Delta Rat Scrapbook – by Bill Wells
International Order Of The Blue Gavel (IOBG)
The Delta is home to District 14 and District 19 of the IOBG. District 14 is westerly and includes the Bay Area. District 19 covers the eastern part of the Delta, which includes Stockton, Discovery Bay, and the surrounding area.
Member wise, District 14 is much smaller than District 19 so the organizations frequently double up for events. There was a joint member barbeque at the Stockton Yacht Club. Well, it started as a barbeque but due to the wind and heat it was moved inside the air-conditioned clubhouse. It was much more comfortable this way.
We dined on hamburgers, hot dogs and all the regular barbeque things, the only difference was they were served at the club galley.
With my deadline being so close to the 4th I was not able to include much beyond what some of my scouts were able to provide. I will update more in next month’s issue. Most importantly the Hilton Mandeville fireworks extravaganza was definitely on with people claiming space around Venice Reach.
Patrick Berry from the Hilton Organization sent us this press release: “One of the San Joaquin Delta’s most beloved traditions – Barron Hilton’s Venice Island fireworks show – will launch on Sunday, July 3 this year, in the middle of the three-day weekend. As an extra added attraction, the floating spectator fleet will be treated to an airshow flown by Byron’s own Patriots Jet Team in a dramatic opening act to the evening’s festivities. The demonstration will take place at 1830 hours, giving the pilots time to return on the water to take in the fireworks show at 2130 hours.
“Hilton, the late head of the famous hotel chain, began celebrating the 4th of July at the Venice Island Duck Club more than 60 years ago. ‘He started it all by lighting a few rockets and pinwheels for the amusement of his children, and he noticed that a few boaters stopped by to take in the fun,’ said Tom Foscue, president of the Delta Independence Day Foundation. As his family grew, so did his waterborne audience, and Barron soon hired professional pyrotechnicians to put on the show.
“The display is now produced by Fireworks America, and launched from a barge provided by his friend, Bill Dutra of the Dutra Group to entertain thousands of boaters who raft up near the Mandeville Cut off the Stockton Deep Water Channel.”
After a COVID cancellation in 2020, the show resumed last year, but without Mr. Hilton, who passed away in 2019 at age 91. “Randy Howell, owner of the Patriots Jet Team, planned to fly over Venice Island in an aerial salute to Barron’s memory,” recalled Tom Simms, the foundation’s vice president and treasurer. “Thanks to the generosity of Venice Island Owners, Inc., they were able to add a third jet so they could perform an emotional missing man formation in Barron’s honor.” This year, the Patriots Jet Team will put on a full airshow with all six of their L-39 jets.
“Once again, we have Venice Island Owners, Inc. to thank,” said Marsha de Vera, vice president and secretary. “Barron Hilton set up our endowment so we could continue the show for the benefit of the Delta community he loved. He will long be remembered as an entrepreneur, sportsman and philanthropist. But he was also an accomplished pilot, and I know he would have loved how our Independence Day celebration has grown at Venice Island.”
A last-minute addition prior to going to press, includes the following information. The weather turned out to be, not only a bit cooler but brought with it high winds. Goes without saying that this year’s Independence Day weekend felt anything like a typical late June or early July weekend. All in all, the weather did not keep those wishing to celebrate in the traditional Delta fashion away.
There were a few anchor drifts and of course dreaded anchor pulls but for the most part all raft ups held their ground and stayed in place. The airshow was a chapter out of Top Gun as the Patriots Jet team performed and completed a huge number of flawless and spectacular passes over Venice Island and the northern tip of Mandeville. As expected, the fireworks that followed the Airshow later in the evening, did not disappoint as many have stated that it was one of the best ever. The decision to hold the festivities on the 3rd of July was a bonus, as there were many that pulled anchor on the 4th to then head upriver to Stockton and view the Stockton firework display at Weber Point.
I am headed to Ox Bow Marina for their parade on the 4th. Don Nottoli, Sacramento County Supervisor who is retiring soon will be the Grand Marshall. Don has devoted his career to Delta issues and has been a huge advocate for local people and businesses. It is sad to see him go but hopefully he will still find the time to visit us from time to time. Antioch was having an all-day celebration, complete with bands and fireworks. Stockton likewise was scheduled to have fireworks. Many other parades, fireworks displays and other parties were planned for the weekend. We should have some information for the September issue.
