75+ Best Sailing Quotes for Your Inner Sailor

The freedom that comes with casting off the lines and heading out into open water is something many authors, poets, and explorers have aimed to express in words.

This list contains the best sailing quotes, whether from a famous writer or an avid sailor.

Monohull sailboat with sails up on the ocean

Many of these famous quotes about sailing are inspirational, while others represent the challenges of a sailing lifestyle. Other sayings on the list are sailing metaphors for life – inspiration for all sailors, world travelers, and adventurers!

Find a specfic type of sailing quote in the sections below, or browse all the quotes.


Sail Away Quotes

Below are sailor sayings that express what it feels like to live on the ocean. These quotes make you want to cast off the lines and sail away with no plan for return to port.

1. “There is nothing more enticing, disenchanting, and enslaving than the life at sea.” — Joseph Conrad, Polish-British Writer

2. “I wanted freedom, open air, and adventure. I found it on the sea.” — Alaine Gerbault, French Sailor

Sail away inspired quote, “I wanted freedom, open air, and adventure. I found it on the sea.” - Alain Gerbault, written above a red sunset over the ocean.

3. “Smell the sea and feel the sky. Let your soul and spirit fly.” — Van Morrison, Irish Singer-Songwriter

4. “Flying might not be all plain sailing, but the fun of it is worth the price.” — Amelia Earhart, American Aviation Pioneer & Author

5. “A man is never lost at sea.” — Ernest Hemingway, American Writer

6. “It is not that life ashore is distasteful to me. But life at sea is better.” ― Sir Francis Drake, English Explorer

Inspirational sailing away quote, “It is not that life ashore is distasteful to me. But life at sea is better.” - Sir Francis Drake, written above a woman holding a main stay looking at the colors across the water at twilight.

7. “The days pass happily with me wherever my ship sails.” — Joshua Slocum, First Person to Single-Hand Circumnavigate

8. “For whatever we lose (like a you or a me), it’s always our self we find in the sea.” — E.E. Cummings, American Poet & Author

9. “To young men contemplating a voyage, I’d say go.” — Joshua Slocum, First Person to Single-Hand Circumnavigate


Inspirational Sailing Quotes

These are our favorite sailing and sailboat quotes that capture the feeling of a day on the water.

10. “A bad day sailing is 100 times better than a good day at work.” — Unknown

11. “Hark, now hear the sailors cry, smell the sea, and feel the sky let your soul and spirit fly, into the mystic.” — Van Morrison, Northern Irish Singer & Songwriter

12. “It’s out there at sea that you are really yourself.” — Vito Dumas, Argentine Solo Sailor & Circumnavigator

13. “You haven’t lived until you’ve sailed.” — David Sedaris, Theft by Finding: Diaries

Pinterest image of a woman on the dolphin seat of a catamaran under sail.

14. “The sail, the play of its pulse so like our own lives: so thin and yet so full of life, so noiseless when it labors hardest, so noisy and impatient when least effective.” — Henry David Thoreau, American Poet & Philosopher

15. “On a day when the wind is perfect, the sail just needs to open and the world is full of beauty.”
Rumi, Persian Poet

16. “Confronting a storm is like fighting God. All the powers in the universe seem to be against you and, in an extraordinary way, your irrelevance is at the same time both humbling and exalting.” Francis LeGrande


Sailing Quotes About Life

These are our favorite sailing quotes that are metaphors for life and translate to its many challenges and struggles.

17. “The fishermen know that the sea is dangerous and the storm terrible, but they have never found these dangers sufficient reason for remaining ashore.” ― Vincent Van Gogh, Dutch Post-Impressionist Painter

18. “I’m not afraid of storms, for I’m learning how to sail my ship.” ― Louisa May Alcott, American Poet

19. “If one does not know to which port one is sailing, no wind is favorable.” ― Seneca, Roman Philosopher

20. “I am the master of my fate. I am the captain of my soul.” ― William Ernest Henley, English Poet & Writer

Pinterest image of a small sailboat in a beautiful, but eerie and foggy anchorage.

21. “Not all treasure is silver and gold, mate.” — Captain Jack Sparrow, Pirates of the Caribbean

22. “Live in the sunshine, swim the sea, drink the wild air.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson, American Philosopher

23. “The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.” ― William Arthur Ward, American Writer

24. “Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than those you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from safe harbor. Catch the wind in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” ― Mark Twain, American Writer

25. “On life’s vast ocean, diversely we sail. Reasons the card, but passion the gale.” ― Alexander Pope, English Poet

Sailing quote about life, “On life’s vast ocean, diversely we sail. Reason the card, passion the gale.” - Alexander Pope, written above a jib sheet line with the ocean view in the background.

