Survival guide

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No Tickets! - How to attend?

The first thing to realize about Ephemerisle is that it is not a festival. There are no tickets, no gates, and no central authority whatsoever. But Ephemerisle is on the water, which makes attending a very non-trivial task.

You are responsible for getting yourself to and from the event site and for everything you'll need to live there and survive for your stay. There are few to no resources adjacent to the event site, and none on the water. Think carefully about what you'll need, and plan ahead!

There are three possible ways to attend:

Find a spot on someone else's boat

This is by far the most common way of attending Ephemerisle.

  1. Read the survival guide - Start by reading this entire survival guide. The more informed you are about Ephemerisle, the more likely you'll be welcomed.
  2. Post in the facebook group introducing yourself.
  3. The more you become a part of the community, the more likely someone will make a spot for you in the limited space on boats.

Add your boat to an existing Island

What is an Island?

  1. Get a boat - Buy, build or rent a boats/floating object you can sleep on.
  2. Find an island - Unless you make prior arrangements with an island there's a real possibility you'll be stranded as an "island of one". See creating an island. Reach out to the leaders of any island you might wish to join. It's a good idea to also post publicly in the facebook group introducing yourself and announcing your intentions.
  3. Getting to the event - Make sure that your boat (or other floating thing) is capable of getting to the event. See the transportation section below. Getting to the event is a non-trivial task. It's about 3 miles from the nearest marina. And it's a 60 mile (16 hour) sail from the SF Bay.

How to create your own Island

  1. Get boat(s) - Buy, build or rent one or more boats/floating objects you can sleep on.
  2. Invite your friends - You may find Titan Island's manual a useful guide.
  3. Get to the event - Make sure that these boats (or other floating things) are capable of getting to the event. See the transportation section below. Getting to the event is a non-trivial task. It's about 3 miles from the nearest marina. And it's a 60 mile (16 hour) sail from the SF Bay.
  4. Anchor safely - Make sure that you're capable of safely Anchoring your island.
  5. Complete Self-Reliance - Make sure you're capable of being completely self-reliant out there. (food, medical, toilets, etc.)
  6. Announce Your Island - Optional, but it's a good idea to announce it in the facebook group.
  7. Treat Neighbors with Respect - Once you arrive, it's good to talk to your neighbors to make sure you're anchoring a safe distance away from them. This is just common boating courtesy.


Ephemerisle cannot be reached by land. You must arrange for transport and lodging by boat beforehand. While daytrippers are welcome, please make sure that you arrange a means of getting to and from the event beforehand. Most ferries to shore end at dusk and don't start again until dawn. If you miss the last ferry, you could spend a cold, wet, sleepless night.

Ephemerisle is at Mandeville Point.

By car

If you're driving, you're most likely going to one of the two nearest marinas to the event.

Paradise Point map or H&H map

By boat

There a two options: go out on the boat/structure you will be staying on, or catch a ferry. Ferry schedules vary depending on the person operating the ferry. In order to arrange a ride, coordinate directly with the captain of the boat/ferry. Be prepared to load equipment for the boat and to stay on that boat for the first night, if not the entire event. Boats may arrive at Mandeville Point after dark on the first day.

You may also be able to rent a boat from private owners via Craigslist. Or you can join a crew.

Note: distances are miles from the marina/launch point to Mandeville Point / Ephemerisle.

Elysium Archipelago: map

Korth's Pirate Lair -- 4.6 miles
169 W Brannan Island Rd, Isleton, CA 95641
(916) 777-6464

The Elysium ferry pickup at Korth's Pirate's Lair will be on the fuel dock. Please do NOT stack your gear on the dock until the boat arrives, leave it on the lawn near the dock entrance. This is an active dock and needs to remain clear.

