Average Boat Speeds: Sailboat, Pontoon, & Cruiser

If you’re thinking about getting a boat and have a need for speed, this post is for you! What’s the average speed of a boat? Listed below are the average and top speeds for three of the most common boat types: sailboat, cruiser, and pontoon.

Boat TypeAverage SpeedTop Speed
Sailboat 8mph12mph
Cruiser16mph – 30mph50mph
Pontoon15mph – 30mph35mph

The fastest boat speed recorded was 317.6 mph (511 km/h). A jet engine (rather than a propeller) was utilized to power a speedboat in 1978.

Cigarette boats, often known as rum-runners, were motorboats designed for quick travel in the past. The slender-shaped boats could reach speeds of 90 mph in flat and calm waters.

This isn’t your typical boat speed. Rum-runners were given an extra speed boost to help them evade everyone while carrying out their smuggling operations.

Read on to know the average boat speeds, including the top boat speeds of sailboats, cruisers, and pontoons.

Need for Speed

A speedy boat ride is the best way to get your adrenaline pumping. If you’re going to use a boat for water activities that need speed, you’ll need to know how fast it can go. Water skiing, tubing, long-distance travel, or simply taking your friends or family on a thrilling fast ride are all activities that require speed.

Boats that pull water skiers go at speeds ranging from 10 to 35 miles per hour. For beginner water skiers, a boat speed of 10 mph is recommended. Experienced water skiers participating in water events, such as jumps or slaloms, should use a higher speed of 35 miles per hour.

Because of the varying speeds, we can see that average boat speeds are determined by the action. If you wish to cruise around calm waters, a boat with a top speed of 15 mph is ideal.

The idea is to find a balance between fuel economy and speed. In general, a faster boat consumes more fuel than a slower one. So, if you’re looking to buy a fast boat, keep that in mind.

Factors Affecting Boat Speed

The most important determinants of boat speed are the hull type and length. When less of a boat’s body is submerged in water, it is more likely to move faster. A speedier boat is one that is longer.

I’ll go through three of the most important factors that influence boat speed, and they are:

  1. Length of Boat
  2. Hull Type
  3. Wind Speed & Direction

Length of Boat

Hull speed is influenced by the length of the boat. A faster boat is one that is longer. For boats, this is a rule of thumb.

The following are the maximum hull speeds for various boat lengths:

26ft8m12.6 7.86.8

Hull Type

A sailboat with a monohull or displacement hull will be able to go at standard speeds of 4.5mph to 7mph or 4-6 knots. Using a planing hull, however, will allow it to cruise at incredible speeds of 35 to 58mph (30-50 knots) or 55-92kmh. Racing sailboats’ planing hulls are a major factor in their remarkable speeds.

Wind Speed & Direction

Another important aspect that affects your average boat speed is the wind speed and direction. Of course, this is pretty important for sailboats. If you wish to sail across the ocean in a sailboat, you must consider these factors. When sailing, you also want a favorable current and to be downwind as much as possible.

Sailboat, Cruiser, & Pontoon Average and Top Boat Speeds

Boat TypeAverage SpeedTop Speed
Sailboat 8mph12mph
Pontoon15mph – 30mph35mph
Cruiser16mph – 30mph50mph

Sailboat Average Boat Speed

Harnessing the wind is a crucial ability for moving a sailboat quickly. The average cruising speed of a sailboat is between 8 and 12 miles per hour. Sailboats, on the other hand, can reach higher speeds, such as the world record speed of almost 75 mph set in 2012.

What was the top speed of early sailboats? Ships sailing in the 15th century, such as Columbus’ ship, had an average cruising speed of 4 knots and a top speed of 8 knots, according to records. When converted to miles, that sailing pace would be between 4 and 9 miles per hour.

Take a look at this 2012 sailboat speed record:

Pontoon Boat Average Boat Speed

A pontoon boat is capable of reaching very high speeds, making it more than simply a leisurely cruise on a lake.

A pontoon may reach speeds of more than 30 mph under the right conditions. If a pontoon has a larger engine and the conditions are ideal, it can even reach 35 mph.

A pontoon with a 90 horsepower motor, for example, can easily reach speeds of more than 30 mph. When a 60 horsepower engine is combined with a 20-foot pontoon, the maximum speed is around 15 miles per hour.

Placing a 90HP engine on a pontoon, on the other hand, can propel it to a top speed of roughly 25mph, even when loaded with a few passengers.

Here’s an example of a pontoon boat traveling much faster than usual:

Cruiser Average Boat Speed

The top boat for families in the U.S. is a cruiser-style motorboat with a reasonable price range.

A cruiser’s slowest cruising speed is roughly 16 mph. Cruisers, on the other hand, are notable for their fuel efficiency. A cruiser can travel more than 800 miles without refueling when cruising at modest speeds.

A sport fisher is a form of cruiser that is faster. It has been known to reach high speeds of over 50 miles per hour and a comfortable cruising speed of around 30 miles per hour.

When taking a trip that may take several days, a larger motorboat is the best option. Larger cruisers can comfortably go at speeds of around 30 miles per hour.

Standard Boat Speeds: Fuel Use

Traveling quickly on a motorboat is usually exciting and enjoyable. However, the cost of fuel can burn a hole in your wallet.

For example, a 24-foot speedboat cruising at 7 mph will consume around 3 gallons of fuel every hour. A cruising speed of 15 miles per hour will now consume 7 gallons per hour.

When you increase the speed to 30 mph, the fuel consumption rises to 11 gallons per hour! Even so, 24-foot motorboats may reach speeds of more than 45 miles per hour.

There are fuel-efficient powerboat models that addressed the issue of motorboat fuel consumption. Even when traveling at leisurely speeds, these types of motorboats save fuel.

Laws for Boat Speed

When driving on the road, you are aware of the allowable speed limit. Usually, the speed limit is posted on the side of the road. Boat speed regulation, on the other hand, is more difficult to define.

Boat speed limitations are not posted on beaches or along waterfronts. The reason is that several factors can affect the speed limit. The type of boat, the time, the waterway type, and other factors all have an effect.

Sailing in open water, such as an ocean, a large lake, or sea, with a clear view ahead of you, allows you to accelerate your boat. When traveling near a bay, shore, or river, however, you must travel at a slower speed.

But the “No Wake Zone” sign is the one to look out for. This sign is commonly found along the docks, near the shore, canals, and marinas. A boat should slowly move if it sees this sign. A swell can endanger swimmers, boaters, wildlife, and other boaters.

A wake can be seen if the speed is greater than 5 mph. This means that in “No Wake Zone” areas, you must be extra cautious with your speed.

This is a sensible guideline that ensures the safety of everyone on the water.

Conclusion – What Are the Average Boat Speeds? [Sailboat, Pontoon, Cruiser]

A sailboat’s, pontoon’s, and cruiser’s average boat speed are as follows:

Boat TypeAverage SpeedTop Speed
Sailboat 8mph12mph
Pontoon15mph – 30mph35mph
Cruiser16mph – 30mph50mph

Boats of different types travel at varying speeds. Current and wind conditions, for example, can have an impact on speed. The speed of a boat is also affected by its length. Larger boats also travel at a faster speed.

When it comes to long travels, the average speed of the boat is the first thing that boaters want to know. The major factors that impact a boat’s speed are its purpose and size. Larger and bulkier ships move more slowly than racing sailboats with sleek designs.

As previously mentioned, the longer the boat’s length, the faster it goes. Other important boat speed factors include the wind and the hull type. With that said, have fun speeding about on the water, but always remember to keep safety in mind.