Regardless of the type of human powered boat you use for adventure on the Bay there are a number of factors that can affect your enjoyment and safety.

  1. Tides and currents
  2. Wind
  3. Weather
  4. Man-made hazards and restrictions
  5. Where you want to go
  6. What there is to see and where you can stop to eat
  7. Wildlife
  8. Gear
  9. Finding a buddy or a group to paddle, row or sail with
  10. Rules of the Road

1.  Tides and Currents
There are four locations in San Francisco Bay that you can get daily tide and current readings on-line.  Click here 
The station numbers are:
Redwood City            9414523
Richmond                   9414863
San Francisco            9414290
Alameda                      9414750
Don’t forget to check the box for LOCAL TIME.

You can also get your own  Northern California Tide Log (Pacific Publishers, Box 480, Bolinas, CA 94924) from all marine supply stores and most local book stores.

You can also look at a tide predictor

To see wind, tides and currents click here.

2.  Wind
There are five NOAA weather stations in San Francisco Bay that you can access on-line where wind direction and speed, and air and water temperature are reported every few minutes.
Redwood City           
San Francisco          

If you want to see wind patterns over the Bay:

Click here for wind direction and speed 

Click here for animation 

3.  Weather
Marine weather is broadcast continuously on your VHF radio on channels 3,4 and 6.
To go to the NOAA weather for San Francisco, San Pablo, Suisun and the West Delta click here

To see current satellite photos of Pacific coast weather click here.

To find the weather forecast for any town try:

For graphical forecasts click here

4.  Man-made hazards and restrictions
Shipping channels—Ships have absolute right of way in the shipping channels.  They move fast and have very limited ability to maneuver.  Never cross in front of a ship under way. To see the location of the shipping channels click here. (the link should be to the Map-shipping channel layer of the map if possible) You can get information about the comings and goings of ships from Vessel Traffic Safety on Channel 14 on your VHF radio and you can see real time movement of commercial traffic on the Bay by clicking here

Restriced Zones—Areas around the airports, bridge pilings,  etc. etc are off-limits to all boaters for security reasons.  Please click here to see where they are.

Ferry landings—Ferry terminals and landings are busy places. The ferries come and go on frequent schedules.  Exercise special caution in the vicinity of landings because you are small and may not be visible to the captain.  Vessel Traffic Services, San Francisco, is developing a Ferry Traffic Routing Protocol to better define the ferry routes

5.  Where Do You Want To Go?
The Bay Access Map shows public launching spots around the Bay that are used by paddlers, rowers, windsurfers and kite boarders.

Nautical charts of San Francisco Bay are available on line.  Click here & Scroll down to
18649  Entrance to San Francisco Bay
18650  San Francisco Bay to Candlestick Point to Angel Island
18651  San Francisco Bay—South Part; Redwood Creek; Oyster Point
18652  Folio, Small Craft Chart; San Francisco Bay to Antioch
18653  San Francisco Bay, Angel Island to Point San Pedro
18654  San Pablo Bay
18655  Mare Island Strait
18656  Suisun Bay
18657  Carquinez Strait
These charts are also available from most marine supply stores or can be ordered from:

7. Wildlife
San Francisco Bay has abundant wildlife, some of which lives here year around and some of which, like the tourists, comes and goes.  There are places in the Bay that are closed, either all the time or seasonally, in order to give them a chance to rest or breed undisturbed.  Seasonal closures will be announced in the Bay Access Newsletter.
Guidelines for viewing wildlife are available. Click here.

8.  Gear
Equipment that you will need varies tremendously depending on the sport you choose.  In all cases however be aware that the Bay is cold; temperatures are normally in the 50s.  The risk of winding up in the water is very real for all water oriented sports.  Be prepared for immersion.  Wear a wet suit or dry suit and PFD (personal floatation device).  Have self-rescue skills.  Or, have an escort boat ready to pluck you from the water and warm you.

9.  Boat with a Buddy
Each boater is responsible for their own safety but the safety factor goes way up when boating with a buddy or in a group.  Join a club or team in order to find buddies and organized outings and to keep up with news and important information regarding your particular sport.  Click here to locate the organization for you!

10.  Rules of the Road
The Inland Rules of the Road published by the U.S. Coast Guard is to boaters on the Bay what the California Driver Handbook is to automobile drivers.  The purpose of the Rules is to prevent collisions by making actions predictable.  In almost every situation each vessel is charged with a certain action.  In case of collision legal liability is established using the Rules.  As the operator of a vessel you are required to know and abide by the Rules. You can access them on-line.  Click here.