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Old 28-08-2006, 14:56   #1
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West Coast US Anchorages

Okay so this is a small part of my research for our upcoming cruise's first leg. I have read about All of the ports where one can duck in along the California coast but detailed information about anchorages is hard to come by. In SF and SD especially it seems there are a lot of regulations prohibiting anchorage or limiting it or requiring permits and/or fees. We are going to be on a very tight budget so marinas are simplly not an option. We have heard that Yacht Clubs are very welcoming to cruising boats in general but we do not belong to one so reciprocals wont be an option and we're hoping to spend a week or two in one or both of those places (SF/SD).

My policy has always been to find a good place on the chart and go drop the hook there. Theory being it is always easier to beg forgiveness than to ask permission. I am curious if some of you might have some anchoring experiences along the west coast you could share. I am always up for more local knowlege.


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Following seas,
Adam Yuret
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Old 28-08-2006, 18:48   #2
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Originally Posted by AdamY
Theory being it is always easier to beg forgiveness than to ask permission.
This is the theory of the military man - are you ex-military? If so there might be facilities available through that route.


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Old 28-08-2006, 20:17   #3
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It is very easy and inexpensive to join these so called paper yacht clubs. They give you REcip priveleges and don't cost that much to join one example in SF Bay is Cal Sailing Club.
Fair Winds,


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Old 28-08-2006, 21:19   #4
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Cheers Adam, and welcome aboard. Having sailed up and down most of the CA coast, I might suggest that you take a quick look at my web site.

Where are you starting from, and where are you going to? I can speak some of the area between SF Bay and San Diego.

First off, not all YCs recognize paper YCs and a lot of the Northern YCs don't recognize the Southern YCs (and visa-versa). There are a couple of YCs that don't recognize (for purposes of recips) any YCs. If you belong to one of the Navy YCs, then you transcend that limitation with most clubs.

MOST printed and programs with charts of each area will show where there are anchorages. It doesn't mean that they are good in all conditions (you can count on that), or that they are easily accessable at various times, or are empty enough for another.

Fagan's "The Cruising Guide to Central and Southern California" is the generally accepted book for finding what you are looking for in those areas. A simple search on the internet for YCs will also yield locations and phone numbers - call ahead.

Good Luck.
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Old 29-08-2006, 06:44   #5

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IIRC the USSA still publishes a list of all USSA-affiliated YC's that extend reciprocity to each other's members, and that's probably the largest "reciprocal group" if you are looking to join a club for that reason.

You have to read the chart notes (explained in the Coast Pilots and not always on the charts) carefully when looking for anchorages, i.e. there are "special anchorage" and "general anchorage" with very different terms for each. The "special" ones are, in many areas, in fact locally controlled mooring fields not available to all.
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Old 29-08-2006, 07:07   #6
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San Diego Anchorages

Unfortunately the Port Authority is closing the last free anchorage (A8 anchorage) on the west coast. It was located in the South Bay. Allot of cruisers and others use the Public Docks on Shelter Island. You are allowed ten days for ten dollars a day, price includes power. There are bathrooms close by. Visiting cruisers use the washer dryers at the Kona Kai marina which is within walking distance. The only caveat to Public docks is after the ten days you can not return until forty days have elapsed. Another solution is to rent a temporary mooring ball from the San Diego Mooring Co located at Harbor Island West, they are usually available and run about $200 per month.

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Old 23-09-2006, 21:51   #7
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The SF Bay is surrounded by high density cities. You would have to travel up to the San Joaquin Delta for good back water,(inexpensive) slips or moorings. You could go down to the south bay. The marina's are less there. I've posted some of our travel logs w/pics at:

Look for Monterey10 as the author.
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Old 23-09-2006, 22:58   #8
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THe Coast Pilot gives some very detailed explanations of anchorages along the Ca coast. I can recommend a few from SF south that have good access to facilities, including Half Moon Bay, Santa Cruz Wharf, Capitola, Monterey, and Stillwater Cove (My favorite local anchorage). To get out of the weather for a night or two there is Pfeiffer Cove, then Avila. (I purposely skipped Morro, because as far as I know, there is no free anchorage, but someone can correct me if I am wrong). In the SF bay itself, can't be of much help.
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Old 23-09-2006, 23:35   #9
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You might consider a few days in the channel islands, lots of nice spots there to anchor but unless you're off of Catalina you will be pressed to find anything other than beautiful scenery. Can get pissy north of Point Dume so you have to consider the usual factors. Paradise cove is a nice spot to anchor in the north Santa Monica Bay but they frown on folks going ashore there (watch the kelp). In general, I suspect most Californians are jealous of our PNW brethren when it comes to cruising grounds.