Over at Korth’s Pirates Lair Marina the tradition continues. Anyone familiar with the marina knows that the Korth family puts on a great party on the lawn overlooking the marina. Tiki Tom Tate and the crew transform the lawn area into their very own private viewing platform for the 4th of July festivities.
There are many from the Delta Loop and surrounding areas that show up and this year’s display did not disappoint. During the day the tenants of the park held their decorated golf cart parade and many of the golf carts could still be seen the following day sporting their efforts. By the looks of it fun was had by all in attendance.
Ebony Boat Club
The Ebony Boat Club held their annual Jazz Festival in early June. Jazzbeau & Friends Band provided some great music throughout the day. I enjoyed the wine tasting with several local wineries represented. The barbeque dinner was fantastic; chicken, ribs and links all on the menu.
The club has their floating clubhouse at the Stockton Downtown Marina. If you get the chance, you should attend their events. They are all fun and the club has some excellent chefs. Mainly, you should support them because they do a lot to help the community. Their Ebony Youth Foundation was established in 2016 as a 501(c)(3) non-profit. They pride themselves that 100 percent of your donations goes to their scholarships and youth programs.
They do a lot to support the city of Stockton, not the least of which is exposing local youth to the boating life and teaching them how to fish. Every year they award scholarships to deserving young people and many of them come back after they finish school to tell their success stories. Check them out at ebonyboatclub1987.com
Park Delta Bay
The resort is holding its Sunday markets for the summer. My friend Eric Chiu bought the former KOA campground a few years back and has transformed it into a cute little community for recreational vehicles and tiny homes at 922 W. Brannan Island Road. It is right on the Delta Loop. If you are ever in the area, you should check them out since there are a lot of interesting, handcrafted items for sale. They generally have live music and some excellent food. Most of all, it is a bunch of friendly Delta folks getting together.
I joined them on a recent Sunday afternoon. They had their tents set up on the central meadow in a nice shady area. The slight breeze from the slough helped keep things cool.
Randy Carey, a singer and guitarist from Sacramento provided some soft, mellow, background sounds.
The day I was there you could get organic herbs, vegetables and flowers. A fellow was selling handcrafted knives and tomahawks. They were really good looking and I meant to pick up a tomahawk before I left but forgot. I will have to go back and get one next time. There were plenty of other things to spend your money on; fresh chicken and duck eggs, organic vegetables, arts, crafts and photography, featuring a friend of mine Demi Stewart.
Tim Anderson brought a few pigs from his farm just up the road. They were a huge hit with the children who got to go in the pen and pet them. Baby pigs are one of the cutest animals in the world. Even the dogs were enjoying the little rascals. If you are lucky, Tim will invite you to his farm and you can not only play with the pigs but pet the sheep, chickens and ducks. Not too many kids nowadays can say they have spent time around farm animals, this would be a great experience for them.
The best part of the day for me was the Sock It To Me BBQ truck. When I arrived, they were smoking meats and the smell was enticing. I had to wait an hour or so until they were ready to serve, by then I was starving. I had a melt in your mouth pulled pork sandwich with sides of baked beans and potato salad. It was just like your mom used to make. The sandwich along with a cold soda hit the spot and gave me renewed energy for the day. I did have to leave early though and Corrine Corley kindly offered to pack up my table and literature that I brought to promote the Delta businesses.
Corrine is the force behind the market and lives in a tiny home at the resort. She sent me her biography: Corinne Corley (the child formerly known as ‘Mary’) hails from Jennings, Missouri, where she survived Catholic schools and learned everything she knows being the sixth child of eight. Her writing career began in 1970 with an essay for a Christian youth magazine in which she postulated God as a neutral gender being, for which the magazine paid $5.00. After a long, cherished and sometimes amusing career as a Missouri attorney, she closed her law practice, sold her 100-year-old Brookside bungalow, and decamped to Northern California in a tiny house on wheels named “Angel’s Haven”. She has one child, three ex-husbands and a solid tribe of friends without whom her life would be a wasteland of boredom and anxiety. You can find her most summers on a levee road in the California Delta hanging from her car door trying to capture the perfect photograph of a lone egret among the lofty piles of hyacinth floating down the San Joaquin River. There are now thirteen tiny houses in the Park Delta Bay community, of which Corley feels fortunate to count herself and her tiny house, “Angel’s Haven”, a long-term and grateful member.
