No matter how long we live in San Francisco, sometimes a day on the water feels hidden in plain sight.
Maybe it's the looming marine layer or we just don't know where to start when it comes to renting a boat, but there are actually countless ways to get out on the bay, whether you're looking for a totally private few-hour sail, a romantic skippered charter, or an all-out booze cruise.
Here are San Francisco's best boat rentals, charters, fractional sailing clubs, and tours for every type of sailor. Just remember to pack your layers!
Boat Rentals + Fractional Sailing Memberships in San Francisco
(Courtesy of @sailtimesf)
Boatsetter's boat-sharing platform lets you enter the location where you'd like to go boating and then browse its collection of sailboats and motorboats. There are currently more than 40 boats available in the San Francisco Bay Area, ranging from a 15-foot Boston Whaler in Tiburon ($150/two hours) to a 72-foot historic scow schooner ($4,250/three hours with a captain), and everything in between. Optional amenities include things like waterskis or even a captain if you don't feel like driving the boat. // boatsetter.com
Get My Boat
Another Airbnb-like platform that's available all over the world, Get My Boat not only allows you to rent boats in a variety of sizes, but you can also rent smaller vessels like kayaks, stand-up paddle boards, and jet skis. Select the mood for your day, like active or low-key, and your preferred vessel—they've got everything from pontoons to power boats and catamarans. Note that captains are often required and sometimes included in the price. // getmyboat.com
This Bay Area–based performance sailing school also offers private, skippered sailing charters for groups of all sizes on its fleet of boats ranging in size from 26 to 65 feet. And because these captains are instructors, this is a great chance for you to pitch in and learn the ropes. J/World also offers a fractional sailing boatshare with memberships inclusive of slip fees, insurance, and maintenance; all you do is pay the monthly fee and reserve your time out on the water. // sailing-jworld.com
Seasoned sailors who want to get out on the water often but don't want the financial stress of owning a boat should consider a membership with SailTime, which is essentially a timeshare for boats. You'll choose your boat based upon factors like size, price, and marina location and then can sign up for one of two types of membership, Lite or Classic, depending on how much you can spend and how often you want to get out on the water. Boats are all well-cared for and high-end, and some even allow for overnight sails. Reservations can be scheduled well in advance. SailTime also has its own sailing school. // sailtime.com/san-francisco-bay
Boat Tours for Groups + Special Events on San Francisco Bay
(Courtesy of Red and White Fleet)
If you're looking for your next great Instagram shot, reserve a skippered charter for up to 12 guests on a sailboat, catamaran, or power yacht through Passage Nautical. The boats are impeccably well-kept and equipped with updated sound systems so you can listen to the new Beyonce album all day long. If you're hosting a special event, ask about catering, bar set-ups, onboard barbecues, and hiring a first mate for food and beverage service. Prices start at $670 for a 40-foot yachts (not including the captain and crew). // 423 Water St. (Oakland), passagenautical.com
The San Francisco Sailing Company
The San Francisco Sailing Company offers daily 90-minute and two-hour sails ($99-$129 per person, including a captain and drinks) that are easily bookable online, as well as outings during Fleet Week. Customized private charters for birthday parties, weddings, and the like are also available on its fleet of sailboats that can carry six to 36 passengers. // Pier 39, Dock C, sailsf.com
SF Bay Adventures
There comes a time in every relationship's life for a sunset cruise on SF Bay. Based in Sausalito since 1988, SF Bay Adventures is your go-to, whether you're looking for a romantic private charter or a larger party on the company flagship vessel, the schooner Freda B. All outings here are captained with a focus on corporate events and special occasions, as well as whale watching excursions and trips to Angel Island. You can also hop on a pre-planned public sail to catch the full moon, celebrate Mother's Day, or get an up-close view of Fleet Week. // Suite B2A, 1001 Bridgeway (Sausalito), sfbayadventures.com
Red & White Fleet
If you've lived in San Francisco long enough, you've most likely been out with the Red & White Fleet at least once (hi, Fourth of July). This family-owned business has been an icon of Fisherman's Wharf for 130 years. Yes, it is definitely the most touristy option for getting out on the bay, but with big, fully staffed boats and a regular schedule of 60- to 90-minute bay tours with audio and even light bites, Red & White promises smooth sailing without the hassle of planning. Look out for special occasion cruises such as this May's viewing of the SailGP Grand Final races, Fleet Week, and New Year's Eve. // Pier 43 ½, redandwhite.com
Formerly known as Hornblower, this cruising outfit is familiar to almost every San Franciscan who has, at some point or other, been out on the fleet for a Champagne brunch, wedding, or company holiday party. The brand is the go-to for boozy days on a boat with a vast offering of cruises celebrating everything from a workaday happy hour to Mother's Day and Father's Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas—DJ and dancing included. // Cruises depart from SF, Berkeley, and Sacramento; cityexperiences.com/san-francisco