Four Days on the Petaluma River

by Kayla Trail

Alternative Title: 30 Days of Nanowrimo: Day 12 – Inspiration

There are many wonderful places to get inspiration for any story and it is true that one of the best pieces of advice for a budding new author (or any author for that matter) is to write what you know.  So this year I thought that would be a good place to start.

October brings many things – the start of fall weather, shorter days, and Halloween-but my favorite is the Alma’s yearly trip to Petaluma. San Francisco’s historic scow schooner has a long history on the San Francisco bay. She was built to carry cargo between San Francisco and the deltas up north and the city of Petaluma is deeply ingrained in her history.

We left early on a Wednesday morning to make our historic sail up the delta. The winds were not as strong as we hoped so we did a bit of drifting and then had to motor much of the way, which is not as fun or relaxing as sailing but it gets the job done. It was during this six hour transport when I started thinking about what I actually wanted to write about this year.

I thought about what it actually must have been like to be a schooner captain in the mid 19th century, trying to get work where you can and sail huge loads of hay with unreliable winds and no motor. It must have been quite the adventure.

And thus, my novel idea was born.

I spent four days sailing on the Petaluma river and it is always such a pleasant change from the sailing we usually do in the bay. We sailed from our home at Hyde Street Pier and the city front slowly faded away and before we knew it…

On our way #petaluma

… we had arrived on the river! After a long first day of travel, the sun began to set behind the hills and cast a long shadow of our sails across the river.

Schooner shadow

You can always be assured of a good time on the river. The Thora pulled up alongside us on our second night and treated us to a wonderful dinner and even better company. After the cioppino had run dry and the deck was littered with empty wine bottles, the singing continued long into the night.


Waking up on the river is an experience like no other. Even though you are in the middle of a town, there is an indescribable peace to it. You can really understand why people risked their lives traveling hundreds or thousands of miles to find a place like this.

Waking up on the river



River Heritage #fourdaysonthepetalumariver #nofilter

A bit of bluegrass #fourdaysonthepetalumariver

The duration of my time on the river, all I could think of were the men who tirelessly sailed up and down this river to provide supplies so towns like this one could develop. It also brought to mind the old river driver songs of old, this one in particular:

I’ll eat when I am hungry and I’ll drink when I am dry

Get drunk whenever I’m ready, get sober by and by 

And if this river don’t drown me, it’s down I’ll mean to roam

For I’m a river driver and I’m far away from home. 

Always a pleasant time on the river and I’m already looking forward to next year.