Everything You Need To Know About The Tri-Hull Boat

Everything You Need To Know About The Tri-Hull Boat

Boats come in all shapes and sizes. From V-hull boats, pontoon boats, flatboats, and bass boats. However, have you ever heard of the tri-hull boat?

Similar to other boats, a tri-hull contains the typical ‘V’ hull button, however, it also has two additional hulls on either side.

Due to this particular design, these boats have greater stability than other ‘V’–bottomed boats. Although, since there is an increase in the bow’s surface area; it makes for a rougher ride on choppy water.

This tri-hull boat design is most common in boats ranging between 10 to 12 feet in length – with shorter boats taking advantage of the design’s stability. These small, dinghy still boats are typically used by recreational fishermen on peaceful lakes.

With all this in mind, this article will be exploring everything you need to know about tri-hull boats: the advantages, the disadvantages, and why they may not be as popular as they once were.

Let’s get straight into it.

Tri-Hull Boat

If you’re unfamiliar with the world of boating, then you may be surprised to know that some boats contain two hulls, such as the catamarans, let alone three! While you may believe this to be overkill, it is a popular design choice when it comes to boats.

Essentially, tri-bulls boats are the same as ‘V’-hulled boats, although they constrain two additional hulls on either side of the middle ‘V’ hull. If you’re looking directly at a tri-hull boat, you’ll notice that the bottom is shaped like an ‘M’.

This design enhances the stability of the boat. Although, as previously mentioned, due to the bow’s larger surface area; it makes for a rougher ride on choppy conditionals.

The boat’s smaller, dinghy design makes it more suitable for lakes – ranging between 10 to 12 feet in length.

Tri-hull boats are also commonly referred to as Tunnel and Cathedral hull boats and are very popular among sport boat enthusiasts and recreational anglers. The design of the boats makes them more stable and buoyant which allows them to get on planes quicker.

Although, at greater speeds, these boats are more prone to pound when encountering choppy water conditions. Therefore, making it unsuitable for non-flat water. On the other hand, they’re ideal for placid lakes and calm bays.

Additional Description Of Tri-Hull Boats

As their name suggests, these boats are known as tri-hulls for containing three hulls located at the bottom of the boat.

The original designs were based on the traditional double-outrigger hull watercraft found in East Indonesia and the Philippines and can be found in other cultures such as the Austeroesian parts of Southeast Asia.


Tri-hull boats are also known as trimarans. Typically, these are constructed for sports and tournament use, as well as fishing and recreational boating (see also our guide to converting a Jon boat to a bass boat). Many years ago, the design of these boats was also used when building ferries and warships.

The combination of later developments and modern technology has vastly improved the design of the tri-hull boats, enhancing their buoyancy, performance, and speed.

As a whole, these boats are known as multi-hulls boats, found in the same category as the catamaran and tri-hull pontoon boats.

Tunnel Hull Boats

They are also sometimes known as tunnel hull boats since when running on the water, these boats form large tunnels at their bottoms. They are extremely similar to V-hulled boats, although they constrain a more pronounced bottom shape.

Due to the boat’s particular hull design, less contact is made with the water, producing less drag and more buoyancy. This makes them faster than traditional sailing boats with the original hull design.

As they contain three hulls at the bottom, these boats generally have more deck space. Moreover, boaters can expect improved stability with these boats.

Advantages Of Tri-Hull Boats

Tri-hull boats contain many different advantages that you won’t be able to receive from conventional hull boat designs. Below, you will find some advantages of tri-hulled boats:

About The Tri-Hull Boat

They Sail Faster

As opposed to typical boats that only contain one hull, these boats contain three. This ensures even distribution across the three hulls as opposed to just one.

Compared to more conventional boats, the hulls found on tri-hull boats are higher up from the water.

This ensures that most of the boat remains above water, which, in turn, reduces the amount of drag.

Therefore, allowing the boat to go faster than more traditional boats. The tri-hull designs ensure that less force is used to cut through the waves, providing a more seamless and fast approach.

The Sail Flatter

The boat’s three-hull design ensures that the boat sails flatter. Even when making turns, the boat won’t heel. In sea conditions that would sometimes make a monohull boat roll, the tri-hull boat will remain flat.

They Have Greater Stability

Tri-hull boats are known for their flat and wide hulls. This means that they have enhanced stability. When boarding a traditional boat, you may have noticed a slight wobble; however, you don’t have to worry about this with tri-hull boats.

As a matter of fact, you could walk around the entire perimeter of the tri-hull deck and you won’t experience any tipsy or wobbling movements. This enhanced stability benefits pleasure boaters, skiers, and weekend fishers.

They Won’t Sink Easily

Unlike conventional one-hull boats, the three hulls located on a tri-hull boat are lined with floatation materials, such as closed-cell foam.

This ensures that if the tri-hull boat were to be flipped, it wouldn’t sink as easily as other mono-hull boats.

They Have More Space

When compared with other boats, tri-hulls provide more deck space. Naturally, this is the result of containing three hulls at the bottom of the boat.

Consequently, this design made them a trendy boat in the 60s.

Moreover, the design was also utilized by the government to build large ferries and warships at the time.

They Have Greater Buoyancy

On the deck of a tri-hull boat, you’ll notice a greater buoyancy when compared with other boats.

This is chiefly due to the middle hull; providing up to 90% of the boat’s buoyancy. Whereas the two opposite hulls on either side ensure the boat’s stability.

The narrow and long middle hull provides two functions: get the boats onto the plane much faster than other boats and keep the boat afloat. If you were to step on the metal, the tri-hull boat would zoom past and quickly reach the plane.

