Join Date: Feb 2000
Location: Annapolis, Md
Thanked 234 Times in 185 Posts
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Did I hear my name being called? I still sail out of Mill Creek (the one off of Whitehall Bay rather than the one off of the Magothy, Patapsco or Great Wicomico Rivers). I am not precisely sure how to answer your question. I have raced and cruised on boats that drew as much a 8 feet and it hasn't been much of a problem, but even at 7 feet, draft does begin to limit where you can go a little.
When I first came to the Bay I was told that 4'-6" was the limit for cruising the Bay. To that I say, hogwash. My boat draws 6'-4" and before that I had a boat for 13 or so years that drew just a tad under 5 feet. There were few if any places that I can think of where I could have gotten into with a 4'6" draft but that I couldn't get into with a five foot draft.
There certainly are a very few places where I used to go with 5 foot draft that are off limits with 6'4 draft, but there have been relatively few places that I routinely anchored with the old boat that I can't anchor in now. The greater speed of the new boat actually gives me more choices of anchorages that I can sail to during a weekend, even if some of the places I might have ducked into with the old boat is off limits. I have found it a little harder to find anchorages where there is room to swing the 20 larger circle that is requird to allow my new boat to swing on her anchor.
But that is with 6'4" draft. Before I bought Synergy, I had considered a number of boats with 7 foot draft or so. I really looked closely a variety of locations and concluded that the extra 8 inches would make a difference. While I have nearly 10 feet of water at my dock, the entrance channel into Mill Creek has shoaled in so that I probably occasionally stir the top of the silt slipping in an out during the seriously low tides during the winter. On those days 7 feet draft would not get through. There is a similar hump in Whitehaul Creek that would preclude entry during the lowest tides. The 8" draft difference was enough that I eliminated several models from my list of potential candidates when I bought Synergy. (Of course that decision was not easy since several of these eliminated models offered as much as 15 seconds a mile better sailing performance.)
The decision becomes much harder on boats that are bigger than my 38 footer because a lot of performance is sacrificed with drafts under 7 or so feet, unless the boat is a keel centerboarder, in which case there is some loss but it is minimal.
So having jawed my way completely around this, I guess I would say that 7 feet would eliminate some anchorages, but the Bay is so richly endowed with good deep water anchorages that 7 foot draft may be perfectly Okay for many, if not most folk.