Tri-Hull Boat [What Is It and Its Pros and Cons]

There are many different kinds of boats like flatboats, V-hull boats, bass boats, and pontoon boats. But have you heard of a tri-hull boat?

A tri-hull boat has the standard ‘V’ hull bottom but two additional hulls on both sides. This boat has greater stability than most ‘V’—bottomed boats because of this particular design. However, its ride is rougher on choppy water since there is an increase in the surface area at the bow.

The tri-hull boat design has been most used for boats with lengths ranging from 10 to 12 feet. Shorter boats will enjoy the advantage of the greater stability that this boat design offers. Tri-hull boats are mostly smaller, dinghy-style boats and are commonly used by recreational fishermen on placid lakes.

Read on to learn more about tri-hull boats, their pros and cons, and why they are not so popular today.

Tri-Hull Boat

tri hull boat

If you are like most people, you may not know that there is such a thing as a tri-hull boat. You may have already been surprised by boats with two hulls, such as the catamarans. But three hulls? You may think that that is overkill. But it was a popular design choice for a while.

Tri-hull boats are basically ‘V’-hulled boats that have two additional hulls on both sides aside from the main ‘V’ hull at the middle. If you look at a tri-hull boat at the front, you will see that it has a bottom shaped like an ‘M.’

This design gives greater stability to the boat. However, because of the larger surface area at the bow section, its ride is rougher when running on choppy waters. This boat design is used largely in lake boats and smaller dinghy-style boats. The lengths of these boats usually range from 10 to 12 feet only.

Tri-hull boats are also called Cathedral and Tunnel hull boats. They are very popular with recreational anglers and sport boat aficionados. Due to their design, these boats are very buoyant, stable, and can get on planes faster.

However, when speeding, these boats tend to pound upon encountering choppy water. Its design makes it unsuitable in non-flat water. That’s why they are ideal for calm bays and placid lakes.

Additional Description of Tri-Hull Boats

These boats are called tri-hulls simply because they have three hulls at their bottoms. Their original designers based their tri-hull designs on the traditional double-outrigger hull watercraft from the Philippines and East Indonesia, including other cultures in the Austronesian parts of Southeast Asia.


These boats are also called trimarans. Most of these boats are built for a tournament or sports use and recreational boating and fishing. In the past, this boat design was also used in building warships and ferries.

Modern technology and later developments have led tri-hull boat makers to improve their basic design to enhance their performance, speed, and buoyancy. In general, these boats are classified as multi-hulls, in the same category as the tri-hull pontoon boat and the catamaran.

Tunnel Hull Boats

Others have called them tunnel hull boats because they also form large tunnels at their bottoms when running on the water. They are very similar to V-hulled boats but only with a more pronounced bottom shape.

With their particular hull design, tri-hulls have less contact with water, so they have more buoyancy and lesser drag. As such, they are faster than most sailboats with traditional hull designs. With three hulls at the bottom, they tend to have more deck space. Boaters can also expect these boats to provide excellent stability.

Advantages of Tri-Hull Boats

tri hull pontoon boat

There are many advantages that tri-hull boats offer more than what the boats with more conventional hull designs can provide. Here are some of these advantages:

1. They Sail Flatter

The three hulls of these boats make them sail flatter. They won’t even heel when you are making a turn. In certain sea conditions where a monohull boat will be rolling, the tri-hull will stay flat.

2. They Sail Faster

There are three hulls in these boats, not like other boats with just one hull. That means the load is distributed across the three hulls of the boat instead of just one. The hulls of tri-hulls are higher in elevation from the water compared to most conventional boats.

That means less boat is in the water. This kind of boat position reduces drag. So, this boat can go faster than conventional boats, all things considered. The tri-hull design allows a boat to use less force to cut through waves to sail faster.

3. They Won’t Sink Easily

The three hulls of tri-hull boats are lined with flotation materials like closed-cell foam, unlike conventional boats with only one hull. This means that if a tri-hull boat flips, it will not easily sink as other mono-hull boats.

4. They Have Greater Stability

Tri-hull boats have wide and flat hulls. This translates to improved stability. Ordinary boats wobble on the water as people are boarding. You will not experience this same thing with a tri-hull.

In fact, you can move around the deck of a tri-hull, and you won’t be able to make the boat tipsy here and there. Enhanced boat stability is very advantageous to skiers, weekend fishers, and pleasure boaters.

5. They Have Greater Buoyancy

When you are on the deck of a tri-hull, you will feel it has greater buoyancy than other boats. The middle hull provides 90% of the boat’s buoyancy, while the two hulls on both sides provide stability.

This long and narrow middle hull has two functions: it keeps the boat afloat, and it helps to get the boat to the plane much quicker than other boats. If you step on the metal, the tri-hull will zoom away and reach the plane much faster.

Getting the boat to the plane or planning is a process. As you rev the engine, the boat goes up on a plane or level on the water. If the boat is traveling on top of the plane of the water, its bow is lifted out of the water.

6. They Have More Space

Tri-hull boats have more space on the deck than other boats. That is the natural result of having three hulls at the bottom. This feature made these types of boats trendy in the 60s. Moreover, the government used the design to build warships and large ferries at that time.

