Every time I go to write something about the sea, my head is full of the chorus of descriptions writers have used for the fathomless deep bounty of the oceans. If you, like me, are inspired by salt on your lips, azure in your eyes, and that relentless rhythm of the waves, here are my favourite quotes about the sea to reinvigorate your sea fever. From classic tales of seafaring, to more recent takes on the majesty of the ocean, it’s time to dip your toes once more.
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Quotes About The Sea: Seafaring Life
I have more than three shelves of books about the sea, not counting my stealthy Kindle additions. And every crinkled page, seemingly laced with salt, oil and the assorted smells and tastes of life at sea, is some tiny percentage closer to being there. From the humorous tales of things that were clearly not so fabulous at the time – like Robin Knox-Johnston sitting naked on a hot pressure cooker part way through sailing solo around the world – to Gary Paulsen’s account of being enraptured by sea sirens, there’s plenty to seduce the armchair sailor. Here are my favourite quotes about the sea from a sailor’s perspective.
It isn’t that life ashore is distasteful to me. But life at sea is better. – Sir Francis Drake
I spent uncounted hours sitting at the bow looking at the water and the sky, studying each wave, different from the last, seeing how it caught the light, the air, the wind; watching patterns, the sweep of it all, and letting it take me. The sea.
At sea, I learned how little a person needs, not how much. Robin Lee Graham
My mother, when asked for her opinion of the voyage before I sailed, had replied that she considered it ‘totally irresponsible’ and on this Christmas Day I began to think she was right. I was sailing round the world simply because I bloody well wanted to – and, I realized, I was thoroughly enjoying myself. – Robin Knox Johnston – A World Of My Own
The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails. – William Arthur Ward
He that will not sail till all dangers are over must never put to sea. – Thomas Fuller
I wanted freedom, open air and adventure. I found it on the sea. – Alaine Gerbault
Classic Quotes About The Sea
Masefield’s Sea Fever is a cracker of a poem, driven on by the relentless rhythm of the seas in its beat. It captures the excitement of the business of sailing with its camaraderie and dangers. Every time I hear it, the call of the running tide is loud in my ears. Then there’s the novelist Daphne du Maurier, herself in the thrall of the ocean. Rebecca may haunt Manderley, but the sea is a key part of the life of the second Mrs de Winter and in du Maurier’s other works. Sir Francis Drake went sailing the Devon seas to the sound of Drake’s Drum. You might need a bit of your Devon accent to enjoy that one to the fullest. These and more make up this classics section of quotes about the sea.
I must down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by,
And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea’s face, and a grey dawn breaking.
“The road to Manderley lay ahead. There was no moon. The sky above our heads was inky black. But the sky on the horizon was not dark at all. It was shot with crimson, like a splash of blood. And the ashes blew towards us with the salt wind from the sea.”
Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. – Mark Twain
“Water, water, everywhere,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, everywhere,
Nor any drop to drink.”
The cure for anything is saltwater – sweat, tears, or the sea. – Isak Dinesen
Live in the sunshine, swim the sea, drink the wild air. — Ralph Waldo Emerson
My soul is full of longing
for the secret of the sea,
and the heart of the great ocean
sends a thrilling pulse through me.
I am longing to be with you, and by the sea, where we can talk together freely and build our castles in the air. ―
Drake he’s in his hammock till the great Armadas come,
(Capten, art tha sleepin’ there below?)
Slung atween the round shot, listenin’ for the drum,
An’ dreamin arl the time o’ Plymouth Hoe.
Call him on the deep sea, call him up the Sound,
Call him when ye sail to meet the foe;
Where the old trade’s plyin’ an’ the old flag flyin’
They shall find him ware an’ wakin’, as they found him long ago!
Sir Henry Newbolt – Drake’s Drum
The sigh of all the seas breaking in measure round the isles soothed them; the night wrapped them; nothing broke their sleep, until, the birds beginning and the dawn weaving their thin voices in to its whiteness.
The castle of Cair Paravel on its little hill towered up above them; before them were the sands, with rocks and little pools of salt water, and seaweed, and the smell of the sea and long miles of bluish-green waves breaking for ever and ever on the beach. And oh, the cry of the seagulls! Have you ever heard it? Can you remember?
“The sea is calm tonight.
The tide is full, the moon lies fair
Upon the straits;- on the French coast the light
Gleams and is gone; the cliffs of England stand,
glimmering and vast, out in the tranquil bay.”
“The old man knew he was going far out and he left the smell of the land behind and rowed out into the clean early morning smell of the ocean.”
Quotes About The Sea: Putting Things Into Perspective
Talking about the sea seems to lead writers to question bigger things in life. And I have to say that there is no better way to let the world put itself to rights than to wander the shoreline, or find yourself at sea. Here you’ll find inspiration from quotes about the sea that deal with life’s big issues.
