A method is presented of estimating the responses of axisymmetric bodies floating in spread irregular seas, using a Laplace transfer-function formulation of a floating body time-domain model. A general-case spread-wave model is formulated, using separate wave excitation transfer functions, and a simplification of this approach is proposed, reducing both model complexity and computation time. Responses are computed using both approaches and a comparison made to assess the circumstances in which the simplified approach may be used effectively. The results are also interpreted to highlight the implications of using an equivalent unidirectional wave as an approximation to a spread wave. © 2006 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.