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Old 29-02-2016, 01:29   #1
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Shallow keel for shallow water?

Been thinking of the advantages of shallow keels but maybe they aren't always so good. My Top Hat 25 has a 1.5 metre deep keel, the coastal waters I cruise have many shallows.

The beach in the photo goes out a looong way.

I have found it a problem some times getting out of the wind from storms as the best spots to hide close to mangrove islands have been too shallow. Even just normal anchoring spots are limited.

So, I have thought about the advantages of a very shallow draft boat. (Pity no bilge keel boats in my area, I'd like to try one.) I think: (1) Shallow draft opens up huge areas of shallow waterways for exploring. (2) Lots more possibilities for hiding from the wind and for general anchoring.

But! I have watched calm shallow water chop up really badly when the wind swings to blow over it. Worse chop than deeper water.

And, what about being on the dry with the boat up the beach if the wind starts blowing in on it? May have been extra calm when the tide went out but if it is blowing a gale onto the beach while the tide is coming in, I am thinking the boat would get a pounding before she could be moved out into deeper water. With each wave the boat would be lifted then dropped on the sand. Might be a while before being able to run the motor and get out.

Can't always rely on weather forecasts to predict wind changes. Especially if a small storm cell comes over. Just now we had a very heavy shower of rain and wind from different directions. During the rain I checked the forecast and it said 0% chance of rain.

So, shallow draft boats for exploring coastal waters, what's been your experiences? Advantages? Disadvantages?

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Old 29-02-2016, 02:42   #2
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Re: Shallow keel for shallow water?

We have an 18" draft and love it.

Obviously, in an exposed anchorage, you would have to worry about the weather turning. In that case, you can always anchor a bit further out to get deeper water. Assuming you are on the boat and have checked the weather, it would be very rare to get caught if you stay aware of your situation.

But we've been into a great many anchorages where anything short of a hurricane isn't going to create a chop because they are so well protected. Often it's a matter of getting over a shallow sandbar to get into slightly deeper water of a little side cove.

We frequently anchor in 3-5' of water (at low tide) where most other boats wouldn't consider. Even with a little chop, we aren't moving enough to be hitting bottom.

Also a few times, we've gotten slips when "none" were available because most cruising boats would be too deep.

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Old 29-02-2016, 03:48   #3
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Re: Shallow keel for shallow water?

My local area has a lot of bilge keel boats as they are great for these circumstances. Even the moorings at our (mostly) small harbours dry out.

If going to dry out on a beach, we'd set the anchor as far out as possible, then go in close to dry out, with the bow pointing out to sea at that anchor (with an anchor on a short scope off the stern, to keep the boat pointed that way as it dried out). Then as the tide came in, with each lift off the bottom with a wave, you could pull the boat towards the anchor. It wasn't many waves before you were fully afloat.

A good shallow keel with beaching legs should work just as well?

Mind it can backfire. I remember once being stuck in appalling conditions with a massive thunderstorm, strong winds, and torrential rain, and beached for a few hours waiting for the tide to come back in. We'd dropped anchor off, and as it was pretty rocky off the beach to get into, I'd walked the boat in through the shallows, to get it positioned for beaching. On the way out I then had to walk the boat back out through those rocky shallows, with some pretty heavy conditions. It was a pretty rough ride getting off the beach and back to the shelter of the mooring in the harbour, but quite enjoyable really.

It took a sad turn later though, when we found out a neighbours husband had been killed in a lightning strike in the rush to get off another local beach. A lightning strike had hit his wrist watch.
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Old 29-02-2016, 04:27   #4
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Re: Shallow keel for shallow water?

Dunno why you'd want to anchor on an exposed beach. Many tidal creeks have shallow bars that can be crossed at high tide and then once in the creek, there are usually an assortment of deep channels and holes. The first time is a bit scary, get hold of the appropriate guide books or local knowledge and test some of the better hidey-holes out. There's got to be a reason bilge keelers are rare sights around your way!

In this Creek, I actually had problems finding depths shallower then 10 metres and could lay up beside the mangroves the banks were that steep.

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Old 29-02-2016, 07:55   #5
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Re: Shallow keel for shallow water?

30" draft allows us a lot of flexibility in anchorages in North Florida and is essential for us to get out from our dock without watching the tides for day sailing. We cruise from the Panhandle to the Keys for several months each spring and though particular about the gunk holes we choose, never had a problem with running out of water with a falling or windblown tide.

