Sailing Quotes: 50+ Sayings About the Ocean


Last Updated on October 9, 2021 by Amy

Whether you are just starting out and learning how to sail or have completed a world circumnavigation like us, sometimes it helps to be reminded why we do this. There are many benefits to the cruising life, and some inspirational words always help me get there. And at the moment, they make me miss cruising! That’s why I’ve compiled a list of over fifty sailing quotes to remind me how great – or how impactful, awe-inspiring, and essential the cruising life can be.

Are you just starting out? Or are you in the slumps about cruising? I hope some of these quotes about the sailing and cruising life will make you laugh, think, or even, dare I say it, want to go sailing.

Inspirational Boat Quotes

A sailboat in front of snowy mountains with fog and the text:"I can't control the wind but I can adjust the sail." - Ricky Skaggs50+ Sailing QuotesCompiled by

“To reach a port we must set sail – Sail, not tie at anchor. Sail, not drift.” ― Franklin D. Roosevelt

“I can’t control the wind but I can adjust the sail.” ― Ricky Skaggs

“You must never despise the port you were born because no matter how small or how bad it is, it is the place you have started sailing to the universe!” ― Mehmet Murat ildan

“We each have our oceans and seas that we travel on.” ― Anthony T Hincks

“No pessimist ever discovered the secret of the stars or sailed to an uncharted land or opened a new heaven to the human spirit.” ― Helen Keller

“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

“I must go down to the sea again, to the lonely sea and the sky. And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by.” ― John Masefield

Dark Subjects

“She watched the gap between ship and shore grow to a huge gulf. Perhaps this was a little like dying, the departed no longer visible to the others, yet both still existed, only in different worlds.” ― Susan Wiggs, The Charm School

“Sometimes I pretend I’m an anchor because there’s a difference between sinking and drowning.” ― R.I.D. Inkskinned

“When Predator sailed into war, she sang. The rapid winds and rising shrieks suddenly blended into a single harmonious tone. Lines in the rigging and the yards and the masts themselves quivered in time, and began giving off their own notes of music, in harmony with one another. As the speed increased, the chord rose and rose, and built and built, until it reached a crescendo of pure, eerie, inhuman fury.
Grimm felt the music rise around him, felt the ship straining eagerly to her task, and his own heart raced in fierce exultation in time with her. Every line of the ship, every smudge upon her decks, every stain upon the leathers of his aeronauts leapt into his mind in vibrant detail. He could feel the ship’s motion, forward and down, could feel the wind of her passage, could feel the rising terror of his crew. One of the men screamed–one of them always did–and then the entire crew joined in with Predator, shrieking their battle cries together with their ship’s. The ship would not fail them–Grimm knew it; he felt it, the way he could feel sunlight on his face or the rake of wind in his hair.” ― Jim Butcher, The Aeronaut’s Windlass

“So there you have it: hearing voices at sea is not a pathological condition. It’s quite normal. Welcome to the world of illusions at sea. Of mirages, looming, towering, stooping and sinking. Of moons that change size, suns that change shape, horizons that bend, lights that change colour, and sounds that play hide and seek. Of waves that speak, ships that effervesce and whales that turn into baby elephants. For the sea has a lobsterpot full of tricks and illusions to confuse and beguile even the most rational 21st century sailor.” ― Nic Compton, Off the Deep End: A History of Madness at Sea

“For I say there is no other thing that is worse than the sea is for breaking a man, even though he may be a very strong one.” ― Homer

“Sail through the good days, and on bad days pick a spot of blue sky to steer toward.” ― Richelle E. Goodrich, Making Wishes

Practical Sailing Quotes

“Go small, go simple, go now” ― Larry Pardey, Cruising in Seraffyn

“She found out that having something to do prevented you from feeling seasick, and that even a job like scrubbing a deck could be satisfying, if it was done in a seamanlike way. She was very taken with this notion, and later on she folded the blankets on her bunk in a seamanlike way, and put her possessions in the closet in a seamanlike way, and used ‘stow’ instead of ‘tidy’ for the process of doing so. After two days at sea, Lyra decided that this was the life for her.” ― Philip Pullman, The Golden Compass

“A small boat that sails the river is better than a large ship that sinks in the sea.” ― Matshona Dhliwayo

Humorous Yacht Sayings

A small sailboat on the ocean with red sails and the text:The winds of fortune tend to favour the sails of those who politely yell out to it, 'Nice to meet you!' - Nabil Sabio Azadi50+ Best Quotes about SailingCompiled by Out Chasing Stars

