Tips on Visiting Mission Bay

How about a cruise to Mission Bay? Here are a few navigational tips for a trip from San Diego Bay.

First of all, be careful to stay about two miles offshore as you go around Point Loma, in order to avoid the kelp beds. Sometimes you cannot see the kelp until you are nearly surrounded by it! Last time, as I was heading North up the coast, I tried to shortcut diagonally toward the entrance to the Mission Bay Channel. I was still running into kelp, and had to turn back out. You may have to continue North until you are abeam the entrance, then head East. The amount of kelp can vary on the tide. At low tide, more is floating on the surface.

The south Jetty has not had a light or marker for years now. There is a lighted red buoy about 100 yards out. (Red Right Returning). The north Jetty has a green daymarker and a green light. Once in a while, someone mistakes the south jetty for the north Jetty, in fog…and winds up on Dog Beach (and the evening news.)

On rare occasions, in storms or large swells, this entrance can have breakers, usually worse toward the South side. Depending upon seas, don’t pass too close to the south jetty. On busy weekends, it will be choppy and a bit congested just inside the entrance…slow down if under power! The official speed limit is not reduced until you are about 60% into the channel; watch for the 5mph buoys.

There is a 72 hour anchorage in Mariner’s Cove, to the left as soon as you round the corner. To the right, Quivira Basin has slips, at Islandia Marina, Marina Village, and Driscoll Mission Bay. Call in advance to reserve a guest slip. Use caution when entering Quivira Basin, as the sea wall makes a relatively narrow entrance, with a blind corner.

There are three bridges in Mission Bay. The first reportedly has a clearance of 38 feet. The two bridges along Ingraham Street have clearances of 38 feet at the South span, and 31 feet at the North Span. This will vary on the tide! At any time, you can read the bridge clearance, indicated at water level at the center span. Not really an issue for powerboats. Sailboats- use extreme caution…only smaller sailboats can usually clear.

Once you go under the first bridge, you enter a busy playground for small boaters, kayakers, windsurfers, and rental boats. Bear in mind that many of these people probably don’t know about “rules of the road”.

The West Bay is “Sail Bay”. There is a powerboat speed limit during the day of 5mph, until 5:00 pm…when the ski boats take to the water. Outside of keeping an eye out for other boats, the only real hazard is the shoal water off the northwest beach on Vacation Isle. The Mission Bay Yacht Club conducts sailboat races; try to stay clear of the fleets.

The East Bay is “Ski Bay”, so be on the alert. There is a shoal area marked by buoys, north of the Mission Bay VORTAC station. Both inner Bays have fairly shallow water, and are not recommended for deep draft boats. The inner, southeast end of Fiesta Island has an area designated for Personal Water Craft.

Between Labor Day and Memorial Day, you can enjoy the Sea World fireworks display, usually around 9:30pm.