Go deep to escape the boundary water layer

The upper water layers of the sea contain a myriad of small air bubbles created by breaking waves. In heavy seas the uppermost 5-10 metres may be air-filled, with the highest concentrations near the surface. Air bubbles absorb and reflect sound waves, and may in the worst conditions block sound transmission totally.

When your vessel moves through the sea, the friction between the hull and the water creates a boundary layer. The thickness of the boundary layer depends upon the vessel speed and the roughness of its hull. Any objects protruding from the hull, and any dents in the hull, will disturb the flow and increase the thickness of the boundary layer.

The flow in this boundary layer may be laminar or turbulent. A laminar flow is a nicely ordered, parallel movement of the water. A turbulent flow has a disorderly pattern, full of eddies. The boundary layer increases in thickness when the flow goes from laminar to turbulent.

Boundary layers underneath a vessel


A. Turbulent flow

B. Laminar flow

C. Air bubbles in the water

Furthermore, air bubbles in the sea water are pushed down below the hull and mixed into the boundary layer. The boundary layer is thin underneath the forward part of the vessel, and increases in thickness as it moves aft. If the sides of the hull are steep, some of the air bubbles in the boundary layer may escape to the sea surface along the vessel sides. It is our experience that a wide and flat bottom, with a rising angle less than about 13 degrees athwarthship, is prone to cause air problems for a transducer.

The conclusion is that the transducers should be mounted as deep as possible, and in the forward part of the hull.

However, this is not an invariable rule. Certain thruster designs combined with its physical location on the hull may still offer suitable locations near the thruster. If you are in doubt, consult a naval architect.