“Thing about boats is, you can always sell them if you don’t like them. Can’t sell kids.” ― Lin Pardey, Bull Canyon: A Boatbuilder, a Writer and Other Wildlife

“For those of you who wish to get a feel for it, get in the car and bring it up to fifty miles an hour and then stick your head and arms outside and, while driving, try to fold up a simple bath towel in the wind” ― Gary Paulsen, Caught by the Sea: My Life on Boats

“Charter boats are like books with no covers.” ― Tania Aebi

“One of the reasons there are so many terms for conditions of ice is that the mariners observing it were often trapped in it, and had nothing to do except look at it.” ― Alec Wilkinson, The Ice Balloon: S. A. Andrée and the Heroic Age of Arctic Exploration

“The winds of fortune tend to favour the sails of those who politely yell out to it, ‘Nice to meet you!” ― Nabil Sabio Azadi

“You don’t throw a compass overboard because the ocean is calm.” ― Matshona Dhliwayo

The Joys of Sailing Quotes

A pink sky reflected on the water and a sailboat with transparent sails and the text: There is no more thrilling sensation I know of than sailing. It comes as near to flying as man has got to yet - except in dreams. - Jerome K. Jerome50+ Best Sailing QuotesCompiled by Out Chasing Stars

“Seas were meant to be sailed by those with salt in their veins, and love in their heart.” ― Anthony T.Hincks

“I wanted freedom, open air, adventure. I found it on the sea.” ― Alain Gerbault

“Sailing unties the knots in my mind.” ― Al Noble

To some it’s just water. To me, it’s where I regain my sanity. ― Anonymous

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

“There is no more thrilling sensation I know of than sailing. It comes as near to flying as man has got to yet – except in dreams.” ― Jerome K. Jerome, Three Men in a Boat

“Just because a sea is calm doesn’t mean that you can believe in its stillness.” ― Anthony T. Hincks

“When I’m out sailing, I don’t wonder what heaven is like because I know.” ― Anthony T. Hincks

It is not that life ashore is distasteful to me. But life at sea is better. ― Sir Francis Drake

The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever. ― Jacques Yves Cousteau

There’s nothing like lying flat on your back on the deck, alone except for the helmsman aft at the wheel, silence except for the lapping of the sea against the side of the ship. At that time you can be equal to Ulysses and brother to him. ― Errol Flynn

“Now and then we had a hope that if we lived and were good, God would permit us to be Pirates” —Mark Twain

“That’s what a ship is, you know—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, really is, is freedom.” ― Captain Jack Sparrow, “Pirates of the Caribbean”

“You haven’t lived until you’ve sailed” ― David Sedaris, Theft by Finding: Diaries 1977-2002

“Sometimes you need to tether your boats to stop them from following your dreams.” ― Anthony T. Hincks

There is nothing – absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats. ― Kenneth Grahame


A big storm approaching land with the text: "I hate storms, but calms undermine my spirits." - Bernard Moitessier50+ Sailing QuotesCompiled by Out Chasing Stars

“The ocean’s currents are a turbulent emotion which man has yet to come to terms with.” ― Anthony T. Hincks

“If you are a boat that wants to sail in windy weather, you must be more stubborn than the waves!” ― Mehmet Murat ildan

“We must free ourselves of the hope that the sea will ever rest. We must learn to sail in high winds.” ― Aristotle Onassis

A ship in the harbor is safe, but that’s not what ships are built for. ― William Shedd

“Storms draw out something out of us that calm seas don’t.” ― Bill Hybels

“I hate storms, but calms undermine my spirits.” ― Bernard Moitessier

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

“The only ship you can truly steer in this ocean is the one you’re sailing. Quit trying to alter the winds; harness them.” ― Richelle E. Goodrich, Making Wishes

“The wind does not change, the wind only blows and gusts, and it swells and swirls, and it whispers.” ― Christopher X. Shade, The Good Mother of Marseille

“Maria didn’t fear the sea but, as taught by her father, she respected its power. In her experience the ocean had no intent to drown travellers.” ― Sara Sheridan, On Starlit Seas

“A sailor is not defined as much by how many seas he has sailed than by how many storms he has overcome.” ― Matshona Dhliwayo

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

Distant Horizons

A sailboat motoring in calm water with an island in the distance and the text:"We didn't make it around the world, but we were able to wrap the world around us." - Jude Couvreux50+ Sailing QuotesComplied by Out Chasing Stars

