Bow (ship)

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Bow of the cruise ship Spirit of Endeavour

The bow (pronounced /ˈbaʊ/, rhymes with how) is a nautical term that refers to the forward part of the hull of a ship or boat, the point that is most forward when the vessel is underway. Both of the adjectives fore and forward mean towards the bow. The other end of the boat is called the stern.


The bow is designed to reduce the resistance of the hull cutting through water and should be tall enough to prevent water from easily washing over the top of it. On slower ships like tankers, a fuller bow shape is used to maximise the volume of the ship for a given length.

A "wet bow" results from seawater washing over the top of the hull. A raked stem can help to reduce the wetness of the bow. Aside from making the deck slippery, water can corrode the metal of the ship. If the temperature is low enough this water can also freeze on the deck, rails, turrets, and other exposed surfaces, increasing the topside weight.


The forward part of the bow, usually on the ship's centreline, is called the stem. Traditionally, the stem was an upright timber or metal bar into which side planks or plates were joined.


Several types of bows

Several types of bows exist. These include [1]:

  • Tumblehome
  • Raised foredeck
  • Reverse sheer
  • Conventional clipper
  • Low-cain spoon bow
  • High-cain spoon bow
  • X-Bow (Developed by the Ulstein Group)

See also


Further reading

Wikimedia Commons has media related to:
[[Commons: Category:Bows (ship part)

| Bows (ship part)

  • Sleight, Steve; The New Complete Sailing Manual, Dorling Kindersley Co., (2005) ISBN 0-7566-0944-5
  • Steward, Robert; Boatbuilding Manual, 3rd ed. International Marine Publishing Company. Camden, Maine (1987), p2-3. ISBN 0-87742-236-2

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