Tri Hull Boats: Why They Lost Popularity
You might have heard about pontoon boats, bass boats, V-hull boats, and even flat-bottomed deck boats, but have you heard about tri-hull boats? What about trimarans? Ever seen their names in a boat catalog?
There is a high probability that you might have missed out on these boats.
Even though many brands still manufacture these boats, they have lost their popularity owing to several reasons. As a result, you might see other famous ships at the forefront of magazines, catalogs, websites, and window displays.
But the question remains, why did they lose popularity in the first place? Why have people moved on to other boats for their use? Are trimarans not safe on large water bodies?
If you want to know about Tri Hull boats: Why they lost popularity, or other such questions, I have got you covered. You can find all the relevant information on these tri-hull boats in the following article.
Keep reading to learn more about their design, their uses, the cons, and even the future of these rapidly declining boats.
What is a Tri-Hull Boat?
A tri-hull boat is exactly what it sounds like; it contains three hulls at the bottom of the boat. They were designed after the traditional double-outrigger hull boats from the Austronesian culture of Southeast Asia, particularly from East Indonesia and the Philippines.
Also called trimarans, many of these boats are manufactured as sailboats for both recreational and tournament use. However, the tri-hull design is quite popular with ferries and warships too. Or at least it used to be.
Over time, smart innovations modified the original double-outrigger model to improve the tri-hull boats’ speed, performance, and buoyancy.
Typically, tri-hull boats are counted under multi-hulls, along with catamarans and pontoon boats. Trimarans bear a distinct resemblance to V-bottom boats, except that these have a more pronounced shape and form large tunnels with their hulls.
Hence, sometimes you might even hear about these boats as tunnel boats too.
Overall, their unique design offers less contact with water and more buoyancy, which reduces drag on the boat. As a result, these boats are also quite fast compared to many other sailboats. Moreover, they offer a more expansive deck space and incredible stability to the riders.
Tri-Hull Boat Design
Now that you know what a tri-hull boat is, you need to learn more about its design to understand why it has lost its popularity in recent years.
To help you out, I have highlighted its unique design and how they affect the boat’s performance in the following section.
The boat features three hulls at the bottom, a main hull in the middle, and two amas or side hulls on either side of the main one.
Many tri-hulls have a subtle M-shaped bottom by using slightly smaller side hulls than the middle hull. These boats have a shape similar to a V-hull boat, just without the sharp edges.
On top of this, a few trimaran models might even have foldable amas. Usually, this feature is found in smaller boats to narrow their sides. As a result, you can convert your tri-hull into a mono-hull boat for easier storage and faster speed in choppy waters.
But the question still remains, how does this hull affect the performance of the boat?
Since the boat has wide, flat hulls, you get incredible stability on the boat. While most narrow boats wobble on the water when people are boarding, tri-hulls will stay true to their design. Moreover, you can even move around on the deck with ease and not risk making the boat tipsy.
Notably, a trimaran channels its stability from the amas and not from the middle huddle.
Buoyancy is another factor that a tri-hull boat excels in. The center hull offers almost 90% of the boat’s buoyancy, while the side hulls only keep the boat stable.
As a result, the long and narrow middle hull keeps the boat float on top of the water and even helps to push the boat to the plane much faster than other boats. Meanwhile, the amas barely touch the water, which further reduces the drag on the boat.
At high speeds, your boat will zoom across the water and reach planes much faster.
On the downside, its fantastic buoyancy can also become its downfall. Although these boats are ideal for speeding on lakes and rivers, they cannot handle rough waves on open seas.
With a three hull design, it is not surprising that you get a capacious deck on the top. This is one of the major reasons why these boats were quite popular in the 1960s as large ferries and warships.
Compared to other larger boats, tri-hulls have smaller cross-decks between the hulls. Hence, they also need less supporting structure in their design to offer stability on top of the deck. This also means that they can hold more weight and weigh much less than traditional mono-hulls.
