great song...STOP ANALYZING AND BUY A MAP | Reviewer: Anonymous | 2/20/12
The ONLY people who are confused buy the lyrics of this song are obviously NOT from the original 13...THIS is HOME...as a sailor and a New Englander this is one of my favorite karaoke songs...look at a map...its not a code people...the bell is a sailing term...as is troling Atlantis...call Vanna...buy a vowel...get a clue
An accurate picture | Reviewer: MW | 1/28/12
I live 1 mile from where Alexa was built and have been on it with him. I have been to all places referenced in the song. It is a sad story of the lost lives of good people that Joel knows, fishes and drinks with. There are many who have had to stop fishing because thye can no longermake a lliving on the water. Some have retired or swing hammers. Others have sold their east end houses and moved to Maine or the Carolina's.
Grew up on the waterfronts of Long Island, Bayshore to Montauk | Reviewer: BANG TOWN JIMMY
The tune is especially heartfelt as I grew up and still live on the south shore of Long Island and I know the sufferings of the fishing community. Many dont understand Billy's middle verse tune: the narrator grew up in a family of baymen. These were the guys who fished out clams, oysters, mussels from the bays. The business faded due to over-fishing and red and brown tides killing off the shell fish. The baymen moved onto line fishing for "stripers" which are striped bass. "since they tell me I cant sell no stripers" means that our ever increasing heavy handed government is denying small fishermen the right to earn a living and giving the business to the big fishing industry, also known as "big political donors."
If you cant bay fish or line fish the local waters, then you move on to deep sea fishing and take your chances, as the early verse state.
"there aint no island left for islanders like me" means that small long island fishermen have been driven out of the long island waters by crass, corrupt government actions and political donors who killed the business. The occasional baterial brown and red tides in the bays also continue to kill off shell fish, but the causes are for another story.
poignant recapping of the downward spiral for line fisherman | Reviewer: Dave | 1/9/12
Just a man singing on the sea - reflecting on the seemingly never-ending, increasing governmental restrictions on his livelihood and the increasing pressure caused by inflation, and commercial over-fishing, and the difficulty it creates for a single fisherman. He must go farther and farther for any hope of a catch - every good deep sea captain began as a bayman - a good captain CAN (listen carefully) fall sleep - he is joined at the hip to his craft and its motion on the water - one wrong wave brings you sitting dead up when you live on little sleep and work in a dangerous occupation where one wrong move leaves you miles and hours away from help or rescue. He is not dead - just singing on the way from Long Island to the Atlantis trench and deep water where he hopes God will be with him and that his bone tiring excursion will be fruitful. If you see him - bid him God speed, and if you are returning to port - tell his wife he hasn't given up and will be coming home.
just on the Vineyard | Reviewer: Wheezy | 12/28/11
I have always thought the Vineyard he refers to, is Martha's Vineyard.
He talks about heading to Nantucket which would make sense with Martha's Vineyard and there is some decent swordfish in that area as well.
Being a man who works on the water, fishes, and has many buddies who fishes, I can pretty much decipher anything in this song. Also Billy himself has told what it's about. He wrote it to bring awareness to the lack of money left in commercial fishing.
The "bayman" you are all refering to, is not a bayman. Has he says he "was a bayman". Most fisherman start out as bayman. They drag for clams and such. The main character of this song is a swordfishing captain. They are far from bayman, as they fish open ocean.
The vineyard many of you believe is a metaphor for heaven is actually a place, and island off massachusettes(I think that's the state it belongs to don't quote me) where many fishing boats visit/pass by. Marthas Vineyard is the full name "the Vineyard" for short. The area next to it is called "Vineyard Sound". The song is very straightforward, it was meant to tell the real tale of a fisherman.
Not a song from the grave | Reviewer: Elise
The Bayman in the Downeaster Alexa is definately not dead, considering that Billy Joel himself owns the Downeaster Alexa, it cannot be considered as a song from beyond the grave. The lyrics are Joel's tribute to the Baymen who spend their lives trying to make ends meet in this world of increasing uncertainty. He sings as the Bayman himself, lamenting the loss of his livelihood and telling those who would hear just how hard his life is but he how still trys to support his family doing the only thing he knows how, day after day. I live in Australia and even I can understand that he is singing about real places he passes on the way to his fishing grounds. A bit of internet research folks, is all the is needed if you really have to unravel what the words mean. Or simply enjoy them, the beautiful longing lyrics and sounds that make up The Downeaster Alexa.