Overnight parking is $5/day. The boat launch costs $10. Park on the west (left) side of the man-made lagoon. Leave a lane clear between the hill on the left and the palm trees on the right. Pull perpendicular to the lane on the right (between the trees) or along the hill to the left, parallel to the boat trailers.
Korth's parking area:
Pickup/dropoff location for the Elysium ferries

Paradise Point Marina -- 6 miles
8095 N Rio Blanco Rd, Stockton, CA 95219
(209) 952-1000
Houseboat departure / return location. This is NOT where you take the Elysium ferry if you are coming late/leaving early.

Aurora / SS Mazapeta / H&H Marina -- 2.6 miles
H&H Marina / Herman and Helen's Marina
115138 W 8 Mile Rd
Stockton, CA 95219
SS Mazapeta launch/return/parking:
If you're on the SS Mazapeta / Aurora, this is where the ship / ferries will launch from / return to, and is where the ferries will run from. Note that the marina itself is closed, boat launch overgrown with weeds, and the parking area locked off. It's still possible to park nearby and launch small vessels (kayaks, etc.) from a small launch a mile or so further down the road.

Holland Riverside Marina -- 12 miles
7000 Holland Tract Rd
(925) 628-7557
Where the Elysium barge is normally docked.

King Island Resort -- 5.6 miles (a few miles down the road from H&H marina)
11530 W Eight Mile Rd Stockton, CA 95219
(209) 951-2188
Have gas, ice, a boat launch, and a small convenience store.

Riverboat Marina - 4.6 miles - Maybe free parking
Lighthouse Marina - 4.6 miles - Boat ramp. Apparently a new business who may be willing to make deals to attract customers.
All in one: Ephemerisle Locations map

Note when calculating travel time that some of the roads are interrupted by bridges that may be raised to allow for boat traffic. The city of Stockton is about 11 miles from Mandeville Point.


Find people who have rented motorized watercraft--this is typically organized through the Ephemerisle Facebook page a week or two before the event, though spots fill up quickly. Do not expect a ferry to tow your floating land or art unless you explicitly arrange this in advance. Towing home-built structures not designed for the water is very, very slow.

From the SF Bay

Ephemerisle can be reached by water from the SF Bay.

It's about a 60 mile trip (16 hours by sailboat) from Berkeley. It tends to be a lovely two day sail there with the wind at your back all of the way out there. And it tends to be something of a nightmare trip back with pounding waves directly into the wind the entire way back.

Make sure you've got a depth sounder! Everyone runs aground in the delta.

Make sure you've got a good working engine. The trip back is very, very difficult without an engine.


If you want to come to Ephemerisle, you're going to need to arrange a place to sleep. If you do not prearrange a place to sleep, you will be lucky if you are given a ride back to land. If you are unlucky, you will suffer and sleep on a cold, wet deck, shivering while people walk over you.

How do you arrange a place to sleep?

Join a Crew

The easiest thing to do is join a crew. Put your name and email on the "Looking for a berth" list. Typical cost for a berth on a houseboat for the week is between $275 and $400.

Here's a list of berths available (2017):

Elysium Barge:

DIYsland campground/houseboat signup and other info:

Flatland Barge:

The Mazapeta tugboat:

DIYsland worknights in Oakland and the Delta will be announced on our Facebook group.

Bring your own boat

Contact an island commodore to add your boat to the island, unless you want to anchor by yourself (which some people do). If you join an island, you should speak to commodores well in advance of the event, as they will have requirements you'll need to prepare for, and they'll need to factor you into their anchoring plans ahead of time.

Rent a boat

Houseboats are rented from Paradise Point Marina, and are often all reserved by December. You may be able to rent a boat from a private person either in Stockton or in the Bay Area. If you're not already capable of handling a boat (certified, typically), you may need to hire the owner or someone else to captain your boat. Then contact an Island Commodore to add your boat to the island (if you rent a private owner's boat, you probably will not be permitted to raft up to an island).

