Sacramento River, July 4th Weekend on a Raft To San Francisco
Goal: Sail Down Feather River, Sacramento River To San Francisco On a Raft!
Walter Mitty and Huck Finn Holiday!
I was dating an adventuresome lady and enjoying her cabin cruiser floating down the Sacramento River enjoying life with a glass of wine.....
As I enjoyed the effects of the “relaxing” wine, I told Tina about building a 50’ ocean-going raft and attempting to sail from Fiji to Sydney, Australia. I knew I had her attention. She enjoyed boats and owned two large ones.
Tina suggested since the recent floods had increased the flow of Sacramento and destroyed many of the boat docks, why not salvage some of the large sections of foam that floated by and build a raft…
The “wine talk” became a serious topic. I agreed to build a raft that we could connect with nature and build the raft only from materials available. She was a pure free-spirit “tree-hugger.”
We agreed to enjoy the experience through the eyes of the characterizations that is a combination of Huckleberry Finn adventures as characterized by Mark Twain and Walter Mitty in the book, "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" (1939) a short story by James Thurber. The Walter Mitty story depicts a man whose extremely mundane life is constantly interrupted by the character's escapist fantasies. Whereas the fantasy Mitty is not scared of anything, the real one protests feebly, if at all, at demands that he behave cautiously. Twain wrote a novel that embodies the search for freedom. The combination of the two characters defined my mission “Dare to sail in a manner no one has….”
Build a 20’ Raft from “Trash”
It was just before the July Fourth Weekend. She knew I could do anything as “Mr. World Traveler,” and suggested I build a raft to go from as far up the Feather River you can go, and then float all-the-way-down into the San Francisco Bay. “Wouldn’t that be fun?” she said with a warm glow of wine wafting through her hair… How could I say no?
I am licensed to build in the state of California anything: Including, but not limited to: nuclear reactors, oil refineries, shopping centers, single-family subdivisions, high rises, dams, freeways and etc… This process requires rigid specifications and constructions techniques. Building a raft from “trash” is a new challenge. I love challenges. The materials that were available would dictate what and how I constructed my raft.
Tina and I became scavengers. We collected as much of the huge chunks of foam material the boat docks used for flotation (they put boards on top) as my truck could haul. We drove as far up the Feather River (North of Sacramento, California) as we could and unloaded. I used a chainsaw to cut dead trees to size to build a frame for the raft.
Local Sheriff Says, “You Cannot Build a Gold Dredge”
We are in the middle of nowhere and this sheriff drives over the Feather River Bank, saunters over to the raft where I am working, with his hand on his pistol holster and says slowly, “You Cannot be here and be building a Gold Dredge.” I told him I was building a raft to float to San Francisco. I then realized I needed something better to say… He thought I was smoking dope and was one of them “city-slikkers.”
I put down my chain saw and smiled. I knew everything in life involves relationships. I knew this was the time to create one with the sheriff. I told him the truth. I asked him his name because I was scheduled to meet a TV crew in Sacramento at Freeport Boat Marina tomorrow at 5pm. I would be sure and tell them what a nice sheriff I had met.
The sheriff took the easy way out and said, “Since you are not building a Gold Dredge and will be leaving tomorrow, I’ll let you go.” I thanked him profusely. He smiled, scratched his head and left…
I did have a TV news crew on standby notice at 5pm the next day. As the above pictures indicate the construction process, it was completed early the next morning and I agreed to meet Tina at Freeport Marina to pick her up and begin our journey into the San Francisco Bay.
All heads stared as I drifted down into the Sacramento River. Traffic almost slowed to a stop as I drifted under the Interstate Freeway 5. I did not have my teepee covered with Tina’s special “tie-dyed” sheets. Upon arrival at the Freeport Marina and constant answering questions, “What is THAT?” I struggled to complete.
Raise the Drawbridge!
Floating and using the 3hp outboard engine for steerage down the Sacramento River is not for the faint-of-heart… There are bridges that must be raised to allow my 20’ teepee raft to pass under. On a raft with a puny three horse motor does not give you any leeway or the ability to turn into the river, or slow down and wait for the bridge to be raised. You must get it right the first time… After a couple of successful bridge under crossing, I became calm…
Stopped by Boat Patrol
“Got a boat license?” the stern-faced uniformed person asked from his idling boat… as we floated down the river. I acted surprised and said, “A license required for a raft?” Again, I struck up another relationship and he too thought perhaps this one time would be OK…
We stopped at the Tower Marina, on the Sacramento River near Lodi, California and spent the night. We created a treadmill of people asking, “What is THAT?” Eventual the darkness drove them away…
The next stop was Helen’s Marina. I had made friends there before and it was fun to hug everybody. They knew I was nuts now… It was a great short time spent there. Out in the Delta there is over 1,000 miles of shoreline with the Sacramento River and many sloughs crisscrossing. At times, we had flotillas following us… We spent a second night tied to a remote tree where nobody would find us.
Our goal was San Francisco Bay
It was now July 4th weekend and today was July the Fourth. There were too many boats on the Sacramento River. Our raft was constantly being rocked by huge yachts and speedboats. The raft had a plywood floor. I had planned to dance on it, but not dance to boat wake waves.
Out in the Deep Water channel where the ocean-going ships sail is a nail-biter… They are huge… Passing them never was something you get used to. Nearing the Hilton Gun Club there were a huge amount of boats anchored for his annual July 4th fireworks over the water. I was beginning to feel like a monkey on a football. We tied up to some friends we met and watched the fireworks.
I decided, no way was I going to continue to San Francisco Bay with all of the huge boats. It was not fun. We decided to spend the rest of our time at one of Tina’s friend’s island they owned in the Delta. It took forever to get there. Who would think the tide would have such an effect on Sacramento River flow? The Sacramento River in Sacramento has “tides.”
July 4th Fun With Blood Centrifuge Making 5 gallon Margaritas!
Docking at the small island was a hoot. It was filled with about 100 people. A good times was enjoyed by all. I donated my raft to the island owners to use as a dock.
We joined friends to ride the six hour trip back up the Sacramento River to our own boat. While enjoying the comfort of a nice, large cabin cruiser, we heard and felt a jarring jolt. The owner yelled, “Check below,” I went below into the engine room. It had oil all over and water was coming in. The boat was vibrating now. The owner shut down the engine to an idle. The shaking stopped. Apparently, something was damaged. It could be the prop, rudder, or the shaft…
In the Sacramento River there many submerged "things." Often times it may be a tree, logs and etc. Some trees could be seen floating down the Sacramento River that were slowly making their way to the ocean. The recent flood had dislodged lots of trees and logs.
The owner started the bilge pumps. He adjusted the rear trim and found the boat was easier to control. After the excitement of my raft trip, I was not wanting more challenges of a boat sinking in the middle of the Sacramento River. The owner said, “I am going to try to make by to the marina. Keep checking below.” At Ox Bow Marina, the owner topped and dove under the boat looking for obvious damages, and discovered none. We limped back to Sacramento.
The Cabin Cruiser Damage Was Substantial
The wooden hull was split, The engine was out of oil, the rudder shaft ruined, and the boat was declared a total loss!
It was a great July Fourth weekend. However, I would not want to duplicate it! One time is enough..!
I’ll take the cabin cruiser next time.
More Life Experiences Where I Did it, Rather Than Wishing I Had Done it!:
Hike to Hell:
Constructed 50 foot long Bamboo Raft in Fiji:
My book: www. eyeswideshutanenigma dot com
or enter into Google: Eyes Wide Shut: An enigma