There are a few different options for boaters and day sailors looking for public docks in Long Beach. The Long Beach public docks are located in Rainbow Harbor and in the Alamitos Bay Marina at Alamitos Landing. They are both free for a short period of time, and a great way to spend an afternoon in Long Beach.
There are two docks at Rainbow Harbor/Marina. Dock 8 is located inside the marina (in the “Fishbowl”), on the north-east wall near the Yardhouse and the other, Dock 10 (also known as “Parker’s Dock”), is located just outside of the mouth of the harbor, in front of Parker’s Lighthouse restaurant. Combined, they offer over 700′ of dock space, and are free for a maximum of 3 hours. They are on a first come/first served basis and cannot be reserved, although they may be rented out and closed off to the public for certain special events, such as the Grand Prix and S.C.O.P.E. Both are cement docks, and have water and electrical hookups on the dock, although they are usually locked. The docks are regularly patrolled by the Long Beach Lifeguards, and the dock rules are clearly posted on the seawall and pilings. If you have any question about the docks or their availability, call the Rainbow Harbor office at (562) 570-8636 or the Long Beach Lifeguards at (562) 570-1360.
The public docks in Rainbow Harbor are very popular, and will often times fill up in the late morning/early afternoon on the weekends, and stay packed until 11pm-12am, especially during the summer. Dock 8, which has about 200′ of space, almost always fills up first (since it is inside the marina, closest to the restaurants), which means that boaters will often hang out in front, waiting for a spot to open up. DON’T DO THIS. Not only is it a violation of California’s Harbors and Navigation Code section 131(a), there are boat rental and charter companies with inexperienced operators who may not be able to maneuver out of the way of your boat! There are one or two collisions every summer because of this. If you notice Dock 8 is full, exit the marina and head to Dock 10 (Parker’s Dock). If that is full as well, call the marina office. If you are nice to them, they might have a slip they could let you use for a few hours. It is also important to note that rafting (side tying to another vessel) is also prohibited on the public docks, even if all the available space is already taken. You’ll just have to wait your turn.
Dock 10 (Parker’s Dock) was opened in February of 2015 and is the newest of the Long Beach public docks. It was installed with a bull rail instead of cleats, and also has an ADA accessible portion near the ramp. On the south end of the dock are three pump outs and one water hookup available for public use. This section of the dock is limited to a maximum of 15 minutes in order to give everybody a chance to pump out or replenish their water. This dock is over 500′ long, and almost always fills up after Dock 8 does, so chances are if there are more than a few vessels on tied up there, Dock 8 is already full. One thing that people may underestimate is the amount and strength of the wakes the dock is exposed to. Whale watching boats, commercial fishing boats, and water taxis all operate out of the marina, and can throw sizable wakes, even at 5mph. A vessel that is not secured properly or that does not have the proper fenders down can sustain some damage on this dock, so make sure you have everything tightened and secured before leaving your vessel.
The Alamitos Bay Marina also has two public docks. They are both located at Alamitos Landing, and instead of dock numbers are denoted as the “North Dock” or “South Dock”. These are the oldest of the Long Beach public docks, and are simple wood docks with no water hookups or pump outs, and minimal electrical hookups. Both docks share space with commercial operations, so the public areas are painted with either a green or yellow stripe on the bull rail. These docks are also patrolled by the Long Beach Lifeguards, and are free for two hours (instead of three hours like Rainbow Harbor), and are also on a first come/first served basis. These public docks are also subject to wakes thrown by passing vessels, so caution is needed when tying up a vessel here as well. The public dock space at Alamitos Bay is much smaller than in Rainbow Harbor, but because the vessel traffic is much lower finding room to tie up is isn’t very hard, even in the summer.
Wondering what a bull rail is? A bull rail is simply a long rail attached to the edge of a dock that is anchored to the dock every 20′ or so. This makes it easier to accommodate a large range of boat sizes, and prevents dinghies and inflatables from using up cleat space. Tying up to a bull rail can be a little tricky though, so here’s a helpful video on how to do it.