What Is Wave-Piercing?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Nancy Fann-Im
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  • Last Modified Date: 01 December 2019
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Wave-piercing is a type of hull design seen primarily in high speed ferries and military watercraft that need to operate quickly and as smoothly as possible. The key component of this design is a bow that cuts through waves, rather than sliding up and over them. Movement in a wave-piercing boat feels markedly different from other designs because the boat does not pitch and roll as much as other craft, which climb and fall down waves when they are under power.

This design is often seen with multihulled boats like catamarans. The bow needs to be narrow and sharp, with weight so it is less likely to ride up while the ship is underway. The wave-piercing hull design slices neatly through waves, even at high speed, and also limits the production of waves by the bow. The ride tends to be smoother for passengers and crew, with less bouncing as well as fewer speed changes.


The ability to cut through waves rather than riding them means that the captain does not need to tweak the speed of the ship while underway nearly as much, because the ship will not be endangered by approaching a wave at high speed. The reduced wave formation creates a finer wake and more comfort on board. Wave-piercing hull designs can be seen in use with many ferries, including car, truck, and passenger ferries, around the world. The stability and speed offered with this design can be very useful for high speed ferry services.

Military ships can also take advantage of the wave-piercing design, particularly for rapid landing and assault boats that need to be able to quickly close on the enemy. Not having to reduce speed for waves allows crews to stay on target while maneuvering in a variety of conditions. Enemy ships may not be able to rely on bursts of speed to outpace the boat, because the wave-piercing boat can maintain a consistent rate of speed.

Casual sailors may use this design in racing boats as well as boats designed for circumnavigation activities. The wave-piercing design is very useful for these applications, as it can allow sailors to navigate a variety of seas while staying on track with a voyage around the world. Whether a sailor is trying to set a record or keep a schedule, reliability and speed are very important traits. The ship can be run on a variety of fuels, depending on the core engines used, and may offer fueling flexibility to allow sailors to take advantage of what is available.


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