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Old 11-01-2015, 15:47   #16
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Re: Shoal draft or not

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Originally Posted by Merlin1111 View Post
I want to sail both coasts of Florida, the Keys and across to the Bahamas. I have heard the waters are very shallow. Should I be looking at something like a Morgan 34 with a shoal draft/centreboard that draws only 3'3 or should I go for safety and better pointing with a 5' keel? Am I making too much of the shallow water issue? Should I go with the regular keel and just resign myself to towing a dinghy everywhere?
Have a look a the charts for the areas you plan to cruise. Consider what effect draught will have on available anchorages, routes etc.

The impact draught has will be largely dependant on where you want to go, and what you like doing.

We absolutely love being extreme shallow draught. We sometimes have to tilt the dinghy motor to get into water our cat is floating in!

This allows us access to some of the very best, safest, most comfortable and sheltered anchorages in the areas we cruise.

But in other places it possibly wouldn't make any difference.
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Old 11-01-2015, 17:00   #17
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Re: Shoal draft or not

I tend to approach this topic like off roaders decide their trucks. Its better to have a 4x4 and not need it than to need a 4x4 and not have it.

Yes, a deep draft will exclude you from some areas of the keys and the Bahamas but there are many places you could still go in those areas. You can also go blue water cruising to Sin Maarten, St Thomas, Bermuda, Hawaii etc. If you choose a shoal draft, you will access all the great spots in the Bahamas and the keys but you will effectively tie yourself to the coast. Blue water will become far less attainable or comfprtable
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Old 11-01-2015, 17:18   #18
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Re: Shoal draft or not

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I tend to approach this topic like off roaders decide their trucks. Its better to have a 4x4 and not need it than to need a 4x4 and not have it.

Yes, a deep draft will exclude you from some areas of the keys and the Bahamas but there are many places you could still go in those areas. You can also go blue water cruising to Sin Maarten, St Thomas, Bermuda, Hawaii etc. If you choose a shoal draft, you will access all the great spots in the Bahamas and the keys but you will effectively tie yourself to the coast. Blue water will become far less attainable or comfprtable

I would tend to disagree. The older Morgan and Pearson centerboard boats, to name two are plenty seaworthy for blue water cruising.
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Old 11-01-2015, 17:28   #19
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A shoal keel lets you go more places, and you worry much less about going aground. If you are a racer, you should go full keel for performance reasons. If you are a cruiser and want more speed, go for a planing powerboat and get 20+ knots! But if you are a Jimmy Buffet type cruiser, the shoal keel fits the bill nicely.

I have a Catalina 350 with a shoal wing keel, and when I took her from the Chesapeake to live in San Diego, I wondered about the keel issue. Then I read a post by a guy with a shoal keel like mine who sailed with a buddy who had the same boat with a full keel. He said if they sailed for 8 hours, the full keel guy would arrive about 10 minutes sooner. A non-issue to me.

Good thing I didn't trade out for that full keel, since now I'm sailing in Boston Harbor, with lots of skinny water. So if there is any chance you might move around, the shoal keel is the safest bet.
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Old 11-01-2015, 18:00   #20
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Re: Shoal draft or not

You need a dingy, but yes I would go shoal draft.......
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Old 11-01-2015, 21:38   #21
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Re: Shoal draft or not

There's an oft quoted sign on the wall behind the cash register at Vernon's grocery in Hope Town, Abaco that reads, "Nothing goes to windward like a 747." I've heard this often, but I think Vernon may be the original source. In fact I think the original sign said, "Nothing goes to windward like a DC-3."

Regardless of your keel, plenty of people are doing better to windward! Take the advantage of the shoal draft. The fast guys will need to get a taxi from the airport and pay for a room!
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Old 11-01-2015, 22:08   #22
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Re: Shoal draft or not

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I would tend to disagree. The older Morgan and Pearson centerboard boats, to name two are plenty seaworthy for blue water cruising.
BUt more shoal drafts are not, thus limiting the OPS choices for a purchase.
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Old 12-01-2015, 04:49   #23
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Re: Shoal draft or not

If getting from the Bahamas to the eastern Caribbean is the ultimate goal, even the non-"blue water" shoal draft boats can do it . . . though it will take more time and deliberation, following the Thornless Path and catching the right weather windows.

