Mission Bay Park Rules

"The World's Finest Aquatic Playground"

Mission Bay Park consists of 4,600 acres, approximately half land and half water.  There are 27 miles of shoreline, 19 of which are sandy beaches.  Eight locations, including over two miles of sandy beaches, are designated as official Swimming Areas.  In addition to swimming, Mission Bay Park provides areas for almost all types of water activities and park recreation, including: fishing, boating, waterskiing, sailing, picnicking, volleyball, softball, beach fires, horseshoes, kite-flying, and many more.  Mission Bay Park, and the 17 miles of oceanfront beaches, offer the largest natural tourist attraction in Southern California.  The Park has six major hotels, many restaurants, eleven marinas, specialty shops, sportsfishing, and the world-famous aquatic park, Sea World.

In a pamphlet this size, it is impossible to list all of the applicable boating and park regulations.  The following regulations are guidelines, and not the complete content of each law.  These regulations are based on excerpts from the California Code of Regulations (Titles 13 and 14) and San Diego Municipal Code sections.  Park patrons should contact the Lifeguard Services Division, or other legal sources for the exact content of the various laws.

Mission Bay Park and the beach areas are regularly patrolled, and regulations are strictly enforced by the Police and

BASIC SPEED LAW - Local and State laws prohibit the operation of any vessel or other watercraft at a speed greater than is reasonable and prudent, and at no time at a speed that endangers life, limb or property.

(1) Speed limits are posted on buoys and signs throughout the bay, at the entrances and inside controlled areas.  Basically, West Mission Bay, all narrow channels and coves have controlled speed.
(2) The speed limit from sunset to sunrise (nighttime) is five nautical miles per hour (5kts) in all areas of the bay.
(3) The speed limit is five nautical miles (5kts) in the following areas:
(a) within 100 ft. of the shoreline of Mission Bay including the shoreline of Fiesta Island and Vacation Island,
(b) within 200 ft. of any dock or landing float to which boats are made fast or is being used for the loading or unloading of passengers; and
(c) under any bridges.
(4) The speed limit is limited to steerage way only (no wake) in all marina areas
and basins
(5) The speed limit in Sail By is limited to 5 mph from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., from
May 1 st through Oct. 31 st
OPEN SPEED AREAS - Fiesta Bay in the eastern half of Mission Bay is the only area with no daytime speed limits, except the specific situations listed above.
PACIFIC OCEAN - In addition to the regulations applicable above, the speed limit in the ocean (outside the Mission Bay Channel) requires that no vessel exceed 5 mph within 1,000 ft. of the mean tide line on the shore.

(1) Fiesta Bay in the eastern half of the bay is the main waterskiing area, with three designated beach landing and take-off zones, Beach landings and take-offs are prohibited in all areas
(2) Sail Bay in the northwest part of the bay, between Santa Clara Point and Riviera Shores, has one zone designated for beach landing and take-off; but it is only open for limited waterskiing at the following times:
(a) May lst through October 31st - sunrise to 11 a.m., and 5 p.m. to sunset; (5 mph from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.)
(b) November lst through April 30th - sunrise to sunset.
(3) Waterskiing is prohibited in all other areas of the bay.
(4) In addition to the operator, every vessel towing a skier must have an observer at
lest 12 years old.  The operator must watch ahead, and the observer must watch the skier and advise the operator of any hazards or when the skier falls.  All occupants of the boat must remain seated during operation
(5) Waterskiing and similar activities are prohibited between sunset and sunrise.
(6) No waterskier or the towing boat shall operate within 100 ft. of another boat,
canoe, paddleboard, float, swimmer or fisherman.  Also, no waterskier or the towing boat shall operate within 100 ft. of any beach, except for taking-off landing in the prescribed areas posted for that purpose by the city.
(7) Motorboats in all waterski areas shall adhere to a counterclockwise pattern (turning towards port or left) at all times.
(8) Observers or operators must signal with a red ski flag in the air whenever there is
a person or hazard in the water adjacent to or in the vicinity of their boat.  The operator must cut the engine completely when picking up a person from the water into the boat.
(9) Tow lines must not exceed 75 ft. in length.
(10) No person shall use any type of hang glider, ski kite, parasail, or similar device
from the water or land in Mission Bay Park. (11) No vessel may operate within 200 ft. of the shoreline of an area designed for waterski take-off or landing, except a vessel actively involved in towing a waterskier.  Personal Watercraft that can seat two or more people designed for towing a skier can be used with the observer sifting facing to the rear, maintaining a proper lookout, and must use an appropriate ski flag when necessary.
Personal Watercraft (PWC)

Jet Skis, Wet Bikes, Wave Runners, and similar types of watercraft may use any of the boating areas, following all of the regulations for powerboats.  Personal watercraft operators must comply with the 5 MPH laws, specifically; within 1 00 ft. of another vessel, swimmer, or swimming zone, within 200 ft. of a ski take-off/landing zone, public dock, or area frequented by bathers, and 1 000 ft. of the mean high tide line when operating along the ocean coastline.

