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Napa River Dredging to Begin Soon

Sailing or motorsailing up the Napa River is always fun — unless, of course, you get stuck on a sandbar for hours waiting for the tide to rise. But that possibility may soon be greatly reduced.

©2016Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Cruising up the Napa River is widely known as a pleasant change of pace from typical Central Bay sailing. But for many keelboats owners, fear of running aground in the shallow, snaking waterway has been a deal-breaker. We’re happy to report that such fears may soon be allayed, as the mighty Napa is soon to be dredged — for the first time since 1998.

According to the Napa Valley Register, work will begin in August to deepen a 13-mile stretch from downtown Napa to the Highway 37 bridge in Vallejo. With oversight from the Army Corps of Engineers, private dredging contractors will begin August 1, and will hopefully complete their work by mid-October. According to Rick Thomasser, operations manager for the Napa County Flood Control and Water Conservation District, dredgers are expected to remove roughly 300,000 cubic yards of sediment. The city of Napa will complete additional dredging outside the Corps-maintained 75-foot-wide navigation channel.

Most of what you see here, including the public dock, is the result of downtown Napa redevelopment during the past 20 years. But some of Napa’s most interesting attractions are its vintage buildings, including the Napa Valley Opera House and dozens of classic Victorians. 

© 2016 Art Hartinger

For sailors, this all means easier access to the downtown Napa waterfront, which was completely upgraded in recent years, including the addition of a long public dock. Planning a cruise up the Napa has always been a bit tricky, as you need to come and go when tides are relatively high, yet not so high that you lose bridge clearance. As veteran Napa River explorer Art Hartinger explains, "Vertical bridge clearances on charts are referenced to Mean High Water in tidal areas. Therefore if the existing height of tide is below MHW, there will be greater clearance. If the existing height of tide is greater than MHW, there will be less clearance." Make note that the popular Napa Valley Marina (and boatyard) has excellent directions here for successfully navigating the river. 

Art Hartinger’s sloop Pied à Mer made it to the downtown dock in 2014 without going aground. But Art had to hold his breath as her 50-ft mast slipped beneath the Butler Bridge.

© 2016 Art Hartinger

As we pointed out in our Favorite Destinations feature in the March issue of Latitude 38 (page 82), there’s much to do in downtown Napa — including tasting some of the best wine in the world. It you head up there this fall, after dredging has been completed, please drop us a line and let us know about your cruise.

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You might consider Jack van Ommen, one of Latitude’s heroes. Readers might remember that after going bankrupt in his early 60s, van Ommen had almost nothing left to his name but Fleetwood, a Nadja 29 he completed from a kit and had sailed in the Singlehanded TransPac many years before.