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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
  • falling in the water wearing heavy absorbant clothes you can't get out of.

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 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 regulations. 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.

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.


We may or may not be in the midst of a pandemic by the next Ephemerisle.

Either way, it's always good manners to ask before boarding a boat and definitely before going inside someone else's boat.


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, moving between boats. Basically, when doing things that seem so safe that you don't bother wearing a life vest.

Everyone should the article and watch the video Drowning does not look like drowning.

Drugs and Alcohol

"Boating Under the Influence" causes many 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. Each boat should have at least one sober, competent person per night in case of a boating emergency. Each captain should ideally have an acting captain who is in charge in case of emergency or incapacitation.

Ephemerisle is not the place to experiment with recreational drugs.

Tides and currents

The waters of the Delta can look deceptively gentle. Strong winds and tidal currents can and have overpowered 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. Everyone should wear waterproof personal illumination at night when traveling between islands.

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.

Learn how how to properly anchor.

Marine Radios

Marine radios are a critical safety device at the gathering.

Channel 69 is used for inter-island communication and reaching on-site medical or other support.

Channel 16 is used for reaching the coast guard.

See the Radio page for more details.


Fires when you're surrounded by water seem like a joke, but they're a very serious problem.

Learn about how to handle fire onboard a boat


Ephemerisle is a particularly dangerous environment for children (although several well-supervised children have attended in the past). If you bring your child, plan to be highly vigilant at all times. Minors (those under 18) should 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.

Helicopter Insurance

Helicopter insurance - $55/year. Useful if you ever need to be lifeflighted from the event.

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.

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.