Scientific Boating Operations

The primary goal of the Scientific Boating Program at Hopkins is to ensure that educational and scientific boating operations using Hopkins boats and equipment are conducted in a safe and effective manner. Priorities include training and authorizing boat operators according to the standards of the Scientific Boating Safety Association (SBSA), of which Hopkins has been a member since 2008, and ensuring that users of Hopkins boats and motors have appropriate training and experience for the vessels and locations/conditions in which they are used.
The Diving Safety Officer acts as Boating Safety Officer (BSO) for Hopkins.

General Information:

  • Recreational boating is not permitted from the Hopkins shoreline
  • Personal boats (other than kayaks) may not be used for HMS research or coursework, either at Hopkins or off-site.
  • Personal kayak use must be approved by the BSO; non-HMS kayaks may not be stored at Hopkins.
  • Hopkins skippers (i.e. those taking boats out solo or as the person in charge of a crew) must go through the vessel-appropriate training and checkout process prior to using any Hopkins boat.
  • Visiting investigators using their own boats from the Hopkins shoreline must have authorization from their home institution and provide this to the BSO before launching.

Who can join the program:

Stanford students, faculty and staff intending to use boats for research or teaching at Hopkins Marine Station are eligible to join the Scientific Boating Program.

How to join:

Four levels of boat training and qualification are available at Hopkins, depending on the needs of the researcher or student. Skipper candidates must submit a Boating Program application, including a written summary of boating experience and documentation of any previous training. All candidates must complete a California Safe Boating course and/or submit documentation thereof (online courses are available -- see links below under Boating Safety Courses).

Part of the qualification process involves the skipper candidate spending time as crew on the boat he/she wishes to be checked out on (or similar) with a qualified skipper; the amount of time required for this training will be determined on an individual basis depending on the candidate's boating experience under local conditions and the boat to be used. Please allow sufficient time to complete training and authorization before any planned Hopkins boating operations -- depending on your initial qualifications and intended use, this could take several months. Specific boat use and checkout procedures for each level of qualification are described below:


Level I: Paddlecraft (Rowboats & Kayaks)

Row Boats

Available Boats:

12' Gregor (aluminum)
12' Livingston (fiberglass)

14' Gregor (aluminum)
14' Livingston (fiberglass)

HMS Row Boat Rules:

  • Small boats should be rowed only in the nearshore areas around Hopkins and special care taken assessing wind and wave conditions especially beyond the protection of the kelp bed.
  • Tell someone you're going and when you expect to return (i.e. designate a shore contact)
  • Fill out the float plan in the fuel shed before leaving and complete it upon return.
  • Boats must have the following before leaving the beach:
    - Oars
    - Anchor
    - Life jackets with attached whistle, one per person
    - Plug(s) securely in the bottom
    - Dive flag, if diving
    - If diving, always take small oxygen kit which includes VHF radio
  • Check weather reports and watch the ocean before going out. Don't go out in strong winds and chop.
  • Use clamp-on navigation lights for boat use between dusk and dawn.
  • Do not exceed the weight or number of people listed on the capacity plates. Distribute weight of equipment and passengers evenly.
  • Launch small boats bow-first, lifting not dragging to water's edge.
  • Rinse life jackets, oars, and anchor with fresh water after use.
  • Rinse boats well inside and out with fresh water after use.

Rowing checkout:

Candidate will demonstrate procedures and skills to the boating safety officer's satisfaction.


Available boats:

17' fiberglass closed-deck yellow/white

17.5' plastic closed-deck red/white

  • Kayaks are to be used for research or education only, no recreational use.
  • Appropriate training and checkout procedures will be required for each type of boat and activity (i.e. closed-deck vs. sit-on-top; diving from sit-on-top).
  • Paddlers new to Hopkins’ boating safety program must submit a resume of boating experience to the boating safety officer.
  • As with the other small boats at Hopkins, users must submit a boat use request prior to the start of their project, supplying details of the location and nature of the work to be done and emergency procedures in place. A float plan will be filed for each outing.
  • Personal kayaks use may be approved, but kayaks may not be stored at Hopkins. Personal kayaks should be marked as Hopkins research kayaks and the same rules and procedures must be followed as when using Hopkins kayaks.
  • Rules and procedures are listed in the SBSA Paddlecraft Guidelines.
  • Kayak use from Hopkins on weekends and holidays will be subject to case-by-case approval

Faculty/staff/graduate-student led group outings: Check with DSO first.

