Delta Rat Scrapbook – by Bill Wells

Delta Rat Scrapbook

Fill-em-up Phil

I have seen quite a bit of Phil Champion over the last several months. He was a close friend of Bill Connor’s too. On a recent weekday, Gene Beley, Blair Hake and I met with Phil at Turner Cut Resort. Dan and Annabelle Dumas were kind enough to let us use their snack bar to interview him and go through his collection of Delta photos that he has collected since his childhood. His family boat was Luana, a 1927 Olympic that belonged to friends of mine Jack and Linda Myers at one time. They were some of the first folks I met when I joined the Classic Yacht Association back in 1993. It was no surprise that they kept Luana in Bristol condition. They attended many events over the years and I remember several mornings where they would be found sitting in their cockpit sipping coffee and playing Mahjong.

Phil Champion with his SSSC jacket.

We spent a fascinating afternoon hearing about Phil’s Delta adventures since he was a child and looking at his photos. Phil was born in Alameda where his grandparents had a waterfront home and kept their yacht moored there. During the summer they would cruise the boat up to Steamboat Slough and stay for the warm months.

Phil with a 1988 Yachtsman Magazine featuring Lost Isle. Photo courtesy of Phil.
Phil Champion as a young lad with his catch of the day – 1940s. Photo courtesy of Phil.

Phil had several photos of him and his brother aboard Luana, which brought back some fond memories for me. Steamboat Slough has been an anchorage forever it seems. In the 1950s, my friend Bob Chatfield’s parents would take their boat and anchor all summer while Bob’s father would commute to work in Sacramento. When Bob was not jumping off the bridge for amusement, he would get jobs working at some of the local farms. That was definitely a different era. Phil has worked as a bartender at some famous Delta watering holes. He was a charter member of the Super Secret Ship Society and was given the moniker by Hal Schell. The name originated from Hal’s wife Joanie because she would tap her cup on the bar and say “fill it up Phil.” There is a little confusion on the name. Phil’s jacket says “Fill-um-up Phil.” I always called him Fill-em-up-Phil, but then I learned it was originally Fill-it-up-Phil. Whatever it is, he answers to them all.

Luana cruising on San Francisco Bay, May of 1957. Photo courtesy of Phil.

Jackie Philpott

By now, you have read a couple of my colleague, Jackie’s columns. She has also published a book and given me a copy. It is a great read filled with good information about sailing in the Delta. Now it is mostly about sailing, but for us powerboaters a lot of the information applies. Jackie is in the Singlehanded Sailing Society and cruises her boat by herself mostly. I give her tremendous credit for this, especially cruising in the Delta. I single hand my twin engine power boat on occasion. It is not what I prefer, but sometimes you have to. In twenty plus years of cruising the Delta I have only run into one bridge and one tree while operating my boat by myself. Mishaps happen when I try to lower an antenna or drop fenders while underway. If I need to use the head when I am by myself, I idle both motors to maintain headway and lock my wheel in place, then I run to the head in the bow of the boat. I only do this when there are no other boats or ships within eyesight and on long straightaways.

I love her writing style; facts with a good dose of humor, sometimes within the same sentence. She wrote the material as she was living it. The manuscript is quite like a diary. If you are a new boater to the Delta, sail or power, you should read this book. It has a lot of hints that the locals take for granted but are worthwhile to know. Her comments on anchoring are especially worthwhile if you are not used to narrow waterways.

She includes several interviews including my friends Christine Weaver and Devery Stockon. She also interviewed yours truly starting on page 203 of the book. I was on a good rant about stopping the Department of Water Resources from building their tunnel to destroy the Delta when she interviewed me.

It is a great volume packed with information about marinas, personalities, food, the heat and a lot more important information. You can probably buy a signed copy directly from Jackie if you can track her down, or you can order it from Amazon. It is called “What I Saw Sailing in the California Delta.”

California Striped Bass Association

Ken Baccetti of the CSBA advises us that the “Barry Canevaro Memorial Striper Derby” will be held on April 2, out of the Rio Vista Boat Launch Ramp.

Barry Canevaro.

Ken tells us that, “the California Striped Bass Association, Isleton-Delta Chapter will from now on honor Barry by naming its annual striped bass derby in memory of him. We will have our website up very soon to accept entries and payment.” I met Barry a few times when I was invited to speak at Sportsmen Yacht Club’s Boys Night Out events along with him and former Contra Costa County Supervisor Mary Nejedly Piepho. He was a good guy and an expert on fishing in the Delta.

