The original version appeared on Thorn's first solo album A Distant Shore in 1982. It was re-recorded and released as Thorn's first single on 7" vinyl later that year. The b-side "Goodbye Joe" is a cover version of a song by fellow Cherry Red Records recording artists Monochrome Set.
The single sleeve featured the Robert Doisneau photograph Le baiser de l'hôtel de ville (Kiss by the Hôtel de Ville) and hand-lettering by Thorn herself. Thorn did not release another solo single until "It's All True" 25 years later.
In June 2010, Thorn performed "Plain Sailing" live for the first time in nearly 30 years, during an appearance on the NPR programme World Cafe.