What is The Draft of A Boat? ( get to know now)

Fact Checked By James A Rockey | Post Updated On: December 8, 2022
As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

The draft of a boat can be defined in many ways, but in simple terms, it is the distance between the waterline and the boat’s deepest point. It refers to how shallow a boat’ hull can go in the water; in other words, it is the lowest point that one can be sure to take the boat without having chances of its hull hitting the surface below water. 

Key Takeaways

  • The draft of a boat refers to the distance between the waterline and the lowest point of the boat’s hull
  • The inboard pod drives, also called direct-drive propulsions, are accessed or determined from the lowest gear point of the boat
  • You should have a clear idea of the vessel’s draft because it is essential to know what amount of water the boat can draw to stay off the bottom
  • The minimum Draft is the lowest or the minimum length that one can get a safety boat without having to hit the bottom of the water’s surface

What is a boat draft, and why does it matter?

What is a boat draft

The boat draft is the distance between your boat’s lowest and deepest point and the waterline. It is located on the boat’s hull and can also be described as the lowest water level amount needed to float a water vessel, in this case, a boat, before it can touch the bottom of a water body.

How to calculate the boat draft?

How to calculate the boat draft

To be on the safer side, always consider the following, if you are planning on getting a boat or going boating in the shallow waters, a smaller boat comes in handy because it offers a minor boat draft which comes in handy to accessing greater access on the water body. The opposite will be helpful for deeper waters, that is, a bigger boat, which has a more extensive boat draft, hence greater access. 

When calculating the boat draft, people tend to use different ways, so it is calculated differently. An example is taken where the draft for boats that have inboard pod drives, also called direct-drive propulsions, is accessed or determined from the lowest gear point of the boat. This can be through a propeller or a rudder, as long as it is below the boat’s gear.

The complex part comes when you are using an outboard boat. Here, two means can be helpful, leading to two measurements that may vary. The techniques lead to two specs; the drive down or the drive up.

For the drive up, the lowest gear point will be the keel, and for the drive down, it will be the skeg. No matter which part comes as the boat’s lowest gear level, measurements are always to be taken from that point to promote and have accuracy.

Why does the boat draft matter?

Why does the boat draft matter

Anyone given the boating task should have a clear clue on the vessel’s draft because the tides can be below from time to time. When this happens, it is essential to know what amount of water the boat can draw to stay off the bottom at all costs to prevent capsizing.

It is also essential for those people who enjoy fishing to know their boat’s draft. They are advised to pick boats with a lower draft.

What is the maximum draft on a boat?

Scientifically, it is referred to as the Maximum Navigational Draft. The ‘Navigational’ part in the name hints at what it is. The maximum draft is the greatest depth either in feet, keel, or even linear projections used in operations of a given limit. Other relatable terms are:

  • Minimum Draft- This is the lowest or the minimum length that one can get a safety boat without having to hit the bottom of the water’s surface. It is the length between the boat’s bottom and the rock bottom surface of a water body.
  • Shallow draft boat- This boat requires only a few meters of a water body’s depth to operate entirely. They are the safest ones in shallow waters.
  • Depth is described as that length that is measurable from the middle of the boat length to the top of the keel at the deck beam on the uppermost deck.
  • Draft- This is simply the measurable length from the keel to the waterline. It is also the minimum depth of the water body that a specific water body can float on.
  • The air draft is the length from the topmost level of a water vessel to the waterline point.
  • Vertical clearance- This s the distance over the air draft that allows any vessel to pass through an object, for example, a bridge, safely.
  • Deadrise is the angle formed from a boat’s bottom and joins into the horizontal plane on the other flat side of the keel.

Elements of a boat

It may be true that some of the parts mentioned in this article, allegedly comprising and working as parts of a boat, may be unknown to you. However, it will be easier for you to relate to and understand how they work and the roles they play with the following elements.

These parts include;

  1. Cleat -This is the metal fitting on the boat where a rope can be tied or fastened
  2. Keel- this is the boat’s backbone; it works with the hull to increase the boat’s stability on the water.
  3. Stern
  4. The port and starboard- The starboard comprises the right-side o boat or vessel while the port is on the left side. 
  5. Bilge- this is the hull’s part of the boat that ends up resting on the ground in circumstances when the vessel lacks water support.
  6. Deck- this is the covering on a boat’s hull or compartment. It houses the boat’s hull.
  7. Freeboard – this is the average distance between the water and the vessel’s deck. 
  8. Bow- This is simply the front of the boat or vessel
  9. Gunwale- pronounced as gunnel, this is the upper edge on a boat’s side

Despite the boat having several parts, the main components are the bow, stern, starboard, port, hull, gunwale, and cleat. The components are not all visible. Some can be spotted from the side view, while others are interior parts and are not easily visible. 

Are there draft marks on a boat?

Law requires that for each boat or water vessel needed to be used n any water body, the vessel’s draft marks are to be indicated on the boat. This is important when it comes to safety protocol.

The draft reading is one of the many strategies that has been implemented to help in the reading and interpretation of the draft marks. It carries the same importance as the draft marks and is equally important.

Shallow draft Vs. the deep draft

The terms shallow and deep draft shafts mean or gauge the distance between the boat’s bottom level and the waterline or surface. Each draft has its disadvantages and advantages when it comes to selection.

For navigation on shallow waters such as streams, shallow rivers, streams, and lakes, boats with shallow drafts are recommended. Deep-shafted boats are the best for larger water bodies such as the oceans. The shaft specifications are always made to maintain stability in either calm or turbulent water bodies.

To determine whether a boat has either a deep or shallow draft, one must check a boat’s lowest point when it is on the water’s surface. This method may not be efficient and may require an individual to take a step further in checking the boat’s hull design.

Some of the deep shaft hull designs include; the flat design, the shallow vee, round, deep-vee, and the catamaran. The shallow hull designs are mainly three: the flat design, semi-V, and the pontoon design.

When uncertain about the draft type you are expected to use, the main question to always ask is where you are to use the boat.

Final Word

When it comes to a boat’s draft, an individual must be extra keen to know what they are dealing with. From the article, it is evident that a meager mistake in draft selection can be heavily consequential. Not only is a boat’s draft essential, but also helpful when it comes to a boat’s navigation. If you are interested in acquiring a boat, then the draft should be one of the main points of consideration. However, if you still have doubts about the desired and appropriate draft length to take, consider inquiring about the best one from the sellers of the boat to be on the safer side.


  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Draft_(hull)
  • https://www.discoverboating.com/resources/boat-draft
  • https://www.sportsmanboatsmfg.com/blog/58-what-is-a-boats-draft

Leave a Comment