Knot your Average Mile

by | Jan 25, 2019 | Boat/Product Reviews

One of the best ways to tell a true captain from just your average boater is the units with which they refer to their location, the wind, and the boat. While most people in the U.S. prefer to use the units miles for distance and miles per hour for speed, seasoned captains will opt to instead use nautical miles for distance and knots for speed.

So just where did these other units come from and why are these special units used?

One of the reasons that these special units are used is that they are universal and are used worldwide by all nations. The nautical mile is the standard unit for sea and air travel around the world!

What makes a nautical mile different from a regular mile is that a nautical mile is based off of the circumference of the Earth and is equal to one minute of a degree of latitude. This contrasts with the “regular” mile aka statute mile which was based simply off of measurements of paces in ancient times by the Romans.

When referring to speed, the unit of choice for captains (and pilots!) is the knot. The knot is simply the amount of nautical miles which the vehicle is traveling at per hour. Funny enough, this unit of measurement actually originated from the counting of knots. Over 400 years ago, crew on ships would throw a knotted rope out off the stern of the boat with a floating piece of wood on the end (essentially an early buoy). They would let the rope uncoil for a set amount of time. Then, after this time was up, they would reel the rope back in and count the number of knots on the rope. They would use this number to determine their speed.

Nowadays, we can use GPS, radar, and many other methods to find our speed, yet we still call it the knot, an homage to sailors of the past who had to quite literally count knots.

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