Ox Bow Yacht Club

Incoming Commodore Francesca Smith of the Ox Bow Yacht Club updates us on their recent change of watch. “The club celebrated its annual Change of Watch and installation of officers on a sunny Saturday afternoon, Feb. 5, at The Point Restaurant in Rio Vista.

Incoming Commodore Francesca Smith. Photo courtesy of Francesca.

“Staff Commodore Rich Harrington officiated. Outgoing Commodore McKenzie Smith presented the 2021 Member of the Year award to outgoing Treasurer Laura Cevello. Laura has provided guidance, thoughtful advice and kept us on an even keel as we navigated several board reviews and actions during 2021. We appreciate and celebrate her dedication to the club.

PICYA Vice Commodore Jennifer Neumann, PICYA Commodore Joan Marsh and Ox Bow Yacht Club Commodore Francesca Smith. Photo courtesy of Francesca.

“Ox Bow Yacht Club is a cruising club that enjoys voyages to numerous marinas and islands in the Delta and Bay. We are celebrating our 40th anniversary as a club a little bit later this year, and actually two years later than we had hoped. The club was founded in 1980, but once the pandemic hit we put our celebration plans on hold. So, we’ll be hosting a ‘40 plus 2’ celebration for current and former members sometime this fall. We also plan to participate with a booth at Taste of the Delta now that it’s back on the calendar.”

The ladies of Ox Bow Yacht Club celebrate “Girl Power!” and a lovely gift of Michigan cherry treats from outgoing Secretary Laura Cevello. Photo courtesy of Francesca.

Village West Yacht Club

Blair Hake reports from Village West Yacht Club, “The club enjoyed a wonderful February cruise out to Windmill Cove. Fleet Captain Melissa Marvin put together an array of activities to keep the members busy, and of course the awesome staff at Windmill Cove prepared great food and kept the libations flowing.

VWYC at Windmill Cove. Photo courtesy of Blair Hake.

“The event was well-supported by the VWYC Board of Vice Commodore Dave Smith, Rear Commodore Kimberly Miller, Port Captain Bill Thompson and Fleet Captain Melissa Marvin. They were joined by seven cruisers and several day boats throughout the weekend. Melissa promises to keep the club busy this year after having had a successful January cruise out to King Island Café, and is looking forward to doing a train trip to Reno in March and an April cruise out to Tower Park. I notice that she chooses establishments with reputations for good food! I think VWYC is going to have a fun year.” 

Grindstone Joe Association

Scott Andrews, the recently elected president of the Grindstone Joe Association advised me of some of the recent updates they have made to the property. As a general summary of the recent changes Scott reports, “In about 2015 we had a major flood and had to rebuild the entire electrical system for the docks. In 2018 San Joaquin County required us to update our island septic and water systems. We raised over $200,000 from the members for this. We contracted with KSN (civil engineering company in Stockton) to design a new permitted water system and a new septic system. We then drilled the well and installed an underground holding tank system. We had built a large, raised platform when we replaced the electrical system (to keep the electrical box above the high-water level), so we used that to house a fairly sophisticated water filtration and sanitation system. The water at the island is probably better than it has ever been. Everything is now up to code, inspected and approved by the county. These improvements were completed in early 2020.

Overhead view of Grindstone Joe’s. Photo courtesy of George Homenko.

“We recently replaced all the deck furniture (tables and chairs) again with member donations and rewired the bathrooms to ensure they were safe and code compliant. We also installed broadband internet and a marina-wide WiFi system. One of our members is fabricating a new automated entry gate that will be installed in the next few months, so things are really getting updated.

The original Grindstone Joe grindstone. Photo courtesy of Scott Andrews.

“Normally the association has not allowed cruise-ins during the summer. However, since we have undertaken these substantial improvements in 2021, we can have supported cruise-ins during the summer months (2022 is fully booked with at least eight cruise-ins.) We do not know if this policy will continue, but for now it seems to be working out well, balancing member use and cruse-ins.

“In 2021 we also hired a live on-site Island Host. Patrick Hind-Smith and his wife Sharon live aboard their boat Egret at the Island where they do light maintenance, provide an on-site presence and greet and support island visitors. Sharon is an accomplished Plein Aire painter who has made numerous delightful paintings of life on the Island.

Classic yachts at Grindstone Joe’s. Photo courtesy of Scott Andrews.

“In 2018 the county also red-tagged the floating homes that had been at the island since the 1970’s. Rather than demolish them, we were able to come to an agreement with the county on a protocol to convert them to entirely self-supported boats registered with the California DMV. This included removing the fixed septic lines and shoreside septic systems, installing holding tanks, changing over to a shorepower system and other changes. All but one of the seven houseboats remains and have been cleared by the county. Classic Yacht Association members Andrews, Kamilos, McNair and Arambel own four of these.

