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Old 20-03-2003, 09:47   #1
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Eight-Foot Draft

We plan to cruise Florida and the Bahamas then work our way south to the Virgin Islands. I have been told that our 8' draft will be a major problem. I have also been told that it will not be a big problem. Who is right?
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Old 20-03-2003, 12:12   #2
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Depends on you define "major."

It also depends on how much time you're planning to spend in the ditch.

If you go the ditch route, even part of the way, make sure you plunk down $99 to Towboats US or SeaTow to pluck you off a bar that wasn't on the chart.

In fact, get it anyway. I used mine last summer when my diesel gave out.

I do my share of bumping along, and I have a 4'2" draft. Of course, the shoal draft makes me a little more daring when hunting down a good anchorage for the night.

I've met cruisers with 8' drafts that do just fine, they just hop in-and-out at the major inlets, but they do find their gunkholing options more limitted.
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Old 20-03-2003, 18:06   #3
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8' D

8' Draft will certainly have you playing the tides (ICW, FL, & Bahamas &).
5' is often cited for the comfort zone - less is better, more is ... well, more.
We carried (Bahamas) a design draft of 5' 3", which tools & cruise gear etc increased to 6' 0" - no problem
(tho' several groundings, especially in waters we "knew").
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Old 24-03-2003, 12:27   #4
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Running aground

It will be a major issue if you plan on using the inland waterway. Shoals and constantly shifting sand bars are a way of life in the waterway. If your good at kedging off and are very experianced with your boat go for it. It would just be a lot safer with less keel. You must have one hell of a big boat for an 8 foot keel. If part of it is retactable then thats another story.
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Old 24-03-2003, 21:55   #5
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Our boat has a fixed keel and 8' draft. the boat weighs 64000lbs. and yes it is big. And I LOVE it!
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Old 15-05-2003, 23:07   #6
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Plowing the bottom?

8 FEET? What are you doing, plowing the bottom to plant corn? On the FL west coast, 8' would be a real problem I think. In the Keys, you wont get anywhere near any of the coral areas without doing damage to them. I spose 8' is ok in some places, but you cant get anywhere near the interesting places.
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Old 16-05-2003, 07:50   #7
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IS, Lived in south Florida for 10 years and sailed in and out from there to the Bahamas many times. There are lots of places you won't be able to go. As early posts indicate many places on the ICW will be too shallow for you. That means offshore runs. You should not make most inside passages in the Bahamas since water depths are at 8' and no room for error. Up to date charts and tide tables will be essential. Once you move into the Caribbean it will be less of an issue. Although it will exclude you from visiting some harbors. Up to date charts, a must.
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Old 16-05-2003, 10:22   #8
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I guess this depends on where you are going in Florida and the Bahamas. While the general rul of thumb that I have always heard is less than 5 feet is ideal, 6 feet will get by with care, 7 foot really begins to limit where you can get into. There are whole areas of Florida's west coast that are inaccessible with more than 5 or 6 feet of draft and many, if not most, of the smaller protected harbors are inaccessible with over 6' to 6'6 draft. So while you may be able to cruise many of these areas, you will need to plan anchor out and dinghy into many of the more popular spots. I guess my real suggestion is to pick up charts and a cruising guide and start looking at those specific places and routes where you would want to go.

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Old 16-05-2003, 11:44   #9
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Talking 8' Draft

You should head for the South Pacific. That's my plan with a 7' draft. There are places around a mile deep down there. Florida and those surrounding areas are just perfect for Catamarans.



Part of the problem with the larger vessels, your limited to where you can go. That's what I like about the West Coast here. Lots of deep pockets, but colder waters and fewer ports.
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Old 16-05-2003, 11:46   #10
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Forward looking sonar

Hi Irwinsailor

Have you considered getting a forward looking sonar like this one?

InterPhase TwinScope



I will definately get something like this ...
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Old 16-05-2003, 19:46   #11
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Fwd-Look'g Sonar

You're sailing @ 5 knots, in 10 Ft of water, and your forward looking sonar has a 45 degree lead angle. It's reading the bottom at 10 Ft. ahead of the trasnsducer location, which distance is travelled in less than 1.25 seconds.
Not much warning!
Forward & Side-Scan sonar won't be much help for the deep-draft vessel in shallow waters - and VERY expensive.
The Bahamian Banks are piloted by "eyeball", reading the water-colour. It's a quickly learned skill, especially when differentiating between 8' and 9' depths (generally, if you've got 8' - you've got 10-12').
It's a little more difficult to differentiate between 5' and 6', but still doable.
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Old 16-05-2003, 23:22   #12
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The other component of this is what you hit and how your boat is built. When you hit something in the Bahamas it often is coral. Coral can really slice through conventional fiberglass quite quickly. If I remember correctly the Irwins have encapsolated keels. Once you slice through the encapsolation envelope (and in some cases just the gelocoat)on an encapsolated keel, you are able to flood the keel stub making a proper and permanent repair nearly imposible without laying the boat up for a very long time. The more that I think about it taking your boat into the Bahamas is sounding like a bad idea to me.

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Old 19-05-2003, 21:59   #13
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Our boat will be going to the bahamas and many other places. The 8' draft is a issue but it will not stop us from going.
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Old 19-05-2003, 23:05   #14
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Draft issue

Our last boat drew 5 feet. We went to the Abacos in the Bahamas last year and did OK, but there were lots of places we couldn't go except at high tide and lots of places we couldn't go at all. Waiting for high tide to get into a sheltered anchorage can be nerve wracking as is the knowledge that you are stuck until the next high tide which may not coincide with when you want to leave.

Anchoring can be a problem as well, We usually anchored well out anyway, but a 5 foot draft kept us pretty far out. In some cases, we anchored so far out, that we lost the protection of the island.

My rule of thumb was that I would sail if I had a consistent 3 feet under my keel - less than that and I got nervous and either slowed way down or stayed away. Much of the Bahama Bank is 6 or 7 feet - too skinny for me so we went around. It added time to passages sometimes.

I had friends with a 3 foot draft - they went everywhere and saw more than us. It was only during long passages that I welcomed my deep draft.

There are places an 8 foot draft can go in the Bahamas, but not many - you will be severly limited.

If your boat draws 8 feet, you need to realize that you have to sail where that is not a problem.

My current boat draws 6 feet. I doubt I'll visit the Bahamas. But there are any number of places vastly superior that boats like yours and ours can go. My next trip will be to Nova Scotia. I'd like to see Europe (most of the canals need 6 feet, so we're both out of luck there).

I want to go back to Alaska - any draft you have will work there. Hawaii, S. Pacific. I sailed the entire West coast of Central America, I had no draft problems.

With a big comfortable boat, you can make fast passages to places that your draft won't be an issue. That's what your boat was made for. Find them and enjoy them!
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Old 20-05-2003, 10:34   #15
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Tenknots, We have made many trips to the Bahamas with a 6' draft and did not miss much. 8' is a bit more. But if you stayed away from areas because you had less than 3' under your keel you missed a lot and shouldn't have. We can travel the banks all over the Abacos and the banks inside down to Farmers Key with no problem except to watch out for the stray coral head. Sorry you let this ruin the islands for you. We have traveled many places with INCHES under the keel. No problems and the boat did just fine. Caution is a good thing but you know what they say about too much of a good thing. We never waited outside any harbors for tides. But then we always planned our days so we would arrive at a anchorage early in the day. We also never had to anchor that far offshore of an island. Some areas like the inside passage to Bell Island is iffy for us, so we find an anchorage nearby and visit by dinghy. It is all part of the experience. That is why a good dinghy that will get up on plane is a must. Just wanted to add my .02
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