If you want to circumnavigate, that's a different story.
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Old 12-01-2015, 06:51   #24
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Re: Shoal draft or not

Well, first off, you are going to need a dinghy regardless. If you were thinking that with a centerboard boat you would not need a dinghy, think again. You will find yourself EXTREMELY limited if you do not have a dinghy available.

Now, for the west coast of Florida, the Keys, and the Bahamas, I would not, personally, want anything deeper than a 5' draft. You can get most places that you would want to with that draft, but as your draft gets deeper the number of places that you CANNOT go will increase exponentially. So, if you were trying to choose between a boat with a 6.5' draft, or a centerboard boat, I would say that it is no-brainer.

So long as you are looking at fixed-keel boats with a draft no more than 5', though, I would focus more on other aspects of the boat's design. There are some excellent centerboard boats out there that are plenty seaworthy and sail quite well. The Morgan 34 that you mentioned is a good example. There are also a number of fixed-keel boats that could serve your purposes well like the Morgan 382 (5' draft) or the Pearson 365 (4.5' draft). You pays your money and takes your choice.

Good luck.
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Old 12-01-2015, 07:41   #25
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Re: Shoal draft or not

if you are thinking of the west coast of Florida then the shoal draft can be very important. 5 feet is considered shoal but 4.5 or under is what you should aim for here. the morgan 34 seems like perfect candidate. i would also avoid the wing keel in areas with reefs
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Old 12-01-2015, 08:58   #26
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Re: Shoal draft or not

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There are hundreds, if not thousands of square miles of water in the Keys and Bahamas that are simply inaccessible if you have a deeper draft boat. Yes in some areas you can anchor farther out and simply dinghy in, but beyond that raising a few safety issues in and of itself, there are still areas that are either inaccessible or impassable if your draft is too deep. For example, I don't think (I'm not positive) you can visit Harbor Island in the Bahamas at all if you have a 6' draft, short of anchoring off the west side of Eleuthera and taking a taxi to the landing and hiring a boat to take you across.
It's not quite that bad... :-) I was anchored off Valentine's one afternoon, when Charlie Dana's magnificent 72-footer ST ROQUE arrived (professionally crewed) via the approach from the N via the Devil's Backbone... She draws 7' 3" with her board up...





My boat draws about 5' 3" when in full kroozing trim. In my opinion, I think the perceived advantages of extreme shoal draft for the Bahamas tend to be a bit overstated... Certainly, it would be very nice to be able to go pretty much anywhere with something virtually beach-able like an Alubat, but I've been pretty much all over the Bahamas with my draft, and have never felt particularly restricted... Playing the tides, I've still managed to get into plenty of places rarely visited by other boats, have made the passage across the southern end of the Bight of Acklins past Binnacle Hill, for instance, with inches to spare... :-) And, I've never seen another boat venture into the microscopic anchorage inside Shroud Cay Harbor, but it was still do-able with my draft near the top of the tide...





If the OP does indeed plan on making it to the Bahamas, I'd suggest not letting the draft considerations for a place like Florida Bay dictate the final choice re draft... And even with my draft, I've still been able to complete the route down the back side of the Keys by playing the tides, again with inches to spare in certain spots :-) Sure, large portions of Florida Bay will be off limits, but there are still some spots - north of Islamorada is one I've explored - where it's possible to venture quite a distance to the N, and into the backcountry... But once he makes it over to the Bahamas, he'll quickly appreciate that there's little comparison between those waters, and the comparatively murky waters of the Keys and Florida, and be glad his decision might not have been based on the limitations imposed by a 5' draft in Florida, alone...

IMHO, as long as your draft doesn't keep restrict you from venturing into some of the more remote, pristine places over there like the Jumentos, the Bight of Acklins, or the Columbus Anchorage at Samana Cay, you're good to go...

:-)


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