I'm looking for an adjective that describes the fact that a ship is sailing at sea. Much as "afoot" describes a person being in the state of walking. I was hoping "asail" would be a word, but can't find it from Google.

The word would replace the square brackets in the following example:

In Plato's ship of state metaphor, a ship is [sailing at sea], helmed by a captain ...

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    asea: at sea merriam-webster.com/dictionary/a-sea The word also means 'seaward'. – Kris Jun 5 '14 at 10:56
  • Oh okay, that's probably even better than afloat :). – Lou Jun 5 '14 at 10:57
  • Afloat does not have to be on the sea, it could be in the bath tub even. – Kris Jun 5 '14 at 11:01
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    ... But alake/ acanal / areservoir / abathtub are sadly not available. – Edwin Ashworth Jun 5 '14 at 11:10
  • Without further context, I think the choice between the various suggestions here is not obvious. '[Out] at sea' itself (the captain wouldn't be 'helming' if the ship weren't sailing) seems the obvious choice, 'asea' being omitted from some quality dictionaries, doubtless because it is archaic. – Edwin Ashworth Jun 5 '14 at 11:17

You are looking for afloat:

  1. floating
  2. out at sea
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  • Oh, silly me, I know that word; I don't know why I didn't think of it. You and Elian gave the same answer, I'll accept yours simply because you answered about 9 seconds quicker :P. – Lou Jun 5 '14 at 10:44
  • Well aware, cheers. It wouldn't let me click it until a certain period of time had elapsed - I only found out now that there was a grace period. – Lou Jun 5 '14 at 10:55
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    +1 and much better than adrift. – bib Jun 5 '14 at 11:10
  • The vessel is at sea, not out at sea, really. And floating and afloat? Hmm, not really. A ship can be afloat and not at all at sea or out at sea. – Lambie May 27 at 18:14

“Afloat,” though, all too conspicuously lacks any connotation of purposeful motion. The nautical term you seek is, I believe, “underway”:

a. Naut. Of a vessel: under way; having begun to move through the water. [OED]

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  • Well, indicating motion isn't necessarily important for Plato's ship of state metaphor: the captain is a deaf idiot with no idea how to sail; the crew no better; it's a miracle they're even afloat, let alone underway :). Still, +1 for another good word. – Lou Jun 5 '14 at 11:05

What comes to mind is afloat.

In Plato's ship of state metaphor, a ship is afloat, helmed by a captain ...

afloat: floating on water; being at sea

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Another alternative would be simply at sea: "In Plato's ship of state metaphor, a ship is at sea, helmed by a captain . . ."

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  • "asea" is just a contraction of "at sea". – Hot Licks Nov 11 '19 at 19:48

I submit for everyone's approval, remove the word "is" and use the phrase, "while under sail".

a ship while under sail, helmed by a captain ...

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It it common to say "on duty" but that changes the metaphore.

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