Boat Captains have reserved boats and they need people to help divide up the cost of the boat. Other costs are covered as well, like refueling the generators and pumping bathrooms are covered by these boats, as well as some island costs, like the material to build the lands.

Directly email a captain on the boats list and ask if they have space.

Watch for events where people are building art projects, the Break Water Makerspace or fundraising and get involved - and make connections.


There are many creative solutions to bringing your own place to sleep. Many of the attempts to build land and sleep on it fail because the conditions in the delta are windy with a strong current and waves. Consider speaking with someone who has successfully done this in the past: (intentionally left blank.) If you plan to build land at Ephemerisle, be sure to organize a means to transport your materials to the event (speak with a captain ahead of time) and be sure to have a back up plan for a place to sleep. (I recommend having a captain who is okay with you sleeping on their roof.) Also, make an arrangement for other facilities as well, like bathroom use and a kitchen. Learn more at: BYOL.

Cell Coverage


Romeo - Spotty. In the places where it worked internet was slow enough I only used it for email. Sean F. - Worked fine most of the time, but can be patchy at various times of the day.


Terry - Wasn't much good for voice, but texting worked fine. Chris - Data was spotty. Voice and text worked fine.


Felix - According to Sprint's map, Mandeville is a dead zone.

Packing List

There's a list of What To Bring here.


Anytime spent on the water is dangerous! The following is just a partial list of ways to die:

  • slip and fall while jumping from boat to boat
  • get run over by a boat propeller
  • get crushed between two boats rocked by the wake of a passing boat
  • get caught in a strong current while swimming and drown
  • pass out drunk, fall into water, and drown

It only takes 5 minutes in the water to drown. Never forget that you're living on the water, which requires higher personal vigilance than usual. Most boating fatalities happen during mundane tasks: when disembarking, when going for a short ride on a dinghy, when clambering between boats. Basically, when doing things that seem so safe that you don't bother wearing a life vest.

Ephemerisle takes those dangers, and adds in sleep deprivation, heat, late summer sun, swimming, other boaters, substance use, crowds, loud music, bright lights, etc. If you get in trouble, things may escalate faster than anyone is able to notice or help.

Ephemerisle is a bottom-up driven gathering. There are no central organizers responsible for ensuring your safety or fun. There is no insurance covering you. Each participant is responsible for themselves. Each captain or boat owner is responsible for the safety of their vessel, crew, and passengers.

What this means is that you are free to do what you want, at least in the confines of your own vessel. If you are staying on or visiting someone else's vessel, you have to conform to its captain's rules. Likewise, if you stay or visit a group of boats tied up together (an island), you have to conform to the island commodore's rules.

While some people who attend Ephemerisle may have EMT or Ranger training, there are no medical personnel or Rangers on duty. Ephemerisle is several miles away from the closest marina, and all of the marinas are closed at night. Boating at night, even with lights, is hazardous and slow going. If you need non-life threatening medical care, it's a slow boat ride to shore (expect that it will take at least 45-60 minutes at least) followed by ambulance to the hospital in Stockton.

If you see someone in distress, please help them and enlist others to help them as well.

Safety Requirements

As long as we're on the public waterways, we're required to follow all federal, state and local regulations. Learn about the relevant operational laws and water-based regulatons. Here's a few of them:

  • Every boat must have enough Personal Flotation Devices (PFD) for every person on the boat.
  • The rental boats have enough PFD's for their nominal carrying capacity, but if your boat will have more people than that, then you will need to purchase/borrow more PFD's.
  • Children under 12 must be WEARING a PFD unless in an enclosed cabin.
  • All vessels must be legally registered unless they're only human-propelled.
  • Boats must have navigation lights if boating at night.
  • No discharging waste into the water.

