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Old 04-08-2005, 17:31   #1
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Draft depth for Caribean Islands - how much is too much?

I am looking at boats. Is a seven foot draft too deep for the islands?
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Old 04-08-2005, 17:49   #2
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Oh Yeah...

I forgot to mention that I will be using this boat for a circumnavigation. The extra stability of the seven foot draft is nice but how much of a tradeoff when just hanging around islands, lets say the San Blas in Panama. The hull is steel and I thought that this would make a more desirable hull for offshore.
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Old 04-08-2005, 19:05   #3
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Don't know about the San Blas islands, but in the Bahamas ya are a bit restricted with 7 feet, although some people do it, they just can't get close to many islands.

In the Eastern Carib there should be no problem.
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Old 04-08-2005, 19:23   #4
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I have been reading a different thread - somewhat old - and the debate is over stability versus draft/keel, etc. and it would seem that the deeper draft coupled with a steel boat would be more desirable for most blue water cruising. The downside would seem to be that when you finished the deep water part, i.e. arrive at a destination, you are at a bit of a loss because then you are limited to how close in you can get. Is this overcome by having a really good dinghy?
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Old 05-08-2005, 01:15   #5
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well, in the bahamas it can mean you don't fit in a small marina and have to anchor out, which can be rough. i suggest you invest in the charts or chartbooks for the areas you are planning to sail and check it out. 7' is doable but not ideal. you may find you have to go around some shallow areas that could add time and eliminate options. no clue on panama capt. lar
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Old 05-08-2005, 09:58   #6
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We've been about everywhere in the Caribbean and now most of Northern Europe. 7' draft would work in all those areas, even in the Bahamas altho' with some restrictions. Since the Bahamas are teeny tiny part of the area you will sail while doing a Circle - and presuming the typical tradewind route - I can't imagine that is a disqualifier. Far better you focus on the many other attributes the boat needs.

One cavaet: where will you be selling the boat? Dont' return to the Chesapeake Bay and expect to turn it quickly; it won't go and you'll be sailing it down to South Florida. Ditto the Gulf Coast.

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Old 05-08-2005, 10:22   #7
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Selecting a specific anchoring location involves resolving several (usually) mutually exclusive factors.
For instance, if you chose a spot closer in, it may be:
- Often more protection (wind/wave), less distance to travel to shore (town) ...
- Often “buggy”, more crowded, more ‘wakes’ (& shore noise), farther from dive-sites ...

As stated, shallow archipelagos, like the Bahamas, are best navigated by shallow-draft vessels (<5'6"), whereas other cruising-grounds (Oceana) may be less restrictive.

Like almost everything, analyzing draft involves trade-offs. You really have to formulate you own list of features, quantified as to cost vs benefit.
How much cost & benefit does a feature (like draft) provide, times how often (over what duration) will it occur?

A faster, higher-capacity dinghy is almost always more desirable - except when transporting it (deck cargo).

In my case, cruising is mostly about where I get to (the destination), and what I do there - as opposed to the trip (which I consider a mostly ‘evil’ necessity). For others, it’s as much about the sailing (how you get there).

FWIW,
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Old 05-08-2005, 13:13   #8
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7 ft. quite doable

in the Bahamas, but you'll have to pick your spots just as you have to do with any boat drawing more than 5 ft or so. In the Abacos you might have to wait for the tide to get into some of the harbours but elsewhere you can get into most of the anchorages. I don't know where you're based but if you're thinking of doing parts of the ICW before you get out to sea that's a lot worse than the Bahamas.
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Old 05-08-2005, 18:25   #9
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Thanks for all the input. I will be starting near Ft. Lauderdale and plan on a circumnav mostly solo. My thinking is that a steel boat with a deeper draft is a more desirable blue water boat. Also, steel seems to be less prone to critical damage if the boat were to run into something unseen in the water; or even onto a reef. The trade off is that it limits accessibility. I am reading "Gentlemen's guide to passage south" and the author has a boat with a draft of 6'5" so I would think that 7' would simply require a little better planning and more diligence. Thanks again for the insight.
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Old 06-08-2005, 09:42   #10
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I wouldn’t be intimidated by a 7 foot draft, if I owned, or was seriously contemplating, an otherwise near-ideal boat for circumnavigating.
It’s ‘deep’, but not a deal-breaker.
I would, however, apply a low negative weighting factor, when analyzing any boat over 6' draft.

Perhaps Bobola might contribute his practiced reflections on maintaining a steel boat .

See also: "Corrosion Prevention For Metal Boats" ~ by Michael Kasten
http://www.kastenmarine.com/corrosion.htm
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Old 07-08-2005, 08:03   #11
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Lone, just a couple of follow-ups...

First, Bruce VanSant now motors aboard a Schucker, has for some years now, and it draws 5' or so. However, he did indeed cruising thru-out the Caribbean for many years with a draft closer to 7'. However, I still see this as essentially irrelevant to your plans. Out of the 25,000+ mile routing you will concoct, only a wee portion will be in shallow Bahamian waters. OTOH if that is your expected shakedown area, or for that matter Florida Bay, it will present some restrictons as everyone has already mentioned.

However, I have to wonder how you arrived at 7' as a 'safe' or 'better' draft for an ocean-crossing sailboat, presuming you will have a boat that can be easily singlehanded AND affordable during the full tenure of your Circle. My hunch: you'll be sailing something at or below 40', in which case there will be no need for you to have a boat with a draft of 7', yet you can still have a high AVS or Stix, be very safe offshore with a good seakindly motion, and be closer to 5.5-6' draft.

Jack
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Old 07-08-2005, 14:21   #12
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In looking at boats there are a limited number for sale at any given moment. The few that meet the criteria of steel or aluminum hull all have a deeper draft 6 - 7' as opposed to fiberglass which has a draft closer to 4 - 5. I have narrowed the field down to steel and of the two boats I am looking at one has a 6' the other 7'. I am not set in stone as to the depth of the draft. As a matter of fact, I am trying to find a boat that has the very best design for offshore cruising and I have no arbitrary preconceived idea as to what constitutes the best or most desirable draft. In my mind, I would think the best draft would be that which suits the particular design of the particular hull shape and size. While looking at used boats, I have concluded that one must expect that the boat designers considered the particular draft depth, shape, etc. when designing a particular boat. My only hope is that I am educated enough on the particulars of boat design and handling abilities that when I do make a choice it will be sound. Thanks for all the input and insight.
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