keel depth - SailNet Community
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post #1 of 8 Old 01-11-2015 Thread Starter
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keel depth

Question for those who have sailed the Bahamas. I am looking for a boat 35-38' to use to cruise florida and the bahamas. I know that shoal Draft would be optimum but will I be sorry if I get a boat with a 6' draft?
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post #2 of 8 Old 01-11-2015
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Re: keel depth

I've sailed the Bahamas extensively with a 9' draft; the back door into Nassau being the only place we actually touched bottom (we couldn't get under the bridge). It requires good route planning, attention and a good supply of Rolaids, but it was doable.
With 6' you shouldn't have too many problems, but do stock up on Rolaids. If the water is still as clear as it used to be, you can think you are about to run aground in 60' of water, in some places. I'd guess the cruising guides have probably improved a bit since the 70's.
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post #3 of 8 Old 01-11-2015
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Re: keel depth

man I still have memories as a kid cruising the bahamas and having that exact same feeling of running aground EVERYWHERE...however we never did...I also remember the crystal clear water and seeing many a bonefish and shark way down on the bottom running around the grass and stuff

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post #4 of 8 Old 01-11-2015
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Re: keel depth

Like Capta I have sailed the Bahamas with a deep keel...8ft...but it was a lot easier and less anxiety provoking in a centerboard boat.

There are a lot of good boats with centerboards or keel boats with 5 to 6ft drafts especially if you are looking at older boats.

The older Sparkman & Stevens designed Tartans are good boats. I have been off-shore in a Tartan 34 centerboard boat and she performed very well.

Phil

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post #5 of 8 Old 01-12-2015
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Re: keel depth

Will you be sorry? Probably not. You can still go most places with a 6' draft. It's a matter of trade-offs. With that draft there will be some places that you cannot go, and other places where you will have to be much more careful about the state of the tide and so forth.

For myself, living on the west coast of Florida and knowing that the great majority of my sailing is going to be here, in the Keys, and in the Bahamas (all shallow areas), I would not want a boat with more than 5' of draft. There are plenty of good boats out there that fit the bill, and that will be perfectly adequate for taking anywhere that I will ever want to go. For my circumstances, I just cannot see any reason to buy a boat with a deeper draft.

For you, though, things might be different. If the Bahamas are just a starting point, and the plan is to spend most of your time in areas with deeper water, then a deeper draft might make a great deal more sense. It's really just a personal choice as far as the trade-offs.

Good luck.
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post #6 of 8 Old 01-12-2015
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Re: keel depth

6ft. draft is suitable and adequate for 95% of the Bahamas. Especially, using a chart plotter loaded with 'Explorer Charts' or using the paper Explorer chartbooks will keep you in adequate depths.
You simply will get 'used to' sailing with a few inches of water under your keel and it will become second nature to you. You'll soon become very aware and cautionary of spring tide low tides or will wait for the proper tidal height to pass through the 'real shallow' areas. Most of the sailing there is 'visual' and you'll soon learn to correctly 'read the water'; plus, the water there is quite clear.
6ft draft in the Bahamas .... not a problem.
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post #7 of 8 Old 01-12-2015
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Re: keel depth

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Originally Posted by Yorksailor View Post
Like Capta I have sailed the Bahamas with a deep keel...8ft...but it was a lot easier and less anxiety provoking in a centerboard boat.

There are a lot of good boats with centerboards or keel boats with 5 to 6ft drafts especially if you are looking at older boats.

The older Sparkman & Stevens designed Tartans are good boats. I have been off-shore in a Tartan 34 centerboard boat and she performed very well.

Phil
When you say older Tatrtans, 70s -80's? Maybe a dumb question, I'm new here and trying to learn.
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post #8 of 8 Old 01-12-2015
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Re: keel depth

I think centerboard can a blessing at times. My 1979 Bristol 35.5 is 3'8" with board up. Great for shallow slips and rivers.
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