Report From Morris Lum
Morris is a good friend of mine and he somehow gets around more than I do. He is a world class photographer and shows up all over the Delta. He might be at the Sportsman Yacht Club in Antioch in the morning and then appear at the Sacramento Yacht Club later in the day. I see him at many events and he is usually there before I arrive. Morris is a real estate broker and has a list of credentials longer than an anchor line. Oh yes, he is not only a member of the Delta Chambers, but also on the Delta Protection Commission Advisory Committee, a Pacific Inter-Club Yacht Association delegate, and a Recreational Boaters of California director among many other accomplishments. He recently took a tour of the southern Delta with some other local luminaries. They met at Korth’s Pirates Lair to start their journey. One of my cub reporters was there to capture their image.
Morris reports: “From Miami Vice to Indiana Jones in our Delta, well actually it was twin chase boats on tour with USGS (United States Geological Survey) for the DSC (Delta Stewardship Council). It just felt like I was on a great adventure, riding on high-speed boats in the Florida waterways.
“We departed from Pirates Lair Marina at 1000 hours, but first we had a 0930 hours class briefing with “Delta Adapts” and “Delta Watermaster” updates. During our waterways tour we are taking an up-close look at setback levees along the San Joaquin River, the confluence of the Mokelumne and San Joaquin Rivers, Franks Tract, the False River Salinity Barrier, Decker Island, the Sacramento River and the interagency Ecological Program Science Center. In the middle of the water tour, we stopped along the banks and had an update on the tidal dispersion affecting salinity in Franks Tract and the movement of Harmful Algae Blooms, HABs.
“Some of today’s keywords were: aquatic habitat, drought barrier, SWP (State Water Project) and CVP (Central Valley Project), freshwater corridor, Atmospheric River Occurrence, suspended sediment, seasonal turbidity distributions, phytoplankton, juvenile salmon and delta smelt, salt flux decomposition and sediment transport.
“After returning from the Delta waterways, we had lunch followed by further discussion on the amazing action of tides in our Delta. Special thanks to ‘Jon’, the Supervisory Hydrologist for California Water Science Center, United States Geological Survey. I could have listened to him all morning and afternoon.
“Our day ended back on shore in Stockton at the Bella Vista Rooftop and Events venue, for an update on Environmental Justice Issue Paper Update and Environmental Justice Expert Update group meeting.”
I don’t think Morris ever takes a day off, Memorial Day found him in San Francisco at a memorial service. “On memorial weekend Sunday, at the USS San Francisco Memorial, respects were paid to Veterans. With the Sea Cadet Band of the West and the Mare Island Chorale, the program presented a special posthumous Chair of Honor Presentation to P01 Leonard Roy Harmon (Silver Star). The keynote speaker was Capt. Taylor Lam, USCG Commander Sector San Francisco. He has participated most recently with PICYA for Opening Day on the Bay and Installation of Officers at the Corinthian Yacht Club. Pacific Inter-Club Yacht Association comprises over 110 yacht clubs of Northern California and works with this area’s Coast Guard in all matters of boating and navigation.
“Next was a VIP presentation given by Dr. James Armstead, PhD. and retired Professor of Strategy, National Security Policy and International Law from the U.S. Naval War College. Afterwards he was presented with an “Outstanding Life Achievement Award” from the USS San Francisco Memorial Foundation. Most recently, Dr. Armstead has spoken on the subject of Ukraine at the California State Capitol Ukraine Rally and on a Ukraine panel discussion at UC Davis School of Law. He has also appeared multiple times for the Sacramento Historical Societies Speaker Programs.
“The weather was a perfect restart for this program that has been twice cancelled because of COVID. This was the first time for the San Francisco Sector Coast Guard Commander to be speaking at this historical annual ceremony. This was an outstanding event of the weekend with Recreational Boaters of California (RBOC) Director Morris Lum also in respectful attendance and assisting with Dr. Armstead while in San Francisco.”
