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Ayala Cove Is for Sheriffs, Seals and Sailors

Friday was delivery day for Latitude 38, and it didn’t take long for a copy of the July issue to find its way into the hands of Marin County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Daniel Aguiniga, who is captain of the MCSO Rescue One 33-ft SAFE Boat. He was enjoying a lunch break in Ayala Cove and catching up on his latest issue of Latitude 38. You can find a copy just like Captain Aguiniga’s here.

Marine County Marine Patrol unit Daniel-Aguiniga
Deputy Sheriff Daniel Aguiniga catches up on local sailing in Ayala Cove.
© 2023 Andy Rounds

We also made a stop at Ayala Cove last week for an evening birthday barbecue, and were disappointed to again find the docks in disrepair and taken over by a large population of seals. The orange cones, we presume, are to keep people off, but apparently the seals ignore the cones and the rangers, or perhaps the island’s rangers ignore the seals. We’re not sure who’s in charge, or what seals did before taxpayers built docks for them.

Ayala Cove Seals and cones
It appears the cones don’t apply to seals.
© 2023 Latitude 38 Media LLC / John
Ayala Cove dock decorations.
Welcome to Ayala Cove, the premier boaters’ destination, but what’s that smell? The seals decorated the docks for visitors for the busy Fourth of July weekend.
© 2023 Latitude 38 Media LLC / John

Ayala Cove is a fantastic summer destination, but between shoaling at the moorings, dilapidated docks, and being overrun by seals, the warm welcome for Bay Area sailors is fading. It’s a shame, since this past full-moon weekend was an ideal time for staying at Angel Island. Even so, our Saturday afternoon sail past the cove revealed quite a few empty moorings. Is that because of the smell or the shallow water, or are people really too busy?

Ayala Cove seals
The seals think they own the docks and wonder what we’re doing there.
© 2023 Latitude 38 Media LLC / John
Ayala Cove is still a great place for an evening barbecue during the long days of summer.
© 2023 John

Despite the hurdles, our get-together was perfect. The air was warm, the sun was high, there was room for the two boats in our group and, since we were the only ones there, it was a very peaceful spot in the center of the seven million people who populate our busy, beautiful, urban Bay Area.

Latitude 38 Drinkware
Good for a tot or a cup of joe. Nobody will know what you’re drinking or thinking, but they’ll know what you’re reading. Now in our new store.
© 2023 Latitude 38 Media LLC / John


  1. Captain Dane Faber 10 months ago

    Thanks for this report… You definitely have it right! The mooring field is about 4 ft at mean low tide. The docks have been and were decimated by weather even before the seals started hanging out. I believe the mooring field though is largely due to the larger ferries now servicing the island. As they enter, they typically swing a 180 pointing their prop wash toward the middle of the mooring field. A rule requiring them to sail straight in, and then to back out would solve the prob- but it won’t matter until the field is dredged. That prob, like the dock repair is a “when pigs fly” kind of thing.

    By the way, the rest of the island isn’t a hell of a lot better in terms of maintenance. The fire road is disintegrating by erosion is many areas. So is the sea wall in front of the cafe. Dead trees abound, and densely overgrown flora lead to a huge fire hazard.

    I have been lobbying our Assemblyman and others to persuade the State to cede the island to Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA). It too is unlikely but damn, how wonderful would that be???

  2. Sue Estey 10 months ago

    On the Ayala Cove docks, the marine mammals in the foreground of the photo are harbor seals, not sea lions. Not saying there are not sea lions there as well.

    • Jean Ouellette 10 months ago

      My mistake; thanks for the correction. I did look for ears, but couldn’t distinguish from the photo whether the pinnipeds sported any.

  3. Ken Haas 10 months ago

    You are so right John, the sea lion population and all they leave behind has gotten out of hand. Last Friday I was docking at Ayala Cove and made the mistake of not surveying the condition of the docks as I jumped off to secure the lines. I landed right in a pile of you-know-what and slipped, nearly doing the splits. My hip was sore for a while, but no lasting damage, but it could have been worse. I have noticed the rangers making vague attempts to clean the docks on the weekend, but on Friday they were a mess.

    I love animals and am all in favor of supporting marine wildlife world wide, but aren’t there sufficient beaches and rocks etc. to support the seal/sea lion population? It seems to me that supplying them with man made docks that almost forces the wildlife to interface with humans is counter productive.

  4. SY MAKAI 10 months ago

    We moored at Ayala Cove over the weekend prior to Independence Day. Our draft is 7’4″, so it definitely required some planning in terms of when to arrive, but we had some 2″ under our keel as we moored closest to the beach. Certainly hit the mud during low tide, but no issues whatsoever. Had an absolutely beautiful time there, as always. That said, would be lovely to see the cove dredged a couple feet, but I doubt we’ll see that happen in our lifetime. The day docks can certainly use some repairs.

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Celebrate by Sailing
Have you been able to get out for some Fourth of July-weekend sailing? There's been spectacular weather in places, and we hope you've all been taking advantage!