7. They Weigh Less but Can Carry More Weight

Unlike large boats, tri-hulls have smaller cross-decks. This means that they don’t need as many supporting structures to make the structural integrity. As a result, they can hold or carry more weight while weighing much less than boats with a single hull.

8. They Are Cheaper to Own and Operate

All things considered, these boats are relatively cheaper to own and operate. They cost less than boats of the same size but with different hull designs. These boats require lesser power than other boats with different hulls, so your need for fuel will be lesser as well.

Disadvantages of Tri-Hull Boats

However stable and buoyant a tri-hull boat is, it still has some disadvantages that you shouldn’t ignore. Here are some of them:

1. They Are Not for Choppy Waters

Tri-hulls are not very good at sailing on choppy waters – at any speed. But you can minimize the pounding if you will run ‘bow high.’ But remember that once you are out of calm waters, the tri-hull will shift to and fro and make you wish you are on land instead of the waters.

2. Wet When Running

When the tri-hull is running, they tend to be a bit wet. If you are on the upwind side, you really need to wear a raincoat. You will get more than the spray time you wish for on the deck of a tri-hull each time the hulls slapped the water down hard.

3. Not Very Good for Fishing

Though tri-hulls may offer great stability for parties and barbecues on deck, some think they are not fishing-friendly. However, some also believe that a tri-hull fishing boat can be used as an angling platform, especially with families and small children.

4. Not Good for Open Waters

Tri-hulls do not fare well in the open ocean. They tend to have choppy rides that will get those who are aboard wet. That is why most tri-hulls, especially the smaller versions, are used ideally only on calm lakes and rivers.

Why Tri-Hulls Are No Longer Popular?

tri hull fishing boat

While tri-hulls were very popular in the 1960s, they are hardly known today. They started to lose their steam during the 1980s. Why? There are some reasons why these types of boats have lost their popularity:

1. They Have Been Over-Modified

Through the years, the basic design of tri-hulls was altered and heavily modified to become multifunctional. The unwanted result was the loss of the initial tri-hull design. The makers of this boat replace it with a more modern tri-hull boat design.

2. Their Incredible Buoyancy Was Their Unmaking

Tri-hulls are excellently buoyant on calm waters but not on choppy waters. Once you are out of sheltered waters and you are in open and choppy waters, your tri-hull will wobble and bob along with every chop that comes its way.

Their long and narrow center hulls are why most parts of these boats float on top of the water. This feature is will result in a very comfortable ride on calm and peaceful waters, but not on choppy and rough waters.

Tri-hulls will bob on the water with every large wave that comes their way. The constant up and down motions became undesirable to most tri-hull owners over the years. They opted for more comfortable boat options.

3. The Unmasking of Tri-Hulls’ Limitation

The revelations of the limitation of tri-hulls influenced its future market potential. When boating enthusiasts got hold of the tri-hulls, they knew that these boats do not perform well on choppy and rough waters. Interest in these boats waned and eventually disappeared.

Pleasure boaters and anglers don’t want to be limited on the types of waters they want to explore and enjoy. Thus, investing money on a boat capable only on calm waters seemed to be a losing proposition.

4. Wet Ride

This is another factor why tri-hulls lose their steam. When a boater insists on riding it on rough waters, they need to be prepared for a wet ride. And it appeared that not too many boaters would like that kind of ride in a pleasure boat.

These boats are not V-hulled, so they can’t cut the waves. If a tri-hull hits powerful waves, the water will slam hard against the amas or the two outriggers on both sides of the boat and spray the water all over the deck.

To counter this condition, many boat manufacturers modified the design of their tri-hulls. Instead of rigid amas, they made them foldable so their tri-hulls will fare better on rough waters.

With this modification, a tri-hull can be easily converted into a V-shaped hull or monohull. However, this modification resulted in the loss of the original tri-hull design.

5. Not Worth the Investment

The cost of a boat is very much like the cost of a house. That is an investment that needs careful thought and deliberation. Who would want to invest in a boat that only offers a pleasurable ride on peaceful waters but not on ocean waters where most boaters want to go?

Conclusion: Tri-Hull Boats

A tri-hull boat has the conventional ‘V’ hull, but it has two additional hulls on both sides. There is greater stability on this boat than most ‘V’-bottomed boats because of this design. However, due to the increase in the surface area at the bow section, the ride of this boat is rougher on choppy water. This is one of the major reasons why tri-hulls lost their popularity in the 1980s.

Again, to help you further assess Tri-hull boats, here are their advantages followed by disadvantages:

  1. Sails Flatter
  2. They Sail Faster
  3. Won’t Sink as Other Boats
  4. They Have Greater Stability
  5. Have Greater Buoyancy
  6. They Have More Space
  7. Weigh Less but Can Carry More Weight
  8. Cheaper to Own and Operate

Disadvantages of Tri-hull boats

  1. They Are Not for Choppy Waters
  2. Wet When Running
  3. Not Very Good for Fishing
  4. Not Good for Open Waters