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Old 24-10-2010, 04:53   #1
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How Much Keel Should One Take Into the Bahamas / Caribbean?

I'm aware that it is physically possible to take a deep fin keel boat into a number of places, but I'm also aware that having a shoal draft keel can open up a whole bunch more options.

Is there a generally accepted point of diminishing returns in terms of draft?

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Old 24-10-2010, 05:26   #2
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nope...just take what ya got and keep your charts handy and your eyes open...

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Old 24-10-2010, 06:01   #3
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6' draft can get almost anywhere like a blind mouse... 8' requires that you pay attention... 10' might keep you out of a few nice anchorages, off the Yellow Banks and waiting for tides around some of the Abacos. Over 10' draft should consider in depth study of the charts.
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Old 24-10-2010, 06:09   #4
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Having a 6' draft has never been an issue in the Caribbean in general, it is a bit tight in the Abacos sometimes. If I were to spend a significant amount of time in the Bahamas vs the Leewards/Windwards, I would consider a 5' draft boat if I were still selecting a boat.
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Old 24-10-2010, 07:09   #5
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Well, the answer for the Bahamas and Caribbean would be very different answers in my mind. At the moment I own two boats. My 5-foot draft in the Virgin Islands has never restricted me. My 4-3 draft in the Bahamas limits me all the time.

The Bahamas have a lot of shallow water. How much this limits you depends on where you want to go and whether or not you viewing waiting for high tide to be limiting. Many places I enjoy going have limiting depths of 3.5 feet MLW. If you can't make an early afternoon HW, that means anchoring somewhere else, and waiting until the next afternoon. Then the following day, you have to wait until afternoon to leave. I think you can see how those time restrictions can add up. Many protected places I anchored in my trimaran are simply too shallow for overnight anchoring in my monohull forcing me to either miss them or anchor further out in more exposed conditions.

If your goal is simply to work your way through the Abacos, Exumas and other islands on your way to the Caribbean, hitting some of the popular spots along the way, even a 6 foot draft would not be that limiting. For exploring the more out of the way places, I'd prefer 3.5 or less.
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Old 24-10-2010, 11:46   #6
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If I were regularly cruising the Bahamas I'd consider any more than 5' restrictive and would seriously consider a catamaran to really enjoy exploring.
I've run aground on the Great Bahama Bank with 6.5' - out of sight of land and with my keel buried was strange, and a little worrying! With 5' I never had a problem, but was careful.
For the Caribbean draft's not a serious problem.
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Old 24-10-2010, 18:38   #7
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Currently looking for my next boat for sailing around Florida and the Bahamas. I have sailed these waters enough to know that I do not want anything more than 5' of draft.

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Bahamas, Caribbean, keel

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