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Old 05-01-2023, 08:24   #1
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ADVICE PLEASE 6' draft sailboat, east coast Florida and keys dockage and anchorage

I guess I was a bit too dismissive of the difference between say a 4.5' draft boat and my 6' one. My experience so far coming down the coast of FL is extremely frustrating. We "think" we'd like to get to Marathon then KWest but seriously the whole coast seems to be geared towards MV and shallow draft sailboats. All the guides and advice just assume one has a shallow draft.

3 separate times I've been stuck unable to get to the marinas I had reservations at due to 5-5.5' water there and dockwa and other apps call out my 6' draft, even me by phone...

6' isn't really that deep as sailboats go. We are stuck right now in Ft Pierce on a very expensive big yacht t-end trying to find space anywhere south to move forward. The next steps seem to be Key Biscayne > Largo > Marathon > KW.

Deeper marinas are very rare and if exist are full. Mooring fields are mostly shallow. Recommended anchorages (Dinner Key, Largo/Rodriguez, Marathon/Boot) seem geared towards shallow drafts.

Anyone have experience or recommendations for "deep" draft sailboat heading down keys? Where to stop daily?

Or do we abandon FL for the Bahamas? Any better there? Bigger sailboats claim it is a great destination unlike coastal florida.

Thank you!
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Old 05-01-2023, 08:30   #2
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Re: ADVICE PLEASE 6' draft sailboat, east coast Florida and keys dockage and anchorag

PS we are used to deeper new england waters, marinas, anchorages, harbors.

we are new to this long range cruising thing.

this is supposed to be fun right, but we are getting depressed and deeper into a difficult area.

or are we thinking too much? do we ignore 6' mean low water areas as dangerous and just go there?

thanks again. maybe we need mentorship as we experience this learning curve...
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Old 05-01-2023, 08:31   #3
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Re: ADVICE PLEASE 6' draft sailboat, east coast Florida and keys dockage and anchorag

You are correct. Also the Bahamas are shallow but manageable at 6’. We noted this as well as air draft issues over 63’. We jumped directly from the Chesapeake to the eastern Caribbean in 2016. The boat has never gone back.
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Old 05-01-2023, 09:13   #4
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Re: ADVICE PLEASE 6' draft sailboat, east coast Florida and keys dockage and anchorag

Sorry you are not enjoying this cruise. Part of the challenges of cruising is planning ahead and solving problems. It's the price to sit at the bar and say, "I sailed my own boat here", even if you never say it out loud.

You are correct that Florida (not just the eastern coast) is not friendly to deeper drafts. I made the decision to shift to a catamaran for that reason, but you need a shorter term solution. You're blowing money at a Ft. Pierce marina - have you considered anchoring out for some or all of your stay? Holding in Ft. Pierce is excellent and convenient dinghy docks. South of you is Indian River Lagoon (Palm Beach), Ft. Lauderdale, and Biscayne Bay (Miami), all day trips on the outside. Suggest going outside for any passages south of Palm Beach due to numerous bascule bridges which are a pain. Anchoring out is feasible in all of these, except Ft. Lauderdale is pretty crowded. Never thought about marinas down there Everything gets progressively pricier as you move south from Ft. Pierce. Key West is a tough place to anchor and all the mooring balls are probably taken already. Like most of Florida, they have affordable housing problems there and some folks solve this by living aboard.

Bahamas look very much like Florida geographically (shallows punctuated by sandy beaches and low islands), so it will not get much better crossing over there. Good luck to recovering from your disappointing start, and I wish you well.
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Old 05-01-2023, 09:14   #5
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Re: ADVICE PLEASE 6' draft sailboat, east coast Florida and keys dockage and anchorag

We are 5’ 6” draft, but effectively I operate as if 6’. Have considered the Keys, but realized would be limited to Hawk Channel. So have not gone. Have cruised the Abacos, Eleuthera, and Central Exumas over the last 15 years without issues. Yes you must plan approach to some areas and take advantage of tide help in a few places. Prefer to take route to Abacos south to Eleuthera to Exumas for a number of reasons.

Also agree that south Florida an issue for a lot of reasons.

Good luck.
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Old 05-01-2023, 09:31   #6
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Re: ADVICE PLEASE 6' draft sailboat, east coast Florida and keys dockage and anchorag

Sadly you have a boat not well suited for Florida. You have three choices: Put up with the difficulty, change boats, or move to a more favorable area.

Our boat draws 8ft. We have circumnavigated (including visiting the Caribbean) and never had a water depth problem, but we have avoided the East Coast of the US and Florida.

Deeper draft provides better sailing characteristics. A 4't draft boat will have much poorer sailing ability.

