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Thread: Understanding Anchorages, San Francisco Bay

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    Default Understanding Anchorages, San Francisco Bay

    I'm sure there's a better place to ask this, but this is the only boating forum I belong to so, *shrug*.

    I'm trying to understand where, and under what circumstances recreational boaters are allowed to anchor in the SF bay estuary, and the regulations don't make sense to me with any precision. According to the coast guard regulations, a vessel cannot anchor anywhere other than a designated anchorage; these anchorages seem entirely geared toward commercial vessels, (understandable) and are basically open water for a hypothetical me in my Walkabout.

    On the other hand, there are places where overnight anchoring are clearly allowed like Aquatic Park, China Cove, Clipper Cove despite not falling --best as I can tell-- within the bays' designated anchorages. What am I missing?

    Thanks,
    Anthony

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    Default Re: Understanding Anchorages, San Francisco Bay

    For recreational boats, especially small ones, you can anchor anywhere its not prohibited.

    Of course, that doesn't mean its a good anchorage.
    There's the plan, then there's what actually happens.

    Ben Sebens, RN

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    Default Re: Understanding Anchorages, San Francisco Bay

    My understanding is that anchoring recreational boats is allowed anywhere except in Special Anchorage areas, those are under the control of some authority, harbor masters, military, commercial, etc.

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    Default Re: Understanding Anchorages, San Francisco Bay

    Where are you thinking of going Anthony? I usually use marinas in areas where there is traffic, meaning most of the open bay. Marinas usually have room for a little shallow boat (also showers and beer). I am just not comfortable in an open anchorage in a little boat, counting on my light to keep the morning fishing boats from mowing me over. Deep in the delta is another matter - there's lots of places you can tuck into the reeds well out of the way. Close to shore like that I actually feel better with no light, not drawing attention from anyone on shore.
    -Rick

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    Default Re: Understanding Anchorages, San Francisco Bay

    Rick,
    This is all sort of hypothetical pipe-dreaming since I haven't been able to get a DMV appointment to register my trailer because of lockdown, but I've been looking at little coves and sloughs on the west shores of the south bay like cooley landing, redwood creek.

    Thad & Ben,
    I've seen bay area officials site the federal regulations above (see the comments to linked article) in efforts to ward off anchor-outs and boats like that, so I'm trying to get to the bottom of the legality of the situation. De facto, I think I'd be game to just give it a try, but I'd like to know if I'm likely to be told to move.

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    Default Re: Understanding Anchorages, San Francisco Bay

    This is the kind of thing that sucks the fun out of a little local adventure. The constabulary is already on the prowl due to indigents on derelict boats causing trouble. Locals on the shore are either wealthy and don't want you there, or hoodlums on Saturday night chucking rocks (or more) at the light on the water. It's why I go with marinas in the populated areas or stealth camping in the delta. That said, I doubt you would get your boat crushed for one night in Redwood Creek.

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    Default Re: Understanding Anchorages, San Francisco Bay

    Looking at the linked text I wonder if the whole of SF Bay is a designated Special Anchorage area.

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    Default Re: Understanding Anchorages, San Francisco Bay

    Like most things, this is starting to look like a patchwork of local and federal laws. Staying with redwood city as an example, there is some municipal code regulating anchoring; sec. 44.11 says you can anchor for 24 hours before requiring a permit.
    I guess that "begs the question" who has jurisdiction where? If you where on the hook in redwood creek, could someone tell you to get lost because it's not a federally designated anchorage (of course they could, but are they in the right?)
    Edit:
    Adding more detail. God this is complicated, do I get my degree in sea lawyering yet?
    Taking clipper cove as another example. The SF board of supervisors designated clipper cove as a "special use area" under California's Harbors and Navigation Code; a special use area just allows entities like counties to make restrictions to the use of an area, (requiring permits after 24hr in clipper cove's case) but I'm still not clear on the legal basis for them allowing anchoring in the first place...someone get me a bulletin board and some red yarn!
    Last edited by Anthony Z; 09-30-2020 at 06:56 PM.
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    Default Re: Understanding Anchorages, San Francisco Bay

    Anthony, the anchorages you referred to with Google maps, Redwood Creek, used to be referred to as "poop" lagoon because of it's proximity to well... you know. Cooley Landing used to be a deep water landing so it is rather exposed, the owner always wanted to make it into a marina but could never get approval. In general, there has been a lot of controversy about "anchor outs" so there are a lot of laws on the books. They even restrict anchored boats by declaring them unlawful bay "fill".

