Petaluma Row

What an adventure!!! This weekend Justin Huskamp and I rowed 80 miles from San Francisco to Petaluma and back. The row was fast, scenic and cold.

  • Saturday 40 mile row to SF to Petaluma
  • Sunday 40 mile row to Petaluma to SF

The flood tide began early morning Saturday so we left with it at 6:00am. The flood tide ended by 10:38 when we reached the Petaluma entrance. The counteracting ebb tide against us was weak during our row up the Petaluma. The ebb tide that would push us home began at noon so we left as late as possible, 8:00am. Our late departure gave us fast current speeds, faster boat speed of 8 mph, but higher winds and thunderstorms. You can’t have it all.

Gear list

  • Individual gear: 2x rowing gloves, waterproof outers, 2x rowing clothes, 2x shoes, 2x socks, baseball hat, knit cap, sunglasses
  • Shared gear:, dry bags, walkie talkie, 2x bailers, horn, life vests, 3x blade sets, extra ropes, 2x headlamp, bow light, sunscreen, water, charts, iPhones, Leatherman, ziplock bags, sponges
  • Food: GU gel, GU Chomp, GU Brew, toasted bagels w/cream cheese, cashews, walnuts, cooked chicken, cooked sweet potatoes

Like Yvon Chouinard says, “it’s not an adventure until something goes wrong”. Here’s what went wrong:

  • Low visibility in San Pablo Bay meant we couldn’t see shore in any direction — solution: GPS
  • Waterproof GPS got wet and gave wrong bearings — solution: compass
  • Gigantic tanker emerged from the fog just as we crossed the central shipping channel — solution: sprint
  • Headwind got so strong that I couldn’t hear Justin 2 feet behind me — solution: yell louder
  • Thunderstorm soaked my clothes — solution: borrow Justin’s hat
  • Our hands got blistered from rowing wet– solution: deal with it
  • I completely bonked just as we finish the row Sunday night — solution: cupcakes
Rowing blisters. (Justin left, Neal right)


  • Southend Rowing Club of SF at Aquatic Park
  • Alcatraz
  • Angel Island
  • Richmond San Rafael Bridge
  • China Camp
  • Black Point Marina
  • Papa’s Taverna, Lakeville
  • Petaluma Marina

Day 1 - 40 miles

Day 2 - 40 miles

The boat was the “Valhalla”. She’s a fast, 22 foot long, 3.5 feet wide, lapstrake wooden rowboat built by boatwright Jeremy Fisher-Smith in 1979 at Tomales Bay. I love this boat and called Jeremy today to thank him for building the boat 30 years ago, when he was a 22-year old.

Stats for this row:

  • My hardest row ever
  • My 2nd longest row ever (100 mile row to Sacramento was longer)
  • Speed 7 mph
  • Seals: 20+
  • Duck blinds spotted: 1
  • Other rowboats spotted: One 1-person shell on Petaluma River
  • GU gels and chomps eaten: 12 on Saturday, 15 on Sunday

Future rows:

  • SF -> Farallon Islands (70 roundtrip) – 1 day
  • SF -> Half Moon Bay (70 roundtrip) – 2 days
  • SF -> Tomalen Bay (120 roundtrip) – 2 days

Thanks to:

  • Justin for being awesome.
  • Owen, Dan, Tom, Joe and Tom and everyone from the Southend Rowing Club.
  • Carol/Ken for Petaluma dinner and housing.


Published by Neal Mueller