Safety Recommendations

  • Read the article and watch the video Drowning does not look like drowning.
  • Learn how how to anchor.
  • Learn about how to handle fire onboard a boat.
  • Each boat should have at least one sober, competent person per night in case of a boating emergency.
  • Each captain should have an acting captain who is in charge in case of emergency or incapacitation.
  • Everyone should wear waterproof personal illumination at night.
  • Each boat should have a VHF handheld marine radio. Channel 69 is usually the primary Ephemerisle-wide channel. Channel 16 is the emergency channel.
  • The California Department of Boating and Waterways has published a free booklet titled "ABCs of the California Boating Law" that we encourage all participants to obtain and review. Delta waterways are crowded in the summer, and anyone operating a vessel should be familiar with the "inland rules of the road", rules about navigation aids (what different buoys mean), rules for boating in congested areas, and rules for registration of watercraft. More information is available at or by calling 1-888-326-2822.
  • The waters of the Delta can seem deceptively gentle. However, there can be strong winds and tidal currents that can overpower even experienced, strong swimmers. We recommend that you have a swim buddy at all times, especially when swimming between islands. Night swimming is _not_ recommended.
  • Think about what your boat will do. Boats not properly secured will drift and become hazards. Anything that goes into the water will end up in a different place than it started.
  • Know where you are before you dive! Visibility is limited to 16-18". Water depths in this area range from 8-32'.
  • Ephemerisle is a particularly dangerous environment for children (although several well-supervised children have attended in the past. If you plan to bring your child, plan to be highly vigilant at all times. Minors (those under 18) may only attend if accompanied by a parent or guardian. As noted above, children under 12 must wear a PFD at all times when not in an enclosed cabin. You can find special child-sized life jackets online.
  • For obvious reasons, sleeping on an open platform introduces an additional element of danger. We strongly encourage anyone building a platform to construct a safety railing around the platform perimeter.

Drugs and Alcohol

"Boating Under the Influence" is a huge factor in boating accidents in the Delta, and is a major enforcement focus for the Coast Guard and San Joaquin Country Sheriff's Office. No one is allowed to operate a vessel while under the influence of intoxicating liquor or drugs; a blood level as low as .05% may be used to indicate BUI.

You'll have plenty of chance to party once stationary at the event site – please WAIT to begin your celebration until you're safely docked or anchored

Ephmerisle is not the place to experiment with recreational drugs.

Both the Coast Guard and the police have jurisdiction at Ephemerisle. Unlike when you are on land, the Coast Guard does not need probable cause to board and search your vessel.


Here’s how to report an emergency (channel 16):

May Day, May Day, May Day
This is rented houseboat  [boat name here].
We are anchored to the East of Mandeville County park.  
[State the type of the emergency.]

Here’s how to report a non-emergency safety problem, e.g., if platform parts drift into the shipping channel:

Security (pronounced securiTAY), Security, Security
This is rented houseboat  [boat name here].
We are anchored to the East of Mandeville County park.  
[State the type of the problem.]
[State that it’s in the process of being dealt with.]

Do *not* jokingly say the words "May Day" over a radio.

Law Enforcement

The Coast Guard and the sheriff have come out every year. Usually this consists of slowly circling the event in their gray/black boats. They may also be called out in the event of an emergency. Historically, they have been very professional; nice, even. Please treat them respectfully and carefully, and please do not talk to them if you are under the influence of anything. Obviously, never do anything illegal within their view.

Leave No Trace

Whatever you pack in, you must pack out.

The Federal Refuse Act prohibits discharging or depositing any refuse of any kind into United States waters. It's also just sucky behavior.

Refuse includes: garbage, trash, oil, and other liquid pollutants.

This rule includes human waste. Note that concern about violation of these regulations creates probable cause for a state or local peace officer or Coast Guard representative to board your vessel. You will need to make plans to minimize and control your waste to ensure it doesn't blow or fall into the water.

If you bring an art project, you must make arrangements for bringing it back. Make sure that your crew knows that they must stay as long as it takes to dismantle your art, pack it up, and pack it out, no matter how tired or hungover they are.



  • Related and interesting links