50 of the Best Sailing Quotes to Live By
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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
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
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.”
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
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
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
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
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.”
35. “Home is where the anchor drops.”
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
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
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
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!
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 songs, and 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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Id rather be lost at sea then found at work…..Anon.
I can definitely relate to this one!
The cost of good navigation is constant vigilance.
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