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post #12 of Old 05-21-2013
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Re: Avoiding The Draft

Originally Posted by Wayward Drifter View Post
.... many of the best spots to anchor are on the Florida bay side of the keys. Water depth is obviously a big concern. The question I'm putting out there is, just how shallow of a draft must I consider to be able to reasonably maneuver on the NW side of the keys. I know that a swing keel would be great, and I have had one before on an Oday 25' that I owned. But looking for a swing keel only, really limits my purchasing options. ANY input would be much appreciated.
Keel depth is a matter of preference, to some degree - i.e., whether you plan to gunkhole in really skinny waters or just hang out in a few places in the Keys, and how often you mind grounding your boat. I'm further up the west coast of FL, and FWIW my preference is for a minimum draft of 3-3.5 feet or less, but there are plenty of boats in FL with fin or full keels of 4-5 feet that can get around pretty well, provided they use current charts and tides data and keep to the (relatively) deeper areas.

Also look at keel/centerboards, which have ballast in a stub/shoal keel and a fairly light retractable centerboard, or sometimes a lifting keel. There are a number in the 27-35 foot range, from older ones (O'Day, Tartan) to newer ones (Hake/Seaward). Even some of the larger, pricier blue water boats (Southerly, Ovni) are centerboarders. Check out and use "centerboard" as a search term.

A swing keel is similar, but has most of its ballast in the keel itself, which puts greater strain on the lifting mechanisms over time and may present more danger in a knockdown. Usually swing keels are found on smaller boats (22-25') such as the older Catalinas and O'Days.

As recommended above, I'd be chary about a wing keel, as most say they are far harder to get unstuck once grounded. And eventually, you (read: "everyone") will be grounded.

Hope this helps. Someone here who sails regularly in the Keys should chime in soon. Good luck, and let us know what you decide.

Joe in SPB
Looking for a shoal draft pocket cruiser
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