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Old 28-09-2013, 09:18   #1
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Sailing down ICW to Bahamas, deepest draft concern?

We are on the hunt for a larger boat to live aboard here on Lake Ontario and in 2 years, sail her down the canal system to ICW and out to the Bahamas for our 1 year off adventure.
We currently have a 3' 10" draft on our Hunter 306, so we are quite spoiled with the 'no worry' sailing, docking and mooring of our "Andiamo". However as we are searching for our next boat, we are wondering if anyone can advise, "what would you consider the maximum draft for travelling through our route and sailing around the Bahamas would be?"
We don't want to fall in love with a larger boat with 6' 10" draft for example, only to have grounding issues along the ICW or be so far moored off the islands.
Any thoughts from experienced cruisers, would be very helpful to us.
SailorGirl, Christine
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Old 28-09-2013, 10:09   #2
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Re: Sailing down ICW to Bahamas, deepest draft concern?

There are a lot of if's, and's or but's in this question. 5'6" would be my personal maximum but we love the inside stuff.

Large parts of the ICW change dramatically, sometimes within a few weeks or after a major storm so sometimes, some areas are ok with 7' keels and two weeks later .... not so much.
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Old 28-09-2013, 10:20   #3
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Re: Sailing down ICW to Bahamas, deepest draft concern?

You could make the trip with say 6' 10" draft but you would have to pay close attention. It's easier these days because you can see the shallow spots on Active Captain (marked by yellow icons entered by fellow travelers). These include detailed comments about how to find the deepest water. Take a look at Active Captain to see -

You don't say how big a boat you're considering but a more important ICW issue for sailboats 40' and above is often bridge height. Bridges are supposed to be 65' clearance at mean high water but can be a 2'-3' lower in times of unusually high tides or wind driven high water. We make the trip with a 63' mast but plan each day. We can get stuck for a day or more when a storm raises water level.

In both cases, you can time the tide to get by most bad spots (don't go under fixed bridges at high tide or past shallow spots at low tide) - but this can really reduce your progress. There is no tide (other than wind driven) from the lock near Norfolk through Pamlico sound. There aren't many shallow spots on this stretch but several troublesome bridges. We once waited three days after a storm with several boats to get under Pungo Ferry bridge.
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Old 28-09-2013, 10:33   #4
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Re: Sailing down ICW to Bahamas, deepest draft concern?

Like CarlF said.

A deeper water draft you can usually work around but mast height is an absolute and will determine whether you go inside or outside.

Much over 6' draft will require more attention but can be done. Certain sections you will have to pass through ONLY on high tide or preferably a rising tide.

I agree that around 5'6" is a reasonable max and will minimize the worries.
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Old 28-09-2013, 10:40   #5
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pirate Re: Sailing down ICW to Bahamas, deepest draft concern?

boatpoker; There are a lot of if's, and's or but's in this question. 5'6" would be my personal maximum but we love the inside stuff.

I agree with boatpoker, 5' 6" is a useable draft on the few trips I have made from Cape Canaveral to Miami, but the most important is the mast height above water. Also the shallower draft of your present draft will allow you to anchor closer to shore and/or visit places a deeper draft boat could not reach. If you are happy with the your present boats speed, handling, and interior arrangements, why change? You could take the money it will take to buy a newer bigger boat and the the time to reoutfit it to have a LONGER stay on your trip. If there are only 2 of you should have enough room and you are already use to the systems on your boat and you know what you would need to bring the present boat up to your needs.
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Old 28-09-2013, 10:41   #6
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Re: Sailing down ICW to Bahamas, deepest draft concern?

I've cruised in the Bahamas a number of times, mostly in boats drawing six feet. With this draft, large areas of the Bahamas are inaccessible, and some harbors can't be entered or left at low tide.
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Old 28-09-2013, 11:16   #7
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Re: Sailing down ICW to Bahamas, deepest draft concern?

Quote:
Originally Posted by boatpoker View Post
There are a lot of if's, and's or but's in this question. 5'6" would be my personal maximum but we love the inside stuff.

Large parts of the ICW change dramatically, sometimes within a few weeks or after a major storm so sometimes, some areas are ok with 7' keels and two weeks later .... not so much.
I think this is about right for a maximum. Sure it can be done with deeper. 4-6 to 5 would be very nice for B'mas.
OP: Do you really need a bigger boat for that trip?
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Old 28-09-2013, 12:13   #8
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Re: Sailing down ICW to Bahamas, deepest draft concern?

the book says i have a 4'8" draft, but loaded down for cruising it's closer to 5'. we also do the icw and bahamas. so far so good.

it's nice to know that, when running aground in the icw and much of the bahamas it's sand or mud and easily backed out of. more important to have a strong keel and rudder so that the shock of hitting the bottom doesn't cause any serious damage.
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