“The wind tousled his hair, and Dain’s chest loosed a little as his gaze broke from the wooden maid to follow a breeze-blown gull toward the horizon. The distant salmon skies dipped over the rim of the sea, and for the first time since boarding, he wondered where the waves might take him.” ― Micheline Ryckman, The Maiden Ship

“I hate the strange feeling of wanting to be in two places at once, like a sailor who misses the sea as much as he misses dry land.” ― Michelle Moran, Rebel Queen

“To meditate is to sail a course, to navigate, among problems many of which we are in the process of clearing up. After each one looms another, whose shores are even more attractive, more suggestive. Certainly, it requires strength and perseverance to get to windward of problems, but there is no greater delight than to reach new shores, and even to sail, as Camoëns says, “through seas that keel has never cut before.” If you will now open a bank-account of attention for me, I foretell sun-smitten landscapes and promise archipelagoes.” ― José Ortega y Gasset

“But that’s how it is on a sailing ship, and in this respect its journey parallels that of life: simply knowing where you want to go isn’t enough, because life is a windblown voyage, consisting mainly of the detours imposed by alternating calm and storm.” ― Carsten Jensen, We, the Drowned

“At the end of the day…we are anchoring into the peaceful lagoon, smiling at the majestic sun and its flirting rays, slowly slipping into the glittering ballroom of immense night skies, sipping on the platinum moon liquor under the blues of rippling waves kissing my golden foot hanging over the board of gently rocking boat, and diving into the bed of galaxies whispering magical stories of their eternal lives connecting souls…till the dawn…” ― Oksana Rus

“And there’s that one particular harbour
Sheltered from the wind
Where the children play on the shore each day
And all are safe within”
― Jimmy Buffett

“Midnight sail and moonlight. I remember sunset, and gentle breeze. Leaving the city lights behind, and gazing at the moon. Mountains of clouds. Waves slapping our boat. It was easy to forget that love has no direction, or need for compass. Let it guide you to its destination.” ― Fidelis O Mkparu

“Cold November nights. It feels as if summer never happened. The beauty of setting sun, moon, and stars. Sailing to nowhere, but finding happiness in our togetherness. Never forget what we are. Stranded hearts.” ― Fidelis O. Mkparu, Love’s Affliction

“The moon was low but not full. The men set out along the dock in conversation. As they dropped onto the dark beach, Simmons declared, ‘There can be no better place in the world than this.’
Henderson had to agree. The beach was beautiful. The stars lit the sand and balmy air rode in as the waves washed up on paradise” ― Sara Sheridan, On Starlit Seas

“There, in the shimmering distance, was a sail. I stared in momentary disbelief, but there it was, one of the most beautiful sights the Pacific can ever offer — a ship in full sail edging her way through the blue waters.” ― Tom Neale, An Island to Oneself: The Story of Six Years on a Desert Island

“Life on the blue part of the globe for eight years had suited me – the wild open spaces, the bliss of buoyancy, the volatile, soul-powered wind. Sailing had struck a nerve both primal and poetic. On and near the ocean life made sense, It made every sense work.” ― Kaci Cronkhite

“A true sailor is one who finds love in every port.” ― Tapan Ghosh

“Never a ship sails out of bay but carries my heart as a stowaway.” ― Roselle Mercier Montgomery

Land was created to provide a place for boats to visit. ‍ ― Brooks Atkinson

“Simply sailing in a new direction you could enlarge the world” ― Allen Curnow

“We didn’t make it around the world, but we were able to wrap the world around us.” ― Janis Couvreux, Sail Cowabunga!: A Family’s 10 Years at Sea

“It had occurred to her many times that on board it didn’t matter where you were coming from or where you were heading. Each voyage had its own charisma. Like writing a book – word by word – or crossing a country – step by step – each minute had to be lived moment by moment.” ― Sara Sheridan, On Starlit Seas

The Cruising Lifestyle

A sailboat in green water viewed from above with the text:"The cruising life isn't for all of us. It isn't even for most of us, but it is for some of us, and for a few of us it is essential to survival." - Jim Trefethen

“The cruising life isn’t for all of us. It isn’t even for most of us, but it is for some of us, and for a few of us it is essential to survival.” ― Jim Trefethen, The Cruising Life

“What do you do?” is not a question asked to define someone, because out here we’re all working the same jobs: yachties, mechanics, navigators, weather-readers, fishermen, adventure travelers, storytellers.” ― Torre DeRoche, Love with a Chance of Drowning

