Adapted from a novel by Albert Richard Wetjen, a sailor courts a working-girl in London for two years before she marries him.
Sailors on a merchant ship put out a fire. At Singapore Tripod McMasters (Wallace Beery) asks for his clothes back and sees Jack's money. A woman steals Jack's roll, and Jack (John Gilbert) fights the police. They return to London. Jack gives Joan (Leila Hyams) a jade bracelet, but she refuses. Jack fights Tripod, and they are thrown out. Jack and Tripod fight Ginger (Jim Tully). Jack says good-bye to Joan. The sailors go to China and back. Jack finds Joan on the street, and she gives him tea and rum. Jack kisses her, and she turns him out. Jack follows her to the shore. He talks about the sea, and she likes him. Joan tells Jack that she is sailing to Montreal. They kiss. Tripod calls Joan "the Eskimo," and she gets upset, telling Jack not to write. Jack blames Tripod.
Their ship is delayed. Tripod wants to buy a concertina. Jack tells him that he can get a stolen one for five pounds. Jack buys a suit and goes to Joan in it. He tells her that he has a job in an office and asks her to marry. Tripod, Ginger, and others go to a bar. Jack and Joan come back to her place married. She gives Jack her baby shoes and tells him never to hurt her. Jack says he lied about the job and that he is sailing that night. Joan cries. Jack goes out for rum. Tripod tries to sell him a watch and recognizes Jack, who gives them the rum and says he got married. Tripod rips off Jack's vest, and they take back the suit to get Tripod's money back. Tripod steals a concertina. Jack finds Joan's place empty.
Jack becomes quartermaster on a Canadian ship, but Joan won't see him. In a storm the Chinese Star is sinking. Jack goes to help in a row boat. They tie a lifeline, and the boat capsizes. One person at a time goes across the lifeline. Tripod looks for Jack and goes last. The China Star sinks. The next day Jack with the concertina and Ginger come aboard a ship. They remember Tripod, and Jack throws the concertina in the sea. Then they see Tripod, who makes Ginger get it. After six months they return to London. Joan greets Jack. They each lay down conditional clauses for their marriage, and then Jack carries off Joan.
This story portrays sailors loving them and leaving them, returning to the sea after spending their pay. Joan does not want that life; but Jack persists and wins her with a lie. Yet after seeing him in action at sea, she changes her mind, and they establish ground rules for a relationship. The film depicts how some merchant marines live.