How Fast Is A Knot

On certain forms of transport there is a chance that you have heard the term knot being referred to as a unit used to measure speed. You will most commonly hear knot being used when you are on a ship.

However, this speed measurement is nearly always used on methods of transportation which are not commonly used or handled by most people, like boats or planes.

Because of this, most people do not know how fast a knot is, or even what it means at all. Some people do not even know that knots are used to measure speed.

How Fast Is A Knot

It makes sense that most people do not know how fast a knot is, especially considering that when it comes to measuring speed, most people are accustomed to used miles per hour, or in some countries, kilometers per hour.

This makes sense since most people will know how to drive, or will be driven much more regularly than they would travel by boat or plane.

However, if you are travelling by boat or plane, you have probably heard the term knots being used, and if you are like most people and do not know exactly how this speed measurement works, you likely have wondered just how fast this speed measurement is.

You may have also wondered why miles/kilometers per hour have not been adopted since this unit makes a lot more sense in theory. 

So, if you have had any of these questions before and you want to know how fast a knot is, why knots are used, and how fast it is compared to other units of measurement, then this article is for you, so keep reading!

How Fast Is A Knot?

You will sometimes hear a knot being referred to using a different name, with the most common being one nautical mile per hour. However, this inevitably raises the question of how long a nautical mile is, and what the difference is between a standard mile and a nautical mile. 

So, the definition of a nautical mile is what the distance is between two points or minutes of latitude which are on the globe, and compared to a statute mile, it is about 1.15 statute miles or use for exact calculations 1.15078.

Because of this, it is actually quite easy to calculate the difference between knots and miles per hour, all you have to do is multiply your knots by 1.15, and then you will get your miles per hour. 

An example of this is, if you are on a ship which is travelling at a speed of 20 knots, then by multiplying 20 by 1.15, you will get 23, so a boat which is travelling at 20 knots, is travelling at 23 miles an hour. 

If you want to know how a knot is denoted, for example a mile per hour speed is denoted as MPH, then a knot is denoted using KN. You will find that your standard cruise ship will be moving at a speed between 21 and 23 knots, which using our prior calculator is about 24 and 26 miles per hour.

Some will get slower, some will be faster, but generally speaking, this is how fast a boat like this will be.

Since there is not much difference between knots and miles per hour, then you are probably wondering why knots are even used in the first place, so why is this.

Why Is The Term Knots Used?

If you are unaware, knot is actually quite a historical measurement, and it originated all the way back in the 17th century. It was originally used by sailors of this era as a method to estimate the speed at which they were sailing.

To measure this they would use a piece of wood which they would call a common log. Then attached to this log they would have a piece of rope which will have knots tied on at a standard interval.

Once their boat was moving they would throw the log into the sea.

They would then leave it in for a certain amount of time which would have usually been recorded using an hourglass, and after the time was up they would simply count the number of knots which had ended up in the sea, and these would be counted to measure the knots. Because of this older method of counting speed, the term was adopted for use when measuring nautical miles.

Of course, it is worth pointing out that this 17th century system was not particularly centralized and there was not one particular way of counting knots, so the term was changed at some point to be used to denote the speed at which a nautical mile is done in an hour.

The main reason in which ships specifically use the speed system of knots so frequently is because it is a specific speed which is related to nautical miles, and of course when you are travelling by sea, nautical miles are much more commonly used than standard miles.

When you are travelling in the ocean, you would not use a system used to travel land miles, so using nautical miles, which are measured using knots, of course makes sense. 

Sometimes when you are on a boat, you will hear staff referring to speed using miles per hour, but this is usually done for the sake of passengers who want a more understandable method of telling the speed.

However, if this article has made it clear enough for you, you should have realized that the knot system is not actually that complicated and quite easy to learn by using the 1.15 multiplication method.

While knots has been used since back in the 17th century, this method of measurement did not get standardized in nations like the UK and US until the 20th century. The method of using nautical miles was standardized in the US in 1954, and it was adopted over in the UK as recently as 1970.

How Fast Is A Knot?