There is a special personal watercraft area at the east end of South Pacific Passage, where boats are prohibited: however, operators using the area must comply with the 5 mph speed zone immediately outside of the area.  A second personal watercraft area exists at the south end of North Pacific Passage and the following rules apply here; Seasonal rules, from May lst through October 31st.  Mon.- Fri.: sunrise to sunset, use with permit only.  Sat/Sun, no permit necessary.  Permit Rules are as follows; must be a PWC association member.  Permit to be obtained at Lifeguard Headquarters, Mon.Fri., 8 am - 5 p.m. or Sat/Sun 8:20 - 9 am.  Four permits per day are issued, 2 in a.m., 2 in p.m., with 10 users maximum per permit.  Twenty buoys max. per course.  Counterclockwise rotation is required.  Permit must be on board PWC that obtained permit.  Winter rules, November lst to April 31st, permit needed everyday.  LAUNCHING - PWC are permitted to launch from the areas that are open to the public on Fiesta Island as well as all other boat launches in Mission Bay.  The north tip of Fiesta Island is closed to launching, beaching and anchoring.  PWC cannot use the ski landing or take-off areas or be 200 feet from shore of a take-off/landing zone.  PWC must do dead water starts and drop off.  Operators are also responsible for obeying all other existing safety regulations.

(1) Sailboats are permitted in all boating areas throughout the bay; however, the entire West Bay is meant mainly for sailing, with controlled speeds for powerboats.  Sail Bay is limited to 5 mph from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., May Ist through October 31st, and the rest of the West Bay 5 mph at all times.  Sailboats must stay 200 feet away from waterski zones and Swimming Areas. (2) Sailboat operators should check the height of their mast with the vertical clearance markers before attempting to sail under any bridges.

Required Equipment, Registration, and Age Restrictions
(1) All vessels must comply with California and US.  Coast Guard requirements for minimum safety equipment.  The basic items for all boats include Personal Floatation Devices (Pfd's or life preservers) for each person on board plus a throwable (Type IV) floatation device for all motor vessels, navigation lights for nighttime operation, and some sort of sound-signaling device.  Powerboats with enclosed fuel compartments are required to have a fire extinguisher on board and are generally required to have a muffler, back-fire flame control, and a ventilation system.  Most boats are also required to carry Visual Distress Signals on board for emergency use.  Boat operators should check with the Lifeguard Service or Coast Guard to determine the specific equipment required for their boat as detailed within Title 14 of the California Code of Regulations for vessels.
(2) Boats must comply with California laws for vessel registration.  Basically, all undocumented vessels using or on the waters of California must be currently registered in this State with a few exceptions.  Again, boat owners should contact an appropriate agency to determine the specific requirements for their boat. (3) Vessel registration is performed by the Department of Motor Vehicles, and boat owners should contact their local DMV office for more information. (4) The boat registration certificate/card is required to be carried on board the vessel at all times, and must be presented to any peace officer upon request. (5) No person may permit any other person under the age of 12 years old to operate, nor may any person under the age of 12 operate;
(a) any motorboat towing any person,
(b) any motorboat designed to carry only one person, or
(c) any motorboat with an engine of more than 1 0 horsepower, unless an adult is
on board; except for using a dinghy between a moored vessel and the shoreline.

Reckless, Negligent, and Intoxicated Operation
(1) No person shall use any vessel, or manipulate any waterskis, aquaplane or similar device in a reckless manner so as to endanger the life, limb, or property of any person.  Endangerment includes, but is not limited to, the following acts:
(a) riding on the bow, gunwales or transom of a powerboat (without adequate protective railing);
(b) any action causing any waterskis, aquaplane or similar device, or the person thereon to collide with any object or person; (c) maneuvering towed skiers or other devices so as to pass the towline over another vessel or its skier; or
(d) navigating any vessel, skis or other devices between a towing vessel and its tow(s).
(2) No person shall operate any vessel, or manipulate any waterskis or similar device while under the influence of intoxicating liquor, any drug, or the combined influence of intoxicating liquor or any drug; or when addicted to any drug.