“After a few years of changes, punctuated by a pandemic, the island has re-emerged as a vibrant and delightful place. We have beavers, otters and, last week, two seals fishing in the harbor, and as always numerous herons, egrets, kingfishers and other wildlife nesting and raising broods. It is again the magical place it has been in the past.”

I have been to Grindstone Joe’s a few times and the thing that impressed me the first time was the mother-of-all ice machines that they had. I think they could supply all of Lodi with ice. They have also recently added a barbeque that can hold an entire pig. If you get the chance, you should pay a visit to this great Delta destination.

Stockton Yacht Club

The Stockton Yacht Club Opening Day 2022 is scheduled for April 9. This year’s theme will be “Mardi Gras on the Delta!” All Delta boaters are invited to decorate their boats for prizes and join the parade which starts at Windmill Cove at 1300 and travels through downtown Stockton. Stockton Yacht Club will be hosting the parade, as well as several fun events over the weekend. Activities include a TGIF dinner on Friday night, as well as a theme dinner with music and raffle prizes on Saturday following the parade. Bring your boat and join the fun all weekend! Guest docking with full hookups is available at SYC for $25 a night.

Overhead view of Stockton Yacht Club. Photo courtesy of George Homenko.

Hope you can join us for a fantastic weekend to kick off the 2022 boating season!

Contact the SYC Opening Day 2022 Chairpersons Jill Stevenson at 916-847-8959 or Colleen Waterhouse at 209-479-1981 if you have any questions!

Other Opening Days

As the pandemic wanes, things are quickly getting back to normal and we look forward to a great 2022 boating season. The Pacific Inter-Club Yacht Association (PICYA) will hold their Opening Day on the Bay on April 24. Things will kick off with the God Squad Blessing of the Fleet in Raccoon Straits offshore from the Corinthian Yacht Club, probably around 1000 hours (check with PICYA to confirm.) The fleet will proceed to the San Francisco City Front for the parade. The beautiful yacht Aurora V will be the blessing vessel once again.

Katie Senior checks in from the San Joaquin Yacht Club. “San Joaquin Yacht Club Opening Day on the Delta is on April 23.

“All floating craft welcome, no registration fee, includes classics, small craft, personal watercraft and dinghies. The parade starts at 1200 hours at the Yacht Club docks located at 550 Riverview Road, Bethel Island. There are cash prizes for decorated boats. Bring your boat for the blessing. For more information or to enter your boat, contact Fleet Captain Sherry Hoctor, or 925-766-0690.”

Discovery Bay Yacht Club invites you to their parade on April 9. If you have a boat, assemble your crew and join them. This year there is no theme. You are not required to decorate your boat, but there will be prizes for the most enthusiastic boat.

This parade is open to the general public to sign up and take part in. Event participants will assemble on their boats on Kellogg Creek just off the point of Newport Lane. The parade will begin at 12:30 p.m. after the Blessing of the Fleet. Once underway, it will wind around through every other bay of Discovery Bay and conclude in Marina Bay just beyond “F” dock near the marina. Participants and their guests are invited to come to the yacht club following the parade for awards, drinks and food. Anyone wishing to dock their boat at the yacht club following the parade will need to contact DBYC Port Captain Mike McNamee 925-382-8598 for their slip assignment.

Sacramento Yacht Club has set their opening day for May 1. Contact the club at 916-371-5058.

Marine Recreation Association (MRA)

Mariann Timms, operations administrator for the MRA advises us of the upcoming boating congress.

“The 2022 California Boating Congress sponsored by the Marine Recreation Association is set for April 18 and 19, at the Hyatt Regency Hotel Conference Center in downtown Sacramento, kicking off with an evening Welcome Receptions on the 18th and a full day of interactive hybrid events on the 19th.

“Attendees at this year’s hybrid event will be able to participate by logging into the different meetings and participating on-line, or by attending in person. Meetings and presentations are being set up now with a number of key legislators and regulators who have an interest in our issues including California Natural Resources Secretary Wade Crowfoot and Armando Quintero, the director of the California Department of Parks & Recreation.

