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Old 21-06-2016, 08:54   #1
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Maximum draft for cruising the Atlantic ICW

We're shopping for a bigger craft than the 28' we currently own, somewhere between a 38' to 42'. Since we plan to cruise down ICW from Cape Cod to Florida next year. One potential monohull we're looking at has a 5 and a half foot draft. Anyone ever navigated the ICW with a keel this size? I understand the option to go out to open water at some points along the way, though would rather stay inside.
Thanks!
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Old 21-06-2016, 09:01   #2
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Re: Maximum draft for cruising the Atlantic ICW

If you stay to the channels, you can probably go as deep as 10'. There would be a few places you would need to play the tides to get over shallows. Of course, that leaves you little room for error if you wander outside the channel.


That said, I would try to cap it around 5' and less would be even better so you can get into shallow areas.


You can get away with the boat in question but you are at the upper limit of what I would suggest.
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Old 21-06-2016, 11:43   #3
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Re: Maximum draft for cruising the Atlantic ICW

Another consideration is air draft. Flooding due to rains and persistent east winds on the sounds have stymied boaters with 63’-64’ mast heights on occasion – sometimes for weeks. Don’t forget to include your wind-x, antennae, etc… in the calculation.

I’ve not heard of serious issues for anyone with 6’-6.5’ draft except for the few spots just about everyone needs to time the tides (Exception: Dismal Swamp Canal route is a no-go for over 6’ – but an absolutely beautiful route).


Good luck with the search. There are several sections easy to pop out and take the open ocean for the day or an overnight; however, it’s always nice to have options – nasty can last for weeks out there.
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Old 22-06-2016, 06:49   #4
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Re: Maximum draft for cruising the Atlantic ICW

Thanks for the input! We do hope to cruise Bahamas and Keys as well, so probably 5.5 is too much--less draft would be better. Just visited the blog about max draft for cruising S Florida, and the idea of keeping it under 5' seems like a good one. Or even better, as suggested, we'll shop around for a center board.
And yes, will also keep in mind air draft. The Pearson 385 we were considering, with the 5.5 draft, has a modified mast with 48'. Now we're looking at the Sabre 38' with center boards. We do want to keep to a well-made, solid boat for Atlantic crossing as well.
Anyone had experience with those, opinions to share? Boat to sell???
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Old 22-06-2016, 07:25   #5
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Re: Maximum draft for cruising the Atlantic ICW

Look at tartan 40s with CB. Great performers, and 4'9" draft (though mine probably is closer to 5'2" fully loaded with gear, water, and fuel.) several on market. Definitely blue water capable.


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Old 22-06-2016, 07:35   #6
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Re: Maximum draft for cruising the Atlantic ICW

5.5' draft would not be a problem in the ICW or the Bahamas. Sure someone with a shallower draft will fit in a few places you won't and they might be able to anchor closer to the beach or bar than you but 5.5' would definitely not be severely restrictive. I've cruised the Bahamas with 6' with no problems.

Whether your draft is 4' or 6' you just need to watch the charts, learn eyeball navigation and plan accordingly. I can't really think of any major cruising area that 5' vs 5.5' will make that much difference. If you go as shallow as 4-4.5' that might open some shortcuts across the banks that wouldn't work for the deeper draft but would probably come at the sacrifice of upwind performance.
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Old 22-06-2016, 09:16   #7
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Re: Maximum draft for cruising the Atlantic ICW

Going aground I feel is more about your level of risk taking than the draft of your boat. If 1 foot of extra draft is really going to be limiting ask yourself how often you would be willing to sail with 1 foot of water clearance.

My first boat was 5'2" and my current boat is 6'4" draft. I've taken my current boat everywhere I took the first except aground!
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Old 22-06-2016, 10:07   #8
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Re: Maximum draft for cruising the Atlantic ICW

We have done the ICW from Lauderdale to Cape May in our Morgan 512 more than 10 times.
It is 5-1/2' deep and 64-1/2' tall with very, very few issues. That includes the Dismal swamp and all of Georgia.
With extra high tides sometimes the bridge clearance is heart stopping, but if you look for the absolute highest spot and AVOID THE CENTER SPAN LIGHT you will be fine.
That said, we did spend 4 days in Vero Beach waiting for the water to recede after 2 weeks of strong winds out of the east, but that was only once in over 10 years.
Bottom line: 5-1/2' draft is fine below Cape May and you want to avoid big wakes when going under a bridge with 64-1/2' height .
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Old 22-06-2016, 10:08   #9
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Re: Maximum draft for cruising the Atlantic ICW