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Old 24-09-2006, 10:31   #10
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If you promise to keep it a secret , you can moor at Angel Island. It's on a first-come basis and the fee is $20 per night.
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Old 28-09-2006, 03:45   #11
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According to “Internationmal Boat Industry” (IBI News):
Bellingham Marine has completed the overhaul of Kona Kai Marina in San Diego, California, US, to provide 518 berths ranging in length from 9m to 60m (30ft-197ft).
In total the marina features 10,684sqm (115,000sqft) of Unifloat pontoons, and the new mega-yacht dock services yachts from 43m to 60m (141ft-197ft) and can accommodate vessels up to 76m (249ft).
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Old 10-10-2006, 13:49   #12
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There are several anchorages within San Diego. You must make reservations at least 24 hours in advance by calling the Harbor Police but there is no charge for this. The anchoring permit is good for 72 hours but I believe you can just go to another anchorage when your time limit is up (harbor police can confirm that). There is also a Cruiser's Anchorage that you can get a permit for 30 days at (must be a non San Diego county resident).
One other thing is that there is a anchorage at Mission Bay and I understand that the San Diego Lifeguards are the ones to talk to to make a reservation to stay there.
Good luck!
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Old 09-11-2006, 10:12   #13
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pirate Socal anchoring (FREE)

As a local I am aware that Southern California has few free anchorages.
If you come in the summer the weather is nice. If you come on low budget it is unlikey that you want to get too deep into the Los Angeles area. Most anchorages are somewhat remote. But you are cruising! this is what its like in the Tuamotus! JK
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Anchor in Paradise Cove! if conditions prevail. This anchorage is not very well protectected but in the summer its usually pretty calm. It is hard to beach a dinghy because the surf can be up a little. There is a restaurant and bar. Payphone. This is a good place for swimming, surfing, and diving. There are large kelp feilds and sand bottom 20ft. Swing on one hook.

Anchor behind the breakwall at Marina Del Rey. This a protected anchorage a good portion of the year. Not to bad in my opinion. The problem is that it is a 10 minute trip to the marina by dinghy. Anchor to the south of the Marina breakwater by the river mouth. 20-10ft sand mud. Swing on a hook.

Anchor in King Harbor, Redondo Beach. Fully protected anchorage. You can stay for 4 nights for free. Go to the Harbor patrol office and check in with them. It is a short dinghy ride to shore where you can walk to a supermarket. Nicest Marina in LA area.

Catalina is littered with anchorages. Catalina Harbor (Cat Harbor is the most protected) With 360 degree natural protection it is a good place in all conditions. Anchor deep in the harbor in 6ft of mud. You can stay for 2 weeks before you have to move. Or further out in 20ft sand. The small town has a store for provisioning. There are many other anchorages around Catalina that are less protected (but very nice!) Anchor on the coast north of Avalon. Usually very nice in summer and a short dinghy ride to the small town of Avalon.

You can anchor behind the oil island near Shoreline marinain Long Beach
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Old 14-11-2006, 19:55   #14
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For those of us a bit north of California may I mention there's more to the the US west coast than that state? Oregon and Washington have some great cruising grounds. And if you are adventurous enough to make the passage, most of 'em are free.

I suggest taking the smarter route though: Hawaii, then Cape Flattery. (I5 is an even smarter choice, if it's an option, then sleigh home.)

On the internet, nobody knows you're a dog anchored in a coral atoll.
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Old 17-11-2006, 19:33   #15
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SoCal Anchorages

I can confirm that the Brian Fagan book is a must for cruising both the SoCal coast and the offshore islands. Using his book and the appropriate charts I have visited almost all of the channel island coves and over the last 40 years. I have yet to make it out to San Nicholas Island but have anchored at all the other seven islands and been in every anchorage and harbor on the coast. Here is my list of coastal anchorages and/or marinas from Point Conception south:

Coho: anchorage just around the corner from Pt. Conception. No services.

Gaviota: (never anchored here personally) there is a pier but this is really just an open roadstead. Restaurant across Highway 1 but this is a bit of a hike.

Goleta: basically a day anchorage off a public pier. No services

Santa Barbara: anchor east of Stearns Wharf. Great in the summer (wonderful fireworks on Independence Day) but iffy in poor weather and dangerous during winter storms. This is the first real anchorage with services coming south from the point. Full service marina. 25 cent trolley will take you into town from the harbor. City run harbor office has reasonably priced slips available for up to two weeks for transients. You get an access card to the bathroom facilities which will still work if you move out to the anchorage!

