Mike Salino
CHARLOTTE COUNTY REALTY

Especially for Boaters

 

This page is NOT about boating. It is about buying a boater home, which I define as a home that has navigable water on one of it’s boundaries (usually at the back). For the purposes of this page I will also include certain condos that meet the criteria.

The first question that needs to be asked when considering a boater home is “what kind of boat”. This is because boater homes come in 2 distinct types. Those with fixed bridges on the way to open water and those without.

A fixed bridge is precisely that. A bridge that cannot be opened to allow a boat to pass through. That means that there is a limit to how tall a boat you can own. The majority of fixed bridges in our area have less than about 12 feet clearance, which eliminates any type of sailboat and most trawlers and large fishing boats (with towers).

The most valuable (expensive) homes on water are described as being on “sailboat water”, which means there is not a fixed bridge between the home and Charlotte Harbor and thence to the gulf. Anything else will be described as Gulf (or ocean) access and will be less expensive.

An exception to the fixed bridge rule is any property on the Peace River above the twin US 41 bridges. These 2 bridges and the I75 bridge about a mile upriver have a vertical clearance of 45 feet, which will accommodate most large power boats and a decent (35 foot) sized sailboat.

However at this point there is a more important factor to consider and that is the depth of the water. Charlotte Harbor, the Peace River and the Myacca River are “skinny” water.

In the middle of the harbor the depths are in the teens but in the upper reaches and many of the channels leading to the canals the charts show depths in low single digits. Fortunately the bottom is almost all mud and the shelving is gradual so going aground is mostly embarrassment and unlikely to damage the boat. But if you have a boat that draws more than about 4 feet you need to be careful where you buy.

The tidal range in the harbor is only about 18 inches. However the rivers have a significant effect on the depth. There can be a couple of feet difference from when the rivers are in flood in the summer till the end of the dry season in April. Also wind direction has a big impact especially in the rivers due to the shallow nature of the water.

The next issue concerns distance (and therefore time) to open water. Premium locations may be as little as 5 minutes away from unrestricted speed and depth. However all canals are “no wake” zones, limiting boat speed to no more than 4 or 5 knots. There are canal lots that are more than an hour to open water. Not so important if you have large sailboat and are leaving for a 3 month cruise, but frustrating if you want to go out for a couple of hours fishing. Once again speed of access adds value (cost).

Next the actual lot needs to be considered. If you have a boat at your house you need to be able to tie it to something. If the property is within Punta Gorda Isles there is a big bonus. The City of Punta Gorda adds a moderate annual charge to your taxes and maintains and repairs all the seawalls. At the moment they are in the middle of restoring dozens of seawalls that fell into the canal during Hurricane Irma.

Anywhere else you are on your own. Seawalls are expensive so you need to understand what you are buying. Many canal lots are provided with concrete seawalls that have to be maintained and have a limited life. The advantage is that it is relatively easy to add a dock or boatlift.

However many Charlotte County lots have riprap, which is basically a bunch of boulders at the edge of the lot which stops your land flowing down into the canal. Riprap is pretty bulletproof and unlikely to succumb to falling in the canal, which is what happens when storm surge breaches the top of the seawall and fills the land behind it with water, and when the storm surge goes the other way bad things happen.

Boatlifts are a really good idea if, like me, you don’t enjoy scraping barnacles of the bottom of your boat. The water here is nice and warm and is home to all kinds of crustaceans which seem to be impervious to most modern antifoul so if you can get the boat totally out of the water it’s a great idea. If your purchase already has a functioning lift you will save several thousand dollars. And just so you know it is possible to put a sailboat on a boatlift quite easily, especially if it’s not too big.

Another wrinkle concerns South Gulf Cove, which is a deed restricted community in South Western Charlotte County. This community contains 4,764 deep water lots that have no fixed bridge access to open water. Ideal for a large sailboat. However access to open water is via a lock at the North end of the community that brings boat into the Myakka River near the El Jobean Bridge. There is a 6ft channel but is marking is rather vague and the surrounding water is seriously shallow. Just saying.

So there you have it. If you are looking to buy a home with water access to your due diligence, starting by calling me.