Delta Rat Scrapbook – by Bill Wells
Back a decade or more when I was on the public committee for the Bay & Delta Conservation Plan (we called it the Bay & Delta Canal Plan) BDCP. After we had thoroughly debunked the claim by the Department of Water Resource and the water exporters that the Delta levees would be destroyed by an earthquake, Jerry Meral and Karla Nemeth then announced that the Delta was going to be destroyed by an atmospheric river kilo storm. At first, I thought it meant that it would be a storm that we would have to have an ark to survive and then it was explained that it meant a once in a millennium storm. In reality, historically they have occurred in 51 to 426 year intervals.
Well, since then several atmospheric river storms have hit California and the Delta. We experienced several so far in 2022/2023. There was quite a bit of damage and some localized flooding, but the major levees held. John Garza and his team from Pacific Coast Water Rescue (PCWR) were out on the waterways daily monitoring the situation. John gives a shout out to Coxswain Rob Hall for getting the Collinsville Levees help and Office of Emergency Services support. John says it takes a village of Mariners to protect the Delta and Rivers.
There were many road and highway closures in and around the Delta. People were great about posting on social media real time coverage of events happening. There were trees down everywhere, one newspaper account said 1,000 trees were down in the city of Sacramento. This sounds like a lot, but Sacramento is known as the “city of trees,” so as far as quantity it is not too significant. Unfortunately, many of the ones that fell were large trees near homes and streets. Many private residences sustained much damage and many streets were blocked. The sound of chainsaws was pervasive throughout the entire Delta region for a few weeks.
The electric power went off all over the Delta. At my home in Sacramento our electricity was off for two days. My yard is low so I need to keep it pumped out during a heavy rain. Luckily, power came back on just before the water was lapping the top of my patio. My live-aboard neighbors at Ox Bow Marina, Wayne and Dawn didn’t give up when the power went off all over Isleton; they purchased a portable generator and used it to power their crock pot and whipped up a big batch of chili.
Sacramento Yacht Club had the roofs of their docks blown off. Ox Bow Marina had several trees down, likewise Korth’s Pirate’s Lair and other places around the region. There are many large eucalyptus trees in the Delta and it is amazing to see that when they fall down that they do not seem to have much of a root structure. Well, at least there is a lot of firewood available now.
In late January California was hit with king tides. For you laymen, king tides occur when the orbits and alignment of the Earth, moon, and sun combine to produce the greatest tidal effects of the year. John Garza reports that PCWR captains, along with J&H Marine and the Tinsley Island captains did an “overwatch” of the levees and communities along them. “We have been in the Collinsville (overwatch and assisting with sandbagging), Delta Loop, Stockton and South Delta areas. We are keeping an eye out for potential flooding hazards. We have photographed and videoed some areas and have shared them with the proper authorities. Our volunteers have been watching the various high tides combined with storm runoffs and how they are and possibly could impact low lying areas. We have notified various marinas to be mindful of the King or Perigee tides. Folks should contact their local authorities for advice, help and support during these times if needed. If people have questions about what we do as Delta boaters and citizens they can contact us at Pacific Coast Water Rescue Captain Services. http://www.pcwrcaptainservices.com/ or call 925-337-2294.”
International Sportsmen’s Exposition
The ISE is one of the last great outdoor shows in Northern California. You may remember a decade ago there were a number of boat shows throughout California every year one by one. Many of them have gone by the wayside, and now the ISE is about the best game around.
This year is the 35th anniversary of the show in Sacramento. It is not a boat show per se, but an outdoor show with plenty of fishing boats. You can buy anything from a human powered kayak to a $200,000 twin outboard powered aluminum cruiser that resembles a military patrol boat, and everything in between. Of course, there is every type of fishing reel, pole and lure imaginable in the world available too.
The Delta Chambers has had a booth at the event for ten plus years promoting Delta businesses and attracting visitors. We have always had a great team of high-energy volunteers that bring their expertise to the event. This year our publisher Ty Mellott, is the newly elected president of the organization along with Blair Hake, Colleen Kammerer, Maria King, Tressa Dahlberg, Bo Dahlberg, Eric Chiu, Corrinne Corley, Morris Lum as well as Sue and Bill Wells.
