Sunday, March 26, 2017

2017-02 South Beach, Up the Petaluma River to the City of Petaluma

Sunday, March 26, 2017: Running Aground in Petaluma

Our route today takes us with the flood tide, north from San Francisco Bay to San Pablo Bay and the Petaluma River entrance. Our goal is to cruise 16 miles up the Petaluma River into downtown Petaluma where we will tie up at the City turning basin.  Because the river contains many shallow areas, we'll enter the River on the rising tide, hopefully avoiding any grounding.  If we do get stuck, hopefully the rising tide will get the boat floating again.

We exited South Beach by 8:30AM, after quickly re-docking to return the access card keys.  Within 10 minutes we were passing under the Bay Bridge headed northward.  The course took us along the east edge of SF Bay, east of Alcatraz and Angel Islands, and past the Tiburon Peninsula into San Pablo Strait.  Soon we entered and crossed San Pablo Bay arriving at the Petaluma River entrance at half past 11.

Looking west with Alcatraz in the foreground and the Gate beyond.
East Brother Island Light Station is located
at the southern edge of San Pablo Bay.
The tide will continue to rise until the 2PM high slack, giving us about 30 minutes extra time for what is normally a 2-hour motor.  However, we have two railroad bridges and one street bridge that can lengthen our cruise if not open.  Normally the railroad bridges are open unless a train is scheduled.  They are manned when closed, so a re-open should only last as long as it take the train to pass.  The Petaluma "D" Street Bridge is normally closed, so Alex called ahead to the Petaluma Public Works Department scheduling a 1:15PM opening.  Hope we make it!

The flood tide not only increases the river's depth, but also gives us a speed boost.  The boat's 8-knot water speed is boosted to 9+ over the earth's surface, as the tidal current pushes many, many miles upstream.  The river's normal outflow direction is reversed by the flood tide.  This direction change challenges the levees as the river reaches high water.

Once past the river entrance, the boat towers over the surrounding terrain.  With the tide approaching +5 feet, from the boat one actually looks down into the levied fields filled with crops and livestock.  Its is a strange view to be above the road height, looking down at cars!

We passed the open Black Point railroad swing-bridge, steered under the Highway 37 bridge, passed the open Haystack railroad bascule-bridge, and drove under the Highway 101 bridge.  Today there is light river traffic as we see just a handful of pleasure craft and no commercial vessels.  Approaching Petaluma, there's joggers, fisherman, walkers and gawkers on the tops on the levee.  At last we arrive downtown at the "D" Street bridge and it's not open, as we're 25 minutes ahead of schedule.  Shortly after a our call on VHF Channel 9, the bridge magically opens, we move through thanking the bridge tender as we pass, and enter the Petaluma Downtown turning basin for tie up.  A boring 10-minute video with excellent music, documents our 2-hour river cruise at 10 times speed.  Enjoy the music.....

Downtown Petaluma view from the Petaluma Yacht Club long dock.
 After the boat is secured, we head for lunch at Sugo Trattoria, a downtown favorite.  Later the crew  provisioned at the Petaluma Market close to downtown.  Dinner was at Mi Pueblo's Mexican and was just fine.  Tomorrow we head back down the river then up to Vallejo for a night.
Wild Blue tied up in front of the Petaluma Yacht Club. 
At low tide we see just 4.9 feet of water depth but we draw
5.5 feet.  This means the keel is in the mud about 4 inches.
The water dropped about an inch on Wild Blue's waterline,
 indicating the boat is a bit grounded.  We eased short lines to 
allow the dock float to descend, and avoid a broken line!
View at low tide, the shallow bar inside Petaluma's turning basin
is exposed, along with its two shoal marker buoys.

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