Delta Rat Scrapbook – by Bill Wells
Rusty Never Sleeps
Rusty Areias has elevated himself to possibly the position of the number one restorer and savior of Stephens Yachts in the world. He has Contessa, Miss 102, Folly II and JOIE, all famous and beautiful Stephens Yachts to his credit. During his journey he became a very close friend of Dick Stephens and the Stephens family. He spent a lot of time with Dick learning the lore and mystique of the Stephens Company and their boats.
He partnered with Bob Slobe and started with the 48-foot 1957 Stephens, Contessa, a decade or more ago. They had her in the boatyard for some planks and a new stem as I recall. When they finished with her, she was a head turner wherever she went.
Next, Rusty embarked on a search for the legendary 85-foot 1951 Stephens yacht, Westlake. She was built for Henry Dolger and was reportedly the largest yacht built on the West Coast in the aftermath of World War II. Unfortunately, he found that she sank in the Caribbean Sea in the 1980s.
Not wasting any time, he found the beautiful 60-foot 1956 model Stephens Miss 102 at the Saint Francis Yacht Club and returned her to Bristol condition. Along the way he redid the main salon in a beautiful Art Deco style. He had knowledge of Folly II down in Monterey and looked at her a few times over a couple of years. He was finally able to negotiate a price and formed a syndicate consisting of Ted Collins, Bruce Jones, Jonathan Perkins and Rusty himself to acquire and restore this historic boat. The syndicate is called YP144 LLC. YP144 was the name Folly II carried when she was conscripted into Navy service during World War II. He also found the 60-foot 1959 yacht JOIE languishing in Southern California, and acquired her in a partnership with Ted Harris.
He purchased JOIE when his daughter, Alexis, chose to go to school in Southern California. He thought what better way to get to know the people and waters of Southern California than purchasing this special vessel and spending weekends with his family and his daughter’s friends from USC cruising to Catalina and other spots in Southern California. By now Rusty has assembled a professional crew of Stephens restorers, and felt it would be good to have her up here in the Delta to join his fleet while she is being worked on.
According to Stephens, Theodore Brix who commissioned JOIE in 1959 “was a bit of a dilettante with exquisite tastes and a wallet to match. He spared no expense on Amelia Marie/JOIE, his third Stephens all with the same name. He even installed an organ on one of the boats.”
JOIE made it to Stockton in early February and is now at Tony Faso’s Delta Marine Yacht Center. Due to various factors, Rusty made the decision to bring her by truck to Stockton a couple hundred yards from where she was first launched in 1960 when Brix, a Fresno businessman commissioned her, his third and last Stephens all named Amelia Marie.
Rusty recalled, “Getting her to Stockton was a major operation. There were 24 overpasses on I-5. She could not get over or under, so they found a route with only six miles on I-5. Rusty is grateful to the California Department of Transportation (Commercial Division), Dennis, Claire and Kimberly at Associated Yacht Transport, a very experienced driver named Val, John Greer at Sunset Aquatics, Devinder Sandhu at DOT and Tom Bartee on State Senator Bill Dodd’s office all assisted mightily as I tried their patience. Val was especially transparent and provided updates, status and pictures all along the way. Tony Faso, owner of Delta Marine Yacht Center, while dealing with COVID-19 received the boat, and other than one broken window and a slight suppression of the keel she seems in great shape from the trip! Special thanks to Casper Poiesz her Captain who did a great job of reducing height and preparing her for the adventure north.
“We will miss our Southern California boating friends who kindly welcomed us to their ranks. We hope to be back soon with a new and improved JOIE for many more trips to Catalina and everywhere else you have introduced us to. Be well, be safe, we miss you and safe boating!”
Also, when he is not otherwise working or sleeping, Rusty is in the process of saving Landing 63 on the Sacramento River at Walnut Grove. I drive by their frequently and his efforts have improved the look of the whole town. I think he will start installing the new docks about the time you will be reading this.
Time flies. Dave Breninger advises me that this is the 15th year in business for Thornell Washington and Septic Brothers, an essential service to Delta boaters. If you are not familiar, Thornell’s team will travel to your boat wherever you are and pump the holding tank for a nominal fee. This means that when you are anchored at Mandeville for Independence Day, you can place a call to Septic Brothers and they will come and pump your holding tank so you don’t have to lose your spot. This was an opportunity waiting to happen when Thornell started his business.