    SF Bay has a lot of really sweet little nooks to anchor in, all over so don't get discouraged. Everyone loves to see a beautiful moored boat for the night. The classic moorings like Richardson Bay (Sausalito), Hospital Cove (Angel Island) and Aquatic Park (SF) are just the start. For San Francisco, you will want to moor around the corner from GG Bridge, the city front has a lot of surge. You can find a quiet spot in McCovey Cove or in the little bay where SF Boatworks is for example. I've moored at disused piers where I set anchor in back and a loop of line around a piling in front. If you are shallow draft, the sloughs are beautiful but you want to consult your tide book or you might be there awhile. We alway carry a bottle of scotch in the bilge for those occasions. Yes, SF Bay was wonderful at one time when you could anchor anywhere .... but it still is. Where else can you be surrounded by 10 million people and have it all to yourself, it is still out there, keep dreaming.

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    Default Re: Understanding Anchorages, San Francisco Bay

    15 years ago I spent the summer in the Bay area on Woodwind, waiting out seasons,(did not want to go south until fall).
    Even then it was too many rules/regulations/cops for my taste.
    San Diego was far worse.

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    Default Re: Understanding Anchorages, San Francisco Bay

    Thanks for the replies everyone. I went ahead and made a google maps list of all the USCG anchorages that aren't short term anchorages, require contacting the harbor master etc. Several of them are bounded by the shore, which might allow an open boat cruiser to squeeze into a little cove or creek.
    Here's that list.
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    Default Re: Understanding Anchorages, San Francisco Bay

    Not sure exactly how the locations were generated Anthony, but there are some places showing up on my map when I click your link that I would not want to spend the night. Some of the ones in the central bay look to be right in the shipping and ferry lanes. Near Benicia, which I know better, one marker is in the middle of the strait and one is near the safe marina, but it has no protection from wind and tanker wakes. Out near Sherman Island I've spent the night safely in the channels and reeds around Sherman Lake, but the markers are in the very windy part swarming with kiteboarders. With your little boat I think just look for shallow and out of the way, you don't need an anchorage designated for bigger guys.
    -Rick

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    Default Re: Understanding Anchorages, San Francisco Bay

    Anthony, I too am a tad confused by the waypoints. I believe you may be overthinking it. Yes, there are regulations but it is a huge area. Let's say you put in in Alviso, an area I love, a very funky town that hasn't left the 50's. The South Bay is absolutely deserted, the next possible place you can put in is Redwood City, a good 30 miles away. Between, you have little creek, sloughs, an a whole lot of bay with absolutely nobody there.

    There are places where time forgot. One place I love, near your waypoints, but haven't been back in 30 years but I can imagine it is the same is Pt San Pablo Yacht Harbor. It was precious, even has a little place for breakfast before going out fishing. A harbor in the middle of everything but unknown.

    Let's take San Francisco, if you strike your mast you can sneak under bridges and get up some of the "creeks". Islias is a perfect one, there is even a dock that no one uses, another is what they now call Mission Creek, for years they used to have an old hay scow moored there.

    The folk that say there are a lot of regulations and officialdom are absolutely correct. There is way too much but in my experience the officials are all curious when they see a small craft and cut you a lot of slack. That being said, there are a couple anchorages to stay away from, the is the one outside the Port of Oakland, and the one near Port Chicago when they are loading but they are well marked and there is no way you would want to be there anyway.

    It is an art in the bay to use the currents to get where you want to go. They are so strong that you need them in your favor which means you moor in all the little protected spots. If you have to wait overnight for wind and tide, so much the better.
    Last edited by Lemsteraak; 10-11-2020 at 12:58 AM.

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    The pins in the google maps list are the corners of the USCG anchorages in the link above. You can tell which anchorage is which using the from the notes, and there are other descriptions in the notes as well. I mostly did this as a reference for myself since I did the leg work already.
    Thanks for the Rick Lemsteraak advice, I'll definitely make us of it!

