Close your eyes. Now imagine yourself completely surrounded by San Diego harbor. You’re piloting a small speed boat and you’re just a few feet away from a pod of seals. They’re barking and rearing up on their tails playfully. You can almost reach out to touch one. Fast forward and now you’re heading right under the Coronado Bridge. You can smell the salty sea breeze, feel the warm sun on your cheeks and your small boat is dwarfed by the tugboats, navy cruisers and fishing boats nearby. The trip’s winding down and you cruise by the docked Midway and Star of India, but before the trip’s over you attempt a bold launch off of a huge wake and grab unbelievable flight.
It’s called San Diego Speed Boat Adventures. This unique one of kind experience is unlike anything you’ve experienced before. It’s a guided tour around San Diego Harbor that puts you at the helm of your own mini-speedboat. SDSBA has an expanding fleet of six boats that can accomodate a party of up to 12 swarthy souls. The tour is about 2 hours and includes a quick spin by the navy base (no pictures please), Coronado Bridge, the Midway, Star of India and a few other harbor hotspots. And the amazing part is you’re driving the entire time. You want to speed up, slow down, catch some air off of a wake? Done. You’re El Capitan.
Our trip started in the quiet and serene waters amongst the docked boats. The operating mechanics are simple enough. Push the throttle forward and your boat moves forward. Leave it pointed upwards and your boat is neutral. Push it backwards and you’ll swing into reverse. Each boat seats two and can reach up to 25mph in open sea. With a brief overview of the route and our safety gear checked we quickly headed out to the open harbor.
Our first stop was the top-secret naval base. Pictures aren’t allowed, but you will find friendly seals and otters sun-bathing nearby. We also luckily caught a pod of dolphins playing by the jetty rocks. We were so close to the seals we could see the whiskers on their faces and watch them swim under the boat.
Next, we swung by the outer rim of Coronado island. We saw some old refineries, a pod of playful dolphins and some beautiful sailing yachts out at sea. Of course, like daredevils, we held full throttle the entire route and completely lept out of the water at least twice. With such small boats it’s easy to launch off of an incoming wake left by a tugboat or a larger ship. Luckily, we braced ourselves and were strapped with life-vests. Safety first.
Routing underneath the bridge we had a glimpse of the ship yard and the entire commercial docking stations. It was humbling to realize that many of our common imported goods travel through these ports to reach the rest of the country. Heading back on the final leg of the tour we skimmed by the underside of the docked Midway battleship. Seeing it’s sheer size up close and learning about its capabilities at sea was incredible. We then saw a submarine that currently holds the record for the deepest dive and stopped by the Star of India ship. The tour guide had a wealth of knowledge and we, San Diego natives, learned a thing or two. The tour ended with beautiful view of the downtown “toolbox”. San Diego, you are breathtaking.
On our way back we saw navy seals in their “anti-radar” boat performing launching exercises. Their ship was no more than 100 yards away. It was awesome to watch them coordinate and perform these trial dives with expert precision. We also raced a young 13 year old adventurer. Apparently, 13 is the minimum age to drive a boat in the harbor and this young man could drive like the best of us. In fact, after getting smoked in a quick race, he gallantly accompanied us into the docking area chatting the whole time. Thanks buddy!
And so our travels come to an end. This experience, unlike any other in San Diego, is a must. From the naval base to the dolphins to the open sea, there’s something for everyone. We can’t thank San Diego Speed Boat Adventures enough for being such great hosts and providing such a phenomenal experience.