“The only reason to have a rounded stern in a boat of modern construction is for the sake of appearance, and so long as attention is paid to sufficient reserve buoyancy aft, that is justification enough”, writes Arthur Beiser in “The proper yacht”.

I’ve always thought that about half of what has been written for and against double enders, pointy sterners, transom sterns, counters, retros and whatnot was mostly irrelevant. There’s wonderful and miserable examples of all shape and form of yacht hulls.

But the double-ender slips the water better than most?

It’s the exit at the waterline that matters most. Big broad bearings aft, like on modern race-sleds, are great for planing. Most displacement boats are best with nice and mostly symmetrical waterlines, maybe a slightly aft raking center as she heels but nothing too extreme, maybe more displacemental sharpness in bow than stern but still, moderate is to be appreciated.

Anyway – all yachts looks pretty double-ended at the waterline. What you do from there and up has more to do with aesthetics, desired accomodation, and designer’s tradition than any immutable law of the sea.

What about seaworthiness then?

To those who say there is no difference in seaworthiness provided by the double-ended shape, I can only say that I doubt whether they have experienced a full grown North Sea storm, when the waves are vertical, breaking from three directions at once. Then it isn’t just how the vessel is shaped to the waterline, because the effective waterline is often nearer the deck than where is usually is. The double-enders were shaped to live and thrive in such conditions. Other designs often do not. The real reason for the shape is seaworthiness.

Well – lots of sailors will say hoghwash to this argument. Boats in all shapes and forms have crossed the North Sea and endured hurricanes and gails all over the world. Anyone who has experienced real bad weather – and gotten away without to much trouble – feel grateful towards the boat and her constructors. However – I have experienced bad weather in good boats and bad boats – and I certainly prefer my own double-ender.

What about length of waterline?

When the double-ender lists hard the effective waterline will reach from bow to stern with lift (or effective waterline) all along. A non-double-ender will lose the effective waterline at the stern. A longer waterline will in theory give a faster hull for the same weight and rig. Besides, while the double-ender heels hard the hull shape will prevent it from loosing steerage – at least for a longer than most, and at least for realtive narrow double-enders.

I guess classic hulls with long overhangs will achieve the same lift while listing hard – and classic hulls still are double-enders in effect when sailing listless. So – the longer waterline argument is not among the heaviest pro double-ender arguments.

History then?

I’ll bet the “real” reason double-enders evolved were not for the sea keeping qualities at all, but mainly because it is an easier hull to make in wood. The fact that they in fact floated and got their Vikings home obviously proliferated the design. You know – if they didn’t get back they wouldn’t have been able to pass the knowledge to the next generation.

What a rotten argument!

But the double-ender has other qualities.

A cruising boat is a home afloat, and volume is a luxury. The broad double-ender, with a sharp, deep underbody – like the Norwegian Colin Archer sailing tugboats, gives the best volume and sailing ability for any hull shape, bare none. None are better for liveaboard quality of life, volumewise, and sailwise if the boat is properly ballasted and rigged, and most are steadier and kinder to the crew in a seaway. One just has to put enough of the right things, like ballast, total displacement, and sail area, in the right places.

I don’t know – it seems that it all ends and starts with Beiser – the only reason to build or own a double-ender is because you like it and it pleases your eyes. That’s good enough for me. Do you have any other reasons – feel free to comment.

The Kaskelot takes you topside