Byline: Taylor Hill
SAN DIEGO — Free anchorages in San Diego Bay offer a convenient option for boaters to enjoy an overnight stay on the water.
But boat owners with vessels longer than 65 feet may experience long delays in arranging for that temporary spot in the bay, as the current system requires the issuance of a special permit that can only be administered by the Harbor Police’s Bay Control officer.
For boats smaller than 65 feet, a quick call to San Diego’s Harbor Police Mooring Office lets local boaters know if space is available in the bay’s two anchorage sites. A1 (La Playa Cove) is a 72-hour weekend-only anchorage located between San Diego Yacht Club and Southwestern Yacht Club in the Shelter Island yacht basin, and A5 (Glorietta Bay) is available seven days a week for a maximum 72-hour stay. If space is available, boaters can obtain an anchoring permit from the mooring office at Shelter Island for no cost.
But the process wasn’t so easy for Mark Phoenix and his 85-foot Knight and Carver motoryacht.
“I wanted to anchor in Glorietta Bay or La Playa, so I called over there and they said, ‘OK, what size is your boat?’ I said 85 feet, and they told me I couldn’t anchor there,” Phoenix said. At first, Phoenix said, he wasn’t given an alternative for his boat, and he ended up taking his family outside the harbor for the night and anchoring on the south side of the jetty.
Over the next week, Phoenix decided to find out more about the anchoring situation for big boats in San Diego Bay. In his second conversation with mooring management staff, he found out there were indeed anchoring options for larger boats in the harbor — but they required extra steps.
One option involved getting a special permit that can only be approved by the Harbor Police Bay Control officer. Upon issuance of this permit, larger boats can anchor outside of Glorietta Bay, just south of the golf course. The second option is to anchor off Harbor Island, but that requires the Bay Control officer to approve a permit and the Navy to sign off on the vessel, as well.
Phoenix went with the Glorietta Bay option, and he attempted to get in touch with the Bay Control officer, Cpl. Victor Banuelos. However, he was unable to reach Banuelos on the day he wanted to anchor. Phoenix ended up getting approval from the San Diego mooring office manager to anchor — and, after filling out the paperwork, had his special permit to anchor at the special “big boat” anchorage.
“At Mariner’s Cove in Mission Bay, any size boat can go in there and can anchor up,” Phoenix said. “It’s on a first-come, first-served basis. The Harbor Police take your name down, and there’s no permit needed. I understand San Diego is a military bay, but the reality is that they should make it a little more accessible for the public.”
The Log contacted the San Diego Harbor Police Mooring Office to find out how long it takes to get a permit for larger vessels — and also to determine why there were designated anchorages and permits required for larger boats.
According to the Harbor Police Mooring Office manager, the A1 (La Playa Cove) and A5 (inside Glorietta Bay) anchorages are designated to accommodate up to 20 boats that are 65 feet or smaller. Because they want to admit as many boats as possible into these relatively small areas, they limit the size of the boats allowed in the anchorages.
“The Bay Control officer is in charge of all the boats that are in the bay — so, he needs to be aware of the boats that are in the bay, and give the permits out,” the manager said. But in the current system, smaller vessels need only the approval of the Harbor Police’s mooring manager, who can sign off on those vessels without Bay Control Officer Banuelos’ approval. Only larger vessels need to be checked by the Bay Control officer, who is often out on patrols and is unable to take phone calls during the day.
“You need to give advance notice to get the special (big boat) permit,” the harbor mooring manager said. We don’t give a permit for the same day.” However, boats smaller than 65 feet can get a permit the same day.
“Unless Cpl. Banuelos gives me a call and says, ‘go ahead and do it,’” issuing a large boat anchoring permit takes additional approval time, the mooring manager explained. “That (same-day approval) happens from time to time, but it’s not procedure — so, that’s why I can’t issue the permit.”
The Log called Bay Control Officer Banuelos’ office Oct. 6 and left a voice message inquiring about large vessel permits. After 10 days and two more phone inquiries, Cpl. Banuelos returned the call Oct. 17.
“There’s really no set-in-stone protocol for the larger vessels, because we receive very few requests,” Cpl. Banuelos said. He added that this separate permitting process for larger vessels was in place before his arrival.
“Why a sworn officer is in charge of the larger boat permitting instead of the mooring office manager who handles the regular permits, I don’t know,” Cpl. Banuelos said.
While a mooring office manager can be reached between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. daily, Cpl. Banuelos is the lone contact for vessels larger than 65 feet — however, he is frequently on patrol and unable to be reached during the week. San Diego boaters with larger vessels looking to anchor in the bay should make arrangements well in advance to acquire a permit.
“For a guy with a bigger boat who wants to go out and anchor for the night, it’s not easy,” Phoenix said. “Everybody should have an equal boating opportunity in the bay.”