Back when I was in elementary school, today was called Columbus Day, and we celebrated it as a historic event rather than for the introduction of diseases whose lethality made the Black Death look tame and the eventual displacement of a continents’ or two’s inhabitants.
In 5th grade, we roped off an area about the size of the Santa Maria, Columbus’ largest ship. It was quite small. To put it in perspective, an Olympic long jumper would almost run out of deck doing their run up. And the crew was only slightly larger than my class but were stuck on the boat for 2 months. And Columbus decided to sail 3 of these into unknown territory.
Okay, so he underestimated the circumference of the Earth by about a factor of 2. And he was probably motivated by wealth and glory. Still, that took balls.
Of course, if the goal was to simply make longitudinal progress, why wouldn’t you sail closer to the poles? Okay, the trade winds wouldn’t be in your favor, but sailing along 60 degrees north latitude is twice as effective as sailing along the equator.