Wilkes Mobile Marine
I am way behind on some projects on my boat and Ernie Wilkinson, a friend of mine said he could fit me into his schedule at his shop at Delta Paradise Island. I cruised over early one morning and Demi Stewart who was on duty at the Mokelumne River Bridge opened it up and let me through. The entrance to the marina is a sharp turn to starboard immediately after you pass through the bridge opening. It works for me to continue straight after passing through the bridge, circle around as the bridge closes and then enter the channel.
Ernie and I have been friends for 20 plus years, since back in the day when we were part of John Accettola’s posse. Ernie’s yard is filled with boats being serviced. I was very appreciative of him and his crew for finding time to help me. Along with his helper Stacy, they were able to fix a couple of nagging leaks I have been troubled with for a while. Stacy has a hookah rig and is able to dive under boats to solve many problems.
They can do about anything I believe. One day when I was there Stacy was replacing the wheel bearings on a trailer. Besides Ernie and Stacy, Jerry rounds out the team.
These guys are great and I have never seen this yard so busy. They do good work and have enough experience that they rarely see a problem that they have not encountered before and developed a solution.
Terry McDonald’s Birthday
Terry finally came back from his place in Baja California to work on his Rivera Cliffs waterfront home. Sue and I went to his birthday party along with 50 or so of his close friends including his brother Bob and his lovely wife Sharon. His swimming pool is finished and it is beautiful. It is an infinity pool, so when you look across it towards the river it looks like you are actually in the river, well, except the water is a heck of a lot cleaner.
My goal was to be one of the initial users of his pool, but I did not make it this day. Sue had made reservations for us to see the new Elvis Presley film so we had to leave fairly early. There were a lot of excellent hors d’oeuvres, but we had to leave before dinner to our regret. I heard it was fabulous. Terry always goes first class. He is beloved in Stockton and knows about everybody. I remember one time several of us were aboard his patio boat cruising in McLeod Lake and the sheriff’s boat pulled us over. Not just a sheriff but San Joaquin County Sheriff (at the time) Steve Moore, he just stopped us to say hello to Terry. Literally everywhere he goes people know him.
I met Terry and Bob 20 plus years ago when they hired me to be the yacht broker at 5 Star Marina. We had a lot of fun and sold some boats. We had brokerage and new boats. They were the dealership for a Canadian line called Doral. We sold our fair share of them; they were nice express cruisers from 25 to 40 feet or so. We had a lot of adventures, well Terry had them and I was a witness. I can’t print them but ask me sometime about when the FBI paid us a visit or when Valerie Taylor hung around the marina for a while. Every day was a new adventure. We had several lines of credit so we could finance just about anyone as long as they had a warm body and a job. These were the days of the high-tech bubble so there were a lot of folks with discretionary income that we helped put in the boat of their dreams.
One of the absolute garden spots on the Sacramento River is Ko-Ket Resort. It is a shady spot that you can hardly see from the road, but definitely worth a visit. The snack bar alone is a great spot to get a meal and or a cold drink. They have several cabins or you can bring your RV. The RV spaces have full hookups and there are even a couple of spots right on the shore.
You might miss the resort at 14174 Isleton Road as you are driving by, it is good to have your GPS operating as it will give you good advice. The signs are prominent, so if you are looking for them you will readily see the entrance. There is a guest dock and boat launch, and Isleton and Walnut Grove as well as the Ryde Hotel are just a few minutes away by boat. Being right by the river and having the shade of many trees, Ko-Ket remains cool on hot days.
We attended a Delta Chambers mixer there along with about 50 other folks. JB and the staff made some excellent appetizers that were gobbled down pretty quickly. This is a very relaxing place to stop. The snack bar opens at 0800 for breakfast and stays open until 2100 hours for dinner. Try the High Tide Burger.
Flotsam Floating Circus
I got wind of an interesting vessel traveling down the Sacramento River. I caught up with her at the Walnut Grove Public Dock. They are traveling around the Delta performing a free circus on the deck of the Huck Finn looking craft. The performance was scheduled for 1900 hours, unfortunately I could not stay to enjoy it as I had business in Stockton that afternoon.
I rapped on the side of the cabin and James the manager of the events came out to meet me. He explained that the folks doing the shows actually have jobs and travel with the circus during their free time. The boat itself will not accommodate a big crew for sleeping, so they travel in vans and recreation vehicles following it from port to port.
