Sailing Directions for Angel Island
Angel Island, being the bay's only island of considerable size and height, is prominent from anywhere in the central bay. Access to Ayala cove, which has the only docks and moorings, is from Racoon Strait. From the east, head west through the Strait until the harbor at Ayala cove is visible to starboard. From the west, head east into the Strait, and Ayala Cove is very close on your port side.
The current through Racoon Strait can be quite rapid, and the underwater structure can cause surprisingly large waves in the western part of the Strait. These waves can appear quite suddenly, entering from adjacent flat water, even when there is little wind.
There are few major underwater hazards of concern to pleasure boats. On the East side, stay clear of the old pilings off of the building on shore. At the SE tip, Point Blunt, there is a large shoal that is marked by a buoy. In most other areas the shore can be approached quite closely.
From the Coast Pilot
The following text is quoted verbatim from the Coast Pilot, published by NOAA.
Angel Island, 3 miles NE of the Golden Gate Bridge, is partially wooded and level on top. The irregular-shaped island is separated from the mainland by Raccoon Strait. The island, formerly an immigration detention station, is now a State park. A ferry operates from the island to Tiburon and just S of Pier 1 in San Francisco.
Point Blunt, the SE extremity of Angel Island, terminates in a 60-foot-high knob, and is connected with the island by a low neck of land. Point Blunt Light (37°51.2'N., 122°25.2'W.), 60 feet above the water, is shown from a white house on the point; a fog signal is at the station. A shoal with visible and covered rocks extends SSE for 0.1 mile. Tide rips and swirls are heavy around the point, especially with a large falling tide.
Quarry Point, the E end of Angel Island, is a bold bluff with deepwater close-to. The wharf 0.6 mile N of the point is in ruins. The point is marked by a light.
A lighted buoy is off Point Stuart, the W extremity of Angel Island. A shoal area covered 14 to 30 feet, extending SW from Point Knox, is marked by a lighted buoy.
Ayala Cove, indenting the N side of Angel Island, about 0.6 mile NE of Point Stuart, is reported to afford good anchorage in depths of 10 to 12 feet, mud bottom, and protection from S and W winds. Slips are available for day use only; mooring buoys are available for overnight stays. A pier at the State park facility in the cove is used by ferries and State park personnel.
Raccoon Strait, nearly 0.5 mile wide between Angel Island and the mainland, is used by ferry boats and pleasure craft. The tidal currents in the strait have considerable velocity, and rips and swirls are heavy at times. A midchannel course can be followed. Raccoon Shoal, covered 29 feet, is 500 yards N of Raccoon Strait Lighted Buoy 4. A strong ebb current sets directly across the channel at the E entrance.
The charted recreation area extending SW of Angel Island and including all of Raccoon Strait and Richardson Bay is intended primarily for use by recreation vessels. It should not be utilized by vessels 300 tons or more for through passage or for any other purpose, except in case of emergency or special circumstances.