Dave saw Thornell at the Stockton Yacht Club on one recent morning. Dave says, “It is hard to believe it has been 15 years since I first met him at Ox Bow Marina as he was going around talking with harbor masters and boaters about the services of his, then new business, Septic Brothers. As I recall, Thornell was with his brother in their boat. They plied the marina waters to personally meet and greet boaters in conversation and to introduce their new service. Back then they had one boat. Now Thornell proudly reports, they operate with four boats.”
Spring Is Here
It is looking like we are having another early spring after a short winter (if we even had a winter.) You might be wondering why things are warming up lately, climate change and any scientific data aside, the real cause is when I bought a new overcoat about six years ago. It is retro looking, double breasted and heavy wool. I think I wore it twice the first year and at best once every year since. With the warm temperatures lately it is just too heavy for Sacramento, and when I go to the Bay Area it never seems to be cold enough there to wear it. I am keeping it though; I am confident things will still cool off at some point. At this rate, it should last the rest of my life and beyond.
Christine Hammer has purchased a new yacht. I think it is a retirement gift for herself. It looks like she is going to allow Gerard to crew for her.
Adam Farrow is in Mexico at this writing. He is fixing up his new to him boat prior to cruising her up to the Delta.
We need to put a GPS device on Terry McDonald. He is popping up all over the place. My people claim to have spotted him in Nashville. Then I heard he was sighted at Tahoe. There were reports of him cruising with Thom and Wendy Foulks in the Bay, and indeed heading west out the Golden Gate. This is all in one month.
Be careful out there; we just heard a report of someone filling a fishing rod holder with 28 gallons of gasoline on a boat in Michigan. The resulting explosion put a man in the hospital. Remember, one gallon of gasoline has the explosive force of a stick of dynamite.
Giusti’s, Foster’s Big Horn and most other Delta restaurants should be open for indoor seating by the time you read this. It never hurts to call ahead and check though. I am confident that we will have a great boating season. Wimpy’s has continued to serve some great meals to go. Hopefully, they will have indoor dining when you read this.
Blair Hake held another epic birthday party for himself. This time it was at Windmill Cove. Many folks came by boat, and others of us came by land yacht. Owner, Jerry Wolfe cooked a great lunch for everyone. It looked like about half of Stockton was there.
We are “well below normal for precipitation and snowfall this year,” according to Ernest Conant, Bureau of Reclamation regional director. “We will monitor the hydrology as the water year progresses and continue to look for opportunities for operational flexibility.”
South of the Delta water districts have been informed that they will receive only five percent of their allotment for 2021. This naturally is bad news for many farmers that grow water intensive crops.
According to Doug Obegi of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Bureau of Reclamation and Department of Water Resources plans to allocate approximately five-million-acre feet of water this year, which will effectively drain the two largest reservoirs in the state, potentially killing most or nearly all the endangered winter-run Chinook salmon this year, threatening the state’s resilience to continued dry conditions and maybe even violating water quality standards in the Delta.
Dan Bacher reports that, “For the third year in a row, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife found zero Delta smelt in the agency’s 2020 Fall Midwater Trawl Survey throughout the Delta.
“The two- to three-inch-long Delta smelt, found only in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, is an indicator species that reveals the overall health of the San Francisco Bay Delta Estuary. It was once the most abundant fish in the entire estuary, numbering in the millions. Now it’s on the verge of extinction in the wild.”
The board of directors of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California is scheduled to vote on whether or not to raise property taxes to help fund the project to divert the Sacramento River around the Delta. In case you are not aware, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (Metropolitan), pursuant to Section 124 of the Metropolitan Water District Act (the “Act”) is authorized to levy and collect taxes on all property within the district for the purposes of carrying on the operations and paying the obligations of the district.” This will be a cruel joke on the people and businesses that reside within the district if the board carries it out. Because of the pandemic and resulting unemployment, Californians are about $1 billion behind on their water bills. Many of these folks are in Southern California; in Los Angeles there are about 150,000 households that owe more than $1,000 on their water bills.
It is time to end the tomfoolery. The Delta Conveyance Project is already obsolete before it will ever come online 10 or 15 years hence. This $55 or $75 billion (take your pick) boondoggle will help further destroy the economy of the once greatest state in America. We recently learned that the unemployment fraud during 2020 is estimated at $11 to $31 billion ($31 billion is 10 percent of the state’s budget.) Throw in $100 billion for the already obsolete bullet train project, amortize all of that over 11 million income taxpayers in California and you are talking about some serious debt unloaded on the good citizens of the state.
