Where can you go with 6'5" draft? - SailNet Community
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post #1 of 43 Old 04-15-2017 Thread Starter
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Where can you go with 6'5" draft?

I'm looking at buying a 38' C&C with 6'5" draft.

Quick outlay of my "plan" (in quotes because who knows if it will change). I will berth the boat in Erie, PA initially, and probably sail it around the great lakes for 2 seasons. The plan then is to put it on the ocean in FL, move aboard full time, and sail the coast and the keys there for maybe a season. Then start hopping longer distances: the Bahamas, then into the Carribean. The eventual goal is to head west across the Pacific. Of course, with a multi-year plan like this, lots can change; but that's the plan as it stands now.

My concern is with the draft. Obviously the benefits of reduced leeway and the ability to point upwind are nice; but I'm concerned that it's deep enough to cause frustration while island hopping and exploring (i.e. reducing the available options for anchorages and even routes between destinations in some cases, like the FL keys)

Has anyone done a lot of island hopping on a boat with this kind of draft that can comment on whether my concerns are valid or just me worrying too much? Obviously, a dinghy with a good motor can overcome some of the limitations of the boat itself ... but is there a line somewhere? When is the draft just too deep that it makes things too difficult?
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post #2 of 43 Old 04-15-2017
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Re: Where can you go with 6'5" draft?

Deep draft gives you a better safety margin out in the elements. But it also limits you to take St Lawrence Seaway out of Great Lakes. With careful navigation you can still visit pretty much every good cruising ground out there but limits you a bit in your choices of anchorage. Is it 38-2? If so, that is great IOR boat design. 38-1 is a bit light on ballast.

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post #3 of 43 Old 04-15-2017
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Re: Where can you go with 6'5" draft?

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But it also limits you to take St Lawrence Seaway out of Great Lakes.
We did the Erie & Oswego canals with 6'2 draft with room to spare. The western Erie can be a little tight but taking the Welland canal to Lake Ontario then the Oswego canal to the eastern Erie canal then out to the Hudson would be fine. The only exception was the town dock in Rome, NY but there's a wall next to it with plenty of depth.

Parts of the ICW can be shallow so if you're considering that then 6'5 is a bit much. We mostly did outside hops down the coast other than one short section inside Hatteras.

It sounds like you might ship the boat to Florida anyway, which means none of that matters.

I don't know much about the Florida coast.

If you want to spend a lot of time in the northern Bahamas & Florida Keys, 6'5 will be annoying and somewhat limiting. 6'2 was manageable everywhere but annoying in the Abacos. We briefly sat on the bottom on a mooring in Man-o-War Cay If you won't like doing 5+ knots in 8' of water, then you won't be happy in the Exumas. I don't think I'd have enjoyed a whole winter in the Bahamas with 6'+ draft but for a month or two it was fine.

For Puerto Rico, the virgin islands, and the eastern Caribbean, it won't be much of an issue. There are a few spots that might take some planning but it won't limit you much.

If you really think you might spend a lot of time in Florida & the Bahamas, you might find a shallower draft a lot nicer. If you're really going to get past that area relatively quickly, then just deal with the inconvenience for a bit.
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Re: Where can you go with 6'5" draft?

I came all the way down the East Coast and am currently in the bahamas. But of course I have a shallow draft of only 6'4".
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post #5 of 43 Old 04-15-2017
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Re: Where can you go with 6'5" draft?

About the only place I know where 6.5' draft will cause you serious problems is the Fla Keys, especially bayside.
As I said in your last post, I've done the Bahamas w/9.5' w/o any major problems. Lots of Rolaids, but no problems. There will be shallower places in the Bahamas where you might not be comfortable going w/your 6.5' draft, but there are so many other lovely places, you won't miss much. If you carry a proper dink w/a decent engine, you can always anchor out and still get in to see (or get water/fuel) a place you can't get into.
I really don't see your worry. You aren't going to want to anchor in anything less than 10' anyway. Only a fool tucks up close to the beach in the tropics. If the mosquitoes don't drive you out of there, an unexpected westerly certainly will, hopefully before you are solidly aground.
We draw 6.6' w/the board up and there has not been one single anchorage in the Antilles we have not gone to because of our draft.
If you are really interested in ocean voyaging, you will kick yourself if you buy a shoal draft vessel, in the long run.
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Re: Where can you go with 6'5" draft?

I came through Lake Erie a few seasons ago with my 6 draft boat and definitely found some marinas and anchorages that were off limits or left me sweating pretty hard. If I were staying in the lower Great Lakes I would look at something around a 5 draft.