The Rio Vista Chamber had their booth not too far from the Delta Chambers and their members were busy all throughout the event. Sacramento Marina was on hand and Camp California had a booth next to them. Dyana Kelly with Camp California was passing out her latest booklet of RV parks with the campground at Village West Marina and Resort on the cover.
Frozen Bun Run
My main man – Daniel Witte was front and center for the reactivation of this great annual event sponsored and managed by the Rusty Porthole in Bethel Island. New Year’s Day was right in the middle of a series of storms that struck Northern California, but there was a lull on the first day of the year. Jack Hanna headed over to see the fun, but he arrived after the skiers were finished. I give a lot of credit to the brave souls that came out for this. I have attended the event as a correspondent a few times and I wear my winterwear just to take photos. These folks are wearing swimming suits or less and I get hypothermia just watching them. Daniel has been performing in the event since he was 11 years old in 2006. I think he might be the senior member of the club!
I did not make it down this year, there was storm debris all over the roads in Sacramento and I was concerned that I would not make it down there or would not make it back later. Daniel says about 200 souls were on hand to witness the event and all the food trucks sold out except the one selling chili.
He said the wind kept the boats from going too far out on Frank’s Tract. If you have ever seen the tract on a windy day, you know that it looks a lot like the ocean with whitecaps. Daniel said there were 21 skiers braving the wind and cold. Ryan Brunham drove the towboat for the contestants.
If the Delta is one of the best kept secrets in California, then Locke has to be one of the best kept secrets in the Delta. I have mentioned Al the Wop’s many times. It looks very close to the way it did in the 1950s, but it has been totally refurbished and is a great place for a meal and or a cocktail or beer. But when you come to the town come early and check out some of the stores and points of interest.
A few years back I was contacted by the Anacapa School in Santa Barbara when their high school class was planning a trip to Sacramento and Northern California. They had heard of Locke and asked if they could get a tour of the town. They spent a day at the state Capitol and the next day I met them at 0900 hours in Locke. They were great kids along with their chaperones Gordon and Susie Sichi, and we walked the town. They were especially interested in Railroad Cut in the back of the town, and we spent quite a bit of time watching the wildlife and enjoying the scenery on this waterway. The only place in Locke that was open at this ungodly hour was Al the Wop’s so I took them in there after having them promise not to tell their parents I took them into a bar. They were fascinated with all the memorabilia and especially the dollar bills stuck to the ceiling. They were headed to Tracy for their next stop to see the gigantic pumps that send Delta water to the desert. I gave them each a “Stop the Tunnels” bumper sticker and suggested they put them on their parent’s cars when they got home. As the bus was driving away, I noticed that the whole side was plastered with stop the tunnel bumper stickers. I am sure they made a statement at the Tracy pumps.
Strange Cargo is a couple of doors down from Al’s and it is owned by a good friend of mine Lisa Kirk. The store has treasures you can’t imagine, and you could spend an afternoon just browsing items such as vintage Hawaiian shirts and other clothing, eclectic artworks and yes, strange objects of interest. The piece de resistance in the store though is the Tom Herzog book collection. Tom is a local farmer and Delta activist with probably the best collection of Delta region history books in the world. I am talking hundreds of books and they are all for sale. You can find your vintage Hal Schell or Bob Walters book along with many others here. I will admit that I generally don’t get out of there for less than $100.00, but he does have an amazing collection.
Seeker is another great store with many treasures that you will not be able to live without. It is similar to Strange Cargo, but different. I am confident that between the two stores you will find many items you can’t live without. Check out the Chinese medicine store run by Diana Thomas and don’t miss the Locke Garden Restaurant for your Chinese food fix.
Martha Esch, a friend of mine owns the Locke B&B, another great place. Downstairs it is an old-fashioned ice cream parlor with a player piano and many dress up items. Upstairs there are rooms to spend the night. It is a cute building and Martha is a fun, charming host. Be sure to drop in and have a root beer float. Martha was in Florida early this year but I think she is back now. She was down there painting street portraits and doing gold leaf lettering on boats. If you have not met her yet, you will love her, she is utterly charming and has a million stories that you have to pry out of her. She has a degree in art and aeronautical engineering and she can play the sax and trumpet. Her children are musicians too and they have recorded a CD.