Ventura: No anchorage but two commercial marinas with slips. Not cheap but Ventura West Marina has great facilities - it was built with liveaboard in mind. Small store in harbor and chandlery within walking distance. Many good places to eat. Supermarket is a LONG walk (2-3 miles).

Oxnard/Channel Islands: No anchorage but two county run transient slip areas (5 to 10 slips each) which are reasonably priced for an overnight. The one near the tourist village is within walking distance of a supermarket. The other is incontinently place for access to any shore based services except for the bath/shower facility and a restaurant in the nearby hotel.

Port Hueneme: commercial shipping port - only use in an emergency but they will let you in if you need refuge. My brother was forced in there once when he got caught out in a developing gale at Anacapa and couldn't make it back to Ventura or Oxnard (both of which can have VERY nasty entrances when a large swell is running. Hueneme has a deep water channel running into it.

Paradise Cove: anchor in 20 - 30 ft of sand. Watch for the kelp! Tough to approach after dark. Restaurant ashore but watch out for the shore break. I have eaten there soaking wet more than once!

Malibu: short term day anchorage only.

Santa Monica: my experience is they will chase you off if you try to anchor even for a short time during the day.

Marina del Rey: full service marina with county run transient slips at Burton Chace Park. Walking distance to chandlery and supermarket. Many places to eat. Free anchorage of poor quality at the mouth of Ballona Creek just east of the east jetty. No place to be in stormy weather as the boat I saw on the beach attests!

Redondo Beach/King Harbor: no slips but there is a free anchorage. Requires bow and stern anchor in 10 to 15 ft of sand/mud. Requires registering in the harbormasters office. Time limit 72 hrs (you could probably get a couple more days for the asking during the off season or in bad weather). Lots of places to eat. Not much else in walking distance.

Los Angeles/Cabrillo: free anchorage for, I believe, 5 days. Good holding in 10 to 15 ft sand just outside the Cabrillo harbor breakwater (inside the main breakwater). Protected but there is almost always a strong wind in the afternoon. Nicknamed Hurricane Gulch by locals. Harbor patrol is suppose to come by every morning and will provide a permit. Not too much within easy walking distance but easy biking distance to all services. Commercial marina has transient slips but they are no inexpensive. Good dock and bathroom/shower facilities. This is my home port.

Los Angeles: many other commercial marinas in the Cerritos channel and Fish Harbor. Facilities range from poor to good. Prices vary - not all marinas have transient slips.

Long Beach/Downtown: Municipal marina with fair to good facilities. They are currently in the process of replacing all the old wood dock with new concrete docks and there are no transient slips available until they are done (early 2007 I think). Lots of places to eat and free trolley into town with movie theaters, restaurants and bookstores (my major interests). No chandlery but a cheap trolley will take you to Alamitos (see below) where this is one. In town there is a major transit hub with light rail to downtown LA and Amtrak station, LAX, Hollywood, Pasadena, etc.

Long Beach/Island White: free anchorage in 15 to 30 of mud and sand. Anchor off the artificial waterfall (runs at night from dark to about 10:30 pm). This is a long, but doable, dingy ride from Downtown Marina and a good year around protected anchorage. Limit three days but I don't think it is checked very frequently off season.

Long Beach/Alamitos Marina: Municipal marina with all services. Reasonably priced transient slips. Good facilities. Lots of things to do and see. Chandlery, movie theaters, restaurants, book store all within walking distance. 25 cent trolley will take you into downtown Long Beach.

Huntington Harbor: no entrance to the inner harbor and commercial marinas as there is a highway bridge with less than 25 ft clearance. However, the harbor patrol had me tie up to the buoy in the outer bay for 24 hours when I got caught out in a storm and my engine had failed.

Newport Beach: free anchorage in harbor off of Lido Island in 10 to 15 ft of mud/clay (messy). You are not suppose to leave your boat but I have done so without problems after leaving a cell phone number with the harbor patrol. Not many places to leave your dinghy ashore, however. The Fun Zone near the Balboa Ferry port is the best. Lots of things to do and see but you need a bike and/or a dinghy to get around. Moorings are available from the harbor patrol for $5 night (best bargain on the coast) for up to 20 days. A limited number of slips are also available from the harbor master for a reasonable price (limit is 5 days I think). The docks, bathrooms and showers are ok but nothing to write home about. They can be used by anyone from a boat. Tie your dinghy up to the inside of the harbormaster's dock if you are in the anchorage or on a mooring. Commercial marinas have transient slips but they are VERY expensive.