We need to find a way to create new fresh water, not continue to reallocate a diminishing supply from one group to others more equal. Currently, there are two ways that I know of to accomplish this goal. There are machines that can extract water from the air, but these require a lot of energy to operate so baring some breakthrough in solar power they are not very efficient. The other method is desalination of ocean water. This process is still expensive running as high as $2,000 per acre foot, but there continues to be technology breakthroughs that keep bringing the price down. There are countries in the middle east that derive virtually all of their water from desalination.
One thing for sure is that the status quo is not viable. I think the state has already squandered about a billion dollars on their tunnel and it is just barely into the planning stages. Some of the contractors are making more than the president, all the while they are plotting to destroy the California Delta and its wildlife. I urge you to contact your elected officials and tell them that the tunnel boondoggle is unacceptable.
Opening Day On The Bay
This event is still in flux, so you might keep your eye on the Pacific Interclub Yacht Association website (http://www.picya.org/) for updates. Whatever takes place it will be on April 25. The theme is Back to the Future, celebrating 125 years on the San Francisco Bay. The organization has grown from five to 107 Clubs, from Clipper ships to America’s Cup sleds, from steamers to solar. The celebration will be both virtual and on the water. If you can’t make it to the Bay, do a casual cruise with friends, family, club members or strangers and submit photos or videos for playing on April 25. It will be a great time for the grandkids to submit family memories of the past or family dreams of the future. Please contact PICYA Vice Commodore Patti Brennan for registration details firstname.lastname@example.org or 510-501-1596.
The blessing of the fleet will still take place in Racoon Straits. Gerry and Karen Kamilos will have their beautiful Aurora V anchored on station for the God Squad to individually bless the vessels as they pass. At this writing it looks like the Corinthian Yacht Club will not be open for the celebration but check with them in case things change. The blessing of the fleet will begin at 1030 hours.
Stockton Yacht Club
Commodore John Contreras reports in from the clubhouse on the Calaveras River that they are opening up for 2021. They started their Wacky Wednesday dinners in March, and John says, “boy do I look forward to seeing all of you and reacquainting ourselves. We hope to share our COVID experiences with laughter and a sigh of relief.” John also reports that the club bar is opening for 2021. “Come meet and have a libation with Ms. Ellie as she will proudly be opening the bar for the first time this year. A great meal, beverages and friends. What more can we offer you?”
Masks are a must and always required when moving around and not at the table. Social distancing is also a must and will be in place. Check the website for our calendar of events for the month of March, as well as future events being added weekly. Reservations can now be made for all events; early sign-ups help us be prepared and more efficient.
The club’s opening day parade will be on April 10 with a dinner after. The theme will be Disney On the Delta. That would include Pirates of the Caribbean, Peter Pan, and other Disney characters. Will there be a flying Dumbo? Remember, opening day themes leave almost everything to the imagination.
The parade begins on the San Joaquin River at Windmill Cove and proceeds upstream to McLeod Lake and back to the starting point. Just remember, it is not a race. After the parade many folks head back upstream on the Calaveras and head to the club bar for a cocktail before dinner.
Contact Colleen Waterhouse or Jill Stevenson at 209-946-9259 to sign up and participate. There is a TGIF dinner on Friday evening also. You definitely need to make reservations if you are going to attend the dinners.
Tracie Glaves who started the San Joaquin Delta Neighborhood Watch organization is the Grand Marshall for 2021. Glaves and her organization have had a huge positive impact on the Delta along the San Joaquin River in the Stockton area. She has made relationships with the Sheriff’s office and elected officials. Since she started the organization a few years back she has been responsible for the removal of tens of tons of debris and junk from local waterways. She has worked with state and local agencies to help stop vagrants from living on the riverbanks and local islands. Karen received the Hal Schell Award from Yachtsman Magazine two years ago. She deserves all the recognition she can receive. She has recruited many people to assist her not the least of which is Roger Kelly, but she is the force of nature behind cleaning up this part of the Delta. If we could just get the state agencies charged with defending our natural resources involved with helping out, it would really be great.
