50 of the Best Sailing Quotes to Live By

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Monohull sailboat with sails up on the ocean

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 some of the best sailing quotes, whether from a famous writer or a well-known cruiser.

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


Sail Away Quotes

Below are sailor sayings that will truly hit home and do a great job of expressing what it feels like to live out on the ocean. The quotes that 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


Inspirational Sailing Quotes

These are our favorite sailing and sailboat quotes related to the connection between the sailor and the sailboat.

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

 Unknown

10. “Now…bring me that horizon.” 

— Captain Jack Sparrow, Pirates of the Caribbean

11. “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.

12. “A sailor is an artist whose medium is the wind.”

— Webb Chiles, Writer & Sailor

13. “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

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


Sailing Quotes About Life

Sailing quotes make the best metaphors for life. These are some of our favorite sailing quotes that translate to many challenges and struggles of everyday life.

15. “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

16. “A ship in the harbor is safe, but that’s not what ships are built for.”

― John A. Shedd, American Author

17. “I’m not afraid of storms, for I’m learning how to sail my ship.”

― Louisa May Alcott, American Poet

18. “Not all treasure is silver and gold, mate.” 

— Captain Jack Sparrow, Pirates of the Caribbean

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

― Seneca, Roman Philosopher

20. “Live in the sunshine, swim the sea, drink the wild air.” 

― Ralph Waldo Emerson, American Philosopher

21. “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

22. “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.

23. “The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.”

― William Arthur Ward, American Writer

24. “One’s destination is never a place, but always a new way of seeing things.” 

— Henry Miller, American Writer & Artist

25. “Smooth seas do not make skillful sailors.”

 Franklin D. Roosevelt, 32nd U.S. President

26. “You can never cross the ocean unless you have the courage to lose sight of the shore.”

 ― Christopher Columbus, Italian Explorer 

27. “Any fool can carry on, but a wise man knows how to shorten sail in time.”

― Joseph Conrad, Polish-British Writer

28. “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 life on a sailboat.

29. “To be successful at sea, we must keep things simple.”

 Pete Culler, Author & Renowned Wooden Boat Builder

30. “Go small, go simple, go now.” 

― Larry Pardey, Sailor & Writer

31. “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.

32. “The lovely thing about cruising is that planning usually turns out to be of little use.” 

 Dom Degnon, Yacht Broker & Freelance Writer

33. “Only two sailors, in my experience, never ran aground. One never left port and the other was an atrocious liar.” 

— Don Bamford, Sailor & Author

34. “Cruising is fixing your boat in exotic locations.” 

— Unknown

35. “Home is where the anchor drops.” 

— Unknown

36. “If you are going to do something, do it now. Tomorrow is too late.” 

— Pete Goss, British Sailor

37. “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

38. “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!

39. “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

40. “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

41. “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

42. “I knew that if I allowed fear to overtake me, my journey was doomed. Fear, to a great extent, is born of a story we tell ourselves, and so I chose to tell myself a different story from the one women are told. I decided I was safe. I was strong. I was brave. Nothing could vanquish me.”

― Cheryl Strayed, Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail

43. “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


Ocean Quotes

These quotes are some of our favorites that 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.

44. “The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever.”

― Jacques Yves Cousteau, French Naval Officer

45. “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

46. “Dance with the waves, move with the sea, let the rhythm of the water set your soul free.” 

 Christy Ann Martine, Canadian Poet

47. “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.

48. “Every time I slip into the ocean, it’s like going home.” 

― Sylvia Earle, American Marine Biologist

49. “If there’s a heaven for me, I’m sure it has a beach attached to it.” 

― Jimmy Buffett, American Singer-Songwriter

50. “The sea is a desert of waves, a wilderness of water.” 

— Langston Hughes, American Poet


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 a lot more famous sailing quotes. Feel free to leave your favorite nautical saying in the comments below, or even a personal quote that resonates with you!

READ NEXT

If you liked this list of quotes, you will find many of these authors, songwriters, and actors on our lists of books for sailors, ultimate sailing songsand best sailing movies.


Want to find more sailing inspiration?

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


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