Question about multi chine vs round hull

I am confused about something. What are the advantages and disadvantages of multi chine vs round hulls? Is it just a matter of preference, or is it determined by what conditions you will be paddling in, or…?

I am making arrangements soon for a coastal trip next spring and am looking at buying a longer more appropriate boat for coastal paddling so I am researching hull designs and trying to understand how they differ and what would be best for me.

Any guidance is appreciated!

multi chine hull
I built a Pygmy Osprey standard kayak with a multi-chine hull. To me a multi-chine hull is one which consists of narrow, flat panels such that the overall effect is that of a shallow arch hull. The multiple chines are simply needed because of the restraint of the flat panels.

I would call a kayak that had just 2 panels per hull half a “hard-chined” boat. I suppose you could call it a multi-chine hull since it has a defined keel line and a chine on each side.

The Osprey standard paddles like a shallow arch hull. I rather prefer hard-chined hulls since I like to utilize the well-defined chine to facilitate adjustments in heading and to carve turns. That is just a matter of individual preference, however. In theory, a shallow arch hull of the same length and width is slightly faster as it has less wetted surface area than a hard-chined boat.

You don’t want a round-bottomed boat unless you are racing. They have the least wetted surface area of all but are quite unstable compared to other hulls of the same length and width.

Ignore the chines…
… as the water largely does.

Look at overall cross section shapes, volume distribution, etc. - if you have a grasp of those things and the related hydrostatics (whether by math [knowledge] or by gut [wisdom/experience]), and only after (and assuming) the more important issues of suitability to task, overall appropriate size, and good fit (physically and mentally [including socially for some]) have been addressed.

If you’ve done a basic needs/wants assessment you should get to a shortlist (regardless of “chines”) quickly. From there how it fells to/works for you should be the primary concerns. Chines, though often discussed (and more often mingled/confused with more key shape issues - like boxier vs rounder overall shape), are way down the list of things to consider - if they are a concern at all.

More often than not the chines are a result of the building method used anyway (S&G and SOF), and when not - are are often aesthetic (some even being tributes to Greenland SOF and used to reinforce ties to that heritage/style) more than functional despite the hype.

Multichines are most often a way to get less boxy shape while still using panel or SOF construction. Sort of a continuum from 4 panel hulls, to multi-panel, to a strip build and composites that can have fully developed surfaces (corners/edges now optional - and if they have them you need to consider why as they can actually weaken the structure, add drag, and give little back in trade.

Folks that argue this (believers in chine magic) are likely arguing the larger overall shape/volume issues, not the edges - as you can get those shape (and performance) difference with or without hard edges). You can keep the overall hull shape the same and knock off the hard corners and be hard pressed to note any significant difference (and if you do, then the shape was changed more than that).

“Chines” in themselves are not really a key factor, and need not rule anything out or in that would not be decided by more overarching factors. Many great kayaks with and without - in many performance and size ranges.

questions and answers
In my University one professor used to say that questions asked by a student are very good at disclosing how much that student knows.

Instead of focusing on a particular hull shape put some effort into skill development. Find a good paddling school, take classes in open-water appropriate boat. If you like boats used in the class, you can get exactly the same boat.

If you want a better answer, specify where you are, what you skill level is. Additionally both height and weight are quite important in choosing a boat.

confusion on chines
"Chines, though often discussed (and more often mingled/confused with more key shape issues - like boxier vs rounder overall shape)"

hmmm, I always understood a hard chine meant a more abrupt transition from side (hence more boxy) to bottom whereas a soft chine was more rounded/continuous transition. You state that isn’t correct. So what IS hard vs soft chine?

I know that for what I thought was hard vs soft chine that a hard chine (other factors being equal like rocker, width, etc.) would be easier to set on edge and so may enhance turning. It would also often provide higher initial stability. A soft chine would be a bit faster and tend to handle beam wave hits better. Mind that I suggest chine is only one factor. Some molded fiberglass boats are multi-chined suggesting building material wasn’t the factor, but likely a desire to get a hybrid of hard and soft chined characteristics.

