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How to Calculate Travel Time & Distance by Boat

Planning to arrive at a destination by boat is a stressful situation. Many boaters use past boat trips as a benchmark to try to conclude the time they must leave their dock to arrive at a destination early enough. Instead of using old boating experiences to predict arrival times, there is a simple and effective calculation known as the distance, time, and speed equation. This equation factors in how far you need to travel and the speed of your boat to determine how long it will take to arrive at your destination. Here is an example scenario to get you familiar with calculating your arrival time.

Boat trip scenario

Let’s assume that you have to leave your dock to travel to an island party starting at 8:00 PM. The Island is about 17 nautical miles from your marina and you plan on cruising at a speed of 23 miles per hour. By using the distance, time, and speed equation, you will be able to determine how long it will take to get there.

Variations of the equation

The distance, time, and speed equation is D = S x T. The “D” represents distance, “S” represents speed and “T” represents time. Any one part of this equation can be solved if there are numbers for the other two parts. Below are all the variations of the time, distance, and speed equation.

  • Distance = Speed x Time (D = S x T)
  • Time = Distance / Speed (T = D / S)
  • Speed = Distance / Time (S = D / T)

For this scenario, we have to determine the time it will take to get to the island party. Referring to the scenario above, we know that:

  • Island party starts at 8:00 PM
  • Island is 17 nautical miles away
  • Your boat cruising speed is 23 mph

Converting your measurements

The cruising speed of your boat is not the same unit of measurement as your distance. Calculating this equation using mph would produce an inaccurate answer and a wrong arrival time.

Instead of using mph for the equation, you need to convert your speed into knot, which are nautical miles per hour.

1 mile/hour equals 0.868976 knots

23 mph equals approximately 20 knots per hour (25 mph x 0.868976 = 19.9865 kts).

Now, your numbers look like this:

  • Island party starts at 8:00 PM
  • Island is 17 nautical miles away
  • Your boat cruising speed is 20 kts

Solving for time

Now that we have the correct speed and our time of arrival, we need to use the Time = Distance / Speed (T = D / S) equation.

17 (nautical miles) / 20 (kts) = 0.85 hours

Based on the equation, it will take you .85 hours to get to the island party. Below is the equation to convert this number into minutes.

.85 x 60 (min in 1 hour) = 50 minutes

Your trip will take 50 minutes from your dock to the island. The last part of the equation is to subtract the time it will take you to arrive at the island, from the time the party starts.

8:00pm – 50 min = 7:10 PM

So, in order to make it to the island party at 8:00 PM you need to leave at 7:10 PM. It’s important to factor in weather and water conditions before heading out and adjust your time if needed.

Boat lifts for easy departure

To help make your trip easier, make sure you have a boat lift that can get you and your boat out on the water quickly. JetDock are patented floating docks and boat lifts that make it easy to dock and launch your boat at a moment's notice. There are no moving parts and your JetDock will lift your boat completely out of the water, preventing extra wear and tear from marine life. When it’s time to leave for your island party, JetDocks are designed to give you plenty of room to safely board and launch your boat and feature a non-slip surface. Get a JetDock today and make it to your island party on time.

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