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Old 24-07-2008, 18:43   #1
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Draft for the Bahamas

Looking for a good cruising boat and the Bahamas will probably be the 1st stop. Will be retired and will want to spend some serious time there and then onward or even upward to Maine in the season.

Right now looking for the right boat in our budget. 38ft to 42ft, with walkout transom. I'm now agonizing over draft.

How unhappy will we be with draft over 5ft say in the Bahamas. We are used to day sailors in the past with skinny water abilities.

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Old 24-07-2008, 19:06   #2
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6 is okay in the Bahamas, but anything over that will restrict ya somehow.
Some folks will say they have sailed for years with 8', some will say 4' is ideal...

I draw 5'6" have been there plenty and have ran aground occasionally.

Your milage may vary...
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Old 24-07-2008, 19:26   #3
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It is truly amazing how many remote Bahamian anchorages are described as 6 to 8 feet. All of them are really 5 1/2 feet unless your keel depth is 5 feet in which case the depth is 4 1/2 feet, etc. A fully provisioned and loaded depth of 5 feet should be fine. I would not sail the "out-islands" of the Bahamas with a true draft of much over 6 feet. FWIW, we did it with a rated draft of 5' 6" and an actual draft of about 5' 9". Yeah, we bumped and scraped our way into some places; we ran aground a couple of times; but everyone does that in the Bahamas. It's worth it.
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Old 24-07-2008, 19:44   #4
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We have taken our 6 foot draft all over the Bahamas on more than one trip and no problems.
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Old 24-07-2008, 20:04   #5
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Been going for years with 5 1/2 ft no problem.
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Old 25-07-2008, 17:32   #6
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6'...five winters in Abacos and issues except need tidal help to get into a few closed harbors (Elbow Cay, Treasure Cay, Little Harbor, Man O' war) ...would need tidal help even with 5' on a couple of those!

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Old 26-07-2008, 11:19   #7
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Yea it's really only going to mean you need to wait for high tide or in anchoring cases, you'll be anchoring a little further out, not a big deal, we have a 5 foot draft and prefer to anchor a little further out unless the weather is nasty, just to be by myself.
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Old 26-07-2008, 12:27   #8
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We were really happy to have the 5'2" draft on Dulcinea, our Caliber 47LRC. You can make it around with deeper draft, but it is a heck of a lot easier in the skinny Bahamian waters with a shallower draft. Also, if you are careful, you can get into places others can't.
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Old 26-07-2008, 12:59   #9
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I have 5' draft and have no problem there.
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Old 26-07-2008, 13:22   #10
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I've did several trips to the Bahamas in pocket cruisers with 3 foot and 2.5 foot drafts. I've also sailed much of the Abacos in a boat with a draft of 5 foot 4 inches. While I felt that for the most part I could go where I wanted in the deeper draft boats, I did note there were also many places no longer accessible. For me, the difference is enough that I'm planning to sell my current boat that is now in charter at the end of the contract in favor of a shallower draft boat. Admittedly, I like to explore some of the more out of the way places that often are shallower.

In the Abacos, Joe's Cay, and the Carter's Cay bank are two places I would not have even attempted with a draft over 5 feet.. At over 5 feet, you will need close to high tide to get in and out of Little Harbour and the same may apply with the Lubber's Quarter channel and the sounds of Treasure Cay and Man-o-war. Some of the bays, like the one by the dock on Manjack required very precison anchoring to be off the bottom at low tide with a draft over 5 feet, but would be easy at a bit under 4. I've traversed the long shoal off the NW tip of Manjack in my pocket cruisers but didn't even consider it at over 5 feet. I also used to take the inside route inshore of Whale Cay instead of the longer route on the outside.

I had similar experiences in the Exumas and had a few times when the wind picked up, that I could get into the protection in front of everyone instead of being out in deeper water and more exposed. I've never been to the Ragged or Juamento chains, but would love to and understand a boat over 5 feet will present many limitations there as well.

How important these limitations are will depend on your cruising style. If you want to be able to duck into places like Little Harbor for lunch and then leave again, regardless of tides, or visit the less visited, shallower islands, it will matter more. As those above have said I don't think you will be unhappy or seriously hindered with a boat a bit over 5 feet. However, I thought it only fair to mention that in the Bahamas, there can be notable differences in what you can do with a boat needing less than 4 feet and one needing more than 5. (I'll also note that in a boat of your size range, there's really no way to get much shallower than you've mentioned without going to a multi-hull.)
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Old 01-08-2008, 10:48   #11
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The perfect draft for the Bahamas is 6" less than you have

You can cruise them with anything, and there are plenty of great anchorages, but you will always want to go to that one that is a bit skinny and wish you had less.

We did the Exumas with 7' 6" last year, fine, but missed most of the lovely anchorages in the channels, and I wouldn't want to explore some of the other areas with that much. That said never ran aground, while all around us boats drawing 5' did as they pushed and pushed to be that bit too close in!

IMHO once you get to 6' it's fairly irrelevant, as you can go to any of the islands, and anchor well but will also get misty eyed and wish you had 6" less to go to another anchorage!

I guess the what I'm trying to say is once you get around the 6' range don't walk away from an otherwise perfect boat for 3-4" of draft difference.
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Old 01-08-2008, 14:39   #12
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Well, Well

So what I'm hearing is, the Bahamas are not deeper than a well diggers boot.


Guess I kinda knew the answer. We sailed the Keys for awhile and we have been spoil with our skinny water crafts, but we sure weren't spoiled on accomodations! Think I'll start narrowing the search to full keels under five or maybe a centerboarder a wing keel or a cat or a tri. Hows that for narrowing.

Actually, when I started this thread I trying to talk myself into a 5'6" CC Benneteau with a walk out transom. I've pretty much decided over 5' won't work for us, gottta draw the line somewhere.We have always enjoyed the escape to skinny water.

Anybody want to recommend a boat under a 100,000.00
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Old 01-08-2008, 16:16   #13
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A 5'6" CC Bene is an excellent boat for the Bahamas! Our friends cruised there for 4 months and were able to get to everyplace they desired. Go for the speed that this boat will provide...more time for that rum at the end of the day.
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Old 05-08-2008, 17:23   #14
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A Beneteau 361 2 cabin version.
5' 0" draft and 12" 6" beam.
And very well equipped for < $100 G's
(but I am a bit Bias )
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Old 05-08-2008, 19:05   #15
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6 1/2 was too much. Spent a lot of of time waiting on tide. Now draw 7+. Would only do major ports.
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