Naval Ship Design: Tumblehome vs. Flare Hulls

At our 14 April brunch at Naval Station Everett, Companion and Commandery Historian Floyd Kershner provided an excellent overview of the difference between two naval vessel designs:  Tumblehome and Flare.

From Floyd’s presentation, available by clicking Naval Design, we learned that the tumblehome structure has the following characteristics:

•  The widest part of the hull is at or close to the waterline. NH 55367
•  All parts of the ship above the waterline are much closer to the centerline.
•  All weapons are placed as close as practical to the centerline to add stability.

The USS Constellation (tumblehome design) is shown at right.  (NH55367 Photo courtesy of the Naval History and Heritage Command {NHHC} collection at

Conversely, the term “flare”, with regard to ship design, is described by the Naval History and Heritage Command as “The spreading out from a central vertical plane of the body of a ship with increasing rapidity as the section rises from the water line to the rail.” K-105258

At left is the flare version of USS Constellation (CVA-64).  (K-105258 Photo courtesy of the National Archives at

Be sure and check out Floyd’s presentation slides noted above and learn about the advantages and disadvantages of tumblehome as well as distinct events in naval history that set the pattern for vessel designs for the world’s navies.

For more information on naval vessel nomenclature, click HERE and you can access an extensive listing of other terms provided by the Naval History and Heritage Command.

And finally for avid nautical historians, check out the specific list of terms that was provided to Naval Air trainees in December 1942 at US Naval Air Station, Jacksonville.  That list is available from NHHC by clicking HERE.


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