(3) No person shall operate any vessel, or manipulate any waterskis or similar device
who has a blood-alcohol level of 0.08% or above.
(4) No person shall operate any vessel, or manipulate any waterskis or similar device
while under the influence of any intoxicating liquor or drug or combined influence of these; and while so operating do any act forbidden by law or neglect any duty imposed by law for the use of the vessel, which act or neglect proximately causes serious bodily injury to any injury to any person other than himself. [Felony.] (5) Persons lawfully arrested for intoxicated operation must submit to a chemical test of their blood, breath or urine to determine the alcohol or drug content of their blood.

Boating Accidents
(1) The operator and owner of any vessel involved in a collision, accident or other casualty must stop and render any practical assistance to the other persons involved (without serious danger to his own vessel or crew), and also to give his name, address, and vessel identification in writing to any injured person or the owner of any property or vessels damaged.  Failure to stop and give the required information is a misdemeanor for accidents involving property damage only, and a felony for accidents involving injury, death, or disappearance.
(2) Accidents where a person dies or disappears from a vessel must be reported immediately, by the quickest means available, to the nearest enforcement agency. (3) Written accident reports are required to be filed with the California Department of Boating and Waterways on official forms, which may be obtained from the Lifeguard Service or Police Department:
(a) within 48 hours if: a person dies within 24 hours after the accident, a person disappears, or an injured person requires more than fir staid treatment; and lb) within 10 days if: a person dies more than 24 hours after the accident, or damage to the vessel and other property totals more than $200.

Anchoring, Mooring, and Beaching
(1) Vessels may be anchored during the daytime anywhere in the bay, except:
(a) swimming areas
lb) Waterski Landing/Take-Off Zones, and
(c) any position that obstructs navigation and/or is prohibited by signs
(2) Vessels may anchor or moor overnight in North Mariner's Basin only.  The time limit for overnight transient/guest anchorage is 72-hours in any seven-day period, and an adult must remain on-board overnight.
(3) Vessels are prohibited from tying to all aids to navigation (buoys) at all times.
Vessels are not allowed to tie up to a private mooring buoy without a permit from the
Lifeguard Services Division.
(4) Overnight boat beaching is allowed only in designated areas after obtaining a per-
mit from the Lifeguard Services Division. (Some areas have restrictions.)
(5) Vessels and trailers shall not be left on the beach overnight in Sail Bay from 1 0
p.m. to 7 a.m., Sunday through Thursday.  Overnight beaching in Sail Bay is only permitted on Friday and Saturday nights and the night before a City holiday.
(6) A permit is required to place, construct or use a mooring in Mission Bay.  Any such moorings must comply with specifications set by the Lifeguard Services Division. (7) It is unlawful to use, tie up to, or occupy any float, dock or other harbor facility without first obtaining permission from the owner thereof.  Use of the public docks is limited to 15 minutes for loading and unloading passengers and supplies from recreational boats; while commercial uses are expressly prohibited.
(8) It is unlawful to beach, anchor, launch, or retrieve boats, vessels or personal watercraft of any type in areas marked by signs prohibiting such actions.
NOTE: Any vessel found in violation of these and other regulations is subject to be impounded by the Lifeguards or Police and fees charged for the impounding; and the operator or owner may be prosecuted if applicable

Launching and Removal of Boats
(1) Boats may only be launched and removed at areas designated by the City.  There are four concrete public launch ramps at various locations in the bay.  Personal Watercraft may also be launched from Fiesta Island except in the special use section of Hidden Anchorage and at the northern end where beaching of all watercraft is prohibited.
(2) It shall be unlawful to launch or remove any vessel over any seawall, sidewalk, street end, public or private property, except at locations or businesses designated for such purposes.

Dogs and Other Animals
(1) No person shall bring any dog, whether leashed or unleashed , on any public
beach or public park in the City of San Diego between the hours of 9 a.m. and 6 p.m.; except for seeing-eye guide dogs.  Exceptions are on Fiesta Island and the northern end of Ocean Beach (Dog Beach).  A leash, maximum length of 8 ft., is required at all other times.
(2) It is unlawful to bring, leave, turn loose or allow to go loose, an animal in any beach area or park in the City of San Diego.

Beach Fires, Lifter, and Glass
(1) Fires are permitted only in the concrete fire rings provided by the City (on most beach areas).  Barbecue grills are permitted as long as they do not damage grass or shrubbery, or heat up the sand/dirt.  Hot coals must be dumped into either a fire ring or the special concrete containers designated for that purpose.
(2) It is unlawful to litter, or to deposit waste or rubbish of any kind, or discharge any refuse matter of any description upon the waters, shorelines, beaches or other park areas in the City of San Diego and Mission Bay Park. (3) Bottles, glasses, cups, and any other glass beverage containers are prohibited on all beach areas, including adjacent sidewalks and park areas.

(1) Swimmers should use the designated Swimming Areas, which have lifeguards on duty daily during the summer season.  Swimming and wading is prohibited in all waterski zones, and swimmers should not swim in speedboat areas far away from shore.  If you want to swim a long distance - swim parallel to the shoreline where there are fewer boats and help is close by; do not swim across coves or channels.
(2) It is unlawful to jump or dive from any height above five feet in Mission Bay; or to swim, dive or play in the Mission Bay Channel.

Fishing is permitted in all areas of Mission Bay, except in Swimming Areas, Waterski Landing and Take-off Zones, Special Event Areas, Personal Watercraft Areas, and from any bridge.  Fishermen in boats should stay away from waterski areas and are not permitted to anchor in or near the center-span of bridges, or so as to obstruct the free navigation of any area.

(1) Most public parking lots in Mission Bay Park and the beach areas are closed from 2 a.m. to 4 a.m. daily; except Dana Basin and West Bonita Cove parking lots.  There is a 72-hour maximum limit for parking in all public areas, not otherwise restricted, including streets.
(2) At Santa Clara Point, unattached boat trailers are between 2 a.m. and 5 a.m. daily
(3) Parking any vehicles, motorcycles or trailers on any sidewalks, grass, beaches or
other park areas not designated for parking is prohibited at all times.  Driving off the
paved streets and parking lots is also prohibited.
Note: Parking facilities are limited and usually filled during the summer months; for
this reason, beach and bay visitors are encouraged to carpool or use public transportation as much as possible.

(1) It is unlawful for any person to camp, sleep or lodge overnight on any public beach or in any public park in the City of San Diego. (2) It is unlawful to erect, maintain, use or occupy any tent or similar structure on any beach or park area, unless at least two sides are open with an unobstructed view from the outside.
(3) There are two Youth Camp areas provided for organized youth groups, such as
Boy Scouts, YMCA, Girl Scouts or similar groups with adult supervision.  The areas
are located on Vacation Isle and Fiesta Island, with limited availability.  A permit (with
fee) is required from the Coastal Division office in advance.

(1) Any person in violation of "operating under the influence" and doing any forbidden act or neglecting any required duty, which act or neglect causes serious injury to another person, is guilty of a felony and shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison, or in the county jail for not less than 90 days or more than one year, and by a fine of not less than $250 nor more than $5,000.
(2) Any person in violation of most other boating and park regulations is guilty of a misdemeanor and may be subject to a maximum penalty of imprisonment in the county jail for up to one year, and a fine of up to $1,000, or both imprisonment and fine.  Some violations have lower penalties, and some penalties increase with multiple violations.

*Try to plan your boating trip in advance, to allow you to be thoroughly prepared.

*Make a "float plan" to give to a reliable person on shore in case of trouble.  The 'float plan" should include the name and phone number of the operator, a complete description of the vessel (length, type, color, name, registration number, etc.), the number of people on board, two-way radio (frequencies), fuel capacity and range of travel, the date/time/location, and any planned stops on the way.  Don't forget to cancel your float plan" when you return to shore.

-Contact the local boating safety enforcement agency, or the U.S. Coast Guard, to obtain a copy of the regulations that apply to the waters where you plan to boat.  Check the local weather conditions and forecasts for the area you plan to use.  The U.S. Weather Service has recorded information available on the telephone and the VHF Marine Radio.

*Make a complete inspection of your boat and equipment before putting it into the water (for those stored on land); checking for cracks or damage to the hull, and that all equipment is in good working condition.  This is especially important for boats or equipment that have been stored for a long time.

*Make another inspection of your boat after it is in the water before starting away from the dock, and before your passengers board the boat.  Again check that the boat and all equipment are in good condition , and that supplies are properly stored.