Since trimarans come in both small sailboat size and large ferries, their engine depends mostly on their design. Most often, these boats feature an outboard motor with a high horsepower rating to reach top speeds.
With less physical contact of the boat with the water surface, you even get less drag on your boat. Therefore, your boat accelerates at a much faster rate to reach a high speed than other boats too.
However, their speed is mostly limited to planning on the water surface and not cutting the waves like the popular V-hull boats.
My Take on Tri-Hull Boats: Why They Lost Popularity
Although tri-hull boats include many beneficial features in their design, most pros are also their cons in other conditions. For example, their incredible buoyancy is also their most significant disadvantage on choppy waters.
Apart from this, trimarans have been heavily altered and modified over the years to become multifunctional. This has resulted in the loss of the original tri-hull design and the replacement of these boats with a more modern boat version.
So much so that most of the tri-hull boat brands stopped new production way back in the 1980s. After their rise in popularity in the 1960s and 1970s, the boats are quickly becoming obsolete.
Without further due, let us check some of the most common complaints and cons of the tri-hull boats in the following section.
Even though trimarans offer superior buoyancy, their quality lasts only on calm water surfaces like lakes and rivers. When it comes to rough waves on the sea, these boats lose their value.
With a long and narrow center hull, these boats majorly float on top of the water. While this feature does not affect the quality of your ride on stable water conditions, the ride quickly becomes uncomfortable in rough waters.
To explain simply, the boat bobs on the water with every large wave on the sea. The resultant up-and-down motion became highly undesirable over the years, with people moving on to other more comfortable options.
Notably, this uncomfortable ride was more pronounced at higher speeds than slower ones.
Another downside to the tri-hull boats is their resultant wet ride in rough, choppy conditions. Since these boats do not cut the waves like the V-hulls, the strong waves slam against the sides, and front and splash water on top.
Tri-hull boats, with their design featuring three hulls, can potentially result in more water splash on riders compared to other boat designs, such as deep-V hulls. The flat-bottomed design of tri-hull boats may allow water to slap against the hulls, causing more spray and splash. This can be particularly noticeable when navigating through rough or choppy waters.
The placement and shape of the outer hulls in tri-hull boats can affect water deflection and spray patterns. Depending on the specific design and construction of the boat, some tri-hull models may have implemented features or modifications to minimize water spray and improve rider comfort.
However, it’s important to note that the amount of water splash experienced can also depend on factors such as boat speed, wave conditions, wind direction, and the design and shape of the individual boat model. Therefore, it’s recommended to test-drive a tri-hull boat or consult with experts familiar with the specific model to assess its water splash characteristics before making a purchase.
For this purpose, many manufacturers have modified the boats with foldable amas to deal with rougher conditions on seas. They can easily convert the traditional tri-hull into a mono-hull or V-shaped hull.
However, these modifications come at a loss of the original design.
Now that you know how trimarans are ideal for calm water surfaces mostly, their limitation on the choppy water surface is another primary reason for its loss in popularity.
Since water vehicles do not come cheap, people do not want to invest in a boat that is limited to lakes and rivers. If they are spending money, they want the option to take their ride to tumultuous seas and oceans and cruise with their friends and family.
Tri-hull boats, with their flat-bottomed design, may not perform as well in rough or choppy water conditions compared to other hull designs like deep-V hulls. The flat bottom can lead to a rougher ride and potentially more pounding or slamming in waves, affecting overall comfort and handling.
Tri-hull boats may have limitations when it comes to maneuverability, especially at higher speeds. The wider stance of the outer hulls can affect the boat’s ability to make sharp turns or navigate tight spaces compared to boats with narrower hull designs.
While tri-hull boats can be efficient at slower speeds and offer stability, they may have limitations in terms of top speed and fuel efficiency compared to other hull designs. The extra drag caused by the additional hulls can impact performance in terms of speed and fuel consumption.
Price is another factor that diverted people’s attention from the trimarans to other options. Who wants to pay a large sum for a boat that does not even offer a comfortable ride?