I felt once more how simple and frugal a thing is happiness: a glass of wine, a roast chestnut, a wretched little brazier, the sound of the sea. Nothing else.
He that will not sail till all dangers are over must never put to sea. – Thomas Fuller
The heart of man is very much like the sea, it has its storms, it has its tides and in its depths it has its pearls too
A ship in port is safe, but that’s not what ships are built for. – Grace Hopper
If you never lose sight of the shore, you’re not on a voyage of discovery. You’re on a day cruise. ―
Look at that sea, girls–all silver and shadow and vision of things not seen. We couldn’t enjoy its loveliness any more if we had millions of dollars and ropes of diamonds.
“Be alone with the sea for it is there you will find answers to questions you didn’t realize exist.”
Quotes About The Lure Of The Ocean
There’s a real yearning for the sea in so many of us. Whether it’s the vastness of the ocean, the promise of new lands or the many moods of the tidal waters, something keeps us returning, over and over again. These quotes about the sea share that irresistible pull of the big blue.
“I have been feeling very clearheaded lately and what I want to write about today is the sea. It contains so many colors. Silver at dawn, green at noon, dark blue in the evening. Sometimes it looks almost red. Or it will turn the color of old coins. Right now the shadows of clouds are dragging across it, and patches of sunlight are touching down everywhere. White strings of gulls drag over it like beads.
It is my favorite thing, I think, that I have ever seen. Sometimes I catch myself staring at it and forget my duties. It seems big enough to contain everything anyone could ever feel.”
I will find comfort in the rhythm of the sea. ―
“One day the waves swept him right off the ship
And dropped him into the blue.
As his skin turned to water, his hair into fish,
He asked if I loved him too.
Too late I called through the wind and the water,
‘I was always in love with you.’
I was always in love with you.”
The sea, the majestic sea, breaks everything, crushes everything, cleans everything, takes everything…from me ―
“They picked up shells and sea glass, pebbles smooth and white. The wind blew and the surf hissed warm over their toes, sucked the sand from under their soles. The rhythm, the pulse of the sea soothed and electrified.”
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.”
The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever – Jacques Yves Cousteau
“As she always did, when she went over the dune and saw the waves crashing on the shore, her heart leapt inside her in excitement. She still had a love affair with the ocean.”
The sea always filled her with longing, though for what she was never sure.―
You can shake the sand from your shoes but not from your soul – Anonymous
She loves the serene brutality of the ocean, loves the electric power she felt with each breath of wet, briny air.
“Lex surfed wicked, like the devil. He wasn’t afraid of anything, seemed like. He grinned at West as the waves came up toward them like towers of green glass, an emerald city. We’re off to see the wizard, he shouted. He whooped. His body crouched ready to fly. He shone against the sun.”
Quotes About The Sea: Challenges
The ocean isn’t all limpid pools and gentle tides. Its sheer force and majesty can also make us confront our powerlessness, and our insignificance in the greater scheme of things. Here are some quotes about the sea that reflect its many challenges.
“Sail far. Sail fast.”
“The Thames Shouldered its way past Blackfriars Bridge, impatient with the ancient piers, no longer the passive stream that slid past Chelsea Marina, but a rush of ugly water that had scented the open sea and was ready to make a run for it.”
“It is impossible, on a day like this, to tell sea from sky.”
“She had thought the open sea would be flat, like a mirror or a coin. But it had colors and shapes, turning green or black under approaching storm. Sometimes it was red and purple and silver and white gold. It had sharp hedges. It had its tempers, its blue spells, its fits of laughter”
“So great is the sea and so tiny are we.”
“The sea was as black as basalt, covered with churning foam, ice-green, clotted cream, shivering high walls full of needles of air going up and up and crashing down on other walls of water on the crumbling coasts of the world.”
“What she really loved was to hang over the edge and watch the bow of the ship slice through the waves. She loved it especially when the waves were high and the ship rose and fell, or when it was snowing and the flakes stung her face.”
“I still remember the winter sky that evening. Whenever I worked in my sea garden and I saw a sunset like that, I’d think back to Bantham Beach. It was as if the sun had been torn open. Everything was scarlet. The clouds were flames, so wild and vibrant that blue didn’t look like a color anymore. The sea and land served as a mirror. The ribbed sand was on fire. So were the stones and maroon rock pools. The pink crests of the waves. The burning hump of Burgh Island.”
The Call Of The Roaring Tide
If you are now in thrall with the ocean from these quotes about the sea, you’ll find more to enjoy here. Within these virtual pages you’ll find:
- my own fascination with sea fever, and the different kinds of coast you can enjoy
- the best beaches in England
- the best beaches in Scotland
- the best beaches in Wales
- the best beaches in Northern Ireland
- how to make an ocean crossing by freighter travel
- insider cruise tips for first timers
- cruising Scandinavia and the Baltics
- spotting dolphins in the UK
- walking the Wales Coast path
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