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Life is not so much compared with a boat but used as a symbol for how life should be lived. Check out the direct quote below.
“Let your boat of life be light, packed with only what you need - a homely home and simple pleasures, one or two friends, worth the name, someone to love and someone to love you, a cat, a dog, and a pipe or two, enough to eat and enough to wear, and a little more than enough to drink; for thirst is a dangerous thing. ”
Three Men in a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog)