Trailering Magazine Archives - Destinations
The waters are protected. The launch ramps are many. And the weather is, well, all California.
Boating is a way of life in San Diego. It's main road is called Harbor Drive. The world's oldest active sailing ship is tied up at the city's Maritime Museum. One of San Diego's most popular attractions is the aquatic wonderland called SeaWorld. Water is important here.
San Diego has two bays: Mission Bay to the north is recreational and San Diego Bay is commercial with more than 125 cruise ships entering the harbor every year along with a large fleet of tuna boats and a number of aircraft carriers stationed at the Third Fleet Naval Base.
"Mission Bay is the perfect place for the person with a small boat,"says Dave Rogers who works in the Wholesale Division at the BoatUS Marine Center in San Diego. "You will see a lot of ocean going boats in San Diego Bay which are usually 34 feet and larger. That's also where there are many liveaboards."
Because of its recreational design, Mission Bay has four separate activity zones: (1) swimming(2) open speed (3) 5 mph limit and (4) special use where PWC's can be operated. When operating near the shoreline, boaters are instructed to keep 100 feet from swimmers but are allowed to beach their boats in specific areas. Mission Bay is well marked by buoys to maintain the separation of the activity zones.
SeaWorld is located on Mission Bay and the trailer boater can tie up at a dock if they intend to visit the theme park. There are many waterfront restaurants with dock facilities and as a result, an afternoon on Mission Bay for many trailer boaters is spent having lunch at one and a cold drink at another. Rogers says a common route for boats on the bay is going from the north point to the south and back. A superb launch ramp on Mission Bay is found at De Anza Cove (2800 Mission Bay Drive).
Between the bay and the Pacific Ocean is Mission Beach, a narrow stretch of sand measuring the width of a city block. This is a favorite place for "beaching"a trailer boat on the bay side. Mission Bay Recreational Park is located here (it is 4,235 acres of which 52% is water).
"A popular day trip for a trailer boat, depending on the weather, is launching at Mission Bay and going south to San Diego Bay and back,"says Rogers. "It is about five or six miles from Mission Bay to Point Loma where you'll make the turn to enter San Diego Bay."Point Loma is a thin peninsula jutting out into the ocean and the sight of both the old and new Point Loma Lighthouses. In 1854, construction began on what was thought to be an excellent location for a lighthouse, 450 feet above the water surface and guiding sailing ships safely into and out of San Diego Bay. Within a few days of the lighthouse becoming operational, engineers realized they had forgotten to consider the common weather conditions along the coast. The lighthouse couldn't be seen by ships because its light was usually above the clouds and fog. Plans were drawn up to build a second lighthouse 100 yards from the first one and, most important, at a lower elevation.
One of San Diego Bay's most popular boat ramps is located three miles inside the protected bay on the port side. Of all the launch facilities in the area, Shelter Island is the one with the closest proximity to the ocean. Maybe even more important, it has lots of parking for tow vehicles and trailers.
Upon entering San Diego Bay, boaters will come upon the navy's Third Fleet headquarters. The aircraft carriers will be seen to port and the area known as North Island which is government property will be to starboard. Both arriving and departing boats must adhere to new security restrictions which continue as a result of last year's terrorist attack. Stay toward the center of the channel and contain your curiosity. To put it another way: don't turn the boat toward one of the military properties.
You will go beneath the Coronado Bridge (Highway 75), so named because the city of Coronado is located on starboard. The famous Coronado Hotel is located here which is where Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis and Jack Lemon filmed the 1958 movie "Some Like It Hot."Farther to the south is Glorietta Bay which has a well-run boat ramp with lots of parking.
Two other ramps are located in Chula Vista at J Street although boaters are warned to keep an eye out for shoaling in this location. Another launch facility is in National City off the 24th Street Fishing Pier.
First time visitors to San Diego will want to get to Balboa Park (a short cab ride from the waterfront). The San Diego Zoo is located here as is a reproduction of Shakespeare's Globe Theatre. Queen Elizabeth II dedicated a bust of the man of letters while on a tour of the city some years ago. Bazaar Del Mundo (old town) is located in Balboa Park where terrific Mexican restaurants are common. There are outdoor concerts held throughout the summer and a number of museums are located in this part of the city.
At this point, you are less than 20 miles from Mexico. Many visitors are eager to cross the border to purchase a variety of products in Tijuana. It is strongly suggested you leave the trailer boat behind if entering Mexico because it is an invitation to be searched by customs officials upon returning to the U.S. In addition, it will require obtaining Mexican insurance for the boat. The easier way to enjoy Mexico is to take the San Diego Trolley (one way fare is $2) to the border and walk across. There is a group of trailer boaters called the Vagabundos (see BoatUS Trailering April 1999) who make regular trips to Mexico with their boats.
Whale watching is popular from January to March off the San Diego coast. Gray whales are making their migration from the Bering Sea in Alaska to warmer Mexican waters. A wide choice of whale tour boats leave from both Mission Bay and San Diego Bay for half day trips into the ocean.
San Diego is a treat for any first time visitor. It's because of the weather and the water and, of course, a unique geography with a pair of well-protected bays. If that visitor has a boat in tow, it becomes all the more a treat.
Mission Bay Boat Launches
- De Anza Cove — 2800 East Mission Bay Drive, near the intersection of Clairemont Drive
- Ski Beach — 2900 Ingraham Street at Vacation Road (signalized intersection)
- Dana Landing — 2590 Ingraham Street at Dana Landing Road (signalized intersection)
- Santa Clara Cove or San Juan Cove — 900 Santa Clara Place at Mission Boulevard (signalized intersection)
- South Shores — 404 Sea World Drive (launch hours may be restricted)
San Diego Bay Boat Launches
- Shelter Island Northwest corner of San Diego Bay.
- National City Located at Sweetwater Channel
- Chula Vista J Street in Marina Park (a second ramp is on G Street)
- Glorietta Bay 1715 Strand Way, Coronado
For More Information:
Mission Bay Information www.sandiego.org/what-to-do/beaches/mission-bay.aspx
About San Diego Bay www.thebigbay.com
San Diego Visitor and Tourism www.infosandiego.com
San Diego Maritime Museum www.sdmaritime.com
Estimated wait times at US/Mexico border www.signonsandiego.com/news/mexico
BoatUS Marine Center 3717 Rosencrans Street, San Diego 619-298-3020
From Milwaukee WI 2119 miles
From Phoenix AZ 355 miles
From Marion, MA 3019 miles
Dallas TX 1359 Miles
Key West FL 2815 miles