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Why Length Overall (LOA) Matters (So be honest!)


Published on 12/21/15 8:00 AM

If you're a boat owner and cruiser, you're probably familiar with terms like beam, draft and length, but you may not be as familiar with the distinction between LOA, LWL and LOH. Especially if you're cruising with a vessel that has a bowsprit or a large part of the hull that sits above the waterline.

When you're cruising and staying as a guest at marinas and yacht clubs, your length overall becomes an important distinction to keep in mind – just as your draft is critical as you navigate shallow harbors and tides.

Post by Adrian Mott

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What is LOA?

LOA stands for "length overall" and is a measurement of your vessel's length including any spars that protrude from the hull. This differs from LWL, or "loaded waterline length" and LOH, or "length of hull." The importance of LOA becomes obvious, especially when docking in a marina slip, where you need to account for a dock wall or bulkhead. Trust me, you don't want to lose your bowsprit or damage the marina's facilities by not knowing your proper LOA.

Traditionally, LOA and LWL are different based on factors like your outboard motor being up or down, or your sailboat's or fishing boat's bowsprit. Thankfully on many modern sailboats and dinghys, the retractable bowsprit has taken that place of the fixed bowsprit that you see on many tall ships and older vessels.

Other types of bowsprits have become popular more recently, like tuna pulpits and other bow extension on fishing and harpooning boats. Most trawlers and larger motor yachts have some sort of bowsprit. Mainly though, your LOA can be extended by factors aft, in your boat's stern. Swim ladders, outboard engines, dinghys, certain radar mounts and other equipment that is not even a part of your boat's hull or spars can extend your LOA.

Why LOA Matters

When visiting a marina, it's extremely important to provide an accurate measure of your LOA, which should include every inch from your bowsprit back to swim platforms and stern-mounted dinghys.

The facility is not trying to nickel and dime you because of the extra two feet from those nice, new Mercury 400s. They need this information to be accurate so they can accommodate every boat as safely as possible. If your Mako 261 is actually 30 feet from bowsprit to props-up, that 26ft space they've allocated isn't going to work. You’ll be forced to raft, which is in no one's best interest.

So check out some marinas on Dockwa that will be happy to accommodate you, regardless of your LOA.

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