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Old 03-04-2012
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Is 6'6" draft too much for a cruise through the Bahamas?

I am considering a 44' boat with a 6'6" draft. We are on the upper Chesapeake and will cruise the ICW and Caribbean on our trip. I know the ICW can have some thin water. Would that deep of a draft be a detriment in the Bahamas? I understand that you can always find a way, be out a bit further, keep a keen eye etc....but given the choice would you hesitate with a draft like this for a trip as indicated above.
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Old 03-04-2012
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Re: Is 6'6" draft too much for a cruise through the Bahamas?

Sea of Abaco - shallow
6' 6" too much
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Old 03-04-2012
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Re: Is 6'6" draft too much for a cruise through the Bahamas?

It would be limiting. We anchored in a couple of spots where the water was less than 7' deep. Not the end of the world, just means that there are a few places you can't go.
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Old 03-05-2012
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Re: Is 6'6" draft too much for a cruise through the Bahamas?

I would look for something around 5'6" for the Bahamas, most harbours are right around 6' MLW. Also, the ICW would be less stressful.
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Old 03-05-2012
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Re: Is 6'6" draft too much for a cruise through the Bahamas?

Expect to go aground on your run down the ICW. Towing ins is a good idea.

If you choose to enter at Bimini which I would not advise be VERY cautious only attempting it in good light conditions with little swell and on a rising tide.

As others have said you will be restricted as to routes in the Abacos but you can get around. There are a plethora of web sites offering way points for deep draft routes, use with cution and see above advice.

Running down to Great Exuma from Nassau will be no problem except that you will propably want to stay outside a little more often than run the banks.

ENJOY!

Last edited by TQA; 03-05-2012 at 09:29 AM.
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Old 03-05-2012
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Re: Is 6'6" draft too much for a cruise through the Bahamas?

Quote:
Originally Posted by TQA View Post
Expect to go aground on your run down the ICW. Towing ins is a good idea.

If you choose to enter at Bimini which I would not advise be VERY cautious only attempting it in good light conditions with little swell and on a rising tide.

As others have said you will be restricted as to routes in the Abacos but you can get around. There are a plethora of web sites offering way points for deep draft routes, use with cution and see above advice.

Running down to Great Exuma from Nassau will be no problem except that you will propably want to stay outside a little more often than run the banks.

ENJOY!
To all,
thanks for the inputs. I owned a S/V in N Carolina; Albermarle sound area and SEATOW was my friend and will be again.

I shold clarify that the Bahamas will be only part of our Caribbean destination and the thin water will be less of an issue in other areas (I hope). It is all a trade off, with a 44' I have to expect a deeper draft, I really like the boat, and how it is outfitted. The trade-off is how much the 6+ will affect our ability to circulate etc. IF we get this vessel then the question is how much of a limit does this put on us? I'm suspect others have done this with larger boats and deeper drafts and I would ask did you "regret" the limitations imposed by the deep draft? Or was it just a minor nuisance?

Thanks for all the inupts
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Re: Is 6'6" draft too much for a cruise through the Bahamas?

We are fortunate with our 45 footer - it has a centerboard and it meant we could go pretty much where we wanted (slightly under 5' board up) and yet do well to windward (11' board down).

Really if you are only passing through the Bahamas you just accept the limitation and only go to deeper spots and spent the extra time somewhere else.
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Re: Is 6'6" draft too much for a cruise through the Bahamas?

I would agree with Killarney. We have a 47' Jeanneau with a 7' draft. We cruised through the Bahamas on the way back from the eastern Caribbean. It took a lot of attention in some areas, but generally we felt we saw most of what we expected to see in the Bahamas, including the Abaco's, without feeling limited. We did the ICW from Savannah north too. Again, there were some challenging areas, and we went outside for one day, and we lost some time waiting for a rising tide in spots, but we still had a very enjoyable time. You will run aground in the ICW, it is a pretty much certainty. We used a handheld sounder from a dinghy that would go pilot ahead with one crew member and a walkie-talkie. This was a regular occurence to make sense of what we were seeing vs the chart. I would not go with the thought that you have XYZ towing company at your side, though. We did it without tow insurance and I would rather rely on my seamanship than on a towboat coming to my rescue. In the end it will make you a better sailor. Sure, you may need the tow company if something goes very unexpected but if on the other hand you end up being cavalier because you know you have insurance, that doesn't do much for you, the boat, and your fellow boaters. good luck!
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Re: Is 6'6" draft too much for a cruise through the Bahamas?

6'-6" isnt going to be a major problem .... you'll run aground a little bit further from the beach than everyone else.

On the ICW youll have difficulty 'behind' Jekyll Island, and on the North Side of Fields cut just north of the Savannah R. (Do not be in Fields Cut when there is a mega-container carrier in the Savannah River ... will suck the water out ... listen on VHF 13/16 for such traffic.) Just dont 'follow the damn magenta line' on your chartplotter & use your eyeballs and your depth sounder. Best info for the changing/shoaling bottoms on the ICW is either "Skipper Bob" or the SE Cruisers waterway guide (for internet posted changes/recommendations), etc. On the ICW you want to plan to be running the high tide wave in all the shallow/shifting areas anyway. For such a deep boat 'unlimited towing will be a necessity', but if you're careful and travel the thin areas at high tide you may not even have a problem .... especially if you DONT follow that damn magenta line on your chartplotter.
FWIW the Garmin charplotters (if updated with the latest bottom contours, etc.) seem better than other mfgrs. ... but only 95% accurate. ALL the chartplotters are VERY inaccurate near the Nuclear Sub base on the St. Mary's River ... especially north of the St. Mary's on the Georgia Side.


Bahamas - Central and South/Far Bahamas you will only be limited especially on the Grand Bahamas banks in the pass (~6+ deep at high) between Chubb & Gun Cay (S of Bimini) and the banks.... which is the main travel route over the banks between Bimini and Nassau. If you go to N. Bimini, simply plan to go 'up around the Berry Islands' and and then down the channel between the Berry's and the Abacos to Nassau (busy ship channel).

.... and the (coral head studded shallow) 'yellow' banks south of New Providence/Nassau when on your pass to the Exumas. There are deeper 'cuts' onto the Grand Bahamas banks further south of Chubb & Gun Cays (never travelled them).

In the Abacos to enter from the west you might have to go well north of 'memory rock' (West End) and AT high tide (I think the memory rock channel is getting 'shallower and shallower' ... I 'bump' with only 6' draft). You will be excluded from the very inner harbor at Marsh Harbour, wont be able to get into Hopetown (not to be missed - take the island water taxi from Marsh Harbour), and ManOwar and definitely will have to use the Whale Passage (can be very rough or 'raging' at times) between Guana Cay and Marsh Harbour. Use the deeper cuts (Tiloo and LIttle Harbour) on the south end of the Abacos when going to Eleuthra / Spanish Wells.

For further south of the Bahamas you definitely want to be well west of the banks and coral heads between the Turks & Caicos Is and the DR. Dont go direct south from Sapodilla Bay (Provodencialles) and the DR, go a bit west first towards Inagua then South. Charts in this area .... surveys were done in the late 1800s !!!!
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