Of course, there are several museums in Locke for your visiting pleasure. The town has many treats, especially when you consider that the business district is only a block long and the whole town is about 14 acres. Founded in 1915 with a colorful history throughout its life, today it is the largest rural Chinatown left in the U.S. The population has dropped from about 1,000 at its peak to about 70 today.
Come and plan to spend a day here. When you are not shopping in the stores, visit the museums. The Dai Loy Gambling Museum is great; it was an actual gambling house from 1915 to 1950 and looks today much as it did in its heyday. The Boarding House Museum was built in 1909 to house Southern Pacific Railroad workers. It is open to the public and is a state park. The Joe Shoong School House was built in 1915 and used as a school until the 1940s. It was originally called the Kao Ming School and eventually fell into disrepair until Joe Shoong (the founder of the National Dollar Stores) came along and rescued it. They renamed it to honor him. The Jan Ying building dates to 1915 and was a social club for men from the Zhongshan District of China. It was restored in 2011 by Clarence Chu and reopened as a museum. There are a few art galleries in town, check out Ning Hou’s at 13964 Main Street. Ning is the master painter of the 21st century and has created many beautiful works. Don’t worry about getting lost in Locke, the business district is only a block long.
Back in the old days the Department of Boating and Waterways offered guided canoe trips on Railroad Cut. You could paddle the length of the slough and even go up to the very end in the jungle if the tide was high enough. I took the trip a few times with my friends and it was excellent, relaxing and you get close to a lot of wildlife. They should bring the trips back; they were very interesting and educational, plus you could head over to Al’s for some refreshment when you were finished.
Railroad Cut was also an excellent spot for a yacht club cruise, you could stern in a dozen or so boats and walk a few hundred yards into Locke. I have not been there in a while by boat and heard there has been problems with invasive plants. Maybe one of you could give me an update on the waterway. It was my favorite spot in the summer. It was also close to Giusti’s and Wimpy’s so there was no shortage of places to eat.
As long as you are in the area be sure to stop in Walnut Grove, just a few hundred yards downstream from Locke. Tony’s Place has been there since the early 1950s and still looks pretty much the same, inside and out. You can get a great sandwich or a steak smothered in mushrooms along with your favorite cold drink. Up on top of the levee at 14147 River Road, Luis Lopez opened Fat Lou’s Café earlier this year. Folks are raving about the café on social media. I dropped by recently during a lull in the storms. I had carnitas and it was fantastic. Luckily, Fat Lou’s is not near my house or I would see myself going every day for dinner. Lou’s cousin Rudolph Anthony has Hair on The Delta next door. He is a professional hair stylist and will take care of you male or female. Reservations recommended, give Rudolph a call at 916-801-7875. Go get your hair done and stay for a bite to eat.
Discover The Delta
The Delta Farmers Market is open for business on the corner of State Routes 12 and 160. They have beer and wine tasting every weekend, plus they have plenty of local wines and craft beers available during the week. By the time you read this the Delta Book Nook will be open there selling classic Delta related books. Ken Scheidegger reports that they are close to breaking ground for the new Discover the Delta Educational Center on the corner. The building will be an approximately 8,000-square-foot visitor’s center with five acres of outdoor learning displays. It will provide scholarships for Delta students and stimulate the Delta economy. The Education Center will support Delta programs and businesses while educating people about the importance of the California Delta. The corner is one of the busiest in the region and the center will serve as a gateway to the Delta. This is a worthwhile project that will benefit the entire region and state. There is a heightened urgency now since the Delta has become a National Heritage Area and more visitors will be arriving.