The beaching is fun, but our preference is not to anchor to windward of any high energy shore. Also, like having thin water between us and the major traffic routes like the ICW to avoid getting run down in our sleep.

We pick our windows for overnight(s) offshore passages - and hope the weather service has it right. That's the biggest limitation we have found so far, but fortunately, we and our boat have handled some weather when we needed to. We just don't go looking for it.

We'd love the bluewater, but for the most part, our ventures are coastal.
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Old 29-02-2016, 08:52   #6
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Re: Shallow keel for shallow water?

I love shoal draft, because I like to gunkhole, and anchor in thin water.. mines 4'1" draft..but I only sail in keys, Bahamas, and down island, soon again I hope...also the vast majority of this area is sand bottom.., 4.5" draft is too much for me...sometimes I like to cut corners..frankly anything deeper than mine turns me off...but that's just me,...I'm never offshore more than an overnighter; i.e. Turks and C's to really all coastal...and I sail only with good forecast..I would say in 5 years of cruising on my old Cb'er 4'2" draft average anchoring was in 7-8 ft at low mean. It was'nt until the Windaward Leewards Isles, that it got a bit deeper when anchoring.
I will never take my boat to any other places than above..If I had $350 large ; I would buy that Southerly 40 somthin on Distant Shores...2' draft with a big heavy board...that boat is awesome..
had to sell my beauty, can't physically do the hard labor needed to sail and maintain,.. bad back....if you can?...Go
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Old 29-02-2016, 08:59   #7
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Re: Shallow keel for shallow water?

Depends on where you want to sail, but in Florida or the Bahamas, the shallow keel is going to expand your range of anchorage choices.
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Old 29-02-2016, 09:19   #8
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Re: Shallow keel for shallow water?

Shallow keel increases your cruising and anchoring options. In the Bahamas or Florida Keys that is very important. As for anchoring off a beach; beaches must be treated as lee shores. It is always necessary to allow extra depth and distance to protect against a dragging anchor. That is just basic seamanship. Your 1.5 m keel , about 4.5 feet is fairly shallow but there are a lot of flats in my area (Fl Keys) where you would have to closely watch the tides or just stay away.
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Old 29-02-2016, 09:41   #9
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Re: Shallow keel for shallow water?

I used to have a little boat with a centerboard keel, which allowed me to beach the boat and go pretty much everywhere. Great fun, and a lot of advantages when sailing the lakes and canals in the Netherlands. I could lower the mast as well, on my own, in under a minute so bridges weren't an issue either.

My current boat, I can't take anywhere That is to say: I have to stick to the standing mast route in the Netherlands and with her 5.20' draft, those beaches have to be admired from a distance. A great distance, cos I now have a keel stepped mast and the bridges prevent me from going anywhere near my old sailing grounds.

You buy the boat that fits your needs at the time. The little centerboard, I bought cos I wanted to sail all the smaller lakes etc. (since I was sailing solo with a small kid). This one, I bought because now I'm sailing the North Sea and don't have any plans to sail those smaller lakes etc. anymore.
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Old 29-02-2016, 13:41   #10
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Re: Shallow keel for shallow water?

I agree with Bay Breeze. Our boat draws .8 metre with keel up and we love to be able to run up and rest on our keel (wound up of course) between tides.
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Old 01-03-2016, 02:06   #11
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Re: Shallow keel for shallow water?

It all depends on where you are and what kind of sailing you like. We have a 1.75 m keel, rocky beaches, more and less shallow anchorages, dinghy, and a pulpit with a ladder. But I think we suffer more of not being able to lower our mast and go under some of the bridges. Compromises, compromises.
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Old 01-03-2016, 04:43   #12
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Re: Shallow keel for shallow water?

Come and check out Hill Inlet in the Whitsundays. After that you can figure out how to chop a metre off your keel. She'll still sail downwind and real sailors don't beat to windward.
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Old 01-03-2016, 15:24   #13
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Re: Shallow keel for shallow water?

Ah, Hill Inlet, northern end of the amazing Whitehaven Beach, Queensland. I have not been but those who have tell me it is totally amazing.

However, I don't need to go there to persuade me to chop off a metre from my keel. I am working on it now. With all the sandy shallows I am touching on, I must be slowly wearing that keel down.

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keel, water

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