Sailing Trip

Replicas of the Nina, Pinta, and the Santa Maria

Image courtesy NASA

You are a sailboat captain in The Hamptons, an upscale vacation venue. You must schedule sailing trips for your company to entertain tourists and make money for your company. Knowing more about the seasonal wind speeds could mean the difference between staying in business and having to close your doors. Remember that you are trying to attract new customers and keep existing patrons. So be thinking of all of the different water sports that you can do to make money. Be sure to look over the data, your business depends on it.
Grade Level: 3 – 5
Estimated Time for Completing Activity: One Hour
Learning Outcomes:
  • Students will observe Monthly Wind Speed data from 1995-2005
  • Students will evaluate changes in the monthly wind speed
  • Students will draw conclusions about how wind speed will effect their company positively or negatively
  • Students will infer locations and months for the best sailing trip
  • Students will manipulate data sets from MyNASAData website
  • Knowledge of longitude and latitude
  • Knowledge of basic directional words
  • Knowledge of continent names and basic location
  • Understanding of outdoor activities that utilize the wind as a source of power.
  • Basic understanding of reading line plots
National Standards:
  • Science Content: E Science and Technology
  • Science Content: F Science in Personal and Social Perspectives
  • Science Content: C Life Science
  • Science Content: G History and Nature of Science
Virginia Standards of Learning:
  • Math3.9: The student will recall the multiplication and division facts through the nines table.
  • Math3.10: The student will represent multiplication and division, using area and set models, and create and solve problems that involve multiplication of two whole numbers, one factor 99 or less and the second factor 5 or less.
  • Math4.7: The student will find the product of two whole numbers when one factor has two digits or fewer and the other factor has three digits or fewer, using estimation and paper and pencil. For larger products (a two-digit numeral times a three-digit numeral), estimation and calculators will be used.
  • Math5.3: The student will create and solve problems involving addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division of whole numbers, using paper and pencil, estimation, mental computation, and calculators.
  • Math5.4: The student will find the sum, difference, and product of two numbers expressed as decimals through thousandths, using an appropriate method of calculation, including paper and pencil, estimation, mental computation, and calculators.
  • Math5.5: The student, given a dividend of four digits or fewer and a divisor of two digits or fewer, will find the quotient and remainder.
  • Math5.6: The student, given a dividend expressed as a decimal through thousandths and a single-digit divisor, will find the quotient.
  • Sci3.8: The student will investigate and understand basic patterns and cycles occurring in nature. Key concepts include patterns of natural events (day and night, seasonal changes, phases of the moon, and tides), and animal and plant life cycles.
  • Sci4.6: The student will investigate and understand how weather conditions and phenomena occur and can be predicted.
  • Sci5.6: The student will investigate and understand characteristics of the ocean environment b) physical characteristics (depth, salinity, major currents).
Lesson Links:

Sailing and snorkeling can be an enjoyable way to spend time outdoors. The trick is coordinating great locations and wind speed. Being safe and having fun, in that order, are major priorities. Wind speed is commonly measured in meters per second or knots. Preferred wind speed for sailing is 3-16 knots. Being in a resort area such as Nassau, you want to follow that strictly. More advanced sailor will venture out in higher scale winds. It is dangerous to sail in conditions over 34 knots.

In the data you are using today, you will view meters per second and compare this to the Beaufort Wind Scale. The Beaufort Wind Scale was developed in 1805 by Sir Francis Beaufort based on observations of the effects of wind. The Beaufort Wind scale measures wind in miles per hour and knots. You will need to convert meters per second from your data to miles per hour using the lesson link above in order to accurately complete this task. Once you have converted the numbers as a class or by the teacher ahead of time you will be able to make a determination as to your locations that will work best for a sailing trip.


1. Click on the Live Access Server link above.
2. If not automatically prompted with dataset choices, click on ‘Choose Dataset’ in the upper left portion of the screen. then click on Oceans, Monthly Wind Speed-Climatology 1995 to 2005 (NOAA NCDC).
3. From the menu to the left click on ‘Time Series’ found under ‘Line Plots’
4. In the Longitude and Latitude value boxes, type in 40.96 N and 72.25 W
5. For the time range select: Jan to Dec
6. Be sure to click on the radio button next to ‘Update Plot’ to see your changes
7. Respond to the prompts under the Questions section of the lesson.


Using the background knowledge about sailing and safe ranges of wind speed, list the months of the year that would not be safest to sail. Explain why.
What range of time is best to take tourists on sailing trips?

As the company owner, you want to get away for a vacation. What month or months would you most likely choose as your vacation time frame? Why?

For each of the months represented in your plot, indicate the highest Beaufort Scale Force number on your answer sheet. Refer to the Beaufort Wind Scale link above.

What correlations can you make between scale force number and time of the year?

On the back of your worksheet, write a few sentences explaining what you think wind conditions are like further south in Florida. Do you think that the months that are the windiest are the same down there?

Use the MND LAS to plot wind speeds for a location in FL.

Money Matters:
You can take up to 15 passengers on your sailboat per trip. Your trips are about one hour each. In a typical day, you make 7 trips. You charge 15 dollars per passenger, per trip.

If you make all 7 trips with a full boat each time, how much money do you make in one day?

You have a crew of 2 not including yourself. If you make 7 trips with a full boat and split the money evenly, how much would you make in one day?

In one day you sail about 420 miles. This takes one whole tank of gas. If gas is 2.89 dollars per gallon and your tank is 42 gallons, how much money does it cost to fill your tank daily?

If you split the cost of gas between the crew, how much does gas cost each of you per day?

If you subtract the daily cost of gas from your daily earnings, how much do you make per day?

With 7 days of sailing 7 trips a day with a full boat, how much do you make per week? (Do not forget to subtract daily gas amounts)

With a month of sailing 7 trips a day with a full boat, how much do you make per month? (Do not forget to subtract daily gas amounts)


Take a look at your local weather and determine if conditions are right to participate in outdoor activities that require the wind (i.e sailing, kite flying, hang gliding.)

Lesson plan contributed by Becky Schnekser, MY NASA DATA Team

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