The high speeds, small trim angles, and shallow drafts of planing hulls produce large changes in vessel wetted surface which, in turn, lead to significant hydrodynamic and dynamic nonlinearities. Due to the complex nonlinearities of this type of craft, naval architects and planing boat designers tend to rely upon experimental tests or simulation for guidance. In order for simulation to be an effective design tool, a fundamental understanding of the system’s dynamic characteristics is required. This paper describes a developing methodology by which the necessary insight may be obtained. A demonstration of the combined use of modern methods of dynamical system analysis with simulation is given in the evaluation of the vertical motions of a typical planing hull. Extending the work of Troesch and Hicks (1992) and Troesch and Falzarano (1993), the complete nonlinear hydrodynamic force and moment equations of Zarnick (1978) are expanded in a multi-variable Taylor series. As a result, the nonlinear integro-differential equations of motion are replaced by a set of highly coupled, ordinary differential equations with constant coefficients, valid through third order. Closed-form, analytic expressions are available for the coefficients (Hicks, 1993). Numerical examples for all first-order and some second-order terms are presented. Once completely determined, the coefficient matrices will serve as input to path following or continuation methods (e.g., Seydel, 1988) where heave and pitch magnification curves can be generated, allowing the entire system response to be viewed. The branching behavior of the solutions resulting from a variation of the center of gravity is examined in detail. These studies of the second-order accurate model show the potential of the method to identify areas of critical dynamic response, which in turn can be verified and explored further through the use of the simulator.