Nautical Terms, Sailing Quotes And Sailing Phrases

You must have heard some sailing quotes in your lifetime. For example,
“Land Ho!” or “Aye Aye Captain!” Yes, you probably have but maybe didn't know they were sailing quotes. Well, this article is about to change that.

What is the importance of sailing quotes?

The sea, the sun and the wind have always been the best remedies for all the diseases, broken hearts and loneliness. If you have never experienced the healing power of a day spent at the sea and on the sailing ships, do it as soon as possible. You are missing out big time! Breathing in the sea air and the wind, feeling the warmth of the sun on your skin and listening to the waves crashing the rocks are truly unique experiences. And do not even get me started on sailing. Although it seems complicated, it will be easier with our sailing guide.

sailing holidays

So, you have decided to dedicate your life to the sea and the wind. You have mastered the art of sailing and you have started spending more and more time on board. Then you will inevitably become a sailor who lives their life according to inspiring sailing quotes! Life on board can be tough, you can face all kinds of difficulties. For example, from bad weather, strong wind, boredom, boat malfunction to feeling homesick. However, keep in mind that when you face those difficulties, these phrases will give you comfort and lift up your spirit. You can also share them with others by writing them as your Instagram or Facebook captions.

We have gathered a list of famous sailing quotes and nautical terms that can help you survive the oh-so monotone days on the sailing ships. They can even inspire you to get out of your comfort zone and go on a sailing adventure yourself. Maybe you think you do not have the money to do so, but remember that all things in life require some time in order to come true. What is important is your desire to make a change and to work towards it. The rest will come eventually. While you wait, read our favorite quotes about sailing.

Sailing quotes
Sailing in the sunset

Sailing quotes for the undecisive ones

  • “A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.” - John A. Shedd
  • "To young men contemplating a voyage, I would say GO." - Joshua Slocum
  • “The cure for anything is saltwater - sweat, tears, or the sea.” - Isak Dinesen
  • “There is nothing more enticing, disenchanting, and enslaving than the life at sea.” - Joseph Conrad
  • “You haven't lived until you've sailed.” - David Sedaris, Theft by Finding: Diaries
  • “The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever.” - Jacques Yves Cousteau

Sailing quotes for the adventurous ones

  • “I wanted freedom, open air and adventure. I found it on the sea.” - Alaine Gerbault
  • “He that will not sail till all dangers are over must never put to sea.” - Dr. Thomas Fuller
  • “The art of the sailor is to leave nothing to chance.” - Annie Van De Wiele
  • “The sea hates a coward.” - Eugene O’Neill
  • “A sailor is an artist whose medium is the wind.” - Webb Chiles
  • “The wind and the waves are always on the side of the ablest navigator.” - Edmund Gibbon
Sailing quotes
Gulet in the sunset

Sailing quotes for those who need a little bit of inspiration

  • “They that go down to the sea in ships; and occupy their business in great waters; these men see the works of the Lord; and His wonders in the deep.” - Book of Common Prayer
  • “A bad day sailing is 100 times better than a good day at work.” - Anonymous
  • “The days pass happily with me wherever my ship sails.” - Joshua Slocum
  • “To be successful at sea we must keep things simple.” - Pete Culler
  • “To reach a port we must set sail – Sail, not tie at anchor. Sail, not drift.” - Franklin D. Roosevelt
  • “No literature is richer than that of the sea. No story is more enthralling, no tradition is more secure.” - Felix Riesenberg

In the sea of sailing quotes and nautical terms, we can highlight the ones by Mark Twain and Ernest Hemingway, two of the most influential writers of all times. Get out of your comfort zone and let their words be your greatest encouragement.

  • “Now and then we had a hope that if we lived and were good, God would permit us to be Pirates.” - Mark Twain
  • “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.” - Mark Twain
  • “A man is never lost at sea.” - Ernest Hemingway
  • “The sea is the same as it has been since before men ever went on it in boats.” - Ernest Hemingway
sailing holidays in Lefkas

Which sailor quotes have found their use in everyday language?

There are many phrases that we use on a regular basis that have their origin in the nautical world. However, they have lost their original meaning, so most of the time we are not aware that we are using the same phrases that were once used by sailors. We made a list of the most popular sailor phrases used in everyday language, explaining their metaphorical and original meaning.

The first example is the term feeling under the weather that people nowadays use to describe the feeling of sadness. Sailors would use this phrase when the weather was rough to warn the passengers to retreat to the lower levels of the boat to keep them safe from the storm.

We have all, not only once, experienced the calm before the storm. For example, we know that a really bad argument is always preceded by an extremely peaceful period. Sailors, on the other side, would use this phrase in the anticipation of bad weather.

People often find themselves at a loose end, meaning they do not know what to do next. When on board, something that is often loose is the rope. Loose end means that the rope is not attached properly.

Have you ever gone overboard and completely exaggerated in your actions? Similar to that, when you go overboard on a boat, it means that you literally fall out of it.

The phrase fair winds and following seas is one of the must known sailing terms. It means that the wind direction will be probably the same as the sea direction. Fair winds and following seas indicates that the sailors will probably have "perfect day on the sea". Furthermore, the phrase smooth sailing has a pretty similar meaning as the phrase fair winds and following seas. The smooth sailing means that there we'll be no problems further on, everything is alright now.

The phrase Anchors Aweigh means that there are no anchors in the sea at the moment, they are all clear of the sea bottom and the boat is ready for departure.

sailing holidays in Croatia

Sailor slang – a unique way of communication

Another interesting linguistic feature that emerged from the nautical world is sailor slang. Over the years spent on the sea, sailors have developed their own way of communicating. And that language was unknown to the ones who were not part of the crew. The phrases and nautical terms that they used were short and sweet, some of the examples are:

  • “Aye Aye Captain!” - a sign of approval
  • “Ahoy!” - sailors would use this exclamation among themselves to call out to each other
  • “Land Ho!” - an exclamation that a sailor would make when they spotted the land
  • “Matey” - mate, friend
  • “Me” - referring to “my”
  • “Ye” - referring to the pronoun “you”
  • “Yo-ho-ho…and a bottle of rum!” - the first part refers to sailors’ laughter and the second one, well, we could say that rum was their favorite beverage.
Marina in the sunset

Sailor slang was highly popularized by the eccentric captain Jack Sparrow from the movie “Pirates of the Caribbean”. Jack Sparrow is an example of a real cap’n (captain) who loved his sailing ships Black Pearl more than his life and a man who gave his life to the sea. What a great example to the modern sailors, huh? Aside his rum-obsession and occasional cowardness, he was quite successful in his job. We are sure that you already quote him on a daily basis, but we will mention a few of his epic sailor sayings:

  • “Why is the rum always gone?”
  • “Hide the rum!”
  • “Wherever we want to go, we go… that’s what a ship is, you know.”
  • “The seas may be rough, but I am the Captain! No matter how difficult, I will always prevail.”


At the end of the day, you do not have to use sailor slang or phrases to be a sailor. Carleton Mitchell once said: “To desire nothing beyond what you have is surely happiness. Aboard a boat, it is frequently possible to achieve just that. That is why sailing is a way of life, one of the finest of lives.” Therefore, to be a successful sailor, the most important thing is to live without the fear of the unknown, to gather up the courage and start living your life to the fullest – at the sea.

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Julija Boronjek

About the Author: Julija Boronjek

Julija is a language and writing enthusiast working at SailingEurope. Loves stargazing and spending time at the seaside. Big dreamer and optimist.

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