Skip to content

Alcatraz Restricted Zone Is for the Birds

Bay Area yacht racers (and hopefully boaters of all kinds) know that a restricted zone exists off the northwestern corner of Alcatraz Island. A red and green buoy, marked “AZ” and nicknamed “Little Alcatraz,” indicates the rocks there. Vessels are forbidden from crossing between the buoy and the island.

But did you know that the south shore of Alcatraz is sometimes restricted too? Racers often sail very close to the south shore of Alcatraz for current relief and/or to sail the shortest, most efficient course.

Alerion 28s at Alcatraz
The view looking south from Alcatraz’s western cliff face.
© 2022 Lidia D’Amico

Richmond YC received this message following their recent Intraclub Race: “I’m a Park Ranger with the GGNRA [Golden Gate National Recreation Area] based on Alcatraz Island,” wrote biologist Lidia D’Amico. “I’m contacting the Richmond City Yacht Club [sic] in regards to a July 9 sailing event that took place within 100 yards of Alcatraz Island. NPS [National Park Service] advises all watercraft to maintain a distance of at least 100 yards from the north, south and west shoreline of the island during the seabird breeding season (February-September).

“This past Saturday, we documented this race passing well within 100 yards of the southern end of the island, where we have a nesting bird colony. As a friendly reminder, if this information can be passed on to your club members we would greatly appreciate your cooperation.”

Two Alerion 28s
Did you know that this is a no-no during nesting season?
© 2022 Lidia D’Amico

RYC did forward this message to their membership, and passed it along to us to share with our readers.


  1. Christopher M Nash 2 years ago

    This reminds me of being shot at getting too close when it was a prison back in the day. The owner knew that after the warning shot, they shot at the sails, so we always tacked away.

  2. Memo Gidley 2 years ago

    The birds do look stressed…

Leave a Comment