    (edited for clarity)
    Last edited by Anthony Z; 10-12-2020 at 03:34 PM.
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    Default Re: Understanding Anchorages, San Francisco Bay

    Anchoring most places in Redwood Creek and around Bair Island for a night or two shouldn't be any problem. Cooley landing is a bit exposed, but on a quiet night would be fine. You can sneak partway into the slough that goes to the old Palo Alto harbor but the launch ramp is completely filled in with mud, and the harbor hasn't been a harbor for 20 years now....completely silted in. You'll want to anchor smack in the middle of the Palo Alto channel, if you use it, otherwise you'll dry out at low tide.

    From Redwood Creek up to Coyote Point on the San Francisco side, there's not much but with a small boat on a a high tide you can pretty surely get into Belmont Slough, though I've never done it.

    From Coyote Point up to Brisbane, there's not much and you have to deal with the airport traffic overhead. Once you get to Hunters Point, there's the slough that goes up by Candlestick and what used to be the South Basin of the Naval Shipyard. You pretty surely could anchor in there, just that it's not exactly the most scenic spot in the whole world. I've always thought about getting in there, maybe when I have the Caragnone built I'll give that a shot.

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    Default Re: Understanding Anchorages, San Francisco Bay

    Honestly, the main bits of San Francisco Bay are not ideal for really small boat cruising, as rgthorn has pointed out. The Delta, on the other hand, is fantastic.

    Twenty years ago, a lot of places were relaxed about someone cruising up at ten oclock at night, finding some space on a completely empty public dock and spending the night. If you were gone by 9:00 AM the next day, nobody cared. NOW...everybody wants their $30+ a night.

    You can still anchor at Clipper Cove, and lots of people do...
    Last edited by Alan H; 10-12-2020 at 04:25 PM.

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    Default Re: Understanding Anchorages, San Francisco Bay

    Alan, in the area you were talking about I have a few sneaky anchorages

    This topic brings up all sorts of fond memories of my mis-spent youth exploring SF Bay in an old leaky wooden boat.

    The old Palo Alto yacht harbor may be a bit shallow, the city diverted the stream that used to flow through the harbor and the it silted up. So, a tip, sloughs and creeks that have a good water flow have some depth at low tide.

    Moffitt Field - Wharf.jpg

    Here is an example in the Palo Alto area of a deep water anchorage. This wharf was used to bring in aviation fuel for Moffitt Field back when it was an air station. It is still there and is really away from it all and as far as I know hasn't been used in years.

    SSF Seaplane.jpg

    If you like airplanes, moor in the old seaplane harbor at SF International. Again, deep water and not a soul uses it. We moor with a line around the dolphins in the top of the picture.

    SSF Bethlehem Steel.jpg

    Further north up in South San Francisco is a great little deep water moorage. Instead of turning right into the marina, go straight into the lagoon. It was built by Bethlehem Steel and was where they brought in their barges to build SF's bridges. It is well protected from waves but can get quite windy in the afternoon.

    SF Crane Cover.jpg

    There is a pretty little bay outside of the SF Boatworks. It is a well protected anchorage and we use to ask the boat works if we could park a dinghy. They were always great and since they were closed weekends always let us. This area is a hidden gem but I think it has been found out and SF is building a new waterfront park. Further north is the old Santa Fe "mole" at the Bay View Boat Club. You can do a med moor there but be carful ashore as must be quite rickety now.

    Alan, you mentioned Belmont Slough, it used to be deep water, a little tricky to find the channel. I used to sail in and out of there in a 20' sailboat with a fixed keel.

    SF bay may not be the best for small craft (less than 20 feet) because you get high winds, fast currents and wicked chop. If you like that sort of thing, it doesn't get any better. Throw in some sun and fog and freighters to dodge and you will not get bored. A real treat is a night sail by the full moon.

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    Default Re: Understanding Anchorages, San Francisco Bay

    If you like airplanes, moor in the old seaplane harbor at SF International. Again, deep water and not a soul uses it. We moor with a line around the dolphins in the top of the picture.
    There's a reason you are always alone there.

