New Boat Builders Home Page Logo

Disclaimer:   I am not a spokesperson for the US Coast Guard or ABYC. For an official interpretation of regulations or standards you must contact the US Coast Guard or other organization referenced..   More.....

HOW TO CALCULATE FLOTATION NEEDS

How to calculate how much flotation your boats need.

I developed an E-course in Capacity and Flotation for Boat Builders, for Professional Boat Builder Magazine. They no longer offer it. I am offering it as an e-book. Go to Ike's Store to see more

For new boat builders, I have available spreadsheets that can do the calculations for you and can be used to keep a record of the results. Free!
Go to Ike's Store to see more

The following are simplified methods to calculate the amount of flotation needed for a boat. The notation used, such as Boat Weight = Wb , is the same as used by ABYC, the Coast Guard and NMMA, so if you have problems you can call them and they will recognize what you're talking about. If everybody is speaking the same language it makes life a little easier.

The first method is for outboard motor boats over 2 hp. The procedure is basically the same for all boats. You need to find three things;

The boat weight and how much flotation you need to support it.

The machinery(engine) weight and how much flotation to support it.

The persons weight and how much flotation to support it.

I have simplified the calculations but in real life there is much more that goes into a boat than fiberglass and wood. Things such as screws, fittings, glue, paint, windshields, consoles, seats, etc. all add weight. There are several ways to determine the weight of each of these. The simplest way is to weight each item before you install it and add up the weights. But you need to know that different materials have different weights under water. That's what the table is for. It provides factors for determining what something weighs submerged. For instance;

Fiberglass; weighs about 1/3 under water what it weighs dry. So the factor is 0.33.

You need to determine where everything will be when the boat is swamped.

If it will be dry, use the full weight; if wet the submerged weight.

The engine will not be fully submerged on an outboard so you need to use a swamped weight. That is what it would weigh if it were only partially submerged. For that you need to take the swamped weights from the table.

Use Table 4 for outboard motor weights. You can also use Table 4-2 at the bottom of the table page for metric weights, or use ABYC Standard S-30,Outboard Engine and Related Equipment Weights Available from ABYC. If using Metric the value for water is 1000 kg/cubic meter

If you use S-30, the engine weights are heavier (because they are more up to date) than in the USCG table. S-30 also includes both 2 cycle and 4 cycle engines.  This results in heavier engine weights than the USCG table.  So you will come out with slightly higher amounts of flotation.

Additionally there is a different formula to calculate flotation for persons weight for boats with over 550 pounds of persons capacity.  You will see this in the examples.


Method of Calculation with example:

OUTBOARD MOTORBOATS OVER 2 HP:

14 Foot outboard
40 Horsepower motor
Maximum Weight Capacity = MC = 1400 lb
Maximum Persons Capacity = PC = 900 lb
Boat Weight = 1000 lb
Use 62.4 lb per cubic foot for specific gravity of fresh water.
Use 2 lb density Foam For flotation.
Use 60.4 lb per cubic foot  for dry weight supported by 2 lb foam.

Factors for the Specific Gravity of materials:
Factor: K
Fiberglass     =   0.33
Aluminum       =   0.63
ABS Plastic    =   0.11
Oak, white     =  -0.18
Oak            =  -0.56
Mahogany       =  -0.72
Plywood        =  -0.81

Calculate the amount of Flotation required, Ft, for The boat using:
Fb = Flotation for boat
Fp = Flotation for people
Fm = Flotation for the outboard engine

Boat (Hull) weight(Wb) = 800 lb
Hull is submerged: use submerged weights (dry weight X factor)
Fiberglass = 600 lb
Wood = 200 lb

                               Fiberglass            Wood
Boat Weight submerged       (600 X K 0.33 )+( 200 X K -0.81)    Wb = 36

Deck is not submerged: use dry weight.
Deck weight (Wd) = Fiberglas 100 lb + Wood 100 lb = 100 +  100  Wd = 200

Maximum Persons weight (Wp)   Wp = 900

Swamped motor and controls + Battery Wt =  (Wm)

(from column 2 and column 4, Table 4, 33 CFR 183.)  = 352 + 25  Wm = 377

Flotation for Boat Weight (Fb) = (Wb + Wd) / 60.4
(cu ft of 2 lb density closed cell foam)
                                = 36 + 200 /60.4 = 236/60.4 Fb   = 3.9

Dead Weight =
  Max Wt Capacity - Persons Capacity - Motor Controls Battery Wt  = Wdw
               Motor Controls Battery Wt = From Column 6 Table 4) = 550
Dead Weight =    1400 - 900 - 550 = Wdw =(If zero or neg Wdw = 0) = 0
 
Flotation for persons Weight (Fp) over 550 lb persons capacity
Fp = (1/2 the first 550 lb Persons) + (.125 remainder) + .25 dead weight
Fp = (0.5 X 550)+0.125(Wp-550)+.25(Wdw) / 60.4 = 275 + 350 + 0 /60.4
 
Flotation for persons Weight (Fp) Fp = 10.35
 
For boats with less than 550 lb persons capacity
Fp = (0.5 X Wp)+.25 (Wdw)/ 60.4= _______ + ______    / 60.4  Fp  = _____
 
Flotation for swamped motor (Fm)= (Wm) / 60.4
 

(Wm from Table 4), 33 CFR 183 column 2) =   143 / 60.4 = Fm      = 2.37
 

TOTAL Amount of 2 lb Foam Flotation (in cubic feet)
 = Fb + Fp + Fm = Ft =  3.9 + 10.35 + 2.37 = 16.62 Ft = 17

Keep track of total boat weight over a production run.  If total boat
weight increases significantly (say more than 50 lbs) you need to add
flotation.

