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Boating Regulations

Various Federal, State, and local regulations apply to Mission Bay and the ocean off the City of San Diego. Some of the major regulations are listed below.

  • General Vessel Speed
    No person may operate a vessel at a speed greater than five (5) miles per hour within 100 feet of a swimmer or surfer or within 200 feet of a beach frequented by swimmers.
  • Ocean Vessel Speed
    No person may operate a vessel in excess of five (5) miles per hour within 1,000 feet of the oceanfront coastline of the City of San Diego. Separate boating regulations apply to Mission Bay.
  • Mission Bay Vessel Speed
    The speed limit on Mission Bay from sunset to sunrise is five (5) miles per hour. At other times, certain areas have a designated speed limit of five (5) miles per hour or less. These include:
    • Wherever buoys are posted with a five (5) mile per hour limit
    • Near bridges
    • Within 100 feet of shore
    • Within 100 feet of another vessel
  • Minimum Age
    No person under the age of twelve (12) may operate a motorized vessel with more than fifteen (15) horsepower. Children ages twelve (12) to sixteen (16) must have a person eighteen (18) years of age or older onboard to operate such a vessel. (There are some limited exceptions.)
  • Equipment
    Although equipment requirements vary depending on the size and type of boat, most pleasure boaters are required to have the following on board while underway:
    • One throwable flotation device
    • One wearable flotation device for each person on board
    • One marine type fire extinguisher for motorboats of a closed hull construction
    • Navigation lights if operating after sunset
    • One sound producing device
    • One visual distress signal
    • Appropriate registration cards, numbers, and stickers
  • Mission Bay Boat Beaching
    Vessels are permitted to be beached in many parts of Mission Bay, provided there is not a designated swim area or a waterski takeoff and landing area. The north end of Fiesta Island is closed to beaching. It is important to read signs carefully before beaching a boat in any area.
  • Oceanfront Boat Beaching
    Beaching is prohibited along the oceanfront, except at the La Jolla Shores boat launch located at 2000 Avenida de la Playa.
  • Anchoring in Mission Bay
    Overnight anchoring is permitted only in Mariners Basin and is limited to 72 hours. Long term moorings are available for a fee.
  • Special Use Areas
    Mission Bay has four major activity zones: swimming areas, open speed areas, 5 mph areas, and special use areas. The special use areas include Personal Watercraft Only areas, Personal Watercraft Permit areas, and Waterski Permit areas. In addition to these activity zones, certain beach areas have special rules. For instance, there are four waterski takeoff/landing zones. Only users that are actively participating in Waterskiing are allowed to use these areas. Two of these areas operate under different rules depending on the time of year. For these reasons, it is important to read the posted signs carefully. Extensive explanatory signs are posted at boat launches and further information is available at Lifeguard Headquarters.
  • Other Boating Information