Quite a few of these poems were written on board ship, usually while travelling on a river. I would hazard to say that the following poem by Tu Fu (712-770) is perhaps the most famous of these on-board-ship poems. But I hasten to add that the poem goes much deeper than the circumstances of its composition.
A Traveler At Night Writes His Thoughts
Delicate grasses, faint wind on the bank;
stark mast, a lone night boat:
stars hang down, over broad fields sweeping;
the moon boils up, on the great river flowing.
Fame -- how can my writings win me that?
Office -- age and sickness have brought it to an end.
Fluttering, fluttering -- where is my likeness?
Sky and earth and one sandy gull.
Tu Fu (translated by Burton Watson), Burton Watson (editor), The Columbia Book of Chinese Poetry: From Early Times to the Thirteenth Century (Columbia University Press 1984).
Here is another translation of the same poem.
Thoughts While Travelling At Night
Light breeze on the fine grass.
I stand alone at the mast.
Stars lean on the vast wild plain.
Moon bobs in the Great River's spate.
Letters have brought no fame.
Office? Too old to obtain.
Drifting, what am I like?
A gull between earth and sky.
Vikram Seth (translator), Three Chinese Poets (1992).
As I have noted before, although English translations of traditional Chinese poetry tend to come across as fairly prose-like and casual, the originals were subject to strict rules relating to the number of lines, the number of characters (ideograms) per line, end-rhyme, and tonal parallelism. According to Burton Watson, the original of this poem was in the form of 8-line, 5-character per line "regulated verse" (which requires a single rhyme to be used at the end of the second, fourth, sixth, and eighth lines, and internal tonal parallelism). It is extremely difficult (if not impossible) to carry over these formal features into English translations, and translators seldom attempt to do so.