San Francisco's picturesque waterfront and bay make it an ideal location for a boat rental business. Whether you're looking to start a new venture or expand an existing one, it's crucial to navigate the regulatory waters and ensure compliance with the necessary permits. This guide provides insights into the permits required to operate a boat rental business in San Francisco.

At GetMyBoat, adherence to both local and federal rules and regulations is mandatory for boat operators. We've compiled essential information to assist you in launching your business, but it's advisable to conduct your own research. Given that rules and regulations can undergo changes, staying informed independently will ensure your business stays compliant and operates smoothly.

Business License:

Before setting sail, ensure you have a valid business license from the San Francisco Office of the Treasurer & Tax Collector. This license is a fundamental requirement for legal operation and can be obtained through the official website Office of the Treasurer & Tax Collector.

Boat/Vessel Registration:

Registering your boat or vessel is a mandatory step for legal operation on California waterways. Whether it's a sailboat over eight feet in length or any motorized boat, regardless of size, registration with the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) is a prerequisite.

Insurance Requirements:

To legally run captained and bareboat charters in San Francisco, it's crucial to have commercial insurance. Our trusted partner, Boat Charter Insurance, can help you obtain the required coverage efficiently. Reach out to them for assistance in securing the right insurance for your charter operations in San Francisco.

Captain License:

Secure your captain's license swiftly by leveraging special discounts on USCG-approved online courses provided by our affiliate, Mariners Learning System. Apply the promo code GETMYBOAT10 at checkout to enjoy a 10% discount on all products. This streamlined approach ensures a rapid acquisition of your captain's license, including any essential safety or training refreshers.

More information can be found here on selecting the correct captain options

  • Captain included in the price
  • Captain arranged separately
  • Captain not included

Zoning and Land Use Permits:

Contact the local planning department, San Francisco Planning, to confirm that your business location complies with zoning regulations and land use permits. Understanding local zoning laws is crucial for a smooth sailing-business.

California State Parks - Division of Boating and Waterways:

For additional regulations related to water bodies, check with the California State Parks - Division of Boating and Waterways. Depending on your location, there may be specific state-level requirements to consider.

Watercraft Rental Permit:

Contact the San Francisco Port Authority for information on obtaining a Watercraft Rental Permit. The San Francisco Port manages the waterfront and can provide details on the specific permits required for watercraft rental businesses.

Berthing Licenses Mandate:

No individual is permitted to dock a vessel in the San Francisco Marina without obtaining a berthing license from the Harbormaster. Unauthorized utilization of berths is strictly prohibited.

The Marina offers two categories of berthing licenses:

  1. Annual berthing license, valid for a period not exceeding one (1) year or 365 days. Failure to renew in accordance with Section 7.C.2 will result in expiration.
  2. Short-term berthing license, covering a period from one (1) day up to less than thirty (30) days.

Additional information regarding berthing licenses can be found here

Passenger Pick Up/ Drop Off:

Numerous locations facilitate the pickup and return of rental boats, and here are a few with designated passenger areas. Prior to confirming your arrangements, ensure you confirm the pickup and drop-off protocols with the respective marina or dock.

  • San Francisco Marina Yacht Harbor: Located at 3950 Scott Street San Francisco, CA 94123
  • Schoonmaker Point Marina: Located at 85 Liberty Ship Way STE 205, Sausalito, CA 94965.