Boater gets stuck in the Napa River mud

Planning to go boating on the Napa River? Experts recommend
staying in the marked navigable channel to avoid getting stuck in
the mud.

On Saturday, Rick Gudgel left Cuttings Wharf in his fishing boat
with his 

fiancee and a 2-year-old granddaughter to go fishing and
crabbing in the San Francisco Bay. Near Hercules, Gudgel’s boat
started acting up, so the Napa area contractor decided to head back
up the Napa River to Cuttings Wharf. 

Then things got worse. Around 4 p.m., Gudgel’s 17-foot boat got
stuck in the mud in the Napa River about a mile north of Highway
37, the contractor recalled Tuesday. He had strayed from the
channel and ended up in a slough during low tide, he said.

“I just got too far to the right,” Gudgel said sheepishly.

After Gudgel called for help, the U.S. Coast Guard and CalFire,
with the assistance of a California Highway Patrol helicopter,
figured the boat’s exact location.

In the end, all the parties involved decided to wait for the
tide to turn as no one was in danger. So for the next 4 1/2 hours,
Gudgel and his fiancee waited in the cold on the boat, which does
not have a cabin, as the toddler slept under a blanket. Flocks of
birds flew by as Vallejo’s city lights sparkled in the

Around 9 p.m., the tide turned, and Gudgel’s boat finally moved.
Gudgel decided to head back toward Vallejo to the Ferry building
where a daughter picked them up. 

“It was an experience,” said Gudgel, 39. 

But it’s also a common experience, according to the U.S. Coast
Guard station in Vallejo, which responds to incidents on the Napa

People call for help once or twice a month after they run
aground in the area, Coast Guard Petty Officer Ryan Anderson said

Probably more boats get stranded. “The vast majority do not call
us,” Anderson said.

Typically, the U.S. Coast Guard does not pull boats out unless
there is a medical problem, Anderson said.

Rick Thein, a longtime American Canyon resident, enjoys kayaking
on the Napa River in south Napa County.

Thein recommends boaters pay attention to the tides there and
locate the mudflats to avoid getting stranded. 

“It just drops,” he said, referring to the tide change. “But the
tide will come in and you will float again.” 

People should make sure to brink plenty of water and food. Just
in case, he said.

A friend of Gudgel’s, Pete Peralta, grew up fishing in the area.
He, too, got stuck in the mud near Mare Island a few years ago, he

“It’s shallow everywhere out there,” the Napa resident said. “If
you don’t stay in the channel, you’re going to get stuck,” he

On Sunday, Gudgel took his boat again on the Napa River. This
time he made it back to Napa. 

He does plan to take his boat to San Francisco Bay to go
crabbing again. “We’ll stay away from the slough,” Gudgel said.

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