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Anchor in Aquatic Park Cove, Please

On December 29, sailboats lit up the historic Aquatic Park anchorage with colorful holiday lights for the “Lighted Night in the Cove” to support The San Francisco Maritime National Park Association. It was a beautiful evening with perfect Bay weather conditions as the colored lights sparkled against the spectacular lighted backdrop of Ghirardelli Square and San Francisco. There were five sailboats in attendance — not as many as we hoped for, but considering the time of year, it was a good turnout. Everyone had a great time as Karen and Tim Crowe hosted the evening’s potluck aboard their Catalina 44.5 Crow’s Nest.

The idea behind holding the event was to reintroduce the Aquatic Park anchorage to the boating community in a fun and festive way. Surprisingly, many sailors aren’t aware that they can motor their sailboats into the park and anchor there. According to David Pelfrey, Aquatic Park harbormaster, the cove has the anchoring capacity of 4,380 sailboats per year, yet fewer than 300 boats anchored there last year. Part of the reason for this is misleading signage at the entrance saying “No motorboats” when they are referring to “powerboats.” Sailboats with auxiliary engines and/or dinghies with small outboards are allowed. Another common belief is that only small sailboats are allowed in, when in reality, sailboats are not limited in size. The park requests that any craft over 40-ft in length and/or with a draft of 8-ft or more contact the harbormaster for best anchoring instructions.

In San Francisco Bay, the number of anchorages is limited and needs to be preserved. The Aquatic Park anchorage in particular — with its incredible location — is quite a jewel. According to Pelfrey, the National Park Service wants the boating community to take advantage of what the park has to offer and wants to expand services for the boaters, including a dinghy dock/showers/restrooms. But, they can’t justify such an investment with such low boater attendance and zero boater input. Boaters are an important element of the customer base and part of what Aquatic Park was designed for. However, there are many different constituencies using the park, so without boater input, only non-boaters are making decisions about the direction of Aquatic Park.

According to Pelfrey, “In order for change to occur, we need the boaters.”

Thoughts? Please respond below, or send your comments here, and as always, please be sure to include your Boat Name, Make and Port of Call.


  1. James Dilworth 5 years ago

    Aquatic Park is indeed a gem. Bathrooms would be nice, but a quick improvement would just be somewhere safe to leave a dinghy while ashore. As it is, I see most boaters leaving their dinghy on the public beach where they are subject to kids jumping on them, tourists taking pictures in them, and shifty people stealing from them. And, if there was a public dock to land and pick up friends too… wow, that’d be huge!

  2. Pip Ziman 5 years ago

    We had a super time participating in this event. It reminded us how fun winter time overnighters are and that Aquatic Park is a great anchorage.

  3. Capt Grant 5 years ago

    San Francisco boasts some of the best sailing and waterfront in the world – but (other than small Pier 1-1/2) there is no public dock. There was once a large movement to build a quay around downtown Sausalito – but it got quashed. I for one cannot fathom the reasons to retard sensible Maritime development around our Bay’s most beautiful and obvious locations. I include Alcatraz Isld., treasure Isld., Red Rock Isld. (currently privately-held), and McCovey Cove in that sediment. Especially since Angel Island usually fills up on most weekends. I would happily pay $100/night to dock my boat in any of those locations. Additionally there should be accommodations for owner/operator charter boats.

  4. Chuck 5 years ago

    I didn’t know about this park. Now I do. I’ll be there within a month.

  5. Captain 5 years ago

    I have often wondered why powerboats are prohibited. What is the reasoning behind that? That sailboats that I have seen there have their own inboard motors!

    • Skipper D 5 years ago

      The Park is used all day, every day, by many swimmers. I think the ban on powerboats is related to swimmer safety. It is much easier to see a swimmer (and avoid her) from a RHIB than it is from the helm of a motor launch.

  6. Ken Mannshardt 5 years ago

    If you open it up to powerboats, next comes noisy speedboats & jet skies zipping around. Sorry to sound like an old fart.

  7. Tom Boxler 5 years ago

    Like to know more!!

  8. Clark Beek 4 years ago

    Hi Guys,

    I had a bad incident in the Aquatic Park yesterday, when I was pulling in to anchor for lunch. Two swimmers were out on the end of the fishing pier and launched into a profanity-laced tirade against me, claiming I couldn’t use my motor within the cove (false). They also told me there was a swimmer right in front of me, causing me to take evasive action, which could have led to an accident (there was not a swimmer in front of me). I might have replied in kind, but I had my 5 and 7-year olds aboard, and didn’t want them to hear daddy using the same potty language as this ignorant swimmer.

    The tirade lasted from when I first entered the cove until I had my anchor down and set, so several minutes. All I got out was, “It’s a sailboat!”

    They swam right by my boat a while later, when I thought I’d be in for another round, but they just swam by.

    This isn’t the first time swimmers in the cove have been rude, suggesting I should go elsewhere, or that I was “in the way.”

    Could this abusive treatment from the Cove’s swimmers be part of the reason it isn’t more popular with sailors?

    Clark Beek

  9. Alexander Pivovarov 3 years ago

    NPS site says – “Only non-motorized boats and sail/auxiliary boats are allowed in Aquatic Park Cove”. Looks like sailboats are allowed. The only question is – can sailboats use motor to enter and exit?

  10. Brad Gilbertson 3 years ago

    The site also explains that maneuvering under power is allowed for sailboats.

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