The details in this song suggest it dates to the early 1700s. Broadside print sources from the late 1700s have survived. Stan Hugill, who learned this song from his father and grandfather, notes that it was popularized but not written by George Alexander Stevens in the 1750s.
The stanzas, Hugill says, are arranged as if composed alternately by a seaman and a landsman. A broadside so rich in accurate seamanship is rare.