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Policies Governing Inner-Harbor Vessel Traffic / Ordinances 217 & 217.1

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Mission Statement

The objective of the Port District staff is to ensure safe and enjoyable boating and efficient vessel use of the channel.

It is hoped that widespread dissemination of this policy will assist boaters in becoming more aware of their responsibilities and the responsibilities of other boaters, and that it will assist the Port District in its enforcement efforts.

General Policy / General Rule

The primary use of the harbor channel and fairways is for the safe and orderly transit of vessels to and from the open waters of the Monterey Bay. It is also recognized that the harbor channel and adjoining fairways are destinations in themselves for some recreational boaters; however, transiting vessels have priority since the main purpose of the channel is ocean access.

The safe operation of a vessel and the actions of persons aboard have always been and are the sole responsibility of the vessel operator.

All vessels using Santa Cruz Harbor are subject to the U.S. Coast Guard “International / Inland Navigation Rules” (known as “Rules of the Road”), California State Boating Law and Port District ordinances governing vessel operation within its boundaries. Similarly, boaters using Santa Cruz Harbor as their sole recreational destination, and not as transit to the bay, shall adhere strictly to the Port’s ordinances and associated laws, as their activity may be in conflict with normally transiting vessels that have priority in the channel.

As part of the “International / Inland Navigation Rules” (“Rules of the Road”), all vessels are specifically directed to stay to the right side of the channel unless otherwise allowed by policy or Port District ordinance.

Specific Policies

The following organized events and special use vessels shall adhere to the below-listed policies:

Sailing Regattas

  1. Must apply for a Port District permit:
    1. All organizations sponsoring events should obtain a Coast Guard permit as well.
  2. All skippers must be briefed on these policies prior to the race:
    1. As available, a deputy harbormaster will give a briefing on these policies at key skippers’ meetings (i.e., first SCORE, MBYRA race of the season, special events and regattas);
    2. Port District will provide copies of this brochure to the regatta organizers for distribution prior to regattas or races.
  3. “Support boats” are encouraged to tow vessels out of the harbor.
  4. Vessels with auxiliary power are encouraged to motor out and to assist vessels without power by towing them out.
  5. Boaters sailing in the harbor must follow these policies and ordinances as pre-briefed:
    1. Participants could jeopardize future regatta permits by their continual and flagrant disregard of these policies and ordinances, and individuals may be cited.

Fishing Derbies

  1. Must apply for a Port District permit:
  2. Entrants to any fishing derby will be distributed a copy of this brochure. It will be the responsibility of the organization to brief its participants:
    1. Distribute this brochure where day licenses are sold.
  3. Participants could jeopardize future fishing derby permits by their continual and flagrant disregard of these policies and ordinances, and individuals may be cited.

Kayaks, Rowing Shells, Rowboats, Dinghies and Outrigger Canoes

  1. Due to the low freeboard / visibility of these vessels, they must stay to the farthest right and maintain a proper lookout:
    1. Surf breaking at the harbor entrance can impede ability and threaten the safety of staying to the right. If a boater in this class of craft chooses to cross over to the opposing side of the channel to exit or enter, they are advised to use extreme caution when crossing the channel and must yield to oncoming vessels.
  2. Either as an individual boater, or in a group, this class of craft must not congregate in the harbor entrance or other areas of the channel or fairways that might impede normal transiting vessel traffic.
  3. The Port District recommends that these low-profile vessels display an observation flag or other device to enhance visibility.
  4. Participants could jeopardize future group events by their continual and flagrant disregard of these policies and ordinances, and individuals may be cited.

Sailing Lessons, Sailing Clubs, Youth Programs

  1. Prior to the beginning of any class or activity, all students and participants will be distributed a copy of this brochure and it will be the responsibility of the organization to brief its students and participants;
    1. Instructors can be held responsible for any problems as a result of their class.

Power Vessels

  1. All power vessels are subject to applicable speed, wake and proper channel side transit ordinances, and must give way as responsibility and law dictate.
  2. All power vessels should be aware of, and will be held responsible for, possible damage that can be caused by their wake, particularly at the harbor entrance in the presence of low-profile craft that are at high-risk of being swamped or capsized by a wake.

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Ordinances Governing Vessel Traffic Within the Harbor

In addition to the above-stated policies, there are ordinances governing vessel traffic within the harbor. Refer to ordinance sections:

217 - Prohibited Operations upon Waters of the Harbor

Except upon written permission of the General Manager, which may be given for special events, no person shall:

  1. Tow, ride upon, or otherwise operate water skis or aquaplanes;
  2. Operate a hydrofoil craft, seaplane, or air-propeller-driven watercraft;
  3. Use, or cause to be used, on any vessel under his control, a spinnaker sail of any type except where such use is made necessary by an emergency;
  4. Swim within the waters of Santa Cruz Harbor except while performing hull maintenance in the area immediately next to one’s boat;
  5. Swim in the catamaran launch area on days between April 1st and October 1st, when the Port District lifeguard is on duty and the “no swimming” area is marked.

