There is nothing on Earth that has inspired more soul felt scribbling than the sea. Whether stormy or calm, arctic or tropical; back when under sail or now with engine hum, there’s just something about the sea that leads to transcendent thoughts and emotions put into written words. The doing of it indeed bridges time, and provides an intellectual and emotional mooring line of continuity linking all those who find pleasure in taking to the water.
The majority of the quotes below were not meant to be taken literally, but rather as anecdotes for all facets of life and living, aboard or not. Obviously, many of the quotes were written when wood and sails were the way of it, so you’ll have to extrapolate your thinking somewhat to apply the observations to modern life and fiberglass boating.
The quotes are grouped so that the sentiments of one may seem contradictory to those of another, and it’s left to you to determine which rings truest, whilst others may voice a decided, contrarian and unresolved consensus. Take a few minutes to mull them over. Here’s betting there’s at least one or two in there you’ll commit to memory and, when the circumstance is just right, share with your crew.
Good evening, Mr. and Mrs. America, from border to border and coast to coast and all the ships at sea!
Dwell as near as possible to the channel in which your life flows.
–Henry David Thoreau
If you’re lucky enough to live by the sea… you’re lucky enough.
That magical moment when I first opened my eyes to the sea, it changed the way I saw the world, the way I thought, the way I lived.
–Jaques Ives Cousteau
Navigation is the one science in which no margin whatever is left for the faker.
The sea is noble in her impartiality. She harbors, feeds, maims and drowns with disregard for age or race or creed; the sole bias she can be accused of is that she won’t tolerate a fool.
The sea does not reward those who are too anxious, too greedy, or too impatient.
–Anne Morrow Lindbergh
No matter how important a man at sea may consider himself, unless he is fundamentally worthy, the sea will some day find him out.
The wide loneliness of a great ocean breeds a humility that is good for the soul.
The character of a people is reflected, to a great extent, in the boats they use.
We speak of a ships “behavior” as if she were alive. Wood and iron and hemp – and yet, somehow, a soul.
–Arthur Sturges Hildebrand
The moment you begin to feel that a ship is a living thing, you are a sailor and her dedicated slave.
A ship in a harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.
What’s the difference between a boat and a ship? A boat is a tool, a ship is freedom.
Boats, like rums, are all good.
–R.D. “Pete” Culler
The naming of a boat, even a very small boat, is a serious matter.
The pleasure you get from a boat is often reckoned to be in inverse proportion to its size.
If you paddle a small canoe, a small pond becomes an ocean to explore and enjoy.
-Henry “Mac” McCarthy
Sometimes, for brief periods, it’s kind of fun to make believe that you don’t own a boat.
Water can float a ship, and sink it even more easily.
Nothing can bail a boat faster than a panicked sailor with a bucket.
One hand for yourself; one hand for the ship.
The only purpose in the life of your boat’s keel is to go to the bottom. If you give it a chance, it will do its job.
-Gregory S. Barsh, Esq.
An expensive anchor is worth it.
-L.J. Wallace, Jr.
I beg you to consider our destiny!
-William F. Buckley, Jr., (On coming on deck to see his helmsman bearing down on a rock pile.)
-The call of the open water is universal.
The ocean and it’s treasures are the common property of all men.
The sea is the matrix of creation, and we have the memory of it in our blood.
But the Sea is tameless: as it was in the beginning, it is now, and shall ever be.
The seas are the heart’s blood of the earth.
The sea isn’t a place, but a fact and a mystery.
The poetry of the sea in written on shore.
-Laura Alexandrine Smith
The sea is my ground and origin; I have no other point of departure.
The true peace of God begins at any spot 1,000 miles from the nearest land.
The sea provides visions, darkness, revelations.
The sea remembers nothing.
-Oliver Wendell Holmes
The most amazing wonder of the sea is it’s unfathomable cruelty.
When the sea fills your every thought awake and asleep, you can no more resist than the tides can the moon.
Hell isn’t fire. It’s the total absence of water.
-Sperry Topsider print advertisement
Never trust her at any time when the calm sea shows her false, alluring smile.
The marriage of wind and sails will never end in divorce.
There is a tide in the affairs of men.
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
On such a full sea are we now afloat,
And we must take the current when it serves,
Or lose our ventures.
–Brutus, Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar
And finally, the one that has always rung the truest for me:
The cure for anything is salt water: sweat, tears… or the sea.
–Isak Dinesen (Nom de’ plume of the author Karen Blixen, of the novel, Out of Africa)
Copyright 2023 by L.J Wallace.