The hull is, of course, the roughly boat-shaped thing between you and the water. There more kinds of hulls than a dog has fleas, limited only by the inventiveness of the human mind. There are monohulls (displacement hulls and planing hulls), catamarans, trimarans, Chesapeake Bay deadrises, Carolina flares, scows and barges, all kinds of hulls. A displacement hull is designed to go through the water and a planing hull is meant to skim along on top of it. The photograph below is of a ‘hull’ that was an upside down table with an outboard motor attached. Apparently with enough power you can get anything to plane.
A lot of fun as a lark exercise in thinking outside the box, but bit limited in practicality insofar as cargo or passenger capacity and definitely for calmer water.
Then there is the plethora of materials.
There is the ubiquitous fiberglass. It’s everywhere from dinghys to fishing boats to yachts. A friend of mine that is a dyed-in-the-wool wooden boat man called fiberglass sailboats ‘fur lined Clorox bottles’, because some manufacturers line the inside of the cabin with carpet for insulation. Fiberglass does have advantages in initial low maintenance, but over time it blisters (if there was any moisture trapped during the layup process, something you won’t know until a few years down the road). That maintenance is just as much of a pain in the bottom as wooden boat maintenance with the added disadvantage of it being itchy as all get out when you sand on it. Think of the itch of the pink fiberglass insulation and multiply it by a few. Ick.
Wood is the classic material, but there are too many construction variations to even keep up with, let alone cover them all here. Among the aforesaid variations are planked (carvel and lapstrake/clinker are the two most basic configurations), plywood on frame, strip built, tack and tape, and cold-molded. Investigation into particulars of those construction techniques are, as our old school text books used to say, are ‘left to the serious student.’
Hulls are also made of metal. I know anyone who has fished in lakes has at least seen the old riveted aluminum jonboat, but for larger craft welded aluminum enjoys a certain favor amongst those who are not overly impressed by the chores of maintenance, but you have to watch out for galvanic effects of seawater. Steel has not only been a viable material for larger craft and ships, but for smaller ones as well, as Bernard Moitessier’s yacht ‘Joshua’ in which he sailed one and half times around the world was steel. Not a bad recommendation for durability.
And if there ever is a leak in any hull, just remember that the best bilge pump in the world is a scared man with a bucket, keeping the water out.