  • Rent from local kayak stores and have all participants complete Boating Waivers.
Level II: Outboard Motors up to 20hp


Available boats:

12' Gregor (aluminum)
12' Livingston (fiberglass)

14' Gregor (aluminum)
14' Livingston (fiberglass)

HMS outboard motors:

One 6hp Mercury motor (MLO use only, specific training required)
One 9.9hp Yamaha motor, standard shaft: use only with 12' boats
Two 20hp Yamaha motors, long shaft: use only with 14' boats

All the outboards are 4-strokes, and should only be transported in a vertical position, never carried horizontally. Each outboard has its own rack. The heavier motors require the newer reinforced racks and require at least two people to lift. The motors should be centered on their racks, clamped down securely, and steering lock engaged to prevent them moving during transportation. Handle the motors and racks carefully... do not bounce them down the stairs. Get additional people to help as needed. The motors must be flushed for at least 5 minutes after each use, and rinsed externally as well. Rinse the racks too, especially around the wheels and axles, before wheeling them back into the fuel shed.

Fuel shed notes:

  • Always latch the doors back against the building when they are open, or they could be damaged by wind gusts.
  • Always latch left door top and bottom before locking
  • There are two 5 gal reserve tanks of "no mix" in the right hand cabinet to top off boat tanks. Boat users are responsible for filling these reserve tanks as they run low.
  • USE CARE WHEN HANDLING FUEL. (In case of spill, use spill kit in shed and give sealed and labeled bag to ******Chris G or Stephen?

HMS outboard motor/small boat rules:

  • Solo use of small boats between dusk and dawn is not permitted.
  • Only Agassiz Beach is to be used for launching/recovering boats.
  • Skipper must be checked out to the level of boating being conducted.
  • Outboard users must take the California Boating Safety Course test or document equivalent or better knowledge, and must crew on these or similar boats under local conditions or equivalent before being checked out to skipper.
  • Small boats with outboards may travel west as far as Pt. Pinos and east as far as Del Monte Beach, conditions permitting, and should never be more than a mile from shore. Other limitations may be imposed on specific users, and under specific weather conditions.
  • Check weather reports and watch the ocean before going out. Don't go out in strong winds and chop. Remember that the conditions just outside the HMLR and to the west are usually rougher than the protected side of the point off Agassiz beach.
  • Use common sense and take appropriate safety equipment if traveling more than a few minutes from Hopkins.
  • Pay attention to outsider waves at Pt Pinos and along Del Monte Beach especially when anchoring.
  • Be aware of the limitations of the small boats and equipment. When in doubt, ask. Be conservative.
  • Tell someone you're going and when you expect to return (i.e. designate a shore contact).
  • Fill out the float plan in the fuel shed before leaving and complete it upon return.
  • Boats must have the following before leaving the beach:
    - Oars
    - Anchor (properly stowed and ready to deploy quickly in an emergency, bitter end attached securely to boat)
    - Bailer
    - Life jackets with attached whistle, one per person
    - Plug(s) securely in the bottom
    - Dive flag, if diving
    - If diving, always take small oxygen kit which includes VHF radio
    - Fuel tank of appropriate size. (Please be gentle with the tanks: don't drop or slam, or place heavy objects on the fuel line fittings)
    - Fuel line with appropriate connectors for motor and fuel tank. Don't drag or place fuel lines in the sand
    - Outboard motor of appropriate size firmly attached to the boat, with safety cable connected to boat and "kill switch" cord in place
    - Means of emergency communication (cell phone or VHF radio)
  • Pay attention to wind, waves, and tidal currents at Agassiz beach when launching and recovering
  • Use clamp-on navigation lights for boat use between dusk and dawn.
  • Do not exceed the weight or number of people listed on the capacity plates; distribute weight of equipment and passengers evenly.
  • Launch small boats bow-first, lifting not dragging to water's edge.
  • Prime bulb and open tank vent before starting motor
  • Row the boat out from shore before lowering & starting outboard.(Divers may hold the boat in waist-deep water while operator starts the motor, if conditions permit this to be done safely. Divers must be completely in the boat before shifting motor into gear).
    Upon returning:
  • Rinse life jackets, oars, and anchor with fresh water after use. Make sure anchor line is ready for next use (i.e. not tangled)
  • Rinse boats well inside and out with fresh water after use.
  • Rinse motor (do not get water in the cowling vent) paying attention to propellor area, and flush (5 minutes). Remember to rinse motor racks as well, especially wheels and axles. Stow motor in shed.
  • Rinse tanks (make sure vents are closed before transporting and rinsing). Top off fuel tanks if needed using funnel in center cabinet. Use ONLY pure gas from right-hand cabinet, labeled "no-mix". Do not get saltwater, sand and debris in the fuel cabinets.
  • There is a broom in the shed... please do your part to help keep this shared area clear. 


