What is a tri hull boat

What is a Tri-Hull Boat?

Written by Brandon Williams
December 16, 2021

Last Updated on February 24, 2022 by Boatsetter Team

Boats have three basic hull types; monohull, catamaran, and trimaran. Tri-hull boats are really a hybridization of a trimaran and a monohull boat. The design uses sponsons on either side of the main hull to add buoyancy and width at the bow, which adds interior volume. 

In essence, a tri-hull boat is a deep V hull with sponsons that are part of the main hull that go all the way to the bow in older designs. This gives them the appearance of having three separate hulls, but they don’t. Instead, the front of the boat has three individual bow sections, and the stern is one solid hull from port to starboard.

Even though the hulls are not entirely separate, as they are on many sailing trimarans, tri-hull powerboats have some of their qualities. The hull form offers more buoyancy and space; however, the triple bows tend to pound when driving into a chop on powered tri-hulls.

Popular in the 1970s and 1980s, the only tri-hulls in production today are small fishing boats of less than 18 feet and deck boats. The tri-hull design makes them stable platforms to fish or party. 

What is a Tri-hull?

Richard Cole, a Naval Architect, first designed the tri-hull boat in 1958 while employed with Thunderbird Boats in Miami. Also known as a cathedral hull. It was revolutionary. The early design had three distinctive hull forms and a bow as wide as the stern. This hull shape offered more buoyancy and stability than monohull boats

It is a single hull boat with sponsons that protrude from the hull. However, a tri-hull does not have three separate hulls. Instead, it has a deep V center hull with three distinct bow sponsons, which blend into one hull as they go aft, providing added buoyancy. 

Today, Tri hulls are used predominately for deck boats. Their wider bows offer added buoyancy and space for extra seating, giving you a large platform that can accommodate many guests. Tri hulls are also stable while anchored and underway, making them comfortable for the non-boating type.

Deck boats still use a tri-hull because they are stable and have a wide bow that offers extra seating space and buoyancy. However, the bow form of many bass boats is a modified tri-hull design. Over the years, boat builders have taken Mr. Coles’s original design and used modern fabrication techniques to perfect what he started. 

What are Tri hulls good for?

Tri-hulls make an excellent platform for deck boats because they are wider in the bow. In addition, the sponsons offer stability, so the boats are stable when sitting still and when underway. In addition, many people use their deck boats as social centers, and a tri-hull offers a very stable platform for your family and friends. 

The tri-hull has also found its way into the hearts of small boat owners. The stability of the hull form makes a great casting platform for anglers. In addition, a few small tri-hulls on the market are less than 18 feet long and economical to get on the water. 

Although most manufacturers have gone to deep V hulls, you can still see the relics of the tri-hull form in the bow of many boats. They have been highly modified since Mr. Cole designed the first tri-hulls. However, boat designers have improved the initial design since it does add buoyancy instead of doing away with it entirely. 

Most boats were still being built from wood in the late 1950s, but construction of boats from fiberglass began in earnest in the 1960s. Mr. Cole created his tri-hull boat designs from this new material, and his tri-hull plans came from a drawing board, not a CAD/CAM program. Imagine what he might have done with a computer and carbon fiber.

Who made tri-hull boats?

The original design of tri hulls tended to pound when driven into the waves, offering a rough, wet ride. In 1970, Richard Cole went to work for Wellcraft Boats in Sarasota, Florida, and took his tri-hull design to the next level. When the Wellcraft Airslot went to market, it was an instant success.

With the Airslot concept, Mr. Cole took the outward sponsons of his original design, shortened them, and gave them a more hydrodynamic shape. The result was a line of boats that Wellcraft sold for over two decades.

Skeeter Boats is another company that invested in tri-hull boat design and production in the 1960s. They still produce bass boats, bay boats, and deep V boats built for offshore ventures. If you look at the lines of their current fleet, you will see vestiges of the tri-hull form in the shape of their bows. 

In the 1980s, boat manufacturers found that composites allowed their imaginations to run freely, and hull shapes of today attest to those imaginings. 

What is a Tritoon boat?

Tritoon is the brand name of a three-hulled pontoon boat. Boats with three distinctive hulls are also called tri hulls or trimarans. The third hull gives the boat the ability to carry more weight and offers more stability. The Tritoon is not the only three-hulled pontoon boat in production. However, it is the original, and has three distinctive hulls (pontoons), is very stable, and can carry quite a load.

Pontoon boats have a reputation as being rather sluggish. However, the Tritoon is the first pontoon boat with the performance of a deck boat. In addition, the third hull and the unique shape of its pontoons allow for the addition of more power than can be used by comparable tri-hull pontoon boats. The added power can get you home quicker when storm clouds gather on the horizon.

What is your boat type?

Whatever your desire to get on the water, a boat is made for you, and finding the right one may take a while. However, if you want to take a group of friends boating with you, a deck boat or Tritoon can carry a crew and enough gear to make a day of it.

Whether you want to buy a new boat and need a way to help pay for maintenance, or you would like to try different types of boats, Boatsetter has you covered. Boat owners list their boats and rent them by the hour and day, bareboat, or with you as the captain at the helm.

If you don’t want the responsibility of boat ownership yet have a desire to get on the water, you can rent a boat from a boat owner near you. Whatever your choice, getting out on the water makes an ordinary day special.


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