The Big Ship Channels
These are considered all-weather (by big ships, not little boats) channels from the ocean that ships can safely use. They are deep, wide, well-marked and often protected by jetties (which can be their own source of danger in bad weather or low visibility). Because they are wide and deep, tremendous volumes of water flow through them and, as a consequence, the adverse conditions created by wind-against-tide can extend considerably into the ocean or gulf.
Inlets are listed from north to south on the east coast, then south to north on the west coast.
St. Maryís River
The river marks the border between George and Florida and its currents flow fast. Several years ago, the U.S. Navy built a nuclear submarine base at nearby Kings Bay, Ga., and undertook extensive work dredging and marking the St. Maryís River entrance. Now, as long as you stay clear of subs coming and going, itís a relatively easy passage, well marked and deep.
St. Johns River
This river has long been used for heavy commerce an
Port Canaveral
Cruise ships, Navy vessels and lots of fishermen use this deep and well-marked inlet. Iíve had to put in there unintentionally in the past when a scheduled rocket launch from nearby Kennedy Space Center prohibited any boats from entering the danger zone.
Fort Pierce Inlet
I consider Fort Pierce Inlet my home inlet. Deep and well-marked, with jetties on both sides, itís a welcome sight after a long cruise. A Coast Guard station and several marinas just inside the inlet can provide advice in rough weather.
Lake Worth Inlet
A short entrance and deep water make this an easy inlet to use. Itís a major staging for pleasure boaters since Lake Worth offers extensive anchoring spots near the inlet. Itís also a great jumping-off point for anyone heading to the northern parts of the Bahamas.
Port Everglades
Wide, deep and well marked, this inlet takes you into Fort Lauderdale, the heart of luxury yacht country. Pleasure boats are thick in the inlet on good days and some very large ships, both cruise and cargo, use it, too.
Government Cut
This is the last major inlet on the east coast, leading boaters into the thriving port of Miami. Given the amount of cruise and cargo ships that pass through here, the main danger is not giving them enough room. Government Cut may be the best inlet on Floridaís east coast for pleasure boaters, but Iíve still tacked back and forth off the cut waiting for daylight so I could eyeball conditions before entering.