Recalculate total Boat Weight
 
Weight of Flotation in pounds (Fw)=2 lb/cu ft X Cu Ft=2X 26 = Fw = 52
 
Total Boat weight = Weight of Flotation + Boat weight = Fw+ Wb = 52 + 800 = 852


The following is the method for Modified Level flotation:

OUTBOARD MOTORBOATS LESS THAN 2 HP & MANUAL PROPULSION:

See Example Calculating Capacities and Making Labels

                        Fiberglass             Wood
Boat weight (Wb)  = ( ____ X K 0.33 ) + ( ____ X K -0.81 ) =_______

Deck weight (Wd) (if any)   = _____ + _______              =_______

Maximum Persons weight (Wp) =_______

Swamped motor and controls (Wm) =   20 lb
(from column 2 and column 4, Table 4, 33 CFR 183.)

Dead Weight = Max Wt Capacity - Persons Capacity  = (Wdw)  = ______
(If zero or negative ignore)

Flotation for Boat Weight (Fb) = (Wb + Wd) / 60.4 =
(cubic feet of 2 lb density closed cell foam)
                                     =_____ X ___ /60.4  =________

Factors for the Specific Gravity of materials:
Factor: K =
Fiberglass    =  0.33 
Aluminum      =  0.63  
ABS Plastic   =  0.11
Oak, white    = -0.18
Oak           = -0.56
Mahogany      = -0.72
Plywood       = -0.81

Note: The requirement for flotation for persons weight is 2/15 of the persons weight or 0.1333 times the persons weight. But in the Guidelines the USCG uses 1/4 or 0.25 times the persons weight to provide a safety factor. This provides a safety factor of 2 or twice the amount of flotation for persons weight.  If you use 2/15 you will have a lower amount of flotation. 

Flotation for persons Weight (Fp):  over 550 lb persons capacity
F p = (0.25 X 550) + 0.125(Wp-550) + .25(Wdw) / 60.4
                               = 137.5 + ______ + _____ /60.4   =________
 
For boats with less than 550 lb persons capacity
Fp = (0.25 X Wp) + .25 (Wdw) /60.4 = Fp = _____ + _____ / 60.4 =________
 
Flotation for swamped motor(Fm)=(Wm)/60.4 = _____ / 60.4 = Fm = _______
 
Amount of Flotation (in cubic feet)   = Fb + Fp + Fm = Ft
                 Ft = _______ + _______ + _______ + _______   = ________


Weight of Flotation in lb.(Wfl)= 2 lb/cu ft x Ft = 2 X _____  = ________

Total Boat weight = Weight of Flotation + Boat weight
                                         = Wfl + Wb = _______ + ________


Keep track of total boat weight over a production run.  If total boat
weight increases significantly (say more than 50 lbs) you need to add
flotation.


The following method is for Basic Flotation:

INBOARD MOTORBOATS:

                          Fiberglass            Wood
Boat weight (Wb)   = ( ____ X K 0.33 ) + ( ____ X K -0.81 )  = _______

Deck weight (Wd) (if any)             = ________+ _________  = _______

Maximum Persons weight (Wp)                                  = _______
 
Swamped motor, drive unit  + Battery Wt                (Wm)  = _______
(includes motor, drive unit, propeller, shaft, battery & transmission)
 
Dead Weight = Max Wt Capacity - total dry weight       Wdw   = _______
(If zero or negative ignore)
 
Flotation for Boat Weight (Fb) = (Wb + Wd) / 60.4
(cubic feet of 2 lb density closed cell foam)
                                    =_______ X _____ /60.4   = _______

Factors for the Specific Gravity of materials:
Factor: K =
Fiberglass  =  0.33
Aluminum    =  0.63
ABS Plastic =  0.11
Oak, white  = -0.18
Oak         = -0.56
Mahogany    = -0.72
Plywood     = -0.81
 
Flotation for persons Weight (Fp)  over 550 lb persons capacity
Fp = (0.5 X 550)+0.125(Wp-550)+.25(Wdw) / 60.4
                        = 275 + ________ + _______ / 60.4
 
Flotation for persons Weight (Fp) Fp  = _______

boats with less than 550 lb persons capacity
Fp =(0.5 X Wp)+.25 (Wdw)/60.4 = ______ + ______ / 60.4 = Fp   = _______

Flotation for swamped machinery  (Fm) = (Wm) / 60.4 = _______ / 60.4=  
                                                         Fm   = _______
 
Amount of Flotation (in cubic feet) = Fb + Fp + Fm = Ft
                      = ______ +_______ + ______ + _______    = _______

Weight of Flotation in pounds (Fw)
                              = 2 lb/cu ft x Ft = 2 X ____    = _______

Total Boat weight = Weight of Flotation + Boat weight = Fw + Wb =
                             =  ___________ + ___________     = ______

Keep track of total boat weight over a production run.  If total boat
weight increases significantly (say more than 50 lb) you need to add
flotation
.

Back to Modified Level Flotation Next to Fuel Systems
American Boat And Yacht Council Westlawn Institute Of Yacht Design Boat Design Net Metal Boat Society Woodenboat Forum Wooden Boat Foundation
This Web site may contain copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. I am making such material available in my efforts to advance understanding of educational, economic, and scientific issues, etc. I believe this constitutes a "fair use" of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this Web site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for nonprofit educational purposes. For more information see: www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this Web site for purposes of your own that go beyond "fair use", you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.