Ensuring that the boat reaches the planning or plane is a task. When revving the engine, the boat will either level on the water or go up on the plane. When traveling on top of the place of the water, you’ll notice the boat’s bow lifted above the water.

They Are Cheaper To Own and Operate

On a whole, these boats are generally cheaper to own and operate. While they may contain a different hull design, they are much cheaper than boats that are around the same size.

Likewise, as opposed to other hull designs, tri-hull boats require much less power to operate, which means you will need less fuel, too.

They Weigh Less But Can Carry More

As opposed to larger boats, these tri-hulls contain a smaller cross-deck. This ensures that they don’t need many supporting structures in order to make up the structural integrity.

Consequently, they are able to carry or hold more weight while simultaneously weight much less than boats containing a singular hull.

Disadvantages Of Tri-Hull Boats

While the tri-hull boat may be incredibly buoyant and stable, it still has its share of disadvantages. In the next section, we will be exploring all the disadvantages of the tri-hull boat. Here are the main disadvantages:

Wet When Running

When the boat is running, you may experience some showers, to say the least.

Therefore, if you’re anywhere near the upwind side, then make sure to pack your raincoat. Each time the hulls are slapped hard on the water, you’ll receive more than a little spray when standing on the deck.

Not Great For Fishing

While tri-hulls may offer the required stability for barbecues or parties on the deck, some believe them to be not fishing-friendly.

On the other hand, others believe a tri-hull fishing boat to be perfect for an angling platform, especially when used with families and small children.

They Are Not Ideal In Choppy Water Conditions

Tri-hull boats aren’t ideal for use in choppy water conditions – no matter the speed. Although, the pounding can be minimized when running at ‘bow high’.

Although, having said that, you should remember that once you are out of calm water, the boat will shift to and fro – making those with sea sickness wish they were on land rather than out at sea.

Not Great For Open Waters

Unfortunately, in the open sea, tri-hulls don’t fare well. Typically, they will offer a choppy ride that will frequently get those on board extremely wet.

As a result, this is chiefly the reason most tri-hulls, especially smaller ones, are used on rivers and calm lakes.

Why Are Tri-Hulls No Longer Popular?

In the 1960s, tri-hulls were extremely popular; however, this is not the case today. By the 1980s, these boats began to lose their popularity, and quickly.

You may be wondering why this happened. Well, there are a few different reasons why this happened. In this section, we’ll explore some of the reasons why the tri-hull boat has depleted in popularity since the 1960s.

Their Incredible Buoyancy Was Their Unmaking

While tri-hulls are incredibly buoyant on flat, calm waters, this couldn’t be considered the same when on choppy waters.

Once moved away from sheltered waters into exposed and open choppy waters, you’ll experience a bob and wobble along every slight wave you may encounter on your tri-hull.

Their narrow and long center hulls allow these boats to float on top of the water. This ensures an extremely comfortable ride along peaceful and calm waters, however, it’s a completely different experience on rough and choppy waters.

With every large wave that comes your way, the tri-hull will bob and wobble on the water. Over the years, the constant up and down motion becomes unbearable to many tri-hull owners. Therefore, opting for more comfortable boats.

They Have Been Over-Modified

Over the years, the traditional design of the tri-hull boat had been heavily modified and altered to become a multifunctional boat. This resulted in the loss of the original tri-hull design which people had begun to know and love.

Consequently, a newer and more modern tri-hull design replaced the original – which was unwelcomed by many.

Wet Ride

The wet ride is another reason why tri-hulls aren’t as popular as they used to be. If you’re looking to ride in rough conditions, then you should be prepared to get extremely wet.

Consequently, for this reason, many people tend to avoid tri-hull boats, since it doesn’t make for much of a pleasurable boating experience.

Since these boats aren’t V-hulled, they aren’t able to cut through the waves effectively. When hit by powerful waves, the water slams against the amas or on the two outriggers on either side of the boat which results in a spray all over the boat’s deck.

To prevent this from happening, boating manufacturers modified the tri-hull design. Therefore, rather than having rigid amas, they installed foldable ones to ensure a better experience when fared with rougher waves.

Due to this modification, the tri-hulls can easily be modified into a monohull or V-shaped hull. However, this also resulted in the loss of the classic tri-hull design.

The Unmasking of Tri-Hull’s Limitation

The exposure of the tri-hulls’ potential limitations inherently influenced the boat’s future marketability.

If you’re a boating enthusiast, you would be made aware of the tri-hulls underperformance in rough and choppy waters. Therefore, interest in these boats dispersed and eventually disappeared over the years.

Anglers and pleasure boaters don’t want to be limited to only one type of water condition: calm, flat water. Thus, they want a boat that will allow them to explore and enjoy the ocean.

Hence, investing in a boat that is only limited to calm waters could be seen as a losing proposition for many.

Not Worth The Investment

The cost of a boat can sometimes be comparable to the cost of a house. Therefore, it’s an investment that requires careful deliberation and thought.

Hence, investing in a boat that is only capable of riding on smooth, calm waters, wouldn’t be considered making the most out of your money to some people.

Final Thoughts

Essentially, a tri-hull boat can be described as containing a traditional ‘V’ hull, although with two additional hulls on either side. When compared with other ‘V’-bottomed boats, the tri-hull has greater stability in its design.

However, since they have a larger surface area located on the bow section, it creates an unfavorable boating experience on choppy and rough waters. Hence, the reason why they lost popularity in the 1980s.

Hopefully, this guide has informed you on everything you need to know about tri-hull boats.