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Go Back   SailNet Community > General Interest > General Discussion (sailing related)
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Old 11-09-2006
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How much draft is too much?

I've heard lots of folks down here on the Gulf coast of FLA throw around lots of different numbers for how much draft I need in a boat. Everything from no more than 3 feet to no more than 7 feet! I was under the impression that if I watched the tides and the passes, that your draft shouldn't be that big a concern... even in the Bahamas.
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Old 11-09-2006
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Old 11-09-2006
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A couple I know cruised the Keys and the Bahamas in a boat that draws a touch over 6 feet, and they talked quite a bit about the restrictions on where they could go. I think part of it is your mindset, however. If you're used to deeper draft, you may not notice the restrictions as much as someone who sails regularly with a shallow draft boat.

Need I tout the virtues of my winged keel once again???????? By Pearson draws 4'2" which is quite nice for sailing in skinny water.
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Old 11-09-2006
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I saw a guy with a 6' draft ground in what looked to him and to me (on my own small boat) like the middle of the channel, and I decided then and there that 6' was a little too much for the Gulf Coast. I chartered a boat with 5' draft a number of times, and had very little trouble. When I got ready to buy a bigger cruising boat, I bought one with 4'10" draft. A draft up to 5'6 would have been acceptable to me, but my preference was a little less.

The water depth during a storm can get unusually low, and it's better to err in favor of shallower draft, rather than deeper draft. If a deep draft is important to you, then you should be prepared to wait out an occasional, unusually low tide, and you won't be able to go everywhere you might like.
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Old 11-09-2006
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SailorMitch
Need I tout the virtues of my winged keel once again???????? By Pearson draws 4'2" which is quite nice for sailing in skinny water.
Word.
3'9" winged keel on my Capri.
I'm one of the few who can get out of our marina's channel at low tide.
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Old 11-09-2006
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I spent a winter in the Bahamas in a boat that drew 3.5 ft. That is just about right for those waters. I have also spent the winter there in a boat that drew 4.5 ft. There were only mild restrictions on where I could go. But definitely more restrictive that the 3.5 ft. I have met people with up to 6 ft. there and they had pretty severe restrictions on where they could go. Over 6 ft. becomes a real challenge, you can visit Nassau but not many Out Islands or much of the Abacos.
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Old 11-10-2006
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You didnt say what size boat that you have.

This whole qustion to me just emphasizes the validity of keel/centerboard boats.
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Old 11-10-2006
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Jake,

Unfortunately, k/cb models are hard to find, except in older boats. Manufacturers have turned to wings and bulbs (many of which still have winglets) to achieve shallow draft. Those are no doubt cheaper to produce these days than the mechanics of k/cb models.

One exception to this that I know of is Southerly Yachts, which makes swing keep models using hydraulics. Friend of mine has purchased a Southerly 110 that goes from something like 7 ft with the keel down to 2 1/2 ft with the keel up. Plus, it has twin rudders so it's made to beach.
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Old 11-10-2006
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GC...I cruised the Abacos with a 6' draft for 4 winters. I was able to go virtually everywhere anyone else goes with a little tidal help...even Little Harbor and never bumped. If you're talking about heading into the magroves that is one thing but I am able to cruise comfortably all around the Abacos and get into EVERY major harbor there. Did the Exumas too but there a few of the passes were not options for us...still saw EVERYTHING we wanted to without a problem. Would I buy a 6' draft boat exclusively for the Bahamas..no...But it is no problem and draft has its' advantages offshore. I'd rather a 50ft. boat with 6' than a 30' boat w/ 3' for living too!

Last edited by camaraderie; 11-10-2006 at 10:18 AM.
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Old 11-10-2006
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I have a varable draft boat i.e. swing keel. Sailing the Keys and Bahamas and Intercoastal I have found that the need to raise the keel from its 6'6" max draft is rarly needed. I would recomend however to use "paper charts" to augment any electronic chart system and have a good depth sounder. I have seen boats with deep draft up to 7' "sneek in" using lead lines so it is possable to sail around FL the Keys and Bahamas with a deep draft if you are a observent skipper
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