Written and first recorded by Ian Hunter (1979).
Hit version by Barry Manilow (US #9/MOR #4/CAN #29 1979).
From the wiki: “Ian Hunter (‘Once Bitten Twice Shy‘) began writing ‘Ships’ when he was with Mott The Hoople (1969-1974) but didn’t record it until 1979, for his solo album You’re Never Alone With A Schizophrenic. The song has been described as a hymn-like ballad about Hunter’s relationship with his father.
“‘Ships’ was soon after recorded by singer Barry Manilow for his sixth studio album, One Voice. Hunter recalled to Mojo magazine: ‘That whole Manilow thing was quite amusing. That guy’s no slouch when it comes to arranging. His dad had died and the song struck him that way, too.'”
Barry Manilow, “Ships” (1979):