Ok, more info, as requested

– Last Updated: Sep-21-09 10:58 PM EST –

My height 5'9", weight 165 lbs. I have been paddling for about 7 years, mostly inland lakes some of which do get rough waves at times. I have paddled Lake Erie and Lake Michigan in relatively calm conditions. I have done some coastal paddling with outfitters in rented kayaks. I can self-rescue (not terribly efficiently but ok) and I can roll on one side sometimes, not consistently (need to practice a lot more).

Right now I have three kayaks, a SOT, a 12 footer rec kayak and a 15 foot plastic sea kayak. What I think I know about kayaks: some rocker is good on rough water, 15' is about the longest kayak I can efficiently "push" (had a 17 footer and it felt like a load... was slower in it than my 15 footer). Have paddled a Capella which seemed like hard chines, and a Scirroco which seemed more rounded. Liked the Capella better, except they were both too long - too much boat for me, at least in heavy plastic.

I am toying with the idea of getting a fiberglass or kevlar kayak. I am intrigued by the Seaward Cosma and Luna. It seems the only difference is the Luna is more rounded and the Cosma is more multi-chined or hard chined (?). I have test paddled both (one at outfitters, one owned by a paddling acquaintance) and the Luna seemed a bit faster, but I liked the Cosma better for initial stability and it seemed to be able to "catch" the water to turn easier.

Ok, that is what I know (or THINK) I know. Feel free to tell me where I'm wrong or right or what you think.
Thank you.

p.s. I also know I like low volume kayaks better than high volume ones, they seem to fit me better.

you will love a composite boat
Kevlar or glass is the way to go regardless of chine choice. I have a hard chined boat and a soft chined boat in my arsenal, and really, I can’t tell much difference as far as stability. I prefer the soft one, mostly because it is longer and far faster. If you find a boat you like, I wouldn’t pass it up simply because the chines were not hard or soft.

BTW - Apostle Islands are amazing.

1 Like

section shape
It’s very difficult to make accurate generalized statements regarding the various hull section shapes because of all the other variables that are never the same from design to design. A multichine though tends to mimic a round hull shape, not exactly but usually it’s close enough that no one can tell the difference. Unless you’re racing.

Bill H.

Luna vs Cosma
I have owned both and prefer the Luna. The original Luna was an even better boat with a longer waterline but Seaward redesigned it for unknown reasons. The Nimbus Solander is similar. The Cosma was uninspiring to me and hit a wall speed wise. Both boats are marginal trackers with the Cosma a bit easier to correct minus rudder.

I’m Your Height & Weight
Try a Tempest 165. You might have to move the seat back some if you have long legs. I don’t think hard or soft chines means much. I think how you and a boat get along out in wind and waves means a lot.

The hard chine will be much more responsive to edging. You edge the hull and it will turn, which means you can use the hull to turn as opposed to the paddle.

The soft chine does handle beam waves better.

A lot of kayaks are considered soft chine, but there is a enough chine so that it is responsive to edging.

I had a very fast hard chine Valley Q boat.

Haven’t paddled a multi chine but know several advanced instructors who do.

The Tempest is an impressive kayak for beginners to advanced kayakers.

Some boats
There are a couple of female paddlers on the board, I hope they will chime in.

Some of the shorter boats, under 16, that I know:

PH Vela

WS Zephyr 155, available in both plastic and composite

CD Squamish, both plastic and composite but probably marginal.

Necky Eliza, the composite

QCC x10

The biggest limitation to your purchase will be availability for demo. Try to look at local used sales.

Craigslist is a decent source, look for local paddling clubs.

If you are close to Cleveland, OH, my outfitter has PH Vela for sale.

Boat length

– Last Updated: Sep-22-09 10:01 AM EST –

Boat length by itself has little or nothing to do with how hard it is to push the boat. You can get into longer boats that are allover lower volume, less wide and less deep, and be fine. I'd wager that the 17 ft boat you tried was over volume for you, so it was more volume than you needed.

