Responsible Boating

boats in the water at sunset
Boaters anchored off Smugglers Beach, Santa Cruz Island. Anacapa Island is in the background. Photo: Keith Berson

Before going out on the water, whether on a kayak, sailboat, power boat, or other watercraft, always be aware of the dynamic weather patterns in the Santa Barbara Channel and around the Channel Islands. Fog and winds are a challenge to the most experienced boaters. From November through April, expect high winds with clear skies and good visibility when the wind is warm and out of the northeast. Also, when the wind shifts to the northwest, expect high winds. Generally, the sky will initially be cloudy with restricted visibility. The prevailing wind blows from the west to northwest throughout the year. It typically blows between 11 a.m. and 8 p.m. with average wind speeds between 10 to 20 mph. Check out our online weather kiosk for up to date weather information in the sanctuary.

a lighthouse on a rocky shoreline
The Anacapa Light on East Anacapa Island was initially established with an unmanned acetylene light in 1911 in response to numerous shipwrecks including the Winfield Scott. In 1932 a new lighthouse tower with a Third Order Fresnel lens, fog signal building and radio apparatus was added to the light station. Photo: Robert Schwemmer/NOAA
  • There are no all-weather anchorages around the islands.
  • One capable person should stay on board the boat at all times.
  • Boaters are responsible for any damage to the resources caused by their boat.
  • Discharging or depositing substances, with the exception of fish chumming materials, waters, and biodegradable effluents generated by marine sanitation devices, is prohibited.
  • Private boaters may land on all five islands within Channel Islands National Park year round.
  • No landing permits are required for the Channel Islands, except for The Nature Conservancy property on Santa Cruz Island.
  • Pets are not allowed on the islands.
  • Personal watercraft are prohibited within one mile surrounding each island in the Channel Islands National Park and Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary.
  • Use caution when approaching a boat with a dive flag. Maintain a distance of at least 100 yards.

Know Before You Go - Keeping You, the Crew, Your Boat and the Environment Safe

Follow veteran commercial and recreational boaters out to sea in this informational documentary about the potential pitfalls of boating off the Southern California coast and how to prepare for and avoid them. Produced by Earth Media Lab

Tips for Clean Boating in the Sanctuary

  • Make sure your bilge is clean. If it produces an oily sheen you could be cited.
  • Use bilge pads and harbor pump-out stations for sewage and oily bilge. Do not use detergents to clean spills. Report spills to 1-800-OILS-911, or to the U.S. Coast Guard at 1-800-424-8802.
  • Recycle your used oil, filters, and antifreeze.
  • Use a marine port-a-potty if you do not have a Coast Guard-approved Marine Sanitation Device (MSD).
  • Be Green: Use environmentally friendly, biodegradable cleaning products.
  • Make sure your insurance is up to date and includes a spill policy, and consider a vessel towing membership.
  • Keep your hull clean and free of algae and critters, this reduces introducing invasive species and improves fuel efficiency.
  • Use approved sanitation devices and shore pump-out facilities. Contact local harbors and marinas for information about available waste pump-out stations, oil recycling, bilge pad exchanges, and more:
a boat on the water

Recreational boaters can enjoy fishing, kayaking, snorkeling, and island hiking activities in Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary.

Photo: Robert Schwemmer/NOAA

a boat on the water

To protect wildlife, landing is prohibited on all offshore rocks and islets. Under federal law it is illegal to disturb or harass seabirds, seals, and sea lions. Harassment may be interpreted as any action that modifies the behavior of birds and mammals.

Photo: Robert Schwemmer/NOAA

a group of birds on a rock

Boaters need to be aware of seabird nesting seasons and nesting sites at the Channel Islands. Species of concern, like the Scripps's murrelet and Pigeon guillemot, nest on rocky sea ledges and in sea caves.

Photo: NOAA

a pod of whales surface for air

Please observe the marine mammal viewing “code of conduct” by remaining at least 100 yards from marine mammals and if approached by a whale, put the engine in neutral and allow the whale to pass. Boat movement should be from the rear of a whale. Federal law prohibits the pursuit of marine mammals.

Photo: Tina Carlson

Sanctuary brochures for your next boating adventure

Invasive Species

Undaria pinnatifida
Undaria pinnatifida at Santa Barbara Harbor. Photo: Lindsay Marks/NOAA
Undaria pinnatifida attached to a boat
Undaria pinnatifida can hitchhike on boats from harbors to the open coast. Photo: Sean Hastings/NOAA

Marine invasive species can have dramatic ecological and economic consequences, and pose a major threat to the sustainability of natural resources within national marine sanctuaries. Because marine invasive species are commonly spread by boats and occur in high concentrations in harbors, preventing their spread to habitats where they do not belong is a shared responsibility among all mariners. Educating and engaging professionals operating in infested harbors about marine invasive species is critical to limiting their spread and impacts.

Boats as Vectors

Because marine invasive species are often transported by boats, harbors tend to be highly infested areas, called “hotspots”. Preventing the spread of invasive species by boats is the most successful and cost-effective method of control.

More Information