Brannan Island State Recreation Area
I am happy to report that Brannan Island SRA is open for business. My friend Eric Chiu who owns nearby Park Delta Bay Resort has taken over management of the property. Eric is very experienced running resorts and he will bring a breath of fresh air to this operation. He is also able to recruit good people to help him so I am looking forward to Brannan Island once again becoming a popular destination. The park has 140 campsites, a picnic area and a good boat launch ramp on Three Mile Slough with easy access to both the San Joaquin and Sacramento Rivers. I have always liked this campground because the sites are spacious and there are plenty of trees. It is just across the river from Rio Vista and a short drive to the Delta Loop, wine country, Isleton, Walnut Grove, Locke and plenty of other places. It is a shame that it was allowed to close but I am confident that Eric and his team will once again make the park a popular destination. He has already lined up a couple of events; there will be a joint mixer of the Delta Chambers, Isleton Chamber and Rio Vista Chamber on April 12. I suggest making your reservations well in advance on holiday weekends at 916-777-4004.
Per And Ericka Hammarlund
Per & Erika check in from Sweden. You remember they shipped the classic 1931 Stephens 43-foot tri-cabin yacht Allure there last summer? They got a couple of months of cruising in before winter set in. They advise that, “In Sweden boat ownership comes in two distinct seasons: the boating season and the boat season.” Boating season is the summer where you can do some beautiful cruising. Boat season is where you find a shed to lay your boat up in all winter while you work on her. They have a shed, but it still looks like it is freezing cold inside. They are using the time to strip and revarnish the topsides.
Amazingly, they managed to find another classic Stephens there. Dora is another 1931 43-footer. Leo and Carlice Aarens who live near Rotterdam are the owners. Looks like the Europe fleet of the Classic Yacht Association is growing.
Marina West Yacht Club
The club held their change of watch for 2023. The bridge is Commodore – Bill Power, Vice Commodore – Kyle Cordes, Rear Commodore – John Romero and Port Captain – Tommy Keller. Marina West is a great club headquartered at Ox Bow Marina. They have some great parties and a full-service bar.
Stockton Yacht Club
The Stockton Yacht Club bridge for 2023 is Commodore – Marina Faconti, Vice Commodore – Tim Hamill and Rear Commodore – Bill Thompson. Board Officers for 2023 are Chairperson – Jim Kopshever, Vice Chairperson – Dean Carlson, Secretary – DeDe Salzman, Treasurer – Penny Calvird and Assistant Treasurer – Cliff Kenst.
Opening Day On The Bay
This year is the 60th anniversary of the blessing of the fleet at the Corinthian Yacht Club Opening Day on the Bay which dates to the late 1800s when the drawbridge at Beach Road and Main Street in Belvedere was opened to allow houseboats back into the Bay after spending the winter months in Belvedere Lagoon. In 1963 the club added “the blessing of the fleet” with a yacht stationed offshore from the club with the “God squad” blessing boats as they pass by. For 2023 opening day will be on April 30. Register at the PICYA website if you want to be in the parade. Gerry Kamilos, International Commodore of the Classic Yacht Association will have his yacht Aurora V on duty as the blessing vessel.
Doug Waterhouse reports that his loving wife Colleen has crossed over the bar. Colleen was the longtime treasurer of the Stockton Yacht Club. She was a nice lady and was involved in virtually every event the club put on.
David Hand has crossed over the bar. He was also a member of the Stockton Yacht Club. Davon Hand reports that he succumbed to leukemia in January.
WTF! Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is a new restaurant in the building that once housed the Driftwood Yacht Club at the Driftwood Marina 6346 Bridgehead Road in Oakley 94561. I have not made it there yet myself but a couple of my friends have stopped in and raved about the food. They have an extensive menu running from appetizers to soups and salads, burgers & sandwiches up to a 14-ounce New York Steak. They also have meals for our younger folk and they call them Cadets Meals. I am headed there in a few weeks for the California Carver Club change of watch and will give you my report next month.
Ken Baccetti advises that the Isleton Delta Chapter of the Striped Bass Association will hold their annual crab feed on March 3 at the St. Joseph Catholic Church Hall 220 South 4th Street in Rio Vista starting at 1730 hours. The Striped Bass Association is a good organization to support. They are active in preserving our Delta waterways and wildlife. Call Ken at 415-602-1298 or email: www.striper-csba.org for reservations.
Don’t miss the Sacramento Boat Show March 9-12 at Cal Expo 1600 Exposition Blvd. Sacramento. Drop by our booth and say hi.
The 2022 California Boating Congress sponsored by the Marine Recreation Association is set for April 18 & 19 at the Hyatt