“Registration for this important event is now open at”

SPAM Festival

Great fun returns to Isleton. Yes, the SPAM Festival has returned. This is the kind of spam you eat, not the one that appears in your email box. This year’s is the 23rd annual party. We dropped in on a warm Saturday afternoon. The whole second floor ballroom of Peter’s Steakhouse was taken over for the event. It was packed with enthusiastic folks. Some of the highlights were a SPAM cooking/recipe contest, SPAM eating contest and my personal favorite – the SPAM toss. Unfortunately, I had other commitments so could not stay until the end of the day to learn who the winners were. But I think in this type of event the participation is what matters, not who actually wins. Did you know that SPAM stands for “spiced ham” and was created by Hormel in 1937 and shipped all over the world in World War II. When I lived in Honolulu in the late 1960s I worked mostly downtown and at least once or twice a week I would have lunch at one of the ubiquitous food trucks that would arrive around the noon hour. Frequently, my lunch would be fried SPAM. It would come with rice and vegetables, and in the case of the Korean trucks – Kimchi (sometimes called Kim Chee.) You would get two or three slices of SPAM hot off the griddle, they would ask if you wanted one scoop of rice or two. I always took two. Apparently, Hawaii is still the biggest per capita consumer of SPAM in the United States.

Mr. SPAM Man. Photo courtesy of Morris Lum.

It is great to see Peter’s Steakhouse doing well. I drop in to get a steak sandwich for lunch frequently. Peter, his wife Yee and their son Danny are generally there. They are all nice folks and important parts of the Delta community.

Taste Of The Delta

After a two-year hiatus, the Taste of the Delta is back on for Aug 6. The management of Village West Marina & Resort is providing space at their new club at the resort. It looks like this will be the grandest event yet. This is the 19th year that the event has been held by the California Delta Chambers and Visitor’s Bureau. It was started by then President Vickie Baumann and held at Tower Park Resort. Since then, it has been held at locations throughout the Delta, notably the Ryde Hotel, Windmill Cove, Tower Park, Stockton YC and for the last few years Village West. It is ironic that Vickie, who started the whole thing is now the manager of Village West Marina Resort.

The Taste of the Delta has been a great venue to showcase Delta Area wines and restaurants for the last two decades. Thanks to Roger Hahn we have included local breweries for the last few events. People come from all over the West Coast to enjoy the day and learn about the region. Local artists and craftsmen (and women) are invited to show their works, as well as selected vendors and non-profit organizations. It is rounded out with an auction and live music, this year provided by Tressa Gaye & Friends from up Clarksburg way. Don’t miss this fun party. Tickets are limited, so get yours online at


Per and Erika Hammarlund took over the care and management of this classic Stephens Yacht a few years back. They put her in the yard for months of restoration and then moved her to Ox Bow Marina where they continued to work on her when they were not cruising her around the Delta. Allure was originally purchased from a boat show for $12,567 in 1931. Built by the Stephens Brothers of Stockton, she spent most of her early years cruising the 1,000 miles of waterways in the California Delta.

Allure at Ox Bow Marina.

Packing 550 horsepower from twin Mopar 318 cubic inch V8’s, she is capable of 18 knots in flat water. Per & Erika Hammarlund are originally from Sweden and they have been called back to their homeland. They will be shipping Allure back to Sweden where they will cruise Swedish waters and European canals, as well as continuing her restoration. The plan is to cruise her to Napa Marina, put her on a trailer and transport her to Southern California where she will be loaded on a ship and taken to Europe.

Allure has had an illustrious history in the Delta. Martin and Janis McNair cruised her for close to 30 years. My friend Kit Artig cruised her prior to Martin and Janis. She was also owned by the Niello family in Sacramento prior to Kit owning her. It is sad to see her leave the Delta, but I don’t think she could find a better home than with Per and Erika.


Joe Faso is one of the most colorful Delta rats. He certainly is one of the most senior OG’s since Bill Connor passed. Joe has thrown many memorial parties at his former estate, Point Faso at the confluence of the San Joaquin and Calaveras rivers. He has cruised his boats all over the Bay and Delta and down to Mexico for decades. Joe has been engaged to the beautiful Tami Serpa for the last year or so. We have been waiting with baited breath for them to take the next step. They picked Valentine’s Day to tie the knot. Best of luck and a happy life to two great people. Oh yes, Point Faso is still in the family as Joe’s daughter Jill Faso Antonini and her husband Joe have purchased the estate and are living there with their son Paul and their pack of dogs. We wish Joe and Tami the best as they start their new adventure.

Joe and Tami.

Eight Bells

Dino Cortopassi, a giant in the Delta has crossed over the bar. He was a farmer in the Stockton area controlling about 7,000 acres at his peak. He was involved in many agriculture related businesses also. He was voted Stocktonian of the year in 2005. He fought for a proposition that would have required a statewide vote on mega-projects and boondoggles like the Delta tunnels. He started the Wetlands Preservation Foundation to preserve and sustain the California Delta.

