What is a boats draft?

What is a boat’s draft?

A boat’s draft is the distance from the waterline to the bottom of a boat. A boat’s draft is the depth in which it sits in the water. This can be important when you are trying to dock or maneuver a boat because there will be a difference depending on how deep your boat is sitting in the water. The higher draft, generally speaking, means that your boat has more weight and more stability so you don’t have to worry about capsizing your boat as easily.

Freeboard draft keel of a boat
Freeboard, draft and keel of a boat/ Image: Boat Ed

What is a boats draft?

Boats can be classified by their draft or the distance from the waterline to the bottom of a boat. The draft is measured in inches and changes depending on how heavy the load is on a boat. The industry standard for deep-water vessels like cargo ships is 30 feet; however, if you’re an average boater, your draft will probably only reach about 3 feet underwater. 

Boat terminology
Boat terminology/ source: pages.nxtbook.com

What does maximum draft mean in boating?

Maximum draft means the deepest your boat can go underwater. The maximum draft is what you should measure with tape to determine what your boat’s lowest point is when in the water. This is what helps to determine what size of dock you need to tie your boat upon.

Light boat and loaded boat
Light draft boat and loaded draft boat

When it’s carrying the maximum weight for what it was designed for, a boat will have the most stability and draft. This allows the boat to sit higher in the water so that it has less risk of capsizing when carrying its maximum load.

If you have a boat that has what you think is too much draft, the best thing to do is to take it out on open water and see what happens. The water conditions can change depending on what ocean or lake you’re in so what may be dangerous for your boat can vary from place to place.

What is the difference between Draught and draft?

Draught and draft are two different words that mean the same thing. Draught is what we call it in Britain and draft is what they call it in America. It’s just like saying “these days” and “these times”. They both mean the same thing, but what you use really depends on where you live or what part of the world you are from.

How deep does a boat sit in the water?

It depends on what type of boat you get. If you have a sailboat cruiser, it will sit about four to seven feet in the water. Daysailers are what they call small boats that were built for speed and also to be able to dock at beaches so they sit about three to five feet in the water. Catamarans are like what we call double-hulled sailboats and they sit about two to four feet in the water.

What is the difference between freeboard and draft?

Freeboard is the height between the water and the gunwale. You can get a draft and freeboard measurement of your boat from what the industry calls hull dimensions.

Freeboard = The depth of a boat – The draft of a boat

Effect of a large draft on maneuverability

A larger draft of your boat means more stability. However, it becomes hard to maneuver a larger draft boat. When you are in shallow water with what you think is too much of a draft for what you’re doing, the best thing to do is go out on open water. If you have a large draft, you must navigate cautiously around a shoal. Shoals are what cause you to have difficulty maneuvering your boat in this situation.


Boats can be classified by their draft or the distance from the waterline to the bottom of the boat. And it means how deep your boat’s hull can go into the water before you hit rock bottom below the surface. It is important to know the draft of your boat because if you don’t then chances are at some point in time, you’ll be stranded on an island with no one around but seagulls. What is yours?


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