Friday, April 15, 2016

Gunkholing The Petaluma

With all the work on the house, I have been averaging one sail a month - that is just wrong! Spring Break presented an opportunity for an overnight, which I took. I've wanted to gunkhole the Petulaluma river for sometime and this was my opportunity. I loaded up on food and water and headed out. When my brother visited last year, I was shocked that he refused to come with me overnight because of my basic dried-food provisioning, and other lack of comforts - mind you he prefers to sail monohulls (?). So I thought I would try out a more dignified menu and packed the chilly with bacon and eggs and beers no less.

It was an almost windless day, which made for a mirror glass sea, but wasn't good for sailing. So it was several hours with the Tohatsu chugging away until the wind filled in after the San Pablo Strait. We were with the tide so made around 5 knots even with the motor ticking over on slowish. Hoisted the symmetric spinnaker off China Camp and got a couple of miles under sail before the wind died again.

Anchored up for the night in Schultz Slough

By the time I passed Black Point at the entrance to the Petaluma River, the wind filled in from the West, right on the nose, so motor sailed up the river with the mainsail drawing. Little Cat is an efficient motor sailor to windward and we averaged 5 knots up the river, even though we were heading into the new ebb tide.

Schultz Slough

I had no interest in seeing the Petaluma turning basin - I have seen it from the road - and instead wanted to do some exploring up some sloughs. After we had passed the last of the marsh park areas, we came across Schultz slough which looked big enough to take the boat.


I thought that we might be able to get all the way up the slough where it loops back beside Neils Island, but the tide was going out and we ran aground before we could make it all the way.

Slough sunset

We backed up (literally, the slough was only a bit wider than the boat) to where there was a bit of water under the keel and settled in for the night. The boat could only just turn around in its own length in the slough, so there were a  few bumps and scapes in the night as it gently banged one bank and then the other as the tide turned during the night - there are very few +20' boats that you could do this sort of gunkholing in without major issues with getting stuck in a narrow slough.

Watching the anchor line dipping into the outgoing tide at sunset

I had hoped to have a lazy lie-in (which is my usual fashion) and a slow breakfast while taking in the marsh wildlife in the morning, but the tide was ebbing and I had to make way by 7AM to catch the tide out to San Pablo Bay.

The river was beautiful in the morning light, and mirror calm.

Morning stillness

Ghosting down the Petaluma

About halfway down the river, a 15 knot breeze came up astern and I shut the engine off and ghosted all the way out into San Pablo Bay. Once clear of the Petaluma channel, I hoisted the assymetric and got a couple of miles of reach/running at about 5 knots until the wind died entirely. Little Cat just made the San Pablo Strait as the tide was changing to the ebb and then headed across to the Marin Islands for lunch. I cooked up some food, read my book and went to sleep on the trampoline, before heading home in the afternoon. 50 nautical miles this trip.


  1. Always enjoy your adventures, thanks for the share.

  2. Very nice Roger. I can't wait to finish up my maintenance and get out there (well here).

    P.S. You should post links the the Wharram Friends site.

  3. Thanks Ian. Good luck with the maintenance - I'm going to pull Little Cat out over the Summer and do another bottom job.

  4. Wanting to get my Tiki 26 as well set up as your 21!

    thank you for time on this - can you do a post on tacking! Johnny (tried to connect via WBF)