When Cortopassi got wind of then governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s plan to divert the Sacramento River around the Delta via a huge canal, he took out several full page ads in the “Sacramento Bee” newspaper pointing out what a folly the idea was. I give him credit for helping to stop the plan. Unfortunately, the plan has taken on a life of its own with Jerry Brown and now Gavin Newsom coming up with their own schemes to divert the river. Delta residents and supporters vow to carry on the work of Dino Cortopassi and make sure the Sacramento River and the Delta are not destroyed.

Cortopassi also founded the Cortopassi Family Foundation and the Pacific Italian Alliance. Cortopassi started several other foundations to help other people including the JobRedi Foundation to provide vocational assistance to high school graduates.

Irish Pennants

My people tell me that Terry McDonald’s waterfront home on the Calaveras River is at the stage that it can be lived in, and Terry has moved in. I have seen photos of the pool and it is beautiful. I will get over there soon and get some photos. Maybe he will invite me to his housewarming party.

I have many who report to me of all Delta happenings, and while out on Bethel Island a Delta spy happened to run across Captain Tommy Knorr and Phillip Delano launching one of their TowBoatU.S. vessels at the Sugar Barge launch ramp. The vessel had just been picked up and returned to the Delta after she spent some time in the Bay Area at Sal’s Inflatables. Phillip seemed to be pleased with the work done on the pontoons, but then again… it’s Sal’s Inflatables and how could one not be satisfied. As a recreational boater I can surely attest to the benefits of the many tow vessels that Phillip oversees and I am glad to be a BoatU.S. member knowing that I can rely upon their assistance whether boating in the Bay or Delta. This is a perfect segue to remind you of another item to check off your to do list in preparation for boating this year. Make sure to renew your BoatU.S. membership, or if not a member yet, you can join at 800-395-2628. It’s the cheapest piece of mind you can purchase in my opinion.

The Drake brass plate.

Gerry Kamilos, a friend of mine and the skipper of the classic Trumpy yacht Aurora V. He is the board president of Friends of Sacramento Arts. The group is dedicated to the mainstreaming of arts education into the public school curriculum. They recently brought the Brubeck Brothers Quartet to the Crest Theater in Sacramento for a performance to honor Dave Brubeck’s 100th birthday. The quartet features Chris and Dan Brubeck, Dave’s sons. Gerry invited Sue and I to join him and his entourage at the show. Earlier that day the Brubecks held a virtual workshop that had over 1000 music students participate.

When I was at Ox Bow Marina I ran into (not literally) Alyssa Ghiradelli and Shanon Essex. They had cruised their trawler Escape Hatch down Georgiana Slough from the Boathouse Marina on the Sacramento River to tour the Delta Loop area and dropped into Ox Bow to take on some fuel. We discussed some potential day trips for them and agreed to stay in touch so they can keep me posted about their travels.

Caltrans has announced that Highway 12 will be closed to east and westbound traffic intermittently in May while repairs are made to the Little Potato Slough Bridge. It will be closed between I-5 and SR-160 except for local traffic. You can catch the next exit north of 12 on I-5, Thornton road. It is not too far out of the way.

Phillip Delano getting ready to launch at the Sugar Barge launch ramp.

Groan – did you see that now they are renaming the Sir Francis Drake Hotel in San Francisco? It will now be called the “Beacon Grand.” Francis Drake is one of my heroes and arguably one of the greatest mariners that ever lived. He was the first Englishman to ever circumnavigate the earth and collected enough Spanish plunder for Queen Elizabeth to pay off the English national debt with her half of the booty. He was knighted by the queen and became Sir Francis Drake. I never knew this, but apparently he engaged in the slave trade when he was a young man. Later in life he is credited with freeing slaves held by the Spanish. I think his life deserves more research. I own the brass plate that Drake left and was found in Marin County back in 1936 claiming Nova Albion for Queen Elizabeth and her successors. Of course, there are detractors out there that claim the plate is a hoax, but I am confident that it is real. I will pass it on to my heirs.

Sadly, my friend Dawn Schuman has closed Wimpy’s restaurant. Dawn is one of my favorite people in the Delta and Wimpy’s was one of my favorite restaurants. I am so sorry to hear this, but I am confident Dawn will land on her feet somewhere in the region.

Boating season is arriving. Send me your high-resolution photos and sea stories at 916-869-9141 or