Matt and Britney Weidert

Matt Weidert

San Diego Sailing Conditions

San Diego is the premier sailing destination on the west coast and offers excellent year-round sailing opportunities. Take note of some of the unique weather and marine features to be prepared for.

Here are the San Diego sailing conditions you can expect including the surrounding Channel Islands area.
  • San Diego marine weather links
  • Best time to sail in San Diego
  • Sea breeze and prevailing wind direction
  • San Diego marine layers
  • Santa Ana winds

San Diego marine weather links

Use these links to keep up with the forecast during your sailing trip:
Perfectly clear day for sailing in San Diego

Best time to sail in San Diego

I think the summer and fall months are the best time to sail in San Diego, in particular July and August. It’s summer vacation time when other popular bareboat charter sailing destinations may be off limits due to tropical storm activity.

The weather is warmer, generally in the mid 70s during the day and dropping into the 60s at night. Chances of rainfall are low.

San Diego sailing conditions offer a mild climate. That means you can undertake this trip any time of year - you just might need to trade that swim suit in for a jacket.

The winter months are better for whale watching, although the best chance to see the largest species on earth, the blue whale is, during the summer.

Sea breeze and prevailing wind direction

San Diego isn’t the Caribbean with it’s steady trade winds that seem to blow continuously from thousands of miles across the Atlantic.

Rather, it is considered a microclimate with marine conditions affected by the local geography.

The prevailing wind direction is from the west/northwest at ~10 knots, owing to the sea breeze effect that builds during the day. As the land inland heats up, the air at the surface rises. As this air is displaced upwards, it begins to draw in the colder air from the surface out at sea.

This effect will grow in strength during the day, before waning later in the evening as inland areas begin to cool off and there is less of a temperature differential. Check out Modern Marine Weather if you want to learn more about these type of weather effects.

In the morning and overnight hours, you can often expect winds that are quite light. The sea breeze effect can also reverse since inland areas cool off faster than the ocean. This can produce a land breeze at night. Take that into account for the San Diego area when you are planning anchoring swing room.
A marine layer present off the coast of Catalina Island

San Diego marine layers

Be prepared for gray, gloomy days if the marine layer is present. The effect is most common in May and June. They can also prevail in July and August, but their frequency diminishes.

I lived on the San Diego coast for 5 years when I was stationed at Camp Pendleton, and I always dreaded those days in May and June. Go a mile inland, however, and it might be sunny!

What is the marine layer? This persistent cloud layer forms when colder water temperatures interacts with warmer air. It can last for a few hours in the morning before burning off. Or, it might stick with you all day!

Santa Ana winds

Make sure you are familiar with the hot, dry, Santa Ana winds that sweep down from inland desert areas. These occur most commonly during the fall, but it is possible to encounter one any time of the year.

These winds often take on a north easterly direction. As they build towards the sea during the day, they’ll encounter and fight the sea breeze. Often times these two opposing forces will offset, leaving light winds in the bay and nearby coastal areas.

They can, on occasion, be much stronger. If this occurs, they can affect the usually well-protected, easterly exposed bays on Catalina Island, such as Two Harbors and Avalon. Be prepared for swells that might create breaking waves.

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