Small Boat Procedures

SF State small boat boast whaler on the San Francisco Bay

Table of Contents



Boat reservations for all SF State scientific watercraft are made on a first come, first served basis. All reservations are made through an online vessel calendar (registration required to view and add events). Reservations made by email, phone call or any communication other than the vessel calendar are not accepted.


Reservations should be made 24 hours in advance of the proposed field work. Reservations may be canceled due to equipment service or maintenance, inclement weather or safety concerns.


The online vessel calendar requires key information to process your reservation. At a minimum, reservations must include:

  • Date and time
  • Vessel Resource
  • Title
  • Description
  • Billing
  • Crew
  • Departure location



All boat reservations must include billing information, even if the use fee will be waived. Not providing billing information may impact your future reservations. To have a vessel use fee waived, please contact the Director of Romberg Tiburon Center. Have the Director send an email to the Marine Superintendent outlining any fees that are to be waived.


Float Plans

A written float plan is required prior to your departure, this is required for your safety. Float plans may be found in Marine Operations or download link at bottom of this page. Float plans must include:

  • Vessel
  • Departure date and time
  • Return date and time
  • Location of work
  • Operator Name
  • Crew on board


Float plans should be copied, the original placed in Marine Operations and a copy left with a cognizant person on shore. A cognizant person should be someone who is familiar with your field operations and have contact information readily available. Upon completion of your cruise, close out the float plan by completing the time of arrival and the engine hours on the vessels engine(s).


Towing Vehicles

Only University vehicles equipped with tow hitches are permitted to tow University watercraft. You must have a current SF State defensive driving certificate to operate tow vehicles and have completed the Motorboat Operator Training Course. At a minimum, the tow vehicle should have a hitch capacity rated for the weight of the vessel and equipment being towed, be equipped with a trailer light connection and have operational lights. A vehicle with four wheel drive is strongly encouraged for any towing or launches at steep or slippery ramps (such as found at the Tiburon field station). You are encouraged to equip the tow vehicle with a roadside assistance kit that has a lug nut wrench that fits the trailer tires and a jack capable of lifting the trailer axle. SF State vehicles do not have roadside assistance (AAA or similar).

Only authorized SF State students and staff with the Motorboat Operators Training Course certification can tow University Watercraft!


Pelican Safety Case

Every boat is equipped with a Pelican safety case marked for the vessel intended. You are required to have the Pelican case onboard the vessel while underway. The Pelican case shall include:

  • CA vessel license
  • CA trailer license
  • Keys to the boat ignition
  • Minimum 3 each USCG approved flares and smoke signals
  • Signal mirror
  • Signal horn
  • Distress flag
  • First aid kit
  • Handheld VHF radio


Reduced visibility in San Francisco Bay

Limited Visibility and Night Operation

SF State watercraft are permitted to operate during daylight hours with normally expected visibility. Night operation is not permitted without explicit authorization by the Marine Superintendent.


Be advised that in San Francisco Bay, it is not unusual to encounter areas of significantly reduced viability due to fog or rain. Expect and prepare to reduced visibility by ensuring that you have adequate crew posted as lookout, maintain safe operational speed, use appropriate horn signals and have a working VHF radio and GPS. If you find your vessel in reduced visibility, consider taking a reciprocal course to an alternate dock or mooring site and avoid areas of heavy or high speed vessel traffic.


Small Boat Operator

Only qualified and authorized SF State students, faculty and staff may operate University watercraft. The small boat operator is completely responsible for the safety of the crew and equipment. The small boat operator is responsible for completing a float plan, designating crew responsibilities, ensuring the vessel is properly loaded and equipment is secured, navigating the vessel at safe speed and ensuring the safe completion of the cruise. The small boat operator must use a "dead man ignition switch" lanyard on boats so equipped.