There is a trick part to this - a narrower boat may feel less comfortable in terms of stability at first, especially given the background you state. You'd probably do well with a boat 22 inches wide, I'd guess the long boat you paddled was wider than that.

Asa above, it's the whole hull more than the specific chining, at least given your background to date and that you are talking about general tripping rather than surfing or the like.

I agree with one above - spend some time in different boats, take advantage of coaches/friends/paddle club to get some skills down. Let that inform your question. I also suggest that you get some good work in the forward stoke. Storms can come up very quickly on the Great Lakes, and if you need to paddle like a banshee out of hell to get to land you'll want to be able to do it in a way that avoids injury.

In general, spend some time over the winter on open water stuff like navigation, weather prediction, safety equipment and handling the unexpected ditch. You can do a lot of this on a cold winter's night thinking about warm weather to come.

thanks everybody
Celia, lots of good point there, but maybe I didn’t express myself well about the boat length issue. Let me say it another way (which is, I think, what you were saying…) Given similar volumes, depth, width, and material (plastic for example) I have paddled enough 17 footers to know that they are harder for me to push, maybe because of lack of much upper body strength. My experience tells me 14-15 is about perfect for me - but that’s plastic. I am thinking in glass I could go to 16 or maybe even 17 and be fine, based on the few glass kayaks I have paddled.

I have taken some classes and over the winters I usually watch a new video or two. I have Brent Reitz (sp?) forward stroke video and it has helped my stroke tremendously, now I used my torso muscles more than I did to begin with. Been watching roll videos like mad because I don’t get much of a chance to work with anyone around here. Those are all good suggestions you made.

Thanks everybody.

Your intuition is right
Don’t set a length limit based on your rotomolded experience. A stiffer kayak will feel very different.

Upgrading to a longer kayak takes a psychological leap as well, if you’ve been in a transitional length for a while. Look at it this way: The difference between 15’ and 16’ is only 6" at each end of the kayak. You won’t notice that much visually, but you may well notice the increased performance.

Your stated objective of doing coastal trips is at odds with wanting to stay at your current length. Doing quite a few demos, rentals, or commercial guided tours (even one-day tours) would give you a better sense of what a sea kayak feels like. It’s an important decision, so take your time and don’t buy until you have a good feel for different lengths, materials, and hull shapes.

However, I totally agree that if you have limited strength you will not be well served by going to 17’. Taking advantage of the potential increase in speed at 17’ depends on having the strength to “push the boat,” as you say—you are pushing more weight, with more wetted surface. Not everyone has that strength.

Seems like 16’ would be a good target for you at this time. You will most likely experience a sleek 16’ kayak as faster (meaning easier to paddle) than your current rotomolded boat due to the better material and hull design.

Read as much as you can about hull design so you know what you’re looking at as you visit shops. And check the reviews, but take them with a grain of salt

Thanks waterbird and everybody else
This pretty much confirms what I was thinking in general about boat length and materials, and clarifies the chine issue for me.


– Last Updated: Sep-23-09 1:01 PM EST –

They're hard to find and a bit pricey, but a Mariner Coaster would be a good choice for coastal paddling for you - they're classic. It's only 13'9", stable, has very low friction drag, loves choppy confused conditions and tracks like a much longer boat. If you can't find one used you can make an SOF version at Cape Falcon - mine only weighs 33 pounds. (there's a Coaster in NJ in the p-net classifieds at the moment). Just a thought...

think of it like a color
and if you like how it paddles that’s the “color” you like. Basically it’s a term for one of many elements of hull shape with little descriptive utility for handling.

It’s a way a manufacturer can differentiate that particular hull from others. It has about as much utility as saying the number of hatches determines the purpose of a kayak.

keep trying them out
check out an Eddyline Night Hawk 16, Necky Eliza and Tempest 165. Sounds like you desire efficient/easy to drive kayaks but you don’t appear to have articulated other preferences regarding wind/wave handling.