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Can Cruisers Anchor in the Port of Los Angeles?

A few weeks ago, we received a letter from a cruiser who was waiting for hurricane season to pass in Mexico and was more than a little unsatisfied with their visit to the Port of Long Beach, which sits within a breakwater that also includes the Port of Los Angeles.

“We ran into an issue with [a] marina supervisor in Long Beach three weeks before we departed south. They have apparently decided that they do not want any cruisers to drop anchor in the outer harbor, even if you are a cruiser just passing through. They are forcing everyone to pay for slips.”

The 7,500-acre, 43-mile-long Port of Los Angeles is the largest seaport in the United States, as well as home to 15 marinas with more than 3,700 recreational vessel slips and dry docks; the Port of L.A. abuts the Port of Long Beach, and needless to say, there’s lots of maritime traffic coming and going.

But is there room for sailors to drop the hook?

What’s been your experience, Latitude Nation? Does the boater politic expect there to be free anchorages along the coast? Please comment below.

There’s lots of protected water inside the breakwater in the Port of Los Angeles. But are there spots for small boats to drop the anchor?
© 2023 Port of Los Angeles

We sent an email to the City of Long Beach asking if there was — or had ever been — an anchorage area for transient cruisers. The city seemed to confirm what the letter said: A transient cruiser can’t just sail into the Port of Los Angeles and drop the hook, at least not without doing some paperwork first.

“The majority of anchorage in East San Pedro Bay is classified as commercial anchorage or special anchorage dedicated to Port of LB and Port of LA cargo traffic,” the City of Long Beach’s marine bureau manager told us in an email, adding that the “nearshore ocean area” is a general anchorage, but that Long Beach municipal code requires a permit to anchor there.

There are “public mooring docks across our Long Beach marinas system that allow a free three-hour mooring within a 24-hour day,” the marine manager told us. “We also accept transient or guest-stay reservations for slips, 15 days in a calendar month, to accommodate cruisers and other short-term visitors. The fee is $1.45 per foot per day.”

As we reported in the July issue, there’s more than just cargo in the Port of Los Angeles.
© 2023 Port of Los Angeles

Has the Port of L.A. seen an influx of unhoused people living aboard old boats, such as we see here in the Bay Area? Has this affected their general policy toward cruising sailors?

“Yes,” confirmed the marine manager. “Increase in derelict, unregistered, non-operational vessels over the past four years within East San Pedro Bay has required City of Long Beach to take measures to maintain navigable waterways, ensure the safety of our slip permittees, commercial partners, city residents and visitors and protect the marine habitat.”

The sailor who wrote us suggested sailing right past Long Beach. “I suggest cruisers avoid L.A. and just pass on by. You’re better off going out to Catalina if you need to wait out the weather, or, like us, hurricane season. There is plenty of good anchoring in White Bay and supplies in Avalon, a short two-mile dinghy ride away.”

This story has been updated. We originally said that the Port of Los Angeles was “also known as” the Port of Long Beach, rather than making it clear that the two are separately governed and geographic entities that sit within the same massive breakwater.

9 Comments

  1. Joshua Wheeler 3 months ago

    I sailed right on past LA. The whole SoCal (Point Conception to San Diego) region is not interested in budget cruisers. If the weather permits, I would suggest bypassing the whole SoCal mainland and staying in the outer islands. They seem only interested in high end cruisers with loose capital to spend. $1.45 per foot is a bargain.
    There probably is a minimum charge, so if your boat is 20 feet, you pay for a 35 foot boat. Catalina will cost you dearly too, but there are anchor options. I got to anchor in the Back Bay of Cat Harbour due to a 3.5 foot draft. Otherwise you are out near the deep and rolly entrance. SoCal has so much money and people, they seem only interested in the same from their visiting boats. My assessment is SoCal requires a very strategic approach to anchoring, moving on when you have hit your time limit. Don’t get there too soon in the season. I’m afraid it is a place to simply endure passing through when going from points north to points south. Who would want to be where they are not wanted anyway, right? In talking to veteran cruisers, they all say it’s not the same world of cruising it used to be. Too much regulation and too many people.

    • Jonnyflyboy 3 months ago

      Pretty much describes all things in California!!
      STEER CLEAR !!!!

  2. Rev Dr Malama 3 months ago

    If there’s hooks marked on us charts it’s an Anchorage. No excuse for not calling ahead to get the permission from the Harbor Master Office though. Most of the folks who are career employees for boating are also ocean savvy and the courtesy of asking 1st usually is reciprocated by the sharing local knowledge that will be invaluable… make friendly with the “authorities” and maybe we can restore some sanity back in cruising…

  3. Bruce Balan 3 months ago

    Sorry to read about the poor reception in Long Beach. Alamitos Bay is where I learned to sail (in Sabots) and Long Beach is the home port on Migration’s stern. When Alene and I came down the West coast in 2018 on our way from Alaska to Mexico, we looked at all the options possible for anchoring as we weren’t about to spend *all* our time in marinas while visiting my home turf. As said above, Catalina is awesome. In the winter, no one is there and you can anchor pretty close to the moorings and not get hassled. You can also anchor behind Indian Rock in Emerald — our favorite anchorage (awesome diving right off the boat). But on the mainland in Long Beach? In 2018 you could anchor behind White Island from Thursday to Sunday. We pushed it many times and stayed longer. It is a long dinghy ride to either Alamitos Bay or Shoreline. I do admit, there is not much to recommended it if you are there to see the sites. It’s a shame because Long Beach really is a cool place. The change of management in Alamitos Bay made the marina much more accommodating than in the past decades. And both Shoreline and Alamitos Bay are great locations if you are in the marina. If you need to hang out, consider 4 days at Catalina and then 3 days at White Island (or a day or two in the marina) if you need to come in for provisions. Regardless, don’t skip the Channel Islands on your way south, they are magnificent — especially if you are a diver.

  4. David Weil 3 months ago

    Just by way of clarification, you mentioned that you talked to the Long Beach Marine Bureau Manager but you keep referring to the Port of Los Angeles. The Port of LA and the Port of Long Beach are two entirely separate entities. They are adjacent to each other but, for your story to be complete, you should also contact the Port of LA.

  5. Tom Ivicevich 3 months ago

    There is an anchorage area near the Cabrillo Beach boat ramp available for 72 hours with permission from the Port of Los Angeles police.

  6. Joe 3 months ago

    Currently several “derelict” boats on anchor at the east end of the harbor by the break wall off Alamitos Bay. They are near the bait barge. They have been there for months, and no one seems to hassle them. Just go setup shop there for a couple days as needed, no one is going to pull your anchor and tow you without notice.

    Also, other posters are correct, everywhere in the so cal bight is not interested in budget cruisers or liveaboards. We keep preaching a housing crisis, but I can’t get a liveaboard permit. And Long Beach Marinas have many open slips. That would be a cool angle for a story.

  7. Ryan Gierach 3 months ago

    You know, I am certain after reading this that you are unaware that the Port of Long Beach and Los Angeles Harbor are two separate entities, governed by two different cities.
    You tried to answer a question and made everything far muddier.
    I live aside both ports, and would love to hear a straight answer.

    • Tim Henry 2 months ago

      You know, Ryan, we are aware that there are two separate entities within the breakwater that makes up the Ports of L.A. and Long Beach, but you’re right, it was poorly worded and has since been clarified. As for anchoring in the Port of Los Angeles’s jurisdiction, we’ll follow up on that. But the information about the Port of Long Beach is accurate.

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