    Since the 9-11 attacks, one cannot take a pleasure boat that close to the airports any longer. Take a look at the magenta dashed line that follows the contours of the airport on this NOAA nautical chart of San Francisco Bay ( Chart #18651). That line designates a, "Security Zone," wherein all but authorized vessels are prohibited.

    Screen Shot 2020-10-13 at 1.41.58 PM.jpg

    If you refer to Coast Pilot 7, chapter 2 ( part 165.9) you'll find:

    c) Security zones. These zones have two sources of authority–46 U.S.C. chapter 700, and the Act of June 15, 1917, as emended by both the Magnuson Act of August 9, 1950 (“Magnuson Act”), 46 U.S.C. 70051–54, and sec. 104 the Maritime Transportation Security Act of 2002 (Pub. L. 107-295, 116 Stat. 2064). Security zones established under either 46 U.S.C. 70116 or 46 U.S.C. 70051 may be established in waters subject to the jurisdiction of the United States as defined in 2.38 of this chapter, including the territorial sea to a seaward limit of 12 nautical miles from the baseline.
    And

    165.30

    165.30 Security Zones.(2625)(a) A security zone is an area of land, water, or land and water which is so designated by the Captain of the Port or District Commander for such time as is necessary to prevent damage or injury to any vessel or waterfront facility, to safeguard ports, harbors, territories, or waters of the United States or to secure the observance of the rights and obligations of the United States.(2626)(b) The purpose of a security zone is to safeguard from destruction, loss, or injury from sabotage or other subversive acts, accidents, or other causes of a similar nature:(2627)(1) Vessels,(2628)(2) Harbors,(2629)(3) Ports and(2630)(4) Waterfront facilities:(2631)in the United States and all territory and water, continental or insular, that is subject to the jurisdiction of the United States.(2632)165.33 General regulations.(2633)Unless otherwise provided in the special regulations in Subpart F of this part:(2634)(a) No person or vessel may enter or remain in a security zone without the permission of the Captain of the Port;(2635) (b) Each person and vessel in a security zone shall
    c) The Captain of the Port may take possession and control of any vessel in the security zone;(2637)(d) The Captain of the Port may remove any person, vessel, article, or thing from a security zone;(2638)(e) No person may board, or take or place any article or thing on board, any vessel in a security zone without the permission of the Captain of the Port; and(2639)(f) No person may take or place any article or thing upon any waterfront facility in a security zone without the permission of the Captain of the Port.
    You can access the Coast Pilot 7 here: https://nauticalcharts.noaa.gov/publ...7/CPB7_WEB.pdf

    Basically, though, one may not anchor/ moor where you suggest. I am not saying you haven't done it, nor that anyone should not do it. I am simply pointing out that doing so is illegal.( without permission from the Captain of the Port)

    The Coast Pilot is a great resource. It lists as many, or more, anchorages that can be used, than it does places to stay clear of. Plus, there is much other useful info contained in it.

    Kevin
    Last edited by Breakaway; 10-13-2020 at 01:30 PM.
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    Default Re: Understanding Anchorages, San Francisco Bay

    Kevin, thank you, good point about the little seaplane harbor at SFO, I didn't think about new restrictions, last time I was there was before 9/11. I made a wrong assumption, I thought it was far enough away from the runways, all they do there is maintenance, and air freight terminals. That spring after 9/11, I motored an ancient Folkboat from that area to the SF Marina and saw no less than five official boats. Two Coast Guard boats, a small one and a cutter, a San Mateo and a SF Sheriff boat, and even was visited by one of the SF police boats.

    There are two disused seaplane harbors I've used since 9/11, Clipper Cove is an old Pan Am seaplane harbor and has the best views of the city. In Alameda, I made an overnight stopover at the seaplane harbor in the old Naval Air Station.

