What Is The Stern Of A Boat?

Fact Checked By James A Rockey | Post Updated On: December 8, 2022
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Stern is the rear or the backside of the boat. It is the aft-most part of a boat, and it is located opposite the bow.

Key Takeaways

  • The stern is the area of a boat that is opposite the bow, which is the front part of the boat
  • The stern is an important part of a boat, as it is where the rudder is located
  • The stern must have the ability to restrict vibrations because excessive vibrations can cause discomfort for passengers and crew
  • There are three types of sterns: elliptical stern, cruiser stern, and transom stern

How To Identify A Stern

You can identify the stern of a boat by considering the following;

1. In a vessel, the stern is usually located at the back of the boat, where the propeller is installed. 

2. It is the area that lies opposite the bow of a boat.

3. It is the rear part of a boat, which has a navigation light seen during the night. 

Functionalities Of A Stern

The stern of the boat performs various functions that include;

1. It is the place where the outboard motor is located. This motor has a propeller device that provides power that helps the boat to move forward and backward.

2. The stern is where the steering device or the tiller is housed

3. It is the surface where the navigation light is located. This light helps the boat to be spotted during the night from a far distance.

Types And Designs Of Sterns

The boat designers came up with three types of sterns after adhering to the following parameters;

1. The stern must have the ability to restrict vibrations

2. The stern should be designed to lower resistance

3. To get high propulsion efficiency, the design of the stern should aim at ensuring the uniform flow of water.

These three types of sterns are;

√ Elliptical stern

√ Cruiser stern

√ Transom stern

1. Elliptical Stern

This stern is also referred to as a counter or merchant stern. In the early 20th century, it was designed for cargo ships. When you view the knuckle line and deck line from above, they have an elliptical shape. It has a curved and upward profile above the waterline, making it have a pronounced aft overhang and exposed skeg. It also has a larger deck space that increases the buoyancy of the ship. 

2. Cruiser Stern

It was designed to minimize the height of the steering gear that is located below the armor deck. This stern comes from the aft perpendicular to the main deck, and it has a profile that is curved upwards. Its rudder is fully submerged in the water as it’s placed below the waterline. The resistance capabilities of this stern are on a high level compared to the merchant stern. It has an aesthetically pleasing profile and is more hydrodynamically efficient.

3. Transom Stern

The shape of this stern is flat to the waterline. Its shape provides more significant space in the aft deck area. It is less complicated and easier to construct, and it facilitates the flow of water around the stern, in heavy seas, or when in reverse mode, the transom stern gets wet quickly. This stern affects the propulsion efficiency of the boat. When there is a minor disturbance between the space of the outer shell above the propeller and the propeller itself, the efficiency of this stern increases.

Transom sternCruiser stern  Elliptical stern 
It is flat to the waterline It is easier to construct and improves water flow around the stern. It affects the propulsion efficiency of the boat When the boat goes into reverse mode, it gets wet quickly.They are designed to reduce the height of the steering gear that is below the armor deck. It has a curved profile going upwards. High resistance capabilities that merchant stern. It is hydrodynamically efficient. It has high buoyancy due to allowing larger deck space. It has an upward and curved profile. When viewed from above, the knuckle line  and deck line have an elliptical shape

Styles Of Sterns

Sterns have different physical appearances as they are constructed in different styles. They have different angles, widths, and overall styles. We have four different types of sterns that are common which include, raked, canoe, flat, and reverse.

1. Raked Stern-This is a style that is used by racing boats. They have a streamlined design that facilitates their movement through the water. Those boats that adopt this style of stern mostly have longer bows.

2. Canoe Stern- This style has a circular shape that makes it to be more aerodynamic. The outline helps it to push more water behind the boat.

3. Flat Stern- This style appears to be semi-circular at the back and has a broad vertical face. Apart from determining how the stern is built and where it’s located, it also determines the area’s functionality and utility.

4. Reverse Stern- Boats that have this style are accessible for passengers to disembark from it due to the presence of steps it has. It has an angular shape, with steps and handrails being added in the transom area for swimming.

Differences Between The Styles Of The Stern

We have presented these differences below in a tabular form to enable you to identify how they differ easily;

Raked sternCanoe sternFlat sternReverse stern
A boat having a raked stern has a longer bow. It is common in racing boats as it streamlines the movement of the ship on the water.It’s more aerodynamic. It has a circular shape that helps in pushing more water behind the boat.It appears in a semi-circular shape when observed from the rear. It has a broad vertical face.It has steps and handrails for swimming. It has an angular shape.

Factors To Consider When Choosing A Stern Style

No matter the price or great features that a boat may have, you won’t waste your cash in purchasing a boat with a stern that won’t perform the way you expect. Therefore, consider the following features when choosing a stern style for your boat; 

1. Width

The width of the stern is one of the features that you have to consider before deciding on which stern will be best for you. Wider sterns have provided incredible buoyancy and stably keep your boat, compared to the narrow sterns that may discourage confidence.

2. Cockpits

Transom transitions directly through the cockpit to the stern of the boat, and as a sailor, it’s helpful to have an accessible entryway into the water. Having steps on the stern will cater to that need. If you are boating on flat water, an open cockpit might be ideal. But to navigate through rough water, you need a closed-off cockpit.

3. Design And Appearance

These features demand utility. Most boats have a stern with cleats and chocks that helps to secure sails, dock lines, mooring, and more. To enjoy water sports, you need hardware that is immovable where you can attach leads and equipment.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

This section contains additional information that we may not have given and is of importance. We will provide this information by answering the frequent question asked by other people.

1. Is The Front Or Back Of A Boat A Stern?

The stern is the rear or backside part of the boat.

2. What Difference Is There Between Transom And Stern?

The stern of the boat is the rear part of the boat, vessel, or ship, while the transom is the nearly flat or flat stern of a boat.

3. What Function Does A Stern Tube Perform?

The purpose of the stern tube is to keep water and stern glands {the oil sealing glands}. The stern bearings allow the propeller to rotate smoothly without restrictions.


As we sum up, we hope that our research in this article will help you as we have analyzed in-depth what the stern of a boat is, how you can identify it, and the functions it performs on a boat or vessel. We also gave other relevant information concerning the types and styles of the sterns. With all that, we have looked at some of the factors you should consider when choosing the best stern for you so that you don’t spend on the stern that will disappoint you.


  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stern
  • https://www.boaterexam.com/boating-resources/boat-terminology/
  • https://www.triumphboats.com/stern-of-a-ship/

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