What Is the Speed of a Knot?

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Have you ever wondered why the speed of a car is measured in miles per hour (MPH), while the speed of nautical and aerial vehicles is measured in knots? It’s one thing to sit in a car and understand the speed at which you’re traveling, but what is the speed of a knot—and how do you compare knot speed vs MPH?

         In this blog post, your friends at Harbor Breeze Cruises will answer the question, “What is the speed of a knot?” and provide helpful insights into the knot speed vs MPH topic so you can gain a better understanding of how and why speed is measured differently while recording miles on land, on sea, and in the air.

Knot Speed vs MPH: What You Need to Know

         Both knot speed and MPH provide accurate ways to measure speed. They succeed at telling drivers, captains, and pilots how fast they’re going over the course of one hour, which is a useful tool when it comes to planning and making informed decisions during travel. In addition to calculating arrival times, speed factors into navigation and safety.

         A knot measures speed in nautical miles per hour. A nautical mile measures distance. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) writes, “A nautical mile is slightly longer than a mile on land, equaling 1.1508 land-measured (or statute) miles. The nautical mile is based on the Earth’s longitude and latitude coordinates, with one nautical mile equaling one minute of latitude.”

         NOAA adds that this measurement system for marine navigation—a system that utilizes latitude and longitude coordinates—is “more practical for long-distance travel, where the curvature of the Earth becomes a factor in accurate measurement. Nautical charts use latitude and longitude, so it’s far easier for mariners to measure distance with nautical miles.” Since wind speed is also reported in knots, this measurement system also makes it easy for pilots in the air and captains at sea to compare wind speed against their vessel’s speed.


What Is the Speed of a Knot?

         Now that you’re aware why knots are relevant for nautical applications, it’s time for us to answer the question, “What is the speed of a knot?”

         To do this, we’ll reference the knot vs MPH webpage published by National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). NASA provides the following calculation: 

1 knot = 1 nautical mile per hour = 6076 feet per hour

1 mph = 1 mile per hour = 5280 feet per hour

         To calculate the speed of a knot, you’d need to measure the distance traveled in nautical miles and the time in hours. Dividing the distance by the time gives you the speed in knots (the formula is: speed = distance / time). For example, if a ship travels 20 nautical miles in 2 hours, your calculation would look like this: 

20 nautical miles divided by 2 hours = 10 knots 

This calculation indicates that the ship is travelling at a rate of 10 nautical miles for every hour that passes.

         In terms of how knots compare to MPH, think of a knot as only slightly faster than MPH; 1 knot is approximately equal to 1.151 MPH. That means 1 MPH is equal to approximately 0.869 knots.

         Here’s a fun way to compare knot speed vs MPH: if a car is traveling at the speed of 50 MPH, then the conversion factor (1.151 knots/MPH), would mean that a boat would need to be traveling at approximately 57.55 knots to cover the same distance in the same amount of time.


Record Some Nautical Miles with Harbor Breeze Cruises

         At Harbor Breeze Cruises, we traverse countless nautical miles annually as part of our whale watching excursions on the Pacific Ocean. We take great pride in giving our guests a relaxing time on the water while they try to spot magnificent sea creatures such as whales and dolphins.

Why “knot” join us for a cruise? We’d love to welcome you aboard one of our comfortable catamarans! Tickets for our cruises can be purchased online or by calling us at 562-983-6880.

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