1) Any sailboat with a mast higher than 43 ft cannot get under the three Banana River bridges fixed at 43ft clearance. Currently the river is about 14 inches lower than normal but that also means trouble for any boat with a draft exceeding 4ft 6 ins.
2) Shallows are everywhere but markers very difficult to find. One moment you have 5ft of water and the next second you’re suddenly stuck on a 3ft shoal. Doesn’t matter if you come into the river from the south or the north, you face the same hazards.
3) I strongly recommend you come in from the north via the Cape Canaveral Barge Canal. Stop off briefly at the Harbourtown Marina and with a short bike ride go to the nearby WalMart and buy a fishing chart – which at least gives you some idea of both water depths and markers.
4) You can find the location of the Banana River Marina both on the chart and Google Earth. (Type in Banana River Marina). The approach channel to the marina is very narrow and around 5ft depth. But when you arrive at a small bridge, (which has to be opened by the Dockmaster (Tel (321) 453 7888), stay on the starboard side which is around 4ft 6ins at best.
5) Don’t want to give you the impression that this is too much risk. Just take it easy and keep a close eye on your depth finder and you’ll be fine.
Once safely docked, you will find this marina a very friendly laid back place indeed. With around 60 slips of differing widths, you will find at least 10 liveaboards here – many have been here for years. The toilets and showers are clean but not air conditioned. The laundry is good along with a fine exchange library. Soft drink machines are available but no marine store. There is an adjacent haul out crane and DIY yard with mechanics and other experts available for hire. There are picnic tables – but in the late afternoons the ‘no see ums’ will try to eat you alive. Inside the docks are around 6 huge manatees quietly grazing. Because of the enclosed nature of the marina, it is a fine local hurricane hole – bear this in mind should one be approaching as you too are approaching – you might find no room at the inn……
Within an easy bike ride is a Walmart, other stores and restaurants – though liveaboards with cars will often offer a ride. I’m told there is a free shuttle bus to and from Orlando but haven’t as yet tried it. This is a great spot to see any rocket launch from the Space Center – alas not as frequently as in the heady days of Apollo.
This is a nice peaceful old style inexpensive marina with always someone around to have a chat with or help you with some problem. My intent is to stay here at least for the winter but who knows – maybe I’ll stay around for years and feed the manatees. I could do a lot worse.
Low slip rates, friendly environment, hurricane hole – gets a Five Star Rating in my log.