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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello Fellow Cruisers,
My wife and I are buying a Beneteau First 40 in WPB Florida and would like to do a little cruising in the Bahamas before we move the boat to New England but, I'm have trouble finding any marinas that can have enough water for our boat which draws 8'. Does anyone have any suggestions or ideas of where we could go?

Thanks, Mark
 

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When sailing the Bahamas on a Choy Lee Lion, one of the most often ask questions by other sailors and locals was "how much water does your boat draw?" When we would answer "six feet", the next question was ALWAYS "How many times have you been aground?"....... Just sayin.
 

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We draw 8 ft and have spent some time in the Bahamas when going from Miami to St John...and it made us very nervous. We got into Nassau, Georgetown, anchored off some of the Islands and crossed parts of the Banks but it really was not worth the effort and the last two times we went 'down island' we stayed off-shore.

I am sure there are lots of other places you can get into but the chart plotters are not accurate enough to use for tight navigation and it is all visual navigation. If you do go get the Explorer Charts.

Cruise the Chesapeake where SeaTow can get you off when you run aground which will not happen on the Bahama Banks.
 

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I've sailed the Abacos with a 7' keel. From Florida go to West End, Old Bahama Bay Marina has deep water slips and tee docks.
From there sail to Memory Rock where you can enter the Banks. Sailing towards Marsh Harbour you will find many places deep enough to drop the hook for the night, Sail Cay is a cool spot. Green Turtle will be tough for you but anchor out and dingy in. Marsh Harbour and Hope Town can be done at high tide. Hope Town mooring field has depth ranging from 14' to 4'. You can access Marsh Harbour fuel docks between two hours before and two hours after high tide. If you want a slip here speak with dockmaster.
The tide swing is approx. 3 feet here.
Hint, When I anchored in a sandy clear water bay I measured my keel from water line. I found with the weight of fuel, water, food and sundowner mixes my draft went from 6'6" to 7'.
Cheers
 

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BJV
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We draw 6 and have no problems.
8 you would have to be careful, but many places still accessible, especially if you focus on anchorages vice marinas. Explorer charts are superb and if you follow the x bank routes should have no problem. CMap now incorperates explorer into there cards.
 

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Old Guy
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Our prior cruising boat had 7' draft and we cruised throughout the Bahamas. Yes, you certainly can cruise the Bahamas, but there are very real draft limitations that will restrict where you can go, and how close in you can anchor. You will likely get pretty good at judging depth and eyeball navigation in short order, as well as being continually aware of state of tide and kedging off. I'd say it's definitely worth it, and it will hone your seamanship skills. You'll also want a decent dinghy/motor combo for anchor duty and getting to and from shore.

FWIW, when we knew we were going to be pushing the envelope to get over a shallow bar or bank we'd try to do it on a rising tide a couple of hours before full, and give thought to where the sun would be (above or behind make it much easier to "read" the depth). Rig extra anchors so they're ready to use fore and aft, have the dinghy in the water and ready to go, and have an "extra set of eyes" on deck to help determine/confirm best water...if they can easily get up to the spreaders via mast steps so much the better.

Make sure your depthfinder is working well, and that you know what it reads when you're touching bottom. As the bottom begins to come up, SLOW DOWN...It's usually a piece of cake backing off a bar you've nudged up on at a knot or two, but you can get pretty far up on it at 6 knots, where it can easily become a major production getting off. Winged keels can be tougher to get off, because when backing off the wings can act like an anchor, and you may damage them if you lay the boat over by running a halyard to a line tied to the dink.

Commercial vessels with 10-12' draft regularly ply the waters and call ports at most of the islands, but again, there are only so many routes they can take, and harbors they can enter. Lastly, almost everybody cruising the Bahamas runs aground sooner or later, it's just that the shallow draft boats do it closer to shore :)
 

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You can do it, but you are going to have to spend a lot more time checking your navigation, and you are probably going to run aground and hit a few things.