San Joaquin Yacht Club
The SJYC is holding their opening day on April 23. This is another excellent parade. It starts at the clubhouse and proceeds clockwise around the island, taking a couple of hours to make the journey around Bethel Island. The residents of the island are very appreciative and turn out on their docks and patios to watch and cheer on the boats as they pass.
I attended my first opening day here in 1994. At the time I kept my boat at Arrowhead Harbor in the West Delta. My girlfriend and I left Arrowhead at the crack of dawn to get there for the start of the parade. It was an uneventful cruise until we got to the Rio Vista Bridge and hit a solid wall of fog. We hove to for a while pondering what to do, when suddenly the fog raised like a curtain and we had almost unlimited visibility. We got underway and cut over on Three Mile Slough and across the San Joaquin to False River. We arrived at the club just as the parade began and fell into our place in line as if we had planned it that way.
Mimi Miller let the Classic Yacht Association use her dock on Sandmound Slough whenever we were in the area. There was a floating cabin at the property too. It had a shower and a living room where we could all hang out. It was actually the late Art Mirassou’s home, but Mimi was the caretaker. We would have a barbeque at her house or go to the club for dinner. Tom Clothier recently reminded me of the time there was a barbeque at Mimi’s and Bob Partridge brought some expensive steaks. When he walked away to refill his cocktail, Mimi gave the steaks to some of her friends and Bob & his wife, Beverly, were forced to eat hamburgers.
Mimi had a Cadillac Sedan de Ville and sometimes she would pack a bunch of us in it and go visit some of the local yacht clubs for dinner and or cocktails. Mimi liked Russian vodka, so I kept a bottle hidden on my boat especially for her. After a while I forgot where it was, so I was embarrassed when she came aboard and I could not find it. It turned up a few months later in the bilge, exactly where I left it.
One memorable evening several of us went to the San Joaquin Yacht Club for dinner. Mimi drove us over, and I guess she forgot us and left early and five of us were stranded with maybe a couple miles walk back to her home. Luckily, Mont and Cynthia McMillen had cruised over in their new shore boat, about an eight-foot inflatable dinghy with a small outboard as I recall. By water the distance to Mimi’s home was not even a mile. A total of seven of us got aboard, packed like sardines. The boat did not have any lights and it was a fairly dark night. We made it back without mishap and had a great sea story to tell later.
Missed The Frozen Bun Run This Year
One of the events that did not happen this year because of the pandemic was the Rusty Porthole’s Frozen Bun Run. This has been a New Year’s Day tradition for 40 years, 2021 would have been number 41. This did not stop many intrepid Delta Rats from taking a winter plunge. There were some individuals that braved the cold weather and took a winter swim. Here is Catherine Miskow warming up with a cold drink after a swim in the icy river. Catherine and her husband Mark Bettis seem to spend most of their free time cruising their boat in the Delta. Catherine is a college professor and Mark is the harbormaster at Coyote Point Marina on the days when they are forced to work.
They are an attractive couple, and naturally they have a beautiful child, Bailey, a purebred Airedale puppy. He is the cutest dog I have seen in a while, and looks like he is a load of fun. It looks like he loves the boating life too.
Unleashed Poker Run
Mark your calendar now for the second annual Unleashed Poker Run. It will be held on July 30 from 0800 hours to 1800 hours. This event was a fantastic success and a hell of a lot of fun last year. It raised a lot of money for the Animal Protection League. With Jill Faso Antonini involved, you know it will be an epic event. Do not miss this one. Jill says, “Dearest Delta Dogs, who is ready to finally have something to look forward to?
“Because the inaugural event was so successful, the date is confirmed! And the planning has begun. This year will be even better than last. We cannot wait to tell you more.
“Please mark your calendar, right now. You do not want to miss our second annual Unleashed Poker Run! The time is coming to chase some tail on the Delta.”
The 2020 event was a much-needed day of fun for Delta boaters that had been going stir crazy for several months. I think there was something like $10,000 in prizes for the poker hands. It seems like everyone in the Delta was there. I am not sure but this might have been the Delta’s only poker run in the summer of 2020. There were two starting points: Stockton and Discovery Bay.
Jill, along with help from others came up with the idea for the poker run. Dan Bouchard, president of the Board of Directors for the Animal Protection League (APL) and Jill who is the director of development and marketing for the APL worked tirelessly in all the planning, organizing the dozens of volunteers and setting up the event’s venues over a vast area of the Delta cannot be congratulated enough in all their efforts.
