The Different Types of Boat Hulls and Their Advantages

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boat hulls

Those who are new to the sport of sailing, the nautical sciences, and all things related to boating may be intimidated at first by all the technical talk involved when discussing the most important features of a boat. Indeed, there’s a lot to learn about the different aspects of a watercraft, like how construction affects the performance of the boat, and how the design of any one boat will make it more suitable for one function over another. Given all these, you might wonder, “how will I choose a boat that best suits my needs?”

Thankfully, building a list preferences when buying a boat is not too different from when you’re buying another vehicle—say a car or a personal truck. Similar factors come into play, including build quality, comfort, speed, stability, fuel efficiency, and price. Assessing these different considerations can help you make final decision on whether to purchase a particular boat or not.

This is where considering the boat’s hull design comes in. As you might know, the hull is the watertight body of the boat, the main part of the vessel that mainly goes underwater. The hulls on commercial boats fall under two main categories:According to Gerard Mussard, Chief Service Engineer at Europa Yachts Philippines, the boat hull type is one of the main factors that prospective boat buyers must consider when choosing a vessel. After all, a boat’s hull design is at the core of what each watercraft is meant to accomplish on water.

To help you with making the right choice, we’re providing you this short guide about the different types of boat hulls, beginning with the two main categories of commercial boat hulls.

Oceanis 46.1 Sailing
Port Vendres, France, August 2018
New Beneteau Oceanis 46.1
Ph: Guido Cantini / Beneteau
  1. Displacement hull. Boats with a displacement hull are meant to displace water as they move. Due to this mechanism, a displacement hull is able to cut more deeply into the water while allowing the boat to move with little propulsion.
  2. Planing hull. On the other hand, boats with a planing hull are designed in such a way that they are able to glide on top of the water with great speed if enough propulsion is provided.

Slower-moving boats like sailboats typically employ displacement hulls, while power boats and are typically built with planing hulls. Nevertheless, a boat with a planing hull may also displace enough water if it moves slowly enough. The faster it goes, the more it is able to achieve a planing action by gliding on top of the water.

Now that we’ve discussed the two main types of hulls based on how they interact with surrounding water, let’s take a closer at the different types of hulls based on their basic shapes:

  1. Flat-bottom hull. The flat-bottom hull is a planing hull that is well-adapted for activities on calm waters and is notable for its stability under tranquil weather conditions. This type of hull is commonly found on small boats such as rowboats and dinghies, and it is ideal for fishing and leisurely rowing on small bodies of water. Riding a boat with a flat-bottom hull, however, may prove to be quite tricky on rough waters.
  2. Round-bottom hull. As the name implies, the round-bottom hull is a displacement hull that assumes a rounded shape. The shape limits the amount of drag on the boat, thus allowing it to move across the water more easily even when the boat is cruising at a lower speed. The drawback of a round-bottom hull, however, is that it is more easily prone to rolling, so boats with this type of hull can benefit from having a deeper and heavier keel. Familiar examples of boats with this type of hull are canoes and kayaks.
  3. Deep-V hull. The deep-V hull is a planing hull that is made for cruising on choppier waters, and for boating activities that take place far from the shore. The V-shape enables the boat to accelerate to planing speed quickly, all while consuming less fuel. Common motorboats are an example of boats that have deep-V hulls built into them.
  4. Stepped hull. Touted by many as the better planing hull alternative to the deep-V, the stepped hull is named for the longitudinal notches or “steps” that run from one side of the boat, down to its keel, and then to its other side. These steps create an air induction effect that reduces the wetted surface area of the boat, thus reducing drag and allowing the boat to achieve greater speeds while being even more fuel efficient. This feature is present in some big luxury vessels like the Oceanis 51.1 and Oceanis 46.1 stepped-hull boats, which are renowned watercrafts created by the illustrious French sailboat and powerboat manufacturer Bénéteau.
  5. Multi-hull. Multi-hull boats such as catamarans and trimarans more often sport displacement hulls, although there are some that employ planing hulls as well. While mono-hull sailboats typically require a stabilizing weight in the keel, multi-hull boats achieve stability due to the sheer broadness of their profile. Multi-hull boats like Lagoon catamarans are sought after by yachting enthusiasts because they are roomy and spacious, aside from cutting a mean figure on the water.

Acquiring extensive knowledge of boats and the distinctive features that make each of them unique will likely be a lifelong endeavor. However, the art of boating has been celebrated by humankind for hundreds of years, so there will always be those among us who will be enamored by the seafaring lifestyle. Knowing the basic types of boat hulls is a good way to get started on your own yachting journey.

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