After orientation and initial training by the boating safety officer and time spent crewing on the small boats under a variety of conditions, skipper candidates will undergo a practical check-out during which the candidate performs the following without coaching:

  • Fill out float plan and designate a shore contact
  • Demonstrate use of a VHF radio
  • Set the boat up with motor, gas and other required gear, demonstrating proper ergonomics
  • Before launching, use a check list to make sure everything is good to go as described above (candidate creates own list)
  • Launch the boat using oars at first, rowing away from shore
  • Demonstrate ability to communicate well with crew member(s)
  • Demonstrate effective rowing skills
  • Lower and start motor properly
  • Check cooling stream frequently
  • Demonstrate proper shifting technique (only at low idle)
  • Demonstrate steering ability forward and in reverse, into swell/wake and with following sea, turns, close-quarter maneuvering
  • Maneuvering in kelp; find path through kelp, reverse, buoy location and tie-off
  • Demonstrate proper anchoring and anchor retrieval
  • Demonstrate clearing kelp from prop using reverse gear
  • Demonstrate safe and effective beach approach and landing
  • Perform proper clean-up and stowing of boat and all equipment
  • Close out the float plan
Level III: 17' Boston Whaler

17' WHALER Yamaha 90hp 4-stroke/ TRAILER

  • Prerequisites for being checked out on the Whaler:
    - must be checked out on outboard/small boat use.
    - complete at minimum the Coast Guard Auxiliary boater safety course or equivalent.
    - The SBSA Motor Boat Operator course is highly recommended (See SBSA web site for class schedule) and includes practical as well as theoretical training.
    - Must crew on this or similar boat under local conditions or equivalent, before being checked out to skipper.
  • Checkout:
    - Demonstrate all procedures described below to the satisfaction of the boating safety officer


Important: Check the boat the day (or a few days) before you plan to use it (including gas, battery charge, and radio charge) to avoid last-minute aggravation.

Hooking up the Whaler trailer:
- Use the black drop-hitch with 2" ball (on cabinet in garage). Use hitch and chain extenders for launching and trailering in town; do not use extenders for highway towing.
- Make sure the coupler is fully seated on the ball, then lock latch in "down" position.
- Crank up the wheel jack, swing it up and lock securely into horizontal position.
- Cross chains under trailer tongue and hook to truck with "S" facing back.
- Connect trailer-light cable, and check to make sure the lights work.
- Raise the outboard motor and lower it onto the brackets.
- Check that stern tie-downs are securely fastened, the bow safety cable is attached, and winch ratchet is set properly. Bow roller should be snug against bow.
Perform SAFETY CHECK: walk around trailer, and do a final visual check before driving it anywhere.

(note: long-distance towing to launch at sites other than Monterey requires additional equipment and procedures, including use of a motor brace to protect outboard hydraulics, carrying a spare wheel, trailer jack, and tools, and towing the boat without the cover, which is not designed for trailering. Pre-trip check should include making sure truck and trailer tire pressures are appropriate)

Prior to trip:
- Get Whaler and truck keys from the main office lockbox.
- Check that the plugs are in the bilge and in the anchor well.
- Check oil in motor.
- Make sure there is sufficient gasoline for the planned trip.
- The Whaler must have the following items on board:

  • Whaler box containing up-to-date flares, VHF radio, fire extinguisher and tools
  • GPS/depth finder
  • One life jacket per person (in dive lockers) plus one throwable flotation device, i.e life ring (stays on board)
  • Paddles, bailing device (bailer and hand pump in console), horn (in console box)
  • If diving: DAN emergency oxygen box containing O2 equipment and first aid kit; dive flag
  • Anchor (check to make sure it is properly stowed and attached at the bitter end)
  • All-around light on extender pole if using between dawn and dusk (kept in divelocker back cabinet).

- Load weight belts, tanks, or other heavy gear towards the bow for trim.
- Stow gear so that safety equipment, dock lines and anchor well are accessible.
- Fill out float plan and tell your plan to a shore contact who will be around to notice if you're not back on time.


- Unhook bow safety cable and stern tie-downs; put stern tie-downs in truck.
- Back down the ramp
- When trailer wheels are in the water, undo winch hook and safety cable, have someone take both bow and stern lines, and back the truck a little further, using the surge to help lift the boat off the trailer. DO NOT GET TRUCK WHEELS WET AT ALL. Bunk glides and hitch extender make it easy to keep the truck dry. If there is a lot of surge, use patience and timing, or launch at a site with less surge (e.g. Harbor Master's Office ramp at Monterey Harbor instead of Breakwater ramp).

- Check that the kill-switch cord is connected (on console).
- Vent gas tank, pump bulb
- With the engine fully lowered, put throttle lever in neutral, turn key.
- Warm the engine up at idle for at least 3 minutes.