Get the Explorer Chartbooks for the areas you plan to visit and start figuring out your route (I do that every time, and I only have a 5 foot draft). Just perusing those Chartbooks will quickly educate you on the challenges an 8' draft will face.

The second thing is to learn to read the water, and to learn what coral heads in the Bahamas look like. Coral heads, often look like giant mushrooms and the problem with them is that you may be cruising along in ten feet of water, and come up on one that's three feet tall, so you really want to steer around them. The good news is the water is so clear you can see them and they often have lobsters hanging out under them, (which you can often see, too, if you stop and put face in the water with a mask and look, or use a viewing tube).

Bottom line. It's doable, but every extra foot of draft in the Bahamas knocks you out of places. One more thing you will have to get used to is using the tides to go places on high tides that you can't go on low tides.

I would get a very large Fortress anchor for a kedge before I went there in an 8' draft. :)

But, Sugarbird makes a good point. You can take mailboat routes and go anywhere they go (and their routes are marked on the Explorer Charts in most cases).
 

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Bombay Explorer 44
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I cruised through the Bahamas a few years back in company with a 50 ft boat drawing 8 ft.

Learn how to heel your boat using the dinghy 1/2 filled with water on a mast head halyard and boomed out from the side using the spinnaker pole.

Know the tide times and enter skinny places on a rising tide.

I am not sure I would chance doing the Abacos but crossing to Nassau is easy and there are plenty of marinas there that can take 8 ft. top up with water and fuel then make your way down to Great Exuma. Stopping off where you fancy. Sure inplaces you will be resticted and you will have to stay outside at times but it is fun cruising.
 

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Thank you group9. I didn't know that about the mailboat routes. Big anchor, for sure.
They are not really labled as mailboat routes. I call them red line routes because they are in red on the Explorer Charts. But, those are the routes the mailboats (and pretty much all deep draft vessels) use. And, frequently the Explorer Charts will label a route "for shallow draft only".

But, first thing get you a set of Explorer Chartbooks. They are excellent voyage planning tools for the Bahamas (and, Garmin incorporates their maps into their chartplotters which makes them really good for planning if you have an up to date Garmin chartplotter.

Another thing is that their charts are in meters. 8 feet is 2.44 meters.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Thank you for the clarification. I wonder if you have any experience sailing from off shore from Florida to Rhode Isl? That's my next trip in April or May. Any suggestions on timing, route, etc?? Thanks!
 

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Thank you for the clarification. I wonder if you have any experience sailing from off shore from Florida to Rhode Isl? That's my next trip in April or May. Any suggestions on timing, route, etc?? Thanks!
Nope, never done that run! :D

But, lots of people here have.
 
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Possible? Of course!

Easy? Convenient? Worry free? Hardly.

You're going to have to keep a close eye on depths and tides. There will be coves and even marinas that you won't be able to get into. But you can go most places. You're just going to have to be a lot more diligent than someone who only has a 4' or 5' draft.

Good luck, and have fun!
 

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Old Guy
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Re: offshore from the Bahamas to the northeast, yup, we've done it. There's a good argument to be made for easing over to the west and riding the axis of gulfstream, catching a good northward bump and avoiding eddies and countercurrents. Adds probably 100+ NM compared to rhumb line, but also puts you closer to several good bailout ports along the way if the weather goes bad, or if you have boat or crew issues.

At some point you have to determine if things are "go" for rounding Hatteras. Not sure what the ICW can handle these days draft-wise between Moorehead City and Norfolk, with 8' I'm guessing you'd much prefer to you stay offshore unless the forecast is NG. It can be fine, but when Hatteras gets nasty it gets really nasty.

These days weather info and routing updates while underway are so readily available you should be able to minimize the risks of getting slapped around too badly, but boat and crew should be well prepared for several days of less than ideal conditions. Once north of Hatteras ride the stream until it hooks right, try to avoid eddies and play the weather. Off the top of my head I think I'd probably not leave Marsh Harbor before mid-May if possible. Happy sailing!
 
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