Bottoms Up! Why Do Boats Have Different Hulls?

Hot summer afternoons are here, but how will you spend them? Whether you’re fishing, skiing or just cruising, taking to the water in a boat can provide entertainment and bonding time with family and friends. If you’re looking to buy a new or used boat, however, choosing the right one for you means the difference between a relaxing day catching rays and one spent getting hot under the collar.

One important consideration is the shape of the hull. Matching hull design to intended use will provide better comfort, stability and make maneuvering easier — and remember, safety first.

Flat Bottom: A watercraft with a flat bottom has a small draft and can therefore access shallow-water areas along the shoreline, back of bays and even creeks. They’re known to be fairly stable and stabilize once underway quickly. However, because they ride atop the water, rather than cutting through it as other hulls do, flat-bottom boats are usually limited in the size of their motors. The flat surface may also give a spine-jarring ride in anything less than calm weather. A flat-bottom is typically a smaller craft, such as a jon boat (johnboat) or other aluminum boat, that is good for fishing, hunting and other activities.

What type of boat hull is right you you? What’s your favorite? Join the conversation below!

V-Hull: Your typical powerboat used for skiing, wake boarding, cruising, tubing and fishing, the V-hull has an angled hull that cuts through the water. While the hull is deeper in the water than a flat-bottom, they provide more comfort in rough water, handle (and require) larger motors and are more maneuverable, as they can negotiate sharper turns.

Round Bottom: These hulls allow the craft to move easily through the water, even at slow speeds, but tend to be somewhat unstable — think of how easily a canoe rolls from side to side. While some sailboats, big sea-going trawlers and canoes are built with round bottoms, it’s probably not a hull you’ll run across very often on boats that most people use for water sports like water skiing and fishing this summer.

Multi-Hull: For their size, multi-hull boats are lightweight and fast. They’re also super stable and typically their hulls don’t go as deep into the water as v-hull boats. However, they’re usually larger boats that sit high on the water and require a large area to turn – maneuvering in a finite space, such as around the dock, can be tricky. Pontoon boats are perfect examples of a multi-hull craft, but so are catamarans and some houseboats. 

Brian Lynn
As an editor and writer for such publications as and Outdoor Life, Brian has extensive experience in the outdoors realm. However, his knowledge comes with at the price of experience. You can learn a lot from him because he’s done most of it wrong the first time and can tell you all about what you should do instead.