Alive... | Reviewer: Anonymous | 9/17/11
The "Vineyard" is not a metaphor for heaven...it's Martha's Vineyard. It's near Nantucket.
"Trawling Atlantis"...at first, yes, I thought he was referring to myth. He's not. He's referring to the Atlantis Canyon, a geographical area in the Atlantic Ocean.
The song is not about the death of the fisherman, but the inevitable demise of his livelihood.
not dead | Reviewer: Anonymous | 8/5/11
The bayman definately DID NOT die. I know this because in the lyrics he says,
"if you see my downeaster alexa and you work with the rod and reel"
when he says "and you work with the rod and the reel" he is obviously referring to a fisherman, tell me how would a fellow fisherman see his downeaster alexa if it is at the bottom of the ocean, under water radar my show a sunken ship but unless you go down to the wreckage there is no telling who's ship it is
also how could his hands be on the wheel if he is dead and his ship sunk?
the sad undertones of the song are not suggesting that he is dead rather, they are describing the increasingly difficult lifestyle of a fisherman in the northeast
Bayman had passed on | Reviewer: Quintin
Hi there music lovers.
I honestly think this Bayman had passed away. He says his course is plotted for the 'Vineyard' i.e. Heaven, but tonight he is Nantucket bound i.e. died at sea near Nantucket.
If anyone saw sees his vessel, they should tell his wife his trawling Atlantis i.e. his boat sank near Natucket.
Well I'm on the Downeaster "Alexa" | Reviewer: sylvia
Lovely song.I fell in love with lyrics.Very touchy and catchy.
I was a bayman like my father was before
Can't make a living as a bayman anymore
There ain't much future for a man who works the sea
But there ain't no island left for islanders like me
How well written. Yeah i fell in love with Billy joel's voice.Damn sexy
deadliest catch | Reviewer: Anno Nymous | 6/13/11
hearing the song first time in hangover2 i had to have it. So much power in vocals and story. reminded me immidiately on deadliest catch and as a non fisherman it rly captures the essence of what these fishers have to endure just to keep their legacey.
I'm pretty certain he is NOT dead... | Reviewer: Anonymous | 5/26/11
I believe the line:
"Tell my wife I am trawling Atlantis
And I still have my hands on the wheel"
means that he wants his wife to know that he has not given up on providing for them, and the he searches far and deep for fish to take home. His hands still on the wheel signifies that he believes he is still in control of their fate.
Re: Last Post | Reviewer: mpc | 3/14/11
The official lyrics of the line you are referring to are "A good captain CAN'T fall asleep." Besides, all the other lyrics refer to the present - a person who is alive. The reference to Atlantis speaks to the difficulty he faces - that it's almost myth that there are fish in those waters; that is is like almost myth that a man can make a living that way anymore.
Downeaster is even more poignant. | Reviewer: Anonymous | 2/12/11
I don't understand why all the posts about this wonderful song ignore that the the Bayman who's singing it, with Billy Joel's voice, is doing so from beyond his watery grave. Yes, he's DEAD.
The line of lyrics that's often seen on internet postings ''...a good captain can't fall asleep,'' in incorrect. If you listen carefully to the song, the line is actually ''...a good captain CAN fall asleep.'' This is not only from the absence of an audible apostrophe t sound at the end of the word ''can,'' but also because the audible word ''can '' is sung with an ''a'' sound as in the word ''and,'' which is consistent with the word ''can,'' rather than with the sound of the ''a'' in the word ''ant.''
The line means that he considers himself a good captain, but he's had to travel so long and hard searching for fish that he still fell asleep at the wheel.
That's why he asks the listener to the song to tell his wife he is trolling Atlantis, and he still has his hands on the wheel.
The legendary Atlantis was a continent in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean which sank to the bottom of the sea (some believe it actually existed and was sunk by seismic action.) To be trolling Atlantis, the singer's boat is most likely at the bottom.
Now those who love the song, as I do, but didn't realize the captain's demise, can shed some additional tears.
BTW, the empirical fact that the waters now contain insufficient fish to support the historical numbers of Baymen may show that the fishing regulations imposed, at least in part, may well have been a necessity without which the fish population would soon be virtually zero, destroying the fishing communities even more effectively than without them.