The event started in the aforementioned two locations, with stops at Orwood Resort, Garlic Brothers, Rusty Porthole and Moore’s Riverboat to eventually end up at Windmill Cove. It was spectacular and came off without a hitch. With 75 boats and well over a hundred participants, not only was it a fantastic time but also the event raised a lot of much-needed money for the well deserving animals that the APL is committed to help protect.
The run included a cool swag bag, breakfast at the starts and then dinner at Windmill Cove. Along with the raffle, silent auctions and winning poker hands there were few who walked away empty handed. The two lucky hand holders of first and second place were rewarded with trips to Costa Rica and Las Vegas respectively.
Boats that participated included everything from competition ski boats, family runabouts, medium go fasts and of course the big boys with their high-powered cats. It seemed everyone knew everyone or at least had an idea of who they were, and it made for a great time of catch up.
Greg Sabourin, a friend of mine has put his classic Stephens yacht up for sale. Killara is one of a handful of remaining Stephens 34-footers. She was built in 1929 and described by Pacific Motor Boat magazine as “Shippy in appearance, and fast-lined.” The 34 can reach speeds upwards of 20 miles per hour, and is perfect for the protected inland waterways of the West Coast, as well as passages along the coastal seas.
Thirty-four feet is a great size for cruising the Delta. It is also a great size for a classic yacht, she won’t drive you to the poorhouse. She has a single screw and was repowered in the 1980s with a 160 horsepower Mercruiser engine. She draws three feet, has a beam of nine feet and weighs in at six tons. She is planked in Port Orford cedar on oak frames, and her topsides are teak.
Her open main cabin above with generous built-in bench seating across the stern, and the original bench seats for the captain and guests facing forward and aft create plenty of light airy space for entertaining guests. Below there is a simple galley and berths forward to sleep four. There is deck space forward for comfortable seating near the bow to enjoy the passing scenery. Greg, his family and their partners, the Richardsons have cruised her all over the Bay and much of the Delta.
Antonio DeGonzalez passed away unexpectedly in February. He was beloved in Rio Vista and indeed all over the Delta. He took over management at The Point Restaurant in 2015 and it has continued to be a great place to eat with excellent food and great service at reasonable prices. Antonio also had three other restaurants in Rio Vista, Burgerlicious, Tortilla Flats and Tortilla Flats #2. He also had another restaurant in South San Francisco. He believed in excellence and always provided outstanding customer service. I have eaten in all of the above restaurants and enjoyed great meals every time I stopped in. They have all received awards for excellent food and customer service.
Now that the Petaluma River has been dredged, boats can once again travel to the downtown basin. You might recall that the film American Graffiti used Petaluma as the location for its cruising scenes. Before the pandemic hit the city held an annual “Cruzin’ The Boulevard” event to honor the film. It was cancelled last year, but it looks like it is possibly on schedule for 2021. May 15th is the date. If you are interested in attending, check out the website http://www.americangraf fiti.net/ for more information.
As California continues to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, free three-hour virtual Dockwalker trainings (Saturdays from 10 a.m.-12:45 p.m. starting March 6th to June 12th) will be offered through the Zoom video conferencing system. This is a great alternative to an in-person training, and in the best interest of everyone considering the current situation. Through the Zoom video conferencing system, you will be able to see the instructor live and ask questions! Do not worry, it is a very simple system and we are here to help walk you through it! Remember, if you were trained three years ago it is time to get recertified. Learn more here: https://dbw.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=29230
Training sessions will be on April 24, (1000 – 1245), May 8 (1000 – 1245) and June 12 (1000 – 1245.)
California State Parks invites you to a clean boating educational happy hour webinar. They say if you tune in you will “be sure to learn something new.” Learn quick, easy and impactful boating tips to keep boating fun and our waterways clean. And that’s not all. You will also receive a CA Boater Kit. Join them on April 8 at 1730 hours. You need to register in advance at https://ports-ca.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_lLKau8qHT6qWjmvM3I2vbQ
Save the date for the Waterpalooza Weekend, May 22 and 23. The folks in the North Delta are planning several events including a boat parade. Call Golden Road Productions at 530-362-8264 for information.
We got a somewhat late start, but the 20s are definitely starting to roar.
Be part of the great adventure! I am sitting by the computer waiting for your sea stories! Commodorewells@msn.com or phone 916-869-9141.