Paddling The King Tide On The Petaluma River On December 4th 2017

Paddling During The King Tide

The Journey started at the Petaluma Marina. We stopped on a dock half-way six miles down river. The Tide was so strong I just stayed in the kayak hanging on to a tie anchor for the boats. I didn’t want to deal with trying to get back in as I watched how fast the water was moving along the shore. I had a few snacks and a change in plans was made. One lady didn’t want to deal with the wind anymore. My friend who was leading the trip took her off the water there and they used Uber to catch a ride back. The other guy who said he’d wait up for me took off on his SUP that he rented from my friend. My buddy was getting rid of my dry bag to ease the handling of my boat. From this point on I just had my jacket and a space blanket and of course my NRS Type 3 Safety vest. I had on waterproof socks, neoprene NRS boots, as well waterproof NRS paddling pants. My NRS vest has a knife attached in case I get into a tangle. My only request from my dry bag to finish the trip was a space blanket in case I run into trouble, like tip over and need to get warm quick. My friend will be meeting me at the bridge port by Black Point on HYW 37. I already went there with him we needed to drop a vehicle for shuttle. The take off from the dock was a little sketchy. With the strong tide I had to drift and duck under a catwalk, put my paddle up for my friend to grab, ease my way past then have him hand me back the paddle and go for it!

I never saw the guy on the SUP. I continued the Journey. My buddy was trying to catch up to the guy so I never stopped paddling. Once in a while I took time to take in the scenery, the hills and ranch homes and the docks and homes along the river. One House stood out from of them all so I took a photo. It was a very gorgeous Spanish Style house with a great looking dock. I learned after the trip this home belongs to the owner of the Oakland A’s and he has his private runway on the property.

Brackish Water Land

If you have never been to the land of a delta or brackish water., it is like a planet of it’s own. The stench smell of the water and mud! The tulees with lots of shorebirds and ducks. The water itself muddy brown can’t see through it. Never knowing what is under you. The sound of the water. The look of the water with the tidal pull. The look of the water with the current. It really is a mystery and when you are on the water all these elements play with your mind even more, especially when it starts to get dark! The look of the mud clumps on the bank can twist with your imagination.

Something Moved In The Water

I witnessed an exciting moment! In this river like most delta rivers we have Striped bass aka stripers and sturgeon. The striper can get up 45 pounds and Sturgeon get over 72 inches. I saw the movement of a startled fish and most likely it was a striper. The dorsal cutting the top of the water was around two feet in front of the nose of the kayak. I couldn’t see the fish of course because of how muddy the water is, just knowing it was and seeing the sudden movement of it was outstanding!

Getting Dark

Now it is getting dark and the shapes of the mud on the bank are calling out to the imagination. OK stop looking at the bank! The kayak has been like a wrestling match most of the trip so I hugged the edge of the river as much as I could occasionally hitting mud with the paddle. I have not seen this other guy once! The SUP can glide much faster on the water than most of us can paddle an ocean kayak. I come to a fork in the river. I’m not sure which is the best choice now because the bridge land mark is out of site. I go with my gut and half-way down the route I chose I wonder if I took the wrong channel and what methods do I used to correct the journey hence tidal condition. Still, I only see reeds in the far distance. Keep the faith I tell myself. Keep paddling. I come to a bend yes! I go more around the bend and low and behold the bridge is now in front of me! It is dark now yet full moon and I see the lights on the signal towers and cars and know from this point on I have made it!

A sense of relief!

I continue to keep up the pace of paddle the best I can. Getting a bit tired at this point and even though I can see the right alignment with the bridge and I know where to go I still have a bit of a paddle session ahead. The whole way keeping the pace going will finally come to an end.

Missing Person

I make it under the bridge of HWY 37 and I yell my friends name and I hear him answer! Yes even more reassuring! Then I hear him say have you seen the guy who went before you? I said oh the guy who said he was supposed to wait for me? I never saw him after he left the dock we were all at. Now a huge concern sets in us both. Did he have a heart attack? Did he fall off and drown? We have no idea? I heard my friend on the phone very clear tell this man where we were to meet up at the end.

He was a seasoned paddler. He belongs to a paddle club. We figured he knew what he was doing? Do we call the Coast Guard?

Locked Gate

I paddle into the port to find out from my friend that the gate on the catwalk to get out has been locked! Great!! Now we have a locked gate and a missing person!

At 1st my buddy says to drop the kayak down into the mud and tulees then walk in and grab it and push it up the fence. I think of another way, My body was not going to sink in a bunch of brackish mud!!!. I came up with the idea to pick up the front of the kayak and shove it around the mini shack that’s locked on the catwalk. My buddy grabs it and is able to pull it across. Now it’s me we need to get over there. I ask do you have any rope? He comes back with a tie down, perfect! We wrap around the railing where I am at and then to the other side where he is and make a two-step rope bridge. I went over the rail above the mud and he grabbed my hand then I took one more step with trying to hook my leg up and around the rail passing this little shack wall side. The rail is now half bent and ready to break around 8 feet above the mud then all of a sudden I land on the catwalk!

Now Deal With The Missing Dude

Back in the truck what do we do now? We don’t know where this guy is and think we might need to call the coast guard. We are driving out and see person who works for the County and let her know with our contact information. Then my buddy had a great idea. Earlier this guy came to the wrong side of the river when we were trying to find him. We corrected him about his mistake. For some reason we were hoping he would make the same mistake again. We drive over there to check. We find him and he was really cold for over half and hour that he had been there. He said he was really worried about me? Then why didn’t he wait he was the one ahead of me? Strange. I told him to get in the truck and get warm while my bud loads up his SUP board.

The Ride Home

We explained the original directions even though it didn’t matter anymore. At least he was now getting warm and didn’t have a severe accident or get hypothermia. I told the guy I have a gift for him and gave him one of my space blankets. I told him to take it everywhere he goes. I told him to hang it around his neck on his next paddle trip. We dropped him off then I went to help my bud load up the boards and we called it an adventure! No one hurt thank goodness!

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