Charlotte Harbor is a remarkably easy body of water to navigate. The shallow areas of the east and west side are distinctly obvious due to the presence of a sandy bar that runs parallel to the shoreline. On the outside of the bars you quickly will find 5 feet of water or deeper in a short distance. The amazing thing about Charlotte Harbor is that a deep spot is approximately 20 feet! Chart study will tell you that there are only a few of these “deeper holes” before entering Boca Grande Pass which leads you directly into the Gulf of Mexico.
The harbor is very well marked with day markers leading from the Peace River into the harbor. There are flashing buoys for nighttime navigation and a simple rule is to stay in the middle. Regardless of vessel type, deep draft sailboats, sport fisherman, trawlers and all larger vessels will not have a problem. You will certainly want to study your charts prior to navigating the harbor and one important navigational feature to be cautious with is Cape Haze Point. Cape Haze is the southern end of a mangrove peninsula located on the west side of the harbor and has a submerged sandbar that runs for over a mile in a general south-southeast direction. A buoy marks the southern end of the sandbar which makes it easy to keep from running aground. Depending on tide height a shallow draft boat can normally cross over the bar as long as it is not too close to the actual mangrove shoreline. Wave action and good water visibility will be your guide to navigating Cape Haze bar if you ignore the channel marker.
On the south end of the harbor lies an island named Bokelia which is actually the northern tip of Pine Island. Avoid getting too close the island as sandbars are formed there as well. Plenty of buoys and day markers will guide you to an easy and comfortable ride around the harbor or to the gulf. The harbor is quite a bit larger than it appears on a map and most mariners are amazed at how large it really is. On many days you will not have to leave the harbor to have an enjoyable day on the water.
The inter-coastal waterway (ICW) is located just east of Boca Grande Pass. Easy to spot on the chart and a wonderful deep water channel that will take you north and south. Countless great islands to visit, restaurants and hotel destinations. A boat ride to the Florida Keys is a common boating excursion and if you are in a fast boat can make it in 8 hours depending on sea conditions.
Going in the opposite direction the Peace River is an fantastic boating destination in itself. This is more geared towards the shallower draft boats and a day spent on this scenic river is quite remarkable. It is well marked with day markers to keep you in the channel.
Navigation from your waterfront home to the open channel waters varies depending on your canal. Generally, from Punta Gorda Isles (PGI) there are markers to guide your way out and a few trips back and forth will re-enforce your confidence. Several PGI canals exit from the north side of the Peace River in Punta Gorda Isles and there is an exit via the Ponce De Leon channel on the west side. Your home location will determine which canal you will use. Burnt Store Isles exits into Alligator Creek which is well marked. Pirate Harbor has a distinct set of channel markers for this community. There are other waterfront communities as well on the Peace River that have distinct channel markers. Port Charlotte canals lead to distinct channels that are very well marked making navigating safely to the harbor a breeze.