Decide your priority and move from there. For us, sailing ability was number #1 and we would never go cruising with a shallow draft boat.
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Old 05-01-2023, 09:40   #7
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Re: ADVICE PLEASE 6' draft sailboat, east coast Florida and keys dockage and anchorag

Thanks for the support. I have the boat I want (I guess for now). Sailing performance is important. I sailed with a friend on their V42 from Newport to St Thomas in challenging late fall conditions and I fell in love with that boat.

So I guess SE US coast is simply a mistake, esp. Florida, for a variety of reasons I'm discovering.

People I meet with deeper sailboats all have good things to say about Bahamas cruising and generally nothing good to say about Florida. Point taken, just frustrating way to discover this. Could have sailed Beaufort - Bahamas weeks ago

Probably head to Biscayne Bay, find anchorage or mooring, prepare boat for crossing to Bahamas, winters in Caribbean in the future...
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Old 05-01-2023, 09:59   #8
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Re: ADVICE PLEASE 6' draft sailboat, east coast Florida and keys dockage and anchorag

We were in the Exumas at the end of November, and before the trip I was very apprehensive about anchorages and depth, since the Exumas Bank is notoriously very shallow.
I must say that anchorages are instead very manageable, even with a deep draft. We were marginal only at Shroud Cay, and even there you just anchor a little offshore and you are fine (which you would do anyway, to avoid bugs).
I was pleasantly amazed by how accurate Navionics is, practically in every Cay.
Of course, you have to proceed with caution, try to get into the anchorages at high tide, with the sun high, resist any temptation of cutting corners (even if you see some other boat doing it), and avoid going "exploring" passing between the islands, unless you have somebody with extreme local knowledge aboard. If you follow those simple guidelines and stick to Navionics, you'll be fine everywhere.
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Old 05-01-2023, 10:56   #9
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Re: ADVICE PLEASE 6' draft sailboat, east coast Florida and keys dockage and anchorag

Speaking of draft, almost all of Florida and Bahamas the bottom is nice clean sand or weed. Unless you are on a coral reef (like what separates the keys from the Atlantic), touching bottom is at most an inconvenience and a polishing off of your bottom paint. Everyone that has ever had a boat in this state has cuddled up to sand, sometimes multiple times in a day. That said, those reefs off our south-east are definitely ship killers and every lighthouse down there is named for a ship that did not make it ... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fowey_Rocks_Light
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Old 05-01-2023, 13:03   #10
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Re: ADVICE PLEASE 6' draft sailboat, east coast Florida and keys dockage and anchorag

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ween View Post
Thanks for the support. I have the boat I want (I guess for now). Sailing performance is important. I sailed with a friend on their V42 from Newport to St Thomas in challenging late fall conditions and I fell in love with that boat.

So I guess SE US coast is simply a mistake, esp. Florida, for a variety of reasons I'm discovering.

People I meet with deeper sailboats all have good things to say about Bahamas cruising and generally nothing good to say about Florida. Point taken, just frustrating way to discover this. Could have sailed Beaufort - Bahamas weeks ago

Probably head to Biscayne Bay, find anchorage or mooring, prepare boat for crossing to Bahamas, winters in Caribbean in the future...
We have known cruisers with Valiants in Bahamas who also did the Florida East Coast ICW. As mentioned before, so do I with essentially same draft. Agree Biscayne Bay and Keys donít work well. Otherwise good to go.
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Old 05-01-2023, 13:05   #11
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Re: ADVICE PLEASE 6' draft sailboat, east coast Florida and keys dockage and anchorag

Based on my experience sailing the Keys last winter all I can say is that if you don't have a reservation in Marathon or Key Weird by now you are probably out of luck getting a slip anywhere down there. Also, if the northerlies kick in the way they did last year, and with this being the third year of a La Nina pattern, they are supposed to be worse, you'll probably spend a lot of the season moving around to different lee shore anchorages as the northerlies shift. I also understand that the same situation existed in much of the Bahamas last year as well. Not trying to be a downer but as far as the keys go ... call ahead.
PS: The Stadium anchorage in Miami was open last year but they were talking about making it a mooring field.
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Old 05-01-2023, 17:13   #12
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Re: ADVICE PLEASE 6' draft sailboat, east coast Florida and keys dockage and anchorag

I have a 6ft draft and have gone up and down both coasts of florida, all of the keys and bahamas, never gave it a second thought, I always found places to anchor and stayed in marathon and Key west for many months anchored, wouldn't dream of going to a marina in the keys, prices are ridiculous. Go have fun, learn how to sail and anchor in 7 ft water, its nervy at first, then you get used to it. you have a great anchor, go use it.
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