Understanding the anatomy of a boat gunwale
The boat gunwale (pronounced “gunnel”) is an integral part of any boat or ship, and knowing how it works can help you keep your vessel in top shape.
This blog post will look at the boat gunwale as part of our boat anatomy series and why any boater needs to understand precisely what it is.
What is the definition of a boat gunwale?
The gunwale (or rub rail) runs along both sides of the boat just above the deck level and top edge of the hull. It is both an aesthetic feature and an integral part of safety for any vessel. It serves as a support structure for other components on board, such as rails, cleats, and hardware.
The gunwale adds structural support for stability in rough waters and is an additional barrier to keep water from entering the deck or cabin area. Most modern boats today are made from marine-grade aluminium or stainless steel, though some older boats may have wooden ones.
Types of boat gunwales
Boats come in all shapes and sizes, so there are several different types:
Wooden boat gunwales are the most traditional type—they offer excellent strength and durability but require regular maintenance to keep them looking good.
Aluminium gunwales are more lightweight than hardwood options but may need to be more robust and durable.
Fibreglass gunwales offer strength and durability comparable to aluminium but with less maintenance required than hardwood options. Finally, composite materials like carbon fibre are becoming increasingly popular due to their strength, lightness, and corrosion resistance.
The parts of a gunwale
The parts include the deck edge trim and edge moulding, toe rail (or handrail), rub rail (or guardrail), chine log (or keel strip), stem band (or bow band) and stern band (or stern rail).
The deck edge trim helps protect the edges of decks from wear and tear while providing aesthetic appeal with its decorative design.
The edge moulding gives boats their distinctive shape around corners while being additional structural support to prevent flexing between sections of decking material.
Toe rails provide extra safety measures when walking along decks. In contrast, rub rails protect against impact damage from objects such as docks or buoys that may come into contact with your boat’s sides during navigation or mooring operations.
Chine logs help deflect water away from decks and cabins, while stem bands offer additional protection for joints between sections of hull planking at the bow and stern locations on larger vessels.
Stern bands also add extra stability when docking or manoeuvring near docks or other vessels in tight spaces since they act as barriers between your vessel’s stern area and outside elements such as waves or wind shifts that might otherwise cause instability during operations close to shorelines or other vessels nearby.
As we can see, understanding how a boat works can be simple! The anatomy of a ship includes many components; however, one key component is the boat gunwale—the upper edge that runs along both sides of most vessels above deck level.
This component serves several functions, primarily providing an aesthetic feature but also integral to boating safety by keeping weather and water out and adding extra stability when needed.
In addition to their primary function of providing support and stability to the boat, gunwales can also be enhanced with a variety of accessories. Some popular options include rod holders, cup holders, and storage compartments. These accessories can add convenience and functionality to the boat and make it more enjoyable.