*Boat operators are required by State and Federal laws to carry safety equipment specified for the size and type of boat; which include life preservers (PFD's), navigational lights, fire extinguishers, backfire flame control, muffler, ventilation system, visual distress signals, and vessel registration (certificate).

-Operators should also carry other safety equipment, such as an anchor, oars/paddles, first-aid kit, compass, spare parts, extra spark plugs, flashlight, spare starting battery, and a transistor radio (to check weather conditions).  An ample fuel supply should also be assured.

*The boat operator should know the boating and swimming abilities of all his passengers, and should familiarize all of them with the location and use of all the safety equipment on board, before leaving the dock.

*Life preservers are required to be readily accessible and it is recommended for passengers who are non-swimmers to wear theirs.  Fire extinguishers should also be readily accessible, and kept in a position away from the engine or fuel tanks.

-Use caution in loading passengers and supplies into a boat.  The weight should be distributed evenly, and avoid overloading.  Have passengers remain seated during operation and not rock the boat.

*Follow the manufacturer's recommendations for the size and power of engine to use with the boat.  Do not over-power a boat, this may cause capsizing.  If your boat does capsize (overturn or flood), stay with it.  Most boats will float even when filled with water; an exception to this is when the boat is close to the surf line, and then the boat becomes a hazard.

*During fueling, be sure the engines are all off, as well as any other mechanical (spark-producing) devices.  Be sure no one is smoking, that any stoves or heaters on-board are off, and everyone is off the boat while fueling.  Follow the instruction of the fuel station attendant, and be sure the fuel nozzle is shut off, and the fuel tank is closed, be sure to run the blower/ventillation system for several minutes before starting the engine.  Also check for any leaks of fuel into the bilge or engine compartments.

,Boating is similar to driving a vehicle - you should operate defensively, watch out for other boats, and always exercise courtesy on the water.  If you are in doubt as to the speed of an area, or who has the right-of-way, slow down or yield to the other boater it never pays to be careless or offensive on the water.
Remember, "SLOW IS PRO" when driving a boat in limited space.

General Phone Numbers
Animal Regulations 278-9760
Beach & Weather Report (24-hour) 221-8884
City of San Diego Information 236-5555
Fish & Game Dept. (California) (800) 952-5400
S.D. County Parks Dept 694-3049
S.D. Marine Safety Services (business) 224-2708
S.D. Police Dept. (business) 531-2000
S.D. Police Dept. (impounds) 531-2000
S.D. Police Dept. Harbor Unit 221-8985
S.D Port District (Harbor Police of San Diego Bay) 686-6272
State Parks Dept. (California) 237-6770
U.S. Coast Guard (business) 557-5816
U.S. National Parks Service Cabrillo Nat'l Monument 557-5450
U.S. Weather Service (recording) 289-1212

Bahia Hotel Marina 488-0551
Campland Marina 581-4224
Dana Inn Marina 224-6440
Dana Landing Marina 224-2513
lslandia Marina 224-1234
Knight & Carver Marina 222-6488
Marina Village Marina 224-3125
Mission Bay Yacht Club 488-0502
Sea World Marina 226-3915
Seaforth Marina 224-6807


Dana Landing..............................................................................    225-0440
Islandia Marina............................................................................   222-1164

Bahia Resort Hotel 488-0551
Campland-on-the-Bay 581-4200
Catamaran Resort Hotel 488-1081
De Anza Harbor Resort 274-0361
Dana Inn & Marina 222-6440
Hyatt Islandia Hotel 224-1234
Hilton Resort Hotel 276-4010
San Diego Princess Resort 274-4630

The following agencies may be contacted for more information on boating safety, beach safety, Mission Bay Park, or other City Parks, and tourist information:

Lifeguard Services Division & Boating Safety Unit 2581 Quivira Court
San Diego, CA 92109-8398
(619) 221-8899 (weekdays)
(619) 221-8800 (24-hour)

U.S. Coast Guard, Marine Safety Office 2710 North Harbor Drive
San Diego, CA 921 01
Visitor's Information Center
2688 East Mission Bay Drive
San Diego, CA 92109
(619) 276-8200 (9 - 5 daily)

San Diego Convention & Visitor's Bureau 1200 Third Avenue
San Diego, CA 921 01
(619) 232-3101 (weekdays)
(619) 239-9696 (weekends)

Greater San Diego Chamber of Commerce

1 1 0 West C Street
San Diego, CA 921 01 Concept:
(619) 232-0124 Sea World Creative SaMcas
 01 995 S.D. L.G.

J. Saridmeyer