And believe me, these tri-hull boats cost a lot. With large cross-decks and extra hulls, the construction of a trimaran requires extra stainless steel or Aluminum. Hence, the cost of your boat just keeps piling up.
Besides this, the boat requires larger motors if you plan to use it in choppy waters. Heavy machinery almost doubles the cost of your final projects.
If you decide to invest in a trimaran with foldable amas and a massive center hull, even that will just end up racking up the cost.
When you can buy a much better boat with more luxury and a comfortable ride at the same cost, why would people invest in an ancient tri-hull model?
One of the significant reasons why tri-hulls lost their charm was the introduction of better industry alternatives. In the 1980s, V-hull boats and deck boats started gaining attention for their remarkable construction and optimum performance, even in the face of choppy water conditions.
With pontoon boats gaining popularity, people moved on to this luxury ride for all their boating needs, be it for water sports or a party cruise. Similarly, V-hulls proved to be a better alternative when it came to cutting waves at high speeds.
Now, you can only find the tri-hull design in limited sailboat models.
The Future of Tri-Hull Boats
As I mentioned previously, the tri-hull boats originated from Southeast Asian countries like the Philippines, where the community relies on watercraft for fishing and transportation of people and goods.
To this day, the ancient warship tri-hull design is used in their traditional fishing and sailboats for all their needs. However, with the increase in global greenhouse emissions, the use of fossil fuels in trimarans has posed a massive problem.
For this purpose, a marine engineer has designed a hybrid model that uses wave momentum to power the trimaran. Although the said ship has not finished construction, its success could open up many gates for innovations in tri-hull boats.
This video has been included for its clarification of the topic matter. Credit goes to Steven Bradshaw
Tri-hull boats have experienced a decline in popularity over time due to several factors related to their design, price, options, and ride features. Here’s a summary of the key points:
Tri-hull boats feature three hulls, with two smaller outer hulls and a larger central hull. This design was popular in the past due to its stability and fuel efficiency. However, modern advancements in hull design and technology have led to the development of more efficient and versatile hull designs, such as deep-V or modified-V hulls.
Tri-hull boats were generally more affordable compared to other boat designs. However, as newer hull designs became more prevalent, the price difference between tri-hull boats and more advanced designs diminished, making other options more attractive to buyers.
Tri-hull boats often had limited options in terms of sizes, layouts, and features. Buyers seeking more customization or specific features may have opted for other boat designs that offered a wider range of options to suit their needs.
While tri-hull boats were known for their stability, they were not as well-regarded for their performance in rough or choppy waters. The flat-bottomed hull design of tri-hulls could result in a rougher ride compared to other hull designs, such as deep-V hulls, which provide better handling and performance in rough conditions.
As the boating industry evolved, consumer preferences shifted towards other boat designs that offered improved performance, comfort, versatility, and aesthetics. This change in consumer demand contributed to the decline in popularity of tri-hull boats.
It’s important to note that while tri-hull boats may have lost popularity overall, there may still be individuals who appreciate and enjoy their unique characteristics, stability, and fuel efficiency. The availability of tri-hull boats may vary depending on the region and local market preferences.
When considering a boat purchase, it’s recommended to assess your specific boating needs, preferences, and the intended use of the boat. Research different hull designs, test-drive various boat models, and consult with reputable boat dealers or experts to find the best option that meets your requirements.
Although tri-hull boats or trimarans have an incredible design that offers a fantastic experience on lakes and rivers, it does not handle choppy water conditions well. Not only does it provide an uncomfortable ride on open seas, but it also splashes water on the deck.
While all these reasons add up to its loss in popularity, the introduction of better alternative boats also played a major hand in its demise. Now, people opt for V-hull boats, pontoons, and even deck boats for all their boating needs.
However, you just need one invention to change the game completely.
What if a smart innovation in the next couple of years brings these ancient trimarans back into the industry? Keep in mind that the future is always unpredictable.