217.1 - Restrictions for Vessel Traffic in Harbor Waterways

  1. Sailboats may tack across the channel, even if such tacking places such vessel in violation of the “keep-to-the-right” rule. When tacking across the harbor channel onto the side of the channel that places the sailboat in violation of the “keep-to-the-right” rule, sailboats shall yield to oncoming vessels so as not to cause an oncoming vessel to alter speed or course.
  2. All vessels that are not propelled by sail shall, unless unsafe to do so, or unless otherwise directed by Port District personnel, stay to the right side of the harbor channel. Any vessel choosing to be on the opposite side of the channel for reasons of safety, must comply with yield and avoidance provisions of section 217.1(a).
  3. Every vessel directed by another vessel to stay out of the way of such other vessel shall, to the extent possible, immediately take such steps as are necessary to keep well clear in order to avoid a collision.
  4. No vessel in the harbor waters shall exceed 5 miles per hour under any circumstances. Vessel speed shall be further reduced if necessary so that at no time shall any vessel cause a significant wake. The 5 mile per hour zone is defined as the area beginning immediately at the harbor entrance and continuing up the entire length of the channel and throughout the harbor.
  5. Any vessel overtaking another vessel shall yield to the vessel being overtaken so as not to cause such vessel being overtaken to alter speed or course. If the vessel being overtaken changes course or speed, then the vessel overtaking such vessel shall yield so as to stay out of the way of such vessel, and avoid a collision.
  6. All vessels crossing the main harbor channel, or leaving a fairway, shall yield to any vessel transiting the main channel so as not to alter the speed or course of such vessel. Vessels crossing the fairway when leaving slips or docks shall yield to any vessel transiting the fairways so as not to alter the speed or course of such vessel.
  7. All vessels in the harbor waters shall yield to law enforcement vessels displaying a blue flashing light so as not to alter the speed or course of such vessel.

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1996 Hobie 16 Continentals at Santa Cruz Harbor Beach

Welcome to the Santa Cruz Harbor for the 1996 Hobie 16 Continentals.

This information is provided to assist you in getting set-up and settled in. Please familiarize yourself with the harbor map. If you have questions, or are unsure of any procedures, please contact the harbor office.

The accompanying brochures are to assist you in having an enjoyable experience at Santa Cruz Harbor.

Launching Info

If you are towing your boat to the harbor, please proceed directly to the launch ramp. Signs around the harbor area will direct you to the correct entrance. You will need your launch permit and parking permit prominently displayed on the driver’s side dash of the vehicle. You will need to launch at the launch ramp and sail out of the harbor and around to the catamaran beach. Land your boat on the beach between the jetty and the orange flag. The beach area east of the flag belongs to the State Parks and it is illegal to land a boat there.

Once your boat is on the beach, you will need to drive your trailer to the designated trailer storage area at the entrance to the upper harbor (7th Ave & Brommer St), as designated on the map. No trailers are allowed to be left in the launch ramp area. The organizers have arranged to have the trailers secured and locked.

Parking Info

You have a permit for launching and retrieving your boat, as well as a parking permit for your vehicle. You must display both permits on the driver’s side front dashboard when launching and retrieving at the ramp.

The parking permit is for your vehicle only and is valid in the launch ramp parking lot (unmarked spaces) on weekdays only.

On weekends, your permit is valid only in the upper harbor. The Port District offers a free water taxi between 10 am and 6 pm and it will shuttle you to various locations throughout the harbor. The launch ramp drop-off is the closest stop to the harbor beach.

Parking is strictly enforced throughout the harbor. Should you have any questions, a harbor patrol officer will be happy to assist you.

RV / Camping Info

The harbor maintains a small RV park for visitors. There are 12 non-hookup spaces and 6 temporary tent camping spaces for this event. The non-hookup spaces are $14/night and the tent spaces are $10/night.

Please contact the harbor office to reserve your space. We can hold the space with a Visa or Mastercard number. Please mention that you are participating in this event when making a reservation.


The harbor beach boundary is from the jetty to the orange flag that will be placed adjacent to 6th Avenue. To the east of the orange flag is the State Parks beach.

Beach Lifeguard

The Port District provides harbor beach lifeguards specifically for the harbor beach catamaran launch area and are there for your safety. Be aware that it is illegal for you to launch or land from the State Beach and it is often patrolled. The harbor beach lifeguard will be on duty throughout the regatta to assure a safe launch and landing. The harbor lifeguard has the authority to close the beach to launching/landing if dangerous surf conditions exist. If you are not familiar with this area, please check with the harbor beach lifeguard for the latest wind and surf conditions and for launching advice.

Help, Questions, Special Assistance

The harbormaster’s office is open 8:30 am to 5:00 pm, daily. A harbor patrol officer is available 24 hours per day and can be reached through the office during the day or at night on marine VHF channel 16. Please do not hesitate to contact us with any questions . We are here to assist you.


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