But as I said elsewhere, draft is never-ending search for nirvana. Shallow is great for gunk holing and getting into thin marinas, but deep is better for actual sailing. No matter what your draft, there will be places you cant go, so Id find the right boat for now, and worry about the future later.

Buying a Lake Erie boat, sailing and learning on it for a few years, then selling and buying in Florida will probably not cost you any more than buying big now and moving it down south.
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Re: Where can you go with 6'5" draft?

Why not have it both ways? Keel/CB or swing keel will give you variable draft. No argument that deeper is better for going "up hill", but no argument that shallower allows more options for safe harbor.

My swing keel boat (1' 10"/ 5' 11" per specs, but measures 2' 2"/ 6' 3" equipped and loaded for cruising) is sailed with the keel fully down and does very well to weather. With the keel (and rudder) up, you had better be on a run or motoring. That said I can take short cuts and anchor where most sailboats can't and that means the harbors are bigger and I can sneak into gunkhole territory to get out of nasty weather. I would NEVER trade off the shoal draft capability.

If the OP wants to do the Keys and the Bahamas, 6' 5" is not impossible, but is very limiting. Despite other protestation that you can do it, it will come at a price of convenience and safety. If the OP wants to chance hurricane season in the Caribbean, he might check out the draft required for some of the hurricane holes.
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Re: Where can you go with 6'5" draft?

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Why not have it both ways? Keel/CB or swing keel will give you variable draft. No argument that deeper is better for going "up hill", but no argument that shallower allows more options for safe harbor.

My swing keel boat (1' 10"/ 5' 11" per specs, but measures 2' 2"/ 6' 3" equipped and loaded for cruising) is sailed with the keel fully down and does very well to weather. With the keel (and rudder) up, you had better be on a run or motoring. That said I can take short cuts and anchor where most sailboats can't and that means the harbors are bigger and I can sneak into gunkhole territory to get out of nasty weather. I would NEVER trade off the shoal draft capability.
That sounds wonderful. Now all I need is someone who's willing to sell one for under $60k.
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Re: Where can you go with 6'5" draft?

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If the OP wants to chance hurricane season in the Caribbean, he might check out the draft required for some of the hurricane holes.
"Hurricane holes" in the eastern Caribbean are a fallacy. Where once one might have tucked into some fairly secure little hole, these days the locals will bring their boats in at the last minute, throw our an anchor or two (quite often on rope only) and go home to be with their families.
I'm talking about everything from small freighters to very shallow draft dive and tour boats.
A much more practical hurricane plan is to run from the storm.
We sail without fear in the hurricane season because the internet provides me with all the information I need to make an informed decision (not forecasts) about where I will go, and when. But the last thing I would do is go into a "hurricane hole", set out my 5 anchors and be left at the last minute making the choice between staying where I am surrounded by poorly anchored yachts and local boats or running at that late date.
I think draft has little to do with one's security in a hurricane, and much to do with the numbers of no-see-ums and skeeters one gets aboard by anchoring in skinny water near the land.

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Re: Where can you go with 6'5" draft?

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"Hurricane holes" in the eastern Caribbean are a fallacy. Where once one might have tucked into some fairly secure little hole, these days the locals will bring their boats in at the last minute, throw our an anchor or two (quite often on rope only) and go home to be with their families.
I'm talking about everything from small freighters to very shallow draft dive and tour boats.
A much more practical hurricane plan is to run from the storm.
We sail without fear in the hurricane season because the internet provides me with all the information I need to make an informed decision (not forecasts) about where I will go, and when. But the last thing I would do is go into a "hurricane hole", set out my 5 anchors and be left at the last minute making the choice between staying where I am surrounded by poorly anchored yachts and local boats or running at that late date.
I think draft has little to do with one's security in a hurricane, and much to do with the numbers of no-see-ums and skeeters one gets aboard by anchoring in skinny water near the land.
Fair weather or foul, you have fewer options the deeper your draft. Arguing otherwise is simply rationalization for owners of deeper draft boats.

You will always have the problem of yahoos in a hurricane situation--including here in the Northeast. Nonetheless, draft has a LOT to do with your options when push comes to shove. If finding a shallow water spot means skeeters, there's Deep Woods Off and screens. Besides, shallow doesn't always mean closer to shore. And shallow means fewer deep draft boats can blow down on you when their anchors drag: I've been there in Block Island salt pond when a 30'+ keel boat drifted down on our catboat fleet (2' draft) in a 50 kt sustained blow and ground to a stop dozens of feet from one our our fleet.

All that said, it's always best not to ride out a hurricane at anchor. But trying to outrun or otherwise avoid it has its risks, too. Even hauling out can be problematic--witness those boats on the hard in Grenada during Ivan. (But, aren't hurricanes not supposed to go there?)
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