The Waterline length is a measurement of ship
Since the end of the age of sail a ship has been any large buoyant marine vessel. Ships are generally distinguished from boats based on size and cargo or passenger capacity. Ships are used on lakes, seas, and rivers for a variety of activities, such as the transport of people or goods, fishing,...
s and boat
A boat is a watercraft of any size designed to float or plane, to provide passage across water. Usually this water will be inland or in protected coastal areas. However, boats such as the whaleboat were designed to be operated from a ship in an offshore environment. In naval terms, a boat is a...
s. The term denotes the length of the vessel at the point where it sits in the water. It excludes the total length of the boat, such as features that are out of the water. Most boats rise outwards at the bow
The bow 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 stern is the rear or aft-most part of a ship or boat, technically defined as the area built up over the sternpost, extending upwards from the counter rail to the taffrail. The stern lies opposite of the bow, the foremost part of a ship. Originally, the term only referred to the aft port section...
, so a boat may be quite a bit longer than its waterline length. In a ship with such raked stems, naturally the waterline length changes as the draft
The draft of a ship's hull is the vertical distance between the waterline and the bottom of the hull , with the thickness of the hull included; in the case of not being included the draft outline would be obtained...
of the ship changes, therefore it is measured from a defined loaded condition.
Length at the waterline is often abbreviated as lwl, w/l, w.l. or wl.
This measure is essential in determining a lot of properties of a vessel, such as how much water it displaces, where the bow and stern waves are, hull speed
Hull speed, sometimes referred to as displacement speed, is the speed of a boat at which the bow and stern waves interfere constructively, creating relatively large waves, and thus a relatively large value of wave drag...
, amount of bottom-paint needed, etc.