San Francisco Bay has a few well-protected overnight anchorages and many more less-protected anchorages that make wonderful lunch or cocktail stops in the right weather.
Anchoring out is one of the best ways to enjoy the bay.
Unfortunately, occasional boat and ship wakes are inevitable in almost all of the anchorages, so don’t expect complete tranquility.
Ayala Cove on Angel Island is the most protected anchorage in the entire central bay area. There’s no real anchorage here, because the small cove has been filled with docks and moorings. You can use the docks from 8 AM to sunset ($15 fee for all or any part of the day), but you can stay on a mooring overnight ($30 per night all year round).
Richardson Bay, between Sausalito and Belvedere, is the anchorage closest to the Golden Gate. It has space for hundreds of boats. While not fully protected from wakes and chop, in most weather it is quite comfortable.
Clipper Cove is between between Treasure Island and Yerba Buena Island, facing Berkeley. This is a favorite anchorage of many bay sailors because of its central location and good protection. It is open to the east, but relatively few ships go east of the island.
These anchorages are not as well protected as the ones listed above, but they still make great lunch stops. Many can be used overnight if the weather is calm and you can tolerate some wakes.
Belvedere Cove is a small, lightly used anchorage area between Belvedere and Tiburon.
Paradise Cove is a long, pretty anchorage. It is the first cove along the east side of the Tiburon peninsula, as you head north around the corner from Tiburon. There’s a beach you can visit by dinghy. It can be rolly, though it usually calms down after dark making it comfortable overnight, except for the occasional large wakes from passing ships.
The anchorages along the east side of Angel Island are usually protected from the swell and chop but are subject to occasional large wakes from passing ships. They are much less crowded than Ayala Cove, which can be a big attraction on summer weekends.
At the north corner is China Cove, a pretty anchorage that is often empty during the week but can hold as many as a dozen boats. It is quite close to Ayala Cove, making it a popular alternative if the cove is full.
The two long coves south of China Cove are often nice lunch stops but are more exposed in some weather conditions.
The bay on the south shore of Angel Island offers great views of San Francisco, but it is too unprotected for use in typical weather conditions. If the weather is calm, it makes a beautiful lunch or sunset stop.
The San Francisco waterfront offers only one protected anchorage: Aquatic Park. It is closed to all vessels under power, however, so it can be used only by sailboats. There is a small anchorage outside the breakwater to the west, but it is rolly in most conditions and can be very uncomfortable in some weather conditions.
San Francisco’s only protected anchorage, unfortunately closed to powerboats.
Directly in front of Ghirardelli Square.
Permit required for free overnight stays not to exceed 5 consecutive nights; contact Janie Mayton, Harbormaster, at 415-561-7018 for permit and additional information.
A pretty anchorage just around the corner from Ayala Cove.
China Cove (also called Winslow Cove) is often empty during the week but can hold as many as a dozen boats.
There is a small beach you can visit by dinghy and explore the historic buildings.
Once the landing place for Pan Am’s Clipper Ships — the first commercial planes to cross the Pacific — Clipper Cove is now a favorite anchorage of many sailors.
It is nestled between Yerba Buena Island and Treasure Island.
The Treasure Island Yacht Club uses the former military docks at the right.
San Francisco is visible over the low island.
Downtown Sausalito Anchorage
A great lunch stop just off downtown Sausalito.
Just south of the ferry dock, off the rocky embankment where Bridgeway runs right along the shore.
Offers a great view of San Francisco and of the boats coming and going from Sausalito.
Rarely used overnight due to the persistent wakes.
Cove to the north of Quarry Point on the east side of Angel Island.
There is a small anchorage area inside Horseshoe Cove, which is home to the Presidio Yacht Club’s marina and the Coast Guard’s Station Golden Gate.
Paradise Cove is a long, pretty anchorage with a beach you can visit by dinghy.
It can be rolly, though it usually calms down after dark making it comfortable overnight — except for the occasional large wakes from passing ships.
Point Stuart Anchorage
Just east of Point Stuart, this anchorage provides a good vantage point for watching the traffic through Raccoon Strait.
Use only as a lunch stop.
Large anchorage to the south of Quarry Point on the east side of Angel Island.
Richardson Bay Anchorage
Richardson Bay offers a large anchorage area just north of the Sausalito channel.
This anchorage can easily hold more than 100 boats.
Many boats in this area are permanently anchored out, some with liveaboards and some abandoned.
This area is shallow and fouled in places.
It is deepest at the south end (nearest the central bay).
The SE end of the anchorage, off Spinnaker Point adjacent to marker 4, is the deepest.
Deeper into the bay, minimum depths drop from 6 feet off Sausalito Yacht Harbor to only 3 feet off Clipper Yacht Harbor.