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I can't see how there could be an absolute answer to this question. In my mind, it's a question of relative draft for the length of the boat, but you didn't mention boat length.
If you are talking about a 30' boat, a 5'6" draft is fairly deep (in the cruising realm). If you are talking about a 50' boat, I'd call 5'6" fairly shallow bordering on shoal draft.
So I'd suggest you approach this with a sort of "sliding scale". On a 40 some odd foot boat, something in the realm of six to seven feet of draft would seem desirable to achieve decent sailing performance. But shallower drafts may be preferable for certain cruising grounds.
Another factor often overlooked is "draft" vs. "keel span". Keel span being the length of the keel below the underside of the boat's hull (rather than the draft measurement taken from the static waterline to the deepest part of the keel.)
While "keel span" can be viewed proportionally, as in the sliding scale when comparing boats of different sizes, it can also be looked at in absolute terms when comparing boats of similar length. In other words, depending on the hull form, two boats of identical draft may have markedly different keel spans, resulting in noticeably different performance behavior.
By way of example, our 5' draft boat has a keel span only slightly greater than my sister's 4' draft boat. Hers is a flat bottomed Beneteau, ours is a wine-glass shaped hull form. There is no bilge on her boat, while ours is quite voluminous. The point where you'd begin to measure the "span" of our keel is almost a foot deeper on our boat than hers. So their hull form yields the benefit of a similar keel span to ours but with less draft (of course, there are penalties, but that's another subject.)
I guess what I'm saying is that you really need to look at the entire package -- draft, keel span, boat length, hull form, etc -- and asses any candidates with all these factors in mind as well as the intended use of the boat and primary cruising grounds.
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Pacific Seacraft Crealock 31 #62
NEVER CALLS CRUISINGDAD BACK....CAN"T TAKE THE ACCENT
Last edited by JohnRPollard; 12-22-2009 at 09:50 AM.