    Anthony, I see your point, it may take a bit of study to find quiet anchorages that you can use for your "walkabout"

    - Rich

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    Default Re: Understanding Anchorages, San Francisco Bay

    Thanks again everyone, I think we've built a useful resource for my --and hopefully others'-- future reference.
    Also, some good news, if you can call it that. Part of what started me down this rabbit hole was the article linked in post #5; I wanted to figure out why boats where getting chopped up even though the chart seems to show anchorage 9 near the area mentioned in the article. Well, I've concluded that the boats that where moored in the Alameda estuary where in the wrong, but I believe San Leandro Bay is part of general anchorage 9, since that anchorage is, "bounded on the east by the eastern shore of San Francisco Bay and on the north by the southern shore of Alameda Island." Also, I must have been skimming through that list on Cornell's law page too fast because it looks like it's actually not an anchorage, "primarily for use by vessels requiring a temporary anchorage waiting to proceed to pier facilities or other anchorage grounds". I've added the corners of anchorage 9 to my list linked above.
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    Default Re: Understanding Anchorages, San Francisco Bay


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    Good link, thanks. For some reason I thought that site no longer existed. Glad to know I was wrong!

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    Default Re: Understanding Anchorages, San Francisco Bay

    I can't imagine using the seaplane anchorage by SFO to set up for the night. The noise would be horrific! It's bad enough at Coyote point.

    In fact, if you have a small boat and the lower, low tide isn't too low, you can probably anchor out in the "outer basin" of Coyote Point, which was never developed. It gets really windy out there in the summer afternoons, well into the evening but it would make a nice place to settle down during the Fall and Winter. Just realize that you'll be hearing planes overhead, coming in to land at SFO all day and all night.

    The cove, such as it is, around SF Boatworks is indeed a good place to tie up. You can get a line around one of the old pilings, and a long stern anchor, if you're using a small boat...or just anchor. I've done that many, many times.

    Over on the other side of the Bay, you can probably still get into the San Leandro marina in a small boat on any high-ish tide. The basin south of what used to be the Spinnaker Yacht Club is pretty nice, though it's pretty shallow, now.

    https://www.sanleandro.org/civicax/f...x?blobid=28444

    Further north, you can tuck into the southern end of the Alameda estuary, even hang out in San Leandro Bay north of Bay Farm Island, in a small boat. You'll probably dry out at low tide if you get pretty far in.

    Even further north, the basin near the Encinal Boat Ramp, between Ballena Bay and the breakwater at the old Naval Air Station is OK. Inside the breakwater, if you get pretty far in past the new ferry docks, is pretty protected as well. Crab Cove is a good little anchorage for a small boat.

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    Those are some good tips, Alan, thank you! Wow I didn't realize how bad san leandro had silted. Is the marina still used?

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    Default Re: Understanding Anchorages, San Francisco Bay

    Quote Originally Posted by Anthony Z View Post
    Those are some good tips, Alan, thank you! Wow I didn't realize how bad san leandro had silted. Is the marina still used?

    Sent from my ONEPLUS A6003 using Tapatalk
    I haven't driven out there in years, at least 6-7 and haven't sailed in there in at least ten. Ten years ago, you did NOT venture out of the channal, or you go aground instantly, and it's just gotten worse. The last time I was there, I'd guess that half the harbor was less than4 feet deep at low tide.

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    Default Re: Understanding Anchorages, San Francisco Bay

    I doubt the City has pulled the docks out....that would cost a lot of $$. I expect they'll just let the place disintigrate. Spinnaker Yacht Club is still functional, and the restaurants are apparently open.

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    Default Re: Understanding Anchorages, San Francisco Bay

    There are so many places to anchor overnight and tie ups for free beyond what has been mentioned.Your arrivals and departures may be hamstung by tides. There are places in the Richmond inner harbor, there are places in the San Leandro bay (I go there to watch the fireworks when the A's play), inside the harbor by the Hornet passed the WETA ferry docks.

    A proper kept boat, using anchor lights and with a current registration usually has few problems.

    Can ask if OP belongs to a yacht club? Sure is easy to go dockside for free when you "cruise out". Very few yacht clubs will charge a visiting club in winter meanwhile you can have access to the facilities and do not need a dinghy. Join the SSS or the Master Mariners for less than 100 a year and have full club privileges. That could mean at least 20 nights a year for cheap or free overnights and often good entertainment.
    Last edited by Ted Hoppe; 10-22-2020 at 01:07 PM.

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    Thanks Ted, those are helpful data points.
    I don't belong to a yacht club, I would consider it down the line.

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