wine. Parodied in Project A-ko with a female captain resembling Harlock who desperately cried out for her wine. The rest of the crew are also heavy drinkers, with Miime and Dr. Zero consuming the most.
  • One episode of Sailor Moon does have the title character getting tipsy. Tuxedo Mask, however, knew exactly what to do with a drunken Sailor.
  • An early Zonder Robo in GaoGaiGar was a ship captain Drowning His Sorrows when he got canned after his ship's navigational computer made it run aground.


Disney Theme Parks

  • The Pirates of the Caribbean ride has at least one scene with a group of pirates sitting around holding tankards and acting drunk.


  • Captain Jack Sparrow likes his rum.
    • Rum is always a standard motivational tool among Pirates, although, historically, their lawman opponents used it just as much for reasons listed above.
  • Master and Commander (the movie): one of the sailors refuses to salute a superior and it's later revealed he was drunk at the time. Aubrey doesn't care that the sailor was drunk, just that he didn't respect the chain of command.
  • Captain Mike in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Benjamin pretty much disguises his Merlin Sickness as the captain's drunken perception.


  • Searats in Redwall are fond of seaweed grog.
  • The Odyssey: Odysseus is finally within sight on his home, but the sailors spot a small bag he carries with him. Thinking it contains wine (treasure in other versions), they open it, unleashing the winds it contained and driving the ship far off course.
  • Horatio Hornblower: Retribution: Buckland starts drinking when he realizes he simply isn't made for captaincy and turns full-on drunkard after he's humiliated in court.
  • Billy Bones in Treasure Island in all its iterations, taken to ludicrous extremes by Billy Connelly in Muppet Treasure Island.
  • Like all other Wooden Ships and Iron Men tropes, this one appears often in the Aubrey-Maturin series. The captains coxswain is at one point referred to as being "...drunk, even by naval standards."
  • Every sailor from the "Boston Jane" series, and the protagonist does not approve at all. The only exception is Jehu.
  • Captain Greldik of The Belgariad and Mallorean series is a chronic drunk and the best sailor alive.
  • In the Ancient Greek trading story Over the Wine Dark Sea when a drunken sailor comes back late from leave, the captain simply makes sure he spends the next day working off his hangover by rowing as much as possible.

Live Action Television

  • Captain Redbeard Rum from Blackadder II.
  • Harry Mudd and Cyrano Jones from Star Trek: The Original Series were both fond of a tipple or two. Out of the main characters, Scotty was often seen indulging.
    • Romulan Ale being the drink of choice for all Star Trek incarnations with all crews indulging at some point.
    • Worth mentioning that Romulan Ale is actually illegal in the Federation, but it's all over the place regardless. There are a number of other drinks as well, including the Klingon's Blood Wine, which they're almost always seen drinking, and Synthahol (a synthetic alcohol replacement) since Starfleet officers aren't really supposed to get drunk. That's without even getting into the dozens of alcoholic beverages which are name dropped, some of which seem to be their eponymous species' only export (Saurian Brandy, for instance.) Suffice it to say the trope is alive and well in Trek's future.
  • Klingons Up to Eleven . Klingons absolutely love getting drunk.
  • On Sea Patrol the range between tolance of the sailors goes from being unsteady on their feet but being able to beat up crashing a golf buggie into the lake. To be fair there were other reasons that added up to it.
  • Played with in the Television adaptation of Horatio Hornblower: One seaman is jerking around like a plague victim, and all the rest of the crew are terrified of him. Hornblower coolly walks up to him, grabs him by the shoulders and smells his breath. Sure enough, he's drunk.
  • Coronation Street‍'‍s Peter Barlow is the show only recovered ( at least this week ) alcoholic and is a retired Cheif Petty Officer. It has been noted that people justified Peter's drinking at times because of this trope.


  • A very large amount of Sea Shanties concern drunkenness (including "What shall we do with a/the drunken sailor", the Trope Namer), whether on board or during shore leave.
  • The page quote is part of "Drunken Sailor" a famous traditional sea shanty also known as "What Should We Do with the Drunken Sailor?" and "Sailor's Holiday". Along with the entertainment value, the beat of the song also can help sailors coordinate tasks, such as raising the sails.
    • That's in fact most probably a so-called "anchor/capstan song", sung during rising an anchor (or generally walking around a capstan), which is suggested by its chorus of:

Weigh heigh and up she rises
Weigh heigh and up she rises
Weigh heigh and up she rises
Earl-ay in thar morrnin'!

    • The song suggests a large number of sadistic Cool and Unusual Punishments for drunken sailors, starting with the one probably most often meted out to a sailor late from leave time ("Put him in the longboat 'til he gets sober") and going on to the more odd.
  • The Irish Rover mentions a crewmember named Slugger O'Toole who "was drunk as a rule."


  • The Admiral in The Navy Lark manages to get a bickering meeting of Vice Admirals and Commodores to shut up by threatening to lock up the Gin. It works.
    • Also from The Navy Lark, Vice Admiral Prout whose years of hard drinking had left him a raving paranoid loon with a liver that you could mistake for shoe leather.
    • And Mister Phillips who can be The Drunken Sailor on half a lemonade shandy


  • The Time of Your Life has one of these as an unnamed minor character, one of Kitty's clients.

Video Games

  • Pirates in the Monkey Island series of games love their grog.
  • Ratchet and Clank has Space pirates and their beverage, Grog.
  • One level of Assassin's Creed involves sneaking upon a man in a busy port full of drunken sailors that keep pushing you. Getting to the target requires taking some narrow routes by the water and you have Super Drowning Skills
  • There is one drunken sailor in RuneScape in Port Sarim. His examine option refers to the drunken sailor song.
  • Arr, I likes the taste of water...
  • Puzzle Pirates plays with this: The length of a voyage is limited by your available charts, your and your crew's patience, and the amount of rum you have aboard. Running short of rum is a bad thing and impairs your crew.
  • Pirates in Dubloon gain magic by being drunk, so it was only logical that they would be drinking beer and grog all the time.

Western Animation

Real Life

  • As noted above, this is and was Truth in Television.
  • Captain Morgan Rum is built on this trope, as are Admiral Nelson, Sailor Jerry, and a few other spirits of varying ranks.
  • San Miguel Beer uses this image in its "Three Ships" adverts.
  • If a modern US Navy ship is out at sea long enough without a port call (45 days), the captain may authorize a beer day.
  • Played With in World War Two. The Americans were envious of the British who got rum. But on the other hand British always came over to American ships because Americans always had ice cream.