I paddle several different types of small craft in the ocean and bays near my home. One phenomenon I've observed is beyond my understanding of drag on a narrow displacement hull. When paddling in water less than maybe 6 feet in depth, there is a very noticeable increase in drag, which increases as the depth decreases. This is true for all the types of boats I paddle, from a large 6-person Hawaiian outrigger canoe (L=40', width=2', draft=0.67') to a one-person racing kayak (L=20', width=1.5', draft=0.33'). I should add that hull speeds are generally in the 6-8 mph range. I've read that rowing shells also encounter this same drag and they are longer, narrower, but with drafts in more or less the same range.
I've read one explanation that the boundary layer on the hull makes contact with the bottom and the bottom increases the drag on the outer part of the boundary layer which in turn is transmitted to the hull. This seems highly unlikely to me, especially when the water is more than a maybe a foot deep. I don't believe the boundary layer from a 20 foot kayak extends that deep. As I said, this is noticable at water depths up to 6 feet or more.
I've also heard that pressure waves from the hull bounce off the bottom and reflect back up to the hull and cause drag but as an engineer that doesn't really sound very rigorous to me.
It seems to me there might be some interaction between the bow wave of a boat and the bottom, since I know that the dynamics of surface waves do extend approximately as deep as their wavelenth, and at these speeds the wavelength of a bow wave is certainly on par with the water depth. Can anyone give me a properly defensible answer to this?