Dana Point: two free anchorages inside the harbor in 10 to 15 mud. The west anchorage is particularly soupy and needs a danforth type with big flukes if the wind is up. Good for 72 hours. There are transient slips with good facilities but these are at the high end of reasonably priced. Good restaurants and limited shopping. There is a bus into San Juan Capistrano and the mission or there is also a good bike path into town (about 3-4 miles). Chandlery is quite a walk and up a hill.

Oceanside: no anchorage but a municipal dock with fairly priced transient slips and fair facilities.

Mission Bay: free anchorage in Mariner's basin in 10 to 15 ft sand. 1 mile dinghy trip to any facilities. There is a time limit but I don't know what it is. Expensive but nice commercial marina. Once ashore it is walking distance to Sea World. Bus service into town.

San Diego: please see other posts on free anchorages for up to day info. I am only familiar with the public police dock which was in the process of being upgraded the last time I was there and the commercial marina in Chula Vista. I don't know if they have transient facilities (when I stayed there it was free because of a reciprocal arrangement with my home marina). The facilities were top notch and there was local bus service which got me to the light rail trolley and this will get you anywhere in town. I also took the bus to the world famous San Diego zoo.

In the channel islands there is basically no time limit anchoring as long as your boat is well found and it doesn't look like you are moving in (more than a couple weeks I would imagine). With the exception of Cat Harbor on Catalina, none are all weather harbors and some, like the anchorages on the north side of Catalina, Anacapa (Frenchy's), or Santa Cruz island are deadly when Santana or storm winds blow directly into these otherwise protected coves.

There is usually no excuse for getting caught out - weather info is regularly available on VHF WX channels. You need to be somewhere safe BEFORE your anchorage becomes unsafe and you always need to be ready to leave an anchorage if necessary. Always have a plan for what you will do if conditions change without warning.

Winter frontal systems typically begin with a east to south blow, then rain with occasional gale force winds from the E to SE. As the storm moves through the wind usually clocks around to the W or NW again with a short hard rain and blow as the front moves out. Once a winter front passes through is the time to be particularly watchful for developing Santana conditions though these winds can occur at any time (usually late fall to early spring).

Also, the only place there are any supplies or facilities are in Two Harbors/Cat Harbor and Avalon. The anchoring at Avalon is NOT shallow. On a busy weekend I had to drop hook in 115 ft! Thank God for my all chain rode and my anchor windlass (though it had trouble getting the hook up without my assisting with a winch handle. There are places at the isthmus where you can get a hook down in 45 ft but I usually end up anchoring in 90 ft. In Cat Harbor there are anchorages in shallower water but these areas can fill up during busy weekends.

San Miguel: anchorage in Cuyler Harbor - wonderful, beautiful, and wild. Make sure the hook is well planted. It is not unusual to have the wind blow at 40 kt plus through the night (over even for several days). I have planned to visit here many times but the weather has only cooperated with my schedule twice. Once I retire, I plan to spend much more time there.

Santa Rosa: anchorage at Beecher's and at Johnson's Lee. USNPS facility behind the pier at Beecher's. There is some sort of warehouse at Johnson's Lee but I have never been ashore there. Great hiking!

Santa Cruz: more anchorage than I have time to list. My favorites are Scorpion/Little Scorpion, Pelican, Smuggler's, and Fry's. I also liked Coches Prietos/Alberts and have had both a good time and a bad one at Forney's where the wind can REALLY blow at night. The Nature Conservancy owns the western 75% of the island and you should get a permit before going ashore (used to be available at Stearn's Wharf in SB, and may still be, but see the link at

Anacapa: two fairly marginal (lunch hook) anchorages. On the north side, Frenchy's and the other on the south at East Fish Camp. Only at Frenchy's are you allowed to go ashore. You can also drop a hook in the lee of Arch Rock at the east end and dinghy to the landing cove (you really ought to leave someone on the boat). You have to use the gear on the pier to pull you dinghy up on the pier - you can't leave it in the water. From the pier a series of stairs (lots of them) lead up to the ranger station.

Santa Barbara Island: anchorage in an open roadstead protected by bluffs. Not unusual for the wind to blow fairly hard all night. Landing at the USNPS pier is not for the faint of heart. A walk up the stairs takes you to the ranger station. Lots of sea lions are typical.

Catalina: see above

San Clemente Island: anchorage at Pyramid Cove and occasionally at Northwest Harbor. Both are controlled by the Navy who uses San Clement for target practice with live ammunition! You must call in advance. See

I hope this is helpful. Please e-mail me ( if you have more questions. I will be glad to help if I can.

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