Is 7-foot Draft in Chesapeake near Annapolis a mistake? - SailNet Community

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Old 03-28-2008
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Is 7-foot Draft in Chesapeake near Annapolis a mistake?

Hi, new member here looking for some Annapolis area advice:

We are moving to the Annapolis area this summer. Most likely the Broadneck/Arnold/Severna Park area and therefore will likely be keeping a boat on the east shore of the Severn or possibly Whitehall Creek or Mill Creek.

We expect to do a lot of overnight to week-long trips on the Bay. We are a family of five (3 kids ages 9 to 16) and our ideal boat is a 3-cabin 40 to 45 footer so that we don't need to convert the salon area to sleeping each night. Longer term we foresee longer trips to Mystic/Block Island/Nantucket and eventually Maine/Nova Scotia/Newfoundland.

We are considering an early 90's 44' Jeanneau Sun Magic because the layout (3-cabin not 4-cabin) is absolutely perfect and in no small part because it could come at a very good price.

The downside is it has 7-feet of draft (and in-mast furling).

Would we be nuts to bring this deep a draft into the area? What kind of MLW at the dock (or mooring) figure should I use as a minimum relative to a given draft? We don't really see ourselves wanting to push way up some mosquito-filled creek. Most of our sailing has been eastern L.I. Sound/Mystic Ct. area and we're used to long dynghy rides anyway.

Thanks for your input.
JeffH you still out there?
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Old 03-28-2008
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May be limiting...

In the Main Bay, you would be fine, but a lot of areas would be off limts, especially towards the shores, creeks/coves and north bay. Most sailboats that I have seen in the bay have 5' or less drafts without board or board up.

My dad used to have a house on a creek just off the Eastern Bay/Prospect Bay and my cousin has a 40 ft Sabre docked at his house on a small inlet off the Wye River. My dad's dock had roughly a 6 foot water depth at high tide and just under 4 at low tide. However, many times the creek would be lower during an lower tide cycle, so much so that you could easily see the bottom. Having a sailboat with any real draft was impossible. A few houses up from him, towards the bay, there were bigger boats, but still the creek maybe had only 8 to 10 feet at the mouth at high tide.

My cousin's (off the Wye River) boat sits basically on bottom on his keel in his slip. There are some days he really has to rock the boat with the motor to get it off. Once in the Wye, he is fine.

You would be able to go more places in the Bay if you could find a boat with less draft.

DrB
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Old 03-28-2008
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Gill,
Jeff would be the expert on the Annapolis area, but I live and sail a bit further south, in Calvert County. I would not consider a 7 ft. draft for my purposes. But then, I couldn't even get a 7 ft draft into my harbor (Flag harbor) on anything but a high tide. You would have trouble "gunk-holing" in the classic sense on the ChesBay, but probably would not have trouble getting into most of the normal marinas. In short, you might miss out on some opportunities, but could probably get by with a bit of planning.
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Old 03-28-2008
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I sail out of the Patapsco and gunkhole quite a bit both north, south and east from there. Jeff used to live off Mill Creek, and may still, so he can speak about draft there. His boat draws over 6' if I recall and he says he has very few problems.

My boat has a wing keel and draws 4'2". I'm spoiled in where I can go. In general, 7' is doable but watch the charts for channels into some places because those may only have 6-7 feet of water to begin with.

One thing about water depths in creeks and marinas -- if there's a strong north wind for any length of time, water will be blown down the bay. Depths could drop another 2-3 feet below MLLW depending on conditions. That can happen several times a year so keep that in mind with where you keep the boat.
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Old 03-28-2008
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You will be distinctly limited in where you can go on Chesapeake Bay with a 7' draft vessel. You say that you don't plan to explore far up creeks, but it is not the getting far up the creek that is the problem -- it's the getting into the creek at all. Most creeks silt-in near their mouths, so usually the shallowest part is the bar at the entrance. 7' draft would make virtually every "special" place we sail to off-limits, even though we usually anchor in much deeper water.

On top of that, you will need a slip with a MLW of 9+ feet if you want to come and go at will. The "normal" astronomical tide range in most places on the Bay is only a couple feet, but the seiche tide can and does add several more feet to that quite regularly. Normally you will want minimum 1-2 feet deeper than your draft for the MLW at your slip.

I understand the temptation to go with the deeper draft. And for your other purposes (heading up the New England coast) it would be fine. But it sounds like your predominate use for the foreseeable future will be C Bay. Get a boat that will work well for how you primarily intend to use the boat, and that won't cost you a fortune to keep at a slip. My recommendation would be to keep it under 6' draft.
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Old 03-28-2008
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I live on the creek to that bounds the northern side of the Broadneck penisula - Deep Creek on the Magothy River.
7 feet of draft will not work on this creek, or most of the others in the area unless you like to bump and wait for the tide.
I only draw 20 inches boards up, 5.5 ft boards down and I bump here and there.

The good news is there are many, many boats in the area. If you can adapt to a catamaran I might suggest taking a look at them, they are well suited for family life on the anchor.
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Old 03-28-2008
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I think a 7 foot draft would be a HUGE mistake...6 ft. is tough enough and I sailed the bay for 20+ years.
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Old 03-28-2008
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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.

Jeff
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Old 03-28-2008
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jeff_H View Post
The greater speed of the new boat actually gives me more choices of anchorages that I can sail to during a weekend
That is a fair statement to a certain extent. However, I would just comment that the extra speed (usually only to windward) is not always the advantage it first seems.

I cannot count the times we have dusted shoal draft and wing-keeled boats on long upwind legs with our weatherly fin keel, only to have the nearly-horizoned boat proceed to cut over a shoal that we had to circumvent and thereby save themselves literally miles of distance travelled -- in the event arriving ahead of us. So unless you plan to spend most of your time out in the deep water of the bay (for instance if you race a lot), the upwind speed advantage of the deeper draft will in many instances prove illusory in the context of elapsed time while passagemaking.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Jeff_H View Post
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. Jeff
This is absolutely true, and is the source of quandary for many Bay sailors that want to move up in size without unduly sacrificing performance. It is one thing to say "keep the draft under 5 feet" when we are discussing 30-footers and smaller, and quite another when talking about 40+ footers. There has to be a sliding scale as the boat gets larger, where we live with some of the downsides of deeper draft while we enjoy the benefits of a larger boat. Still, for a boat intended primarily to explore and cruise Chesapeake Bay, I would not want a draft much over 6 feet, preferably under.
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Last edited by JohnRPollard; 03-28-2008 at 03:20 PM. Reason: clarification
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Old 03-28-2008
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I have raced with boats that drew a little over 8' and the issue is not what you experience along the way, its when you go into harbors, creeks, marinas etc...
Another important thing to consider is being hauled out.....many, many , many marinas have skinny water at the boat lift
My boat draws 4'-2" with the board up and nearly 8' with it down, we never keep it down when going into creeks!!!
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