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How to Calculate Boat Travel Time

Planning to arrive at a destination by boat can be a stressful situation if you're in a time crunch. Many boaters use past boat trips as a benchmark when calculating travel time to estimate when they need to leave their dock in order to arrive at a destination on time. Instead of using old boating experiences to predict boat travel times, there is a simple and effective nautical distance calculation known as the distance, speed, and time 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. The following is an example scenario to get you familiar with how to calculate travel time by boat.

Boat Trip Scenario

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

Variations of the Equation

The distance, speed, and time 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 distance, speed and time equation for calculating boating times.

  • Distance = Speed x Time
  • Time = Distance/Speed
  • Speed = Distance/Time

For this scenario, we have to determine the travel time by boat for getting to the island party. Referring to the scenario above, we know that:

  • Island party starts at 8 p.m.
  • 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 knots, which is nautical miles per hour.

  • 1 mile/hour = 0.868976 knots (kts)
  • Island is 17 nautical miles away
  • Your boat cruising speed is 20 kts

Now, your numbers look like this:

  • Island party starts at 8 p.m.
  • 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 T = D/S equation to calculate boat travel time.

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 (minutes in 1 hour) = 50 minutes

So, your trip will take 50 minutes from your dock to the island. The last part of the equation is to subtract the travel time by boat from the time the party starts.

8 p.m. – 50 min = 7:10 p.m.

So, in order to make it to the island party at 8 p.m., you’ll need to leave at 7:10 p.m. It’s important to factor in weather and water conditions before heading out and adjust your travel time and distance as needed, especially if you're taking an alternate route.

Boat Lifts For Easy Departure

To help make your trip easier and reduce boating times, make sure you have a boat lift that can get you and your boat out on the water quickly. Traveling long distances by boat is no match for Jet Dock! We offer patented floating docks and boat lifts that make it easy to dock and launch your boat at a moment's notice. With no moving parts, your Jet Dock will lift your boat completely out of the water, preventing extra wear and tear from marine life. We don’t just stop at boats, we also make jet ski docks, kayak dock options, and more. When it’s time to leave for your next island party, Jet Docks are designed to give you plenty of room to safely board and launch your boat, and they even feature a non-slip surface to prevent trips and slips. Get a Jet Dock today and make it to your island party on time — every time.

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