Sea travel times


How long would it reasonably take to travel the following distances by sea:

1. The width of the Mediterranean.
2. Crete to Sicily.
3. Gibraltar to Sicily.
4. Genoa to the southern tip of Italy.
5. Cyprus to the mouth of the Nile.
5. Orkney Islands to Iceland.
6. Ireland to nearest point of North America.

I don’t need to know the times for those actual routes specifically, just those sorts of distances.

Assume sailing technology of:
1. 1550AD merchant vessel; and
2. 1550AD military vessel.
Both types capable and designed for travel on the open ocean, not just coast hugging.

Assume no unusual delays caused by, say being becalmed or by storms.

Any advice would be appreciated.


Myth Weaver
There are people that know this far better than me.
One thing does come to mind... The weather and currents. okay that is two things
Sea travel time vary by the winds available, sea currents and the time of year.
For some reason [prevailing winds and currents I assume] it is far slower to sail from Ireland to North America, than it is from North America to Ireland.
If you are looking at a distance per hour as a rough guide. Then I'd go with 5 knots / 5.75 mph / 9.25 kph and let people talk you out of it.


The trip to Plymouth on the Mayflower is slightly later than the time period specified, but it took 66 days for it to go from England to Massachusetts. A trip from Ireland might take a bit less time than that. As for the Orkneys to Iceland, according to some travel websites offering boat tours on sailing powered vessels, the trip takes 22 days.While modern sailing vessels are more advanced than ones in the 16th Century, 22 days is still fairly long by modern standards. If you want to be safe, you might say that it takes a month to get from the Orkneys to Iceland.


No problem. Also, one thing to keep in mind: Although sailing ships can sail up to 20+ knots in good winds, average speed on a trip will be about 6 to 6.5 knots at most, and that's only with clippers. Most ships would sail closer to 4-5 knots on average.


Something interesting: a buddy of mine rowed across the Atlantic from New York Harbor to England as part of a four-man team in a 29-foot rowboat in about two months. The whole story is here. He also wrote a wonderful book about it called "Rowing Into the Son."


What was interesting is that even though his team had the latest and greatest technology: a modern boat and gear, modern training (they literally had an Olympic rower on the team along with three collegiate champions), chase boats for safety, energy bars, and whatnot, the world record for that crossing is still held by two crazy Swedes back in the 1800's.
  • Like
Reactions: yli