Doerflinger gives the names of four ships, the Joyce M. Smith, Uda F. Corkum, Mahala, and Clayton W. Walters, that were lost with all hands in the gale of August 25, 1927. In fact, a dozen more vessels went down, with nearly 200 fishermen losing their lives, not just the 87 mentioned in the song.

This song borrows its melody from "The Death of Floyd Collins," a tune about a trapped Kentucky cave explorer whose failed rescue became a national radio sensation in 1925.