The gold old boys in the government have deemed the monies spent on dredging the ICW as wasteful (LOL) and therefore cut back on the process. Ironically the main intent of service was to provide inside passage to commerce and that is still just as great (perhaps even greater) as it ever was. Also, if Florida and the Keys are on your agenda, you wood be wise to stay under 5'. The shoals and shallows will also present some ever changing challenges. If you are careful with weather and tides, and chart to avoid some areas, you will probably be fine with the draft you are considering. I would also suggest you look in to AGLCA (America Great Loop Cruising Association). The members there use the Atlantic ICW extensively and are openly helpful. Also consider Active Captain as that service also provides a plethora of good information that can be used. The $20 to join will be well spent.
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Old 22-06-2016, 10:26   #10
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Re: Maximum draft for cruising the Atlantic ICW

Have Endeavor 42 with 5 ft.draft..61 ft mast height. Boat located in SC , headed for the Outer Banks for a few weeks. Have sail up and down the icw for several years and never had a problem with a 61 foot mask and a 3-foot antenna. Boat will be for sale when we get back in about 4 weeks. Price is $119,000 comma no broker's involved. If you want to look at the boat go to endeavourowners.com . Go to the for sale Section and look for 42 foot endeavors. Name of the boat is Katash.

I have been to the Bahamas 4 times.
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Old 22-06-2016, 10:31   #11
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Re: Maximum draft for cruising the Atlantic ICW

5-1/2 feet is quote ok for the ICW and the Bhamas with usual prudence. The Tartan and Sabre c/b's are worthy coastal cruising candidates
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Old 22-06-2016, 10:34   #12
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Re: Maximum draft for cruising the Atlantic ICW

Quote:
Originally Posted by bruce v View Post
The gold old boys in the government have deemed the monies spent on dredging the ICW as wasteful (LOL) and therefore cut back on the process. Ironically the main intent of service was to provide inside passage to commerce and that is still just as great (perhaps even greater) as it ever was.
Warning Thread Drift:

While I love having the ICW available for my pleasure boat use...from a commerce perspective, you really can't justify it.

Outside of a few major ports most of the ICW has negligible commercial traffic. The traffic at those major ports only use enough to access the open ocean. When we were on it, we would go entire days with no commercial traffic and what we did see was often private dredge/seawall companies servicing the pleasure boat market.

Compare that to the river system where every 1/2 to 1hr you would pass a 3x5 tow and they are running 24x7. (for reference a 3x5 tow will carry as much cargo as a large train) The commercial justification for the ICW is lacking.

A certain case can be made for the economic benefit of supporting pleasure boating but only a small number (I think I heard it's around 1000 per year), actually run the ICW each year. Most pleasure boats limit their activities to small sections of the ICW, so having a complete system, doesn't provide much benefit to the majority of boaters.

A lot of the push was back during WWII, they wanted an alternative to U-boat infested waters. I'm not sure how well the military application will still hold up in the modern world.

Again, it's a great route and I would hate to lose it but the commercial angle doesn't hold up when trying to justify it.
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Old 22-06-2016, 10:59   #13
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Re: Maximum draft for cruising the Atlantic ICW

Well our 3 cabin Hunter 40.5 Legend may be on the market. Happy to deliver her to Falmouth for you :-) Currently in Stuart Fl, sailed her down solo last year from Connecticut. 99k, new mast/standing rigging which we had reduced from 63' to 62'.

Fractional rig, easy to sail and fast, TONS of room :-)

Plenty of pics and a story about her on the blog.

Oh yea, shoal draft!

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Old 22-06-2016, 11:05   #14
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Re: Maximum draft for cruising the Atlantic ICW

Might want to consider draft with regard to being on the hook in the ICW...less draft - more options...Just a thought.

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Old 22-06-2016, 11:33   #15
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Re: Maximum draft for cruising the Atlantic ICW

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Originally Posted by valhalla360 View Post
Outside of a few major ports most of the ICW has negligible commercial traffic.
You of course refer to the Atlantic ICW, I assure you the Gulf ICW is very busy with barge traffic
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