Handle with Care: Flying Blind

Handle with Care: Flying Blind Apr 8, 2021

By Dusty Miller

I have been testing boats for many years and have been boating all of my life, so I can tell you that all boats are different. They all act and react differently in confined waters as well as in open waters. This fact becomes particularly important when you are considering purchasing a new boat.

My advice – look carefully at the market place. Don’t be quickly distracted by the beautiful styles and the aesthetically pleasing interiors for they are designed specifically to look comfortable and to have a dockside appeal.

The hull, on the other hand, many not look all that interesting, but it’s one feature that should definitely not be ignored. In truth, a little knowledge of hull designs can go a long way.

Each hull has a unique attitude that manifests itself in its maneuverability and its performance. Hulls in some ways can be compared to horses. Some are swayback, moving slowly through the water and relatively easy to control, while others are like stallions, quick to rear up and difficult to handle.

So how do you find the one that is right for you? The trick is to know what your needs are and to match that with your comfort level. Unfortunately, many boat owners have purchased the wrong horse and spent the summer trying to break it in.

The moment the winds get up, the boat is spooked and there is very little control. So, do yourself a favour and spend that little extra time to test ride a few vessels before signing on the dotted line.

Knowledge of some basic terminology will come in handy before the hunt begins. It is important to know that:

The attitude of the hull is determined by the chines and depth of the keel;

The deadrise is the degree of the V measured at the transom (thus gives you stability in heavy water as well as a softer ride)

Tracking is the boat’s ability to maintain a straight course.

For the best handling, it is important to balance the depth of the V of the keel and the chines, which give the vessel its riding and cornering ability. If the chines are too far forward, the vessel will have stability but at the expense of a much harder ride. It’s also important to know the four basic hull designs each of which host s number of variables:

Full displacement hull

The main characteristics of this type of hull are that it is forward moving but tracks well and it usually has a larger keel section on the bottom of the boat running the full length if the hull. This type of hull is usually found in a trawler design and suits the temperament of the easygoing skipper.

The hull displaces water as it moves through it and is usually designed for economic long distance running. This hull handles well in rough seas and also in confined quarters because it is slow moving and is minimally affected by the winds. Thus, the skipper is allowed more control.


In this type of hull, the depth of the keel and hard chines contribute to making this hull work exceptionally well in rough water, offering a tremendous amount of stability. This is due to the hull’s deep entry from the stern progressing far forward to the bow. This hull design is generally used in motor yachts and some trawlers.

Planning hull

These hulls are basically designed for speed. They possess an uncanny ability to get on top of the water because of their flat wet surfaces. But beware, in heavy water. Prepare yourself for a rough ride since this hull has a tendency of landing hard on its confined quarters, there is very little to slow the swings so get used to the movement.

Deep-V hull

This hull was designed originally for offshore racing because of its stability caused by the deep V in the stern. This design feature slows the entry when hitting waves and, because the V is carried quite far forward, it provides good tracking in confined quarters.

So given a little information, you should be able to choose a vessel that will suit your particular application. Styles of boats vary as much as the characteristics of their owners. I am always interested to hear what problems other boaters might have come across when handling their boat.


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