- Brace heel of hand on throttle mount to avoid sudden throttle movements.
- No wake in harbor - go slowly. Once outside harbor, get on a plane.
- Look for constant stream of water from motor; listen for engine alarms.
- Match speed to conditions, and avoid porpoising.
Never go full throttle when boat has a light load.

- Turn off engine; raise the motor and rest it on the brackets.
- Float boat onto trailer, connect winch strap to bow eye and winch remainder of distance, keeping stern of the boat squarely on the trailer, not tilted or crooked.
- At top of ramp, winch any slack so bow is against roller, attach safety cable to bow eye, attach stern tie-downs, pull all plugs, walk around trailer and visually inspect before trailering.

- Lower motor, flush with hose connected to flushing fitting for at least 5 minutes, watching for steady stream of water from motor. Do not run 4-stroke motor while flushing!
- Fill out the boat log (in plastic container in console).
- Close out your float plan.
- Raise motor and lower onto brackets, remove key and return to Judy or the boating safety officer along with truck key. Turn motor to starboard to protect greased steering rod.
- Rinse truck springs, wheels, brakes THOROUGHLY if they got even slightly wet. If they are completely dry, no need to rinse.
- Rinse the motor, boat, and trailer THOROUGHLY. Flush the bilge with fresh water while running the bilge pump. Rinse the trailer springs and the insides of the wheels. Soak the carpeted boards. Rinse anchor and line. Unwind, rinse, and rewind winch strap if it was immersed or twisted during recovery.
- Cover the boat, using pole and straps during rainy season.
- Park the trailer properly and lower the motor. If the trailer wheel jack is cranked high the motor fin can scrape the ground, so tilt the motor up just enough to avoid this.
- Put hitch back in garage; put boat box, GPS/depth finder, life vests, all-around light (if used) back in divelockers

Level IV: 23' Grady White (Blue Serengeti), 22' Radon (Dauphin) - SOPs to come

Project Proposal/Boat Use Request and Float Plan

For any boat use, operators must submit a detailed project proposal for review by the Hopkins Boating Safety Committee. This proposal should be made no less than one month before the start of the project. The proposal must be approved by the BSO and one other committee member who is not the proposer. If significant questions exist, a full meeting of the committee will be held to consider the proposal.

Hopkins boats must not be kept off-site or unavailable to other users for more than 2 weeks at a time, except by agreement between all users. Trailering Hopkins boats to launch sites other than Monterey, Moss Landing and Santa Cruz must have approval from the Hopkins Boating Safety Committee in addition to meeting the off-site time limit. International trips of any duration will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

Small boat/outboard float plan/log forms are currently in the fuel shed.

For 17' Whaler, 23' Grady White, and 22' Radon, use this float plan form. For each departure complete this form and submit it to the BSO before your launch -- and give a copy to your designated shore contact. If your trip is expected to extend beyond the anticipated return time, notify your shore contact. Remember to close out your float plan (i.e. notify your shore contact) upon your return.

Alternatively, boaters may complete and send their shore contact and BSO this PDF float plan.


Taking non-Hopkins people out on a station boat? Please have them complete and submit a Boating Waiver.

Required incident reporting:

Any accident, incident, or near-miss event shall be reported to the BSO and to the Hopkins Marine Station administrator/station manager within 24 hours of occurrence. Reportable incidents include but are not limited to: injury, vessel break-down, outboard motor failure or loss, hull damage, citation or boarding of the vessel, and near-accident or “close calls”, whether on land or water. If the operator is in doubt about whether the event needs to be reported in writing, they should check with the BSO.  Please use the Stanford University incident/accident reporting form at

Boating Safety Courses and Additional Information

Minimum requirements:

BoatU.S. Online California Boating Safety course (free)


California Safe Boating Course (free)

California Boating Card (required by CA Dept. of Boating and Waterways)

Phased in timetable:
January 1, 2021 Persons 40 years of age or younger
January 1, 2022 Persons 45 years of age or younger
January 1, 2023 Persons 50 years of age or younger
January 1, 2024 Persons 60 years of age or younger
January 1, 2025 All persons regardless of age

Additional training:
U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary Boating Skills and Seamanship

External Resources and Recalls

Scientific Boating Safety Association

NWS Marine weather- Central CA (Central CA marine forecast)

NWS Marine Weather- Monterey Bay (Monterey Bay marine forecast)

Monterey tides

Trailer Tips (CA Dept of Boating and Waterways)

"Grog's Animated Boating Knots"

ABCs of the California Boating law (quick reference, CA Dept. of Boating and Waterways site)

US Coast Guard Boating Safety (general safety information)

BoatU.S. Foundation (general safety information)



NAMMO LIAB AB Orange Smoke Hand Distress Signal no longer USCG approved 5/19/2016