The circus is Jason Webley’s dream and after touring on Oregon’s Willamette River from Corvallis to Portland in 2019. After a hiatus during the pandemic, for 2022 they are now cruising the California Delta. They have shows scheduled at many of your favorite spots besides Walnut Grove. You might see them in Bethel Island, Stockton, Ox Bow Marina and downstream in Richmond, Oakland and San Francisco.
They trucked her down to Discovery Park in Sacramento and launched her there. After performances in Old Sacramento, they traveled downstream to Walnut Grove to continue their Delta tour. According to the website, Webley has been a street performer for 20 plus years. The website also says, “Webley has built an international cult following with his songs and stories. Armed with an accordion, a guitar, a porkpie hat and a plastic vodka bottle full of pennies, he has performed in over forty countries and released a pile of records.”
“He grew up fantasizing about floating down rivers on rafts, and is a two-time winner of the ‘Boat Most Likely to Kill Pilot’ award at the Camp Tipsy Rotten Boat Building Contest.” He seems to be an interesting person indeed.
The boat at first glance seems to be a ramshackle raft built of old lumber. A look below the deck reveals however that she is built on sturdy houseboat pontoons. Two Honda 10-horse outboards provide power. I am not sure how they do going upstream against a current, but should provide plenty of power traveling downstream and in calm waters. She even has a mast with a yard that looks like it could carry a sail.
I am confident I will catch up with them at one of their gigs. It looks like they are a great group.
Another Delta Icon Gone
The plain and simple fact that Lost Isle was more than likely gone to us all, long before now is all but mute. In early June, any hopes of Lost Isle reopening literally, went up in smoke as a great many of us witnessed the fire that pretty much consumed the island. Blair Hake wrote in with his account along with a few photos.
Monday June 6, 2022 at 1343 hours.
I received a text from Jerry Wolfe of Windmill Cove Bar & Grill. 5 words I never wanted to hear. “Lost Isle is on fire!”. I was at the marina and immediately dropped the boat in the water and headed out, arriving at 1405 hours. As I neared the scene, I could tell it was not going to be a good scene – the volume of smoke I could see from over a mile away was just too large. Approaching the island, I held my breath as I passed through the cloud of smoke, and then I saw the island and realized there was no real hope of saving anything. The fire obviously started at the north end of the island somewhere near the bar and restaurant and driven by the gusty wind that day had already spread more than halfway across the island to the south. A lot of memories went up in flames that day. I have no idea what the future holds for Lost Isle but for many of us we will always remember the good times on the island, and will continue telling the stories that begin with, “Remember that time at Lost Isle…”
I just learned one of my favorite restaurants is closing. The Club Pheasant or the Pheasant Club as us less well-heeled people call it, will close in September of 2022. The restaurant has been serving outstanding Italian food since 1935. I first went there in the mid-1960s, back then it was about the only building along a lonely stretch of Jefferson Boulevard in West Sacramento. Over the years the area has built up and now it is right in the middle of town. I am going to have to get by there for one last meal before they go.
Kleen Marine is a new mobile waste pump out service available in the Bay and Delta. Desmond Pavlac is the owner, you can contact him at 925-348-2626 or check his website at Kleen-Marine.com. These services are great if you are on a multi-day anchor out and do not want to return to a marina to have your holding tank emptied. Personally, I pump out mine whenever I buy fuel at the Ox Bow Marina fuel dock.
You are lucky you live in the California Delta and not the south. We heard a report that a man was recently grabbed and killed at the Myrtle Beach Yacht Club by an 11-foot alligator. We have had a few reports of alligators here in the Delta over the years. In the past I think the cold winters killed them but with global warming upon us, who knows. In alligator country you are advised to stay at least five feet away from the edge of a waterway to avoid lurking reptiles.
Do you remember that hit song from 1972, Brandy You’re a Fine Girl, by the group Looking Glass? The Monday and Tuesday bartender at Tony’s in Walnut Grove is Brandy. You should drop in, have a cocktail and meet her. I even hear they have the song on the jukebox.
It has already been a memorable summer and it is far from over. Tell us about your adventures. firstname.lastname@example.org or 916-869-9141.