Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Bonehead Move on the Petaluma River

On one of the sailing boards I monitor, a sailor asked about sailing up river on the Petaluma without an engine (turns out he had one but was considering not using it). He got two responses that said it was a bad idea. He went anyway and this is what he reported back with:

> I would not include Petaluma in your list. It's a long, twisting,
> narrow river, with some barge traffic. You'll be beating against the
> wind in places, in a narrow channel, possibly against the current,
> dodging tugs and barges and hoping to stay out of the mud... it sounds
> like a nightmare to me.
It was a nightmare! I am quite an experienced SF sailor who got humbled at the Petaluma River Entrance. My boat is a great old seaworthy, wooden hulled, full keeled, 28 foot sloop which is rigged for single handled sailing. I had a good morning engineless sail from Alameda. I carried plenty of fresh water, a box of wheat thins, 3 cheese sticks, popcorn and a snickers bar. I thought I didn't need much as I was heading to a party in downtown Petaluma. At 2 pm as I entered the Petaluma Channel, I realized I needed to motor. I when foreward to drop the mailsail. As I popped to the mast to drop the main... She ran aground when a shear gust over 30 knots caught me standing forward to put me hard on the mud. The tidal zone there has such muck that makes for glue and quick mud. I spent a full 24 hours 30 yards outside the channel. I had aboard a hand held VHF radio, a fully charged iPhone (with great sailing apps), and a GPS. I diligently tried numerous ways to slip off including digging out of the mud, using the listing and power effects of my boom & sails and with the assistance of two power boats I budged only 10 feet. With my ego and body bruised, I called vessel assist who came on the afternoon high tide . Within 10 minutes of was off the mud and heading home - abet poorer but relived to be going home.

I must say before I take any more grief, I want to thank again the Coast Guard who check on me physically, offered to remove me from my vessel if I wanted, and gave me radio and cell phone checks ever hour or two. And numerous other sailors who slowed down and checked on me.

What I did wrong was three things: I did not drop my sails soon enough (I would drop them possibly in the main San Pablo channel instead of waiting till I got close to the narrowing channel). Two other points would be to be more provisioned with propper long term food items to be stored aboard and most importantly not to put off vessel assist insurance rather than pay a huge fee for service for the blue moon event.

I don't think he will be trying this again!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I too, set sail up the Petaluma river, from alameda on a 26' wooden boat with water, wheat thins, and cheese, and a can of chili, which would taste like throw up if I was anywhere else. But, these are hard times on the river and anything should taste better than nothing. It was getting dark so I turned into this little shanty marina, got stuck right away, but managed to get off before the quick dropping tide left me stranded until some wee morning hour. I grabbed the first empty slip and here I rest. I expect to still end up in the mud tied to the dock.