26. “One’s destination is never a place, but always a new way of seeing things.” — Henry Miller, American Writer & Artist

27. “Smooth seas do not make skillful sailors.” — Franklin D. Roosevelt, 32nd U.S. President

28. “You can never cross the ocean unless you have the courage to lose sight of the shore.” — Christopher Columbus, Italian Explorer

29. “Any fool can carry on, but a wise man knows how to shorten sail in time.” ― Joseph Conrad, Polish-British Writer

30. “There are some things you learn best in calm, and some in storm.” — Willa Cather, American Writer


Cruising Quotes

These quotes are for the full-time cruisers living a life on the water. These are some of our favorite sayings about modern-day life on a sailboat.

31. “To be successful at sea, we must keep things simple.” ― Pete Culler, Author & Renowned Wooden Boat Builder

32. “Go small, go simple, go now.” ― Larry Pardey, Sailor & Writer

33. “At sea, I learned how little a person needs, not how much.” — Robin Lee Graham, American Sailor

Cruising quote, “At sea I learned how little a person needs, not how much.” - Robin Graham, written above a sailboat sailing on blue water.

34. “The single commandment of anchoring is ‘thou shall create scope.'” ― Reese Palley, Art Dealer & Circumnavigator

35. “The charm of singlehanded cruising is not solitude, but independence.” — Claud Worth, Master Mariner & Writer

36. “The lovely thing about cruising is that planning usually turns out to be of little use.” — Dom Degnon, Yacht Broker & Freelance Writer

37. “Cruising is fixing your boat in exotic locations.” — Unknown

Pinterest image of sand dunes with text overlay of Pete Goss quote.

38. “Home is where the anchor drops.” — Unknown

39. “If you are going to do something, do it now. Tomorrow is too late.” — Pete Goss, British Sailor

40. “The planning stage of a cruise is often just as enjoyable as the voyage itself, letting one’s imagination loose on all kinds of possibilities. Yet translating dreams into reality means a lot of practical questions have to be answered.” — Jimmy Cornell, British Sailor & Author

41. “It’s remarkable how quickly a good and favorable wind can sweep away the maddening frustrations of shore living.” — Ernest K. Gann, American Sailor & Author


Sailing and Adventure Quotes from Novels

These quotes are from some of our favorite novels. They encapsulate life on the water, the sailing lifestyle, and seeking adventure!

42. “Now and then we had a hope that if we lived and were good, God would permit us to be pirates.” — Mark Twain, Life on the Mississippi

43. “To move, to breathe, to fly, to float, to gain all while you give, to roam the roads of lands remote, to travel is to live.” ― Hans Christian Andersen, The Fairy Tale of My Life: An Autobiography

Adventure novel quote, “To move, to breathe, to fly, to float - To gain all while you give - To roam the roads, of lands remote - To travel is to live.” - Hans Christian Andersen, written over clear blue water calmly lapping a pebble beach and driftwood

44. “The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun.” ― Christopher McCandless, Into the Wild

45. “The truths of the sea, like the truths of the soul, cannot be reduced to numbers.” ― Webb Chiles, The Ocean Waits

46. “There is nothing — absolutely nothing — half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats. In or out of ’em, it doesn’t matter. Nothing seems really to matter, that’s the charm of it. Whether you get away, or whether you don’t; whether you arrive at your destination or whether you reach somewhere else, or whether you never get anywhere at all, you’re always busy, and you never do anything in particular; and when you’ve done it there’s always something else to do, and you can do it if you like, but you’d much better not.” — Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows


Quotes About Ships

Whether as vessels of exploration, symbols of resilience, or metaphors for life’s journey, ships have long captured the esscense of the adventurer’s spirit.

47. “A ship in the harbor is safe, but that’s not what ships are built for.” ― John A. Shedd, American Author

48. “The goal is not to sail the boat, but rather to help the boat sail herself.” — John Rousmaniere, American Author

Inspiration sailing quote “The goal is not to sail the boat, but rather to help the boat sail herself.” - John Rousmaniere, written above a couple on the bow of a sailboat with the sails flying.

49. “It’s not just a keel and a hull and a deck and sails, that’s what a ship needs but what a ship is…what the Black Pearl really is…is freedom.” — Captain Jack Sparrow, Pirates of the Caribbean

50. “A sailing vessel is alive in a way that no ship with mechanical power ever be.” ― Aubrey de Selincourt, English Writer

51. “Ships are the nearest things to dreams that hands have ever made, for somewhere deep in their oaken hearts the soul of a song is laid.” — Robert N. Rose, Poet


Ocean Quotes

These quotes are specifically about the ocean or the sea. If you are a sailor or beach lover, I’m sure you love to romanticize the sea, and these quotes will resonate with you.