“At sea, I learned how little a person needs, not how much.” ― Robin Lee Graham

“Maybe you’re getting into the rhythm of sailing life,” says James. He looks out at the waves that are rolling in to lap against the dock. “You know, the tides going in and then out, the wind blowing east and then west, the high of a perfect day out on the water, the low of a thunderstorm or a wind that won’t go your way.” ― Melissa C. Walker, Unbreak My Heart

“For the most part, a sailboat navigates through its world of wind and water not leaving a single trace of its passage. Nothing is consumed. Nothing is altered. The winds and the water are left in exactly the same condition for the next user. Sailing is forever.” ― Michael B. McPhee

Quotes On Love & Crew

A sail boat approaching a cloud bank in early daylight with a reflection on calm waters and rain ahead.He stared at her hard and long, as if he were gauging a cloudbank that might be worth the trouble to sail around rather than through. - A.S. Peterson50+ Best Sailing Quotes Compiled by Out Chasing Stars

“We simply can’t abandon ship every time we encounter a storm in our marriage. Real love is about weathering the storms of life together.” ― Seth Adam Smith

“He stared at her hard and long, as if he were gauging a cloudbank that might be worth the trouble to sail around rather than through.” ― A.S. Peterson, Fiddler’s Green

“That’s what sailing is, a dance, and your partner is the sea. And with the sea you never take liberties. You ask her, you don’t tell her. You have to remember always that she’s the leader, not you. You and your boat are dancing to her tune.” ― Michael Morpurgo, Alone on a Wide Wide Sea

“The only way to get a good crew is to marry one.” ― Eric Hiscock

“Now I remembered a captain’s honor and his only duty: to bring his crew back alive.” ― Carsten Jensen, We, the Drowned

“We of the sea come to know each other quickly; our loves, like our hates, are born of sudden dangers.” ― Lew Wallace, Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ

Quotes On Departing Ports

A sailing ship at sunset with the main sail up and the text:The boat is safer anchored at the port; but that is not the aim of boats. Paulo Coelho50+ Best Sailing QuotesCompiled by Out Chasing Stars

“I had acquired the skills to sail a ship; I didn’t acquire the knowledge.” ― Tom Holland

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” ― H. Jackson Brown Jr., P.S. I Love You

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

“The boat is safer anchored at the port; but that is not the aim of boats.” ― Paulo Coelho

“The thing that most forget while dreamily looking off into the horizon for the ship of their dreams is that such ships never sail in but are built beneath their feet.” ―  Mike Dooley

The Sea

A traditional sailing ship at dawn with a quote:"She loved the sea. She liked the sharp salty smell of the air, and the vastness of the horizons bounded only by a vault of azure sky above. It made her feel small, but free as well." - George RR Martin

“The sea is the same as it has been since before men ever went on it in boats.” ― Ernest Hemingway

“The sea was not meant to be controlled. The sea was meant to be sailed.” ―  Jon Acuff

“The sea speaks a language polite people never repeat. It is a colossal scavenger slang and has no respect.” ― Carl Sandburg

“The sea has never been friendly to man. At most it has been the accomplice of human restlessness.” ― Joseph Conrad

“How inappropriate it is to call this planet Earth, when clearly it is Sea.” ― Arthur C. Clarke

“She loved the sea. She liked the sharp salty smell of the air, and the vastness of the horizons bounded only by a vault of azure sky above. It made her feel small, but free as well.” ― George R.R. Martin, A Storm of Swords

Which sailing quote is your favorite?


  1. Beautiful quotes. A pleasure to read. Thank you using so many of my quotes.
    “The sea is what makes me feel so young.”

    All the best.
    Anthony T. Hincks

  2. Amy, devem existir incontáveis citações célebres envolvendo o mar e o nosso eterno caso de amor, que é velejar. Parabéns pelo seu bom gosto. Surpreendente. Já li algumas mas sua seleção é melhor de todas. Sinceros agradecimentos.

  3. I collect sailing/travel quotes and many of these were new to me. What a great list.

    And…you corrected my erroneously attributing a certain quote to Mark Twain 😉

    There is a pleasure in the pathless woods,
    There is a rapture on the lonely shore,
    There is society where none intrudes,
    By the deep Sea, and music in its roar:
    I love not Man the less, but Nature more,
    Lord Byron

    Thank you, Amy!

  4. The quote: ‘Quit trying to alter the winds; harness them.’ really resonated with me today 🙂

    Thanks for all the work putting this lovely collection together.

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