Where to Sail in San Diego

J29 BlackJack hails from San Diego North Bay, but I learned to sail in South Bay. Both parts of San Diego bay is a fantastic place to sail, but I now prefer to sail outside the bay.

San Diego South Bay

South Bay was a good place for me to learn to sail. As you can see in the map below, there is only a thin strip of land between South Bay and the Pacific Ocean. Sea breeze comes across pretty much unhindered from Coronado Rodes. Consequently South Bay gets breezy. Some days you see 20knots. South Bay is also fairly shallow, so when the wind pipes up, the water gets quite choppy.

When I was learning to sail, I just took the boat out by myself on South Bay. I had smaller boats back then. I would just sail across the bay, go upwind and downwind, back and forth repeatedly.

I was pretty diligent and kept going out even if it got really windy and choppy. I just liked to sail, and it was exciting sailing in a lot of wind. As you can imagine, a newbie learning to sail solo in lots of wind can lead to some, uh, exciting moments as well.

Fortunately, South Bay tends to be deserted. I usually had the whole Bay to myself, and I could take my time making maneuvers like jibing a spinnaker solo. I soon learned it was not all bad to have a spectacular broach or two as long as I didn’t break the boat. It was a quick way to learn what to do and what not to do.

San Diego North Bay

South Bay is far from some of the bay races. So I eventually moved to North Bay with BlackJack. CRA races usually start right near my marina, which made race commute a cinch.

When people think of San Diego Bay, it’s really the North Bay we are talking about. The city waterfront is all up here. It really is a beautiful place to sail.

North Bay is more protected than South Bay. North Bay also makes a big U-turn, essentially going around Coronado. Due to geography, the wind can be shifty and lighter in North Bay.

Lighter wind makes it easier to sail solo in North Bay, except there is an awful lot of boat traffic on the weekends during the summer. In fact, some power boaters mistake the bay for a lake and buzz by at supersonic speeds creating huge wakes. I have jack lines and tether just for sailing in North Bay.

Don’t’ get me wrong, during the weekdays when there’s no one on the water, North Bay is fantastic. On hot summer weekends though, I find North Bay to not be a good place to sail with all the traffic, especially by myself.


BlackJack is berthed at Harbor Island, which is right by the San Diego Airport. It’s about 4 miles from the slip to Zuniga Jetty which is basically where the bay ends and the ocean starts.

When I re-started sailing BlackJack (see about my years with BlackJack), I started by sailing to the buoys outside of the bay to get my comfort level back up. After not sailing for such a long time, sailing to bay entrance buoys 3 and 4 seemed like an ocean passage.

Now, I’m comfortable sailing out of the bay. In fact, this is where I sail now.

Sailing out to SD Buoy and back is about 15 mile trip from the slip. It’s a nice day sail. I’d like to go further, but unfortunately, there are no destinations. Unlike the LA area where you have the Channel Islands and Catalina, there’s nothing to the west of San Diego.

So I’m now making plans to extend my sailing a few more miles, to some of the Wave Rider buoys. I’ll have to get the boat sorted out and add more safety gear as I ease into it, but that fits in with boat upgrade nicely.

I’d like to get to the point where I can do an overnighter, with proper watch/sleep/food schedule.

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