52. “The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever.” ― Jacques Yves Cousteau, French Naval Officer

53. “We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea, whether it is to sail or to watch – we are going back from whence we came.” ― John F. Kennedy, 35th U.S. President

54. “Dance with the waves, move with the sea, let the rhythm of the water set your soul free.” ― Christy Ann Martine, Canadian Poet

55. “At the beach, life is different. Time doesn’t move hour to hour but mood to moment. We live by currents, plan by the tides, and follow the sun.” ― Sandy Gingras, Writer & Illustrator

Quote about the ocean, “At the beach, life is different. Time doesn’t move hour to hour but mood to moment. We live by currents, plan by the tides, and follow the sun.” - Sandy Gingras, written on top of a picture of a people beach with a wave crashing on the shore.

56. “Every time I slip into the ocean, it’s like going home.” ― Sylvia Earle, American Marine Biologist

57. “If there’s a heaven for me, I’m sure it has a beach attached to it.” ― Jimmy Buffett, American Singer-Songwriter

58. “The sea is a desert of waves, a wilderness of water.” — Langston Hughes, American Poet


Funny Sailing Quotes

This selection features funny sailing quotes from poets, writers, and modern-day cruisers, that explore the lighter side of life at sea.

59. “Sailing – The fine art of slowly going nowhere at great expense while being cold, wet, and miserable.” — Irv Heller

60. “The sea speaks a language polite people never repeat. It is a colossal scavenger slang and has no respect.” — Carl Sandburg, American Poet

61. “Any damn fool can navigate the world sober. It takes a really good sailor to do it drunk.” — Sir Francis Chichester, Sailor & Author (First Man to Single-Hand Circumnavigate Non-Stop)

62. “Later down the road of life, I made the discovery that salt water was also good for the mental abrasions one inevitably acquires on land.” Jimmy Buffett, American Singer-Songwriter (A Pirate Looks at Fifty)

63. “Only two sailors, in my experience, never ran aground. One never left port, and the other was an atrocious liar.” — Don Bamford, Sailor & Author

Pinterest image of blue green ocean water that is smooth as glass with text overlay of Don Bamford quote.

64. “The chance for mistakes is about equal to the number of crew squared.” Ted Turner, Entrepreneur & America’s Cup Winner

65. “Land was created to provide a place for boats to visit.” ‍‍— Brooks Atkinson, American Theatre Critic

66. “When the draught of your vessel exceeds the depth of the water, you are most assuredly, aground.” Ian Walsh

67. “A sailor is an artist whose medium is the wind. Live passionately, even if it kills you, because something is going to kill you anyway.” — Webb Chiles, Writer & Sailor

68. “Being hove to in a long gale is the most boring way of being terrified, I know.” — Donald Hamilton, American Writer

69. “If we get lost, we’ll just pull in somewhere and ask directions.” — Captain Ron Rico (Captain Ron)

70. “The only way to get a good crew is to marry one.” — Eric Hiscock, British Sailor & Author


Sailing Quotes from Movies

These unforgettable sailing quotes are all from the silver screen, where the sea has played a starring role in captivating audiences for decades.

71. “A diesel loves her oil same as a sailor loves rum.” — Captain Ron Rico (Captain Ron)

72. “It’s not just sails and knots, it’s seeing where you’re going in your mind. Knowing where you are by knowing where you’ve been.” Maui (Moana)

Pinterest image with view of island from a sailboat at sunset and text of Moana quote overlayed.

73. “You know, there have been more people in space than have sailed around the world. I didn’t even know it was something you can do, but you can, and I want to. ‘Cause I’m an adventurer.” Jessica Watson (True Spirit)

74. “You can’t run from the wind. You trim your sails, face the music, and keep going.”  Captain Christopher “Skipper” Sheldon (White Squall)

75. “Now…bring me that horizon.” — Captain Jack Sparrow (Pirates of the Caribbean)

76. “But it ain’t all buttons and charts, little albatross. You know what the first rule of flying is? Love. You can learn all the math in the ‘Verse, but you take a boat in the air that you don’t love, she’ll shake you off just as sure as the turning of the worlds. Love keeps her in the air when she oughta fall down, tells you she’s hurtin’ ‘fore she keens. Makes her a home.” Captain Malcolm Reynolds (Serenity)

READ NEXT: Check out many of the movies that feature these quotes on our sailing movies list.

Share Your Favorite Sailing Quotes

I hope you were inspired or even nodded along in agreement with some of the sailor sayings on this list.

I’m sure I’m missing some other famous sailing quotes, so feel free to leave your favorite nautical saying in the comments below or even a personal quote that resonates with you!

RELATED ARTICLES

If you liked this list of sailing quotes, you will find many of these authors, songwriters, and actors on our other lists below.

Hungry for more sailing inspiration?

Check out our lists of sailing movies, songs, books, and more to inspire this lifestyle.


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4 Comments

  1. All sailors of all sorts are more or less capricious and unreliable. They live in the varying outer weather and inhale its fickleness – and when retained for any object remote and blank in the pursuit, however promissory of life and passion in the end, it is above all things requisite that temporary interests and employments should intervene to hold them healthily suspended for the final dash. – Herman Melville, Moby Dick

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