What Is Wave Piercing? Definition, Meaning and Concept

Wave piercing is a type of hull design seen primarily on high-speed ferries and military vessels that need to operate as quickly and smoothly as possible. The key component of this design is an arch that cuts through the waves, rather than sliding up and over them. Motion on a wave-piercing boat feels markedly different from other designs because the boat doesn't rock and twist as much as other boats, which ride up and down waves when under power.

This design is often seen with multi-hull vessels such as catamarans. The bow should be narrow and sharp, with weight so it is less likely to come up while the boat is underway. The wave-piercing hull design neatly cuts through waves, even at high speed, and also limits wave production by the bow. The ride tends to be smoother for passengers and crew, with less bouncing and gear changes.

The ability to cut waves rather than ride them means the captain doesn't need to adjust the speed of the boat while underway nearly as much, because the boat won't be in danger approaching a wave at high speed. 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 by this design can be very useful for high-speed ferry services.

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

Casual sailors can use this design on 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 on a round-the-world voyage. Whether a sailor is trying to set a record or keep to a schedule, reliability and speed are very important traits. The ship can run on a variety of fuels, depending on the main engines used, and can offer fuel flexibility to allow sailors to take advantage of what is available.