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Know Your Boundaries for Fleet Week 2021

After the disappointment of a ‘no show’ last year, we’re excited to see Fleet Week returning to San Francisco Bay. This annual event has to be one of the highlights of the year, and thousands of people will be descending upon the Bay and foreshores to view the aerial display of the US Navy Blue Angels — this year in their new aircraft, the F-18 Super Hornet. Also on show will be the USAF F-16 Viper Demo Team, Navy Parachute Team, the Red Bull helicopter, Edge 540 plane, the Red Bull Air Force Wingsuit Skydivers, a US Coast Guard Search and Rescue Demonstration, several fixed-wing aircraft flyovers … We’re going to stop trying to list it all here; there’s too much going on and we’re already giddy with excitement (well, maybe just one of us).

Here’s a quick preview of what you could see:

Back to business. The point of this post is to remind everyone that there will be enforced boundaries for boaters on the water. The USCG has circulated information and illustrations of the no-go zones on the Bay this weekend — starting tomorrow, Thursday, October 7.

The first and possibly most simple instruction issued is: “Boaters are reminded to maintain 500-yard distance from all military ships at all times.”

On Friday, October 8, at 11:00 a.m., the Navy Parade of Ships fleet will enter the Bay beneath the Golden Gate Bridge and proceed along the San Francisco waterfront, with San Francisco Fire Department’s fire boat at the lead, shooting water jets into the air to celebrate the fleet’s arrival. The Regulated Area “Alpha” — shown on “Chart 1,” below — will be enforced on Friday, October 8, between 9:30 a.m. and 12:00 p.m.

The much-anticipated air shows will be on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, so when planning your time on the water, keep in mind, there will be a lot of boats! Captains will be moving their boats around, vying for the best position. We can tell you from experience that pretty much everywhere is the best position, so don’t fall for the ‘I have to be right in the middle’ idea. These Navy pilots cover nearly every square foot of the sky above the Bay. However, to make it easier, the Coast Guard has suggested the following as the best viewing spots for the air shows and the Parade of Ships:

  • North of the “Alpha” box for the parade and north of the “Bravo” box for the air show
  • East of Blossom Rock Buoy
  • From the shore

Here are a couple of diagrams to show you the weekend’s regulated zones:

“Chart 1.” Regulated Area “Alpha” for Navy Parade of Ships on Friday, October 8, from 9:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.
© 2021 U.S. Coast Guard District 11
Fleet Week boundaries
Regulated Area “Bravo” for US Navy Blue Angels activities: Thursday, October 7 — 12:30 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.; Friday, October 8, through Sunday, October 10 — 11:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
© 2021 Amy Stork USCG District 11 Padet San Diego

Temporary buoys for the Air Show Box should already be in place and will be removed on October 13, 2021. The buoys at the center and northwest corner point will be partially obstructing the eastbound traffic lane, and the buoys at the northeast and southeast corners will be partially encroaching upon the precautionary area east of Alcatraz Island. The locations of the temporary buoys are listed below:

Air Show Box
SW Corner: 37°48.612′ N / 122°26.786′ W
NW Corner: 37°49.113′ N / 122°26.868′ W
NE Corner: 37°49.389′ N / 122°24.354′ W
SE Corner: 37°48.888′ N / 122°24.272′ W
Center: 37°49.008′ N / 122°25.590′ W

Mariners are advised to monitor VHF-FM channel 16 for up-to-date information regarding these regulated areas for safety and security. And rest assured, there will be multiple partner-agency vessels on the water this weekend, so if you do happen to overstep a boundary, they will be very quick to let you know.

Fleet Week also includes numerous shore-based events and viewing opportunities such as ships’ tours, concerts, and multiple displays and demonstrations. You can view the full schedule of events here. And for general Fleet Week information, go to the event’s home page: https://fleetweeksf.org.

9 Comments

  1. Sam 2 months ago

    Am I correct that boats cannot enter or transit the “bravo” area? So no boats can leave the SF waterfront once the air show has begun. (And even that area is no loitering.)

    • Mark Wieber 2 months ago

      In years past the area shown in green has been open to transient boats. No stopping, no hovering, no anchoring. You were able to get in and out of Pier39 with no problem but you can not park and watch the airshow between the box and the City.

    • Sam 2 months ago

      Thanks Mark.

      But I was referring to the blue “bravo” area. It seems that there is no way to get out of the green area if you cannot transit the bravo regulated area. Is that right?

      I tried calling Sector SF, but the person who answered the phone only seemed moderately confident with the answer he gave.

    • Sam 2 months ago

      Well, they seem to be allowing boats to at least transit the bravo area outside the air show zone.

  2. Sam 2 months ago

    Thanks Mark. But I’m wondering about whether one can transit the blue “bravo” area to go from the green area to the unrestricted area to the north. It seems that the green area is totally boxed in by bravo and thus there is no escape.

    • Mark Wieber 2 months ago

      Hey Sam :0)
      The map seems a bit wonky to me as well, and I am not sure 2021 will be exactly the same as previous years. However, I have been out spectating, on the water, for over 20 previous Fleet Week Air Shows. Every time they have allowed transit along the shore, between the city and the box. It has (in previous years) been just a narrow lane for boats transiting along the city to the various marinas, or from the east and west ends of the restricted area. This is necessary for charter boats and the commute fleets (Red&White/Blue&Gold), but also very handy for the rest of us. I do not think there is much of a chance they would land lock the ferry boats and charters for the Air Show.
      There has often been a problem with boats stopping in the transit lane to watch the planes, there by blocking the transit lanes and causing near catastrophes with less maneuverable boats and less experienced skippers. This is probably why they are suggesting the other side as the better viewing location, and are not clear about the transit lanes. Prudent mariners will use the transit lanes for transit and the suggested spectating area’s for spectating.

  3. Carl K 2 months ago

    interesting, hate to be cranky, but 1-clicking on my iphone on the lo-res maps hoping for better detail, goes to some wacky link to an app “military 24/7 for iphone”Requiring downloading the app apparently to get the map. 2-I get the email version of CG local notice to Mariners, where one would normally have detailed information, and unless I am missing it did not see it this week, seems like a major oversight, 3-very confusing, if true this is a major change that you cannot transit on the San Francisco shore side of the box, might make sense but better communications will avoid a shit show of boats doing what they have always done. For me, I now avoid that by anchoring just west of Anita Rock, seems like maybe that is verboten now? Seems more dangerous to put all the viewing boats on the northern side of the box, rather than distributed around the edges. I guess most importantly, can I get high resolution maps of the zones without downloading some wacky app?

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