Anchoring in Dana Point
West Basin - East Basin - Doheny
Basic Anchoring Guidelines
You can stay up to 5 days in a 30 day period.
Leave your contact info with the harbor patrol if you are leaving your boat.
West Basin Anchorage
The West Basin anchorage is the primary anchoring location. In the off season months there is generally room for everyone that wants to anchor. Peak season weekends are generally crowded. The bottom mud seems to hold well for everyone except those with a bruce style anchor. It’s nearly impossible to get a bruce to set with 100’ of chain in any area except on the end closest to the beach.
The wind will often come over the west side cliff pretty fierce in the afternoons. Be prepared to check your anchor when it hits as there isn’t much time to react here if you do start to drag. In the summer it is usually packed, so you will be using a short scope. The harbor patrol requires you to call them and let them know if you are leaving your boat, and you are only allowed to be off your boat for 3hrs a day during daylight hours.
There is a dinghy dock by the pier that has a 2 hrs limit. It is a bit of a walk to the restaurants that are all on the east end of the harbor. This end does have the Ocean Institute and the docks for their tall ships. It gets very fun and busy in the summer with all types of water activities. Sailing dinghies, SUP’s, kayaks, and outriggers give you plenty of people to chat with and watch.
East Basin/Fuel Dock/Bait Barge Anchorage
Most things are bad about anchoring in the East Basin by the bait barge. The only nice thing is you are close to the dinghy dock and restaurants. The downside is the bad smell from the breakwall, the noise from the bait barge generator that runs 24/7, the bird crap that will be on your boat from the birds that hang out by the bait barge, the traffic for the fuel dock and bait barge are non-stop and starts early. Use this end only if you have to.
Anchoring outside of Dana Point is one of the coolest places to anchor if it’s a long period ground swell on the smallish side. It needs to be small enough that you can sleep at night, but big enough to make surfing fun. It is a short paddle in to Doheny to surf or SUP. The catch here is the harbor patrol will definitely try to push ya farther south than required. Well at least I think. The signs at the harbor entrance say you must be 500 yards from the harbor entrance to drop anchor. The harbor patrol will say you need to be 500 yards from the signs, but will try to push ya close to a mile out. I found a city ordinance that states you can't anchor within 1,000 yards of anyplace with human powered watercraft. I haven't found anything in writing that says anything about 500 yards, except for the signs themselves. It's tough to say what law is being enforced. Just be prepared to explain to the harbor patrol that your are approximately 550 meters from the nearest sign and you should be fine to stay at these coordinates and surf a little if the conditions are right.
33° 27.440' N
117° 40.948' W
The chart shows a sewer pipe running close to these coordinates, so make sure you are clear of it. I don’t know if it is buried or not. I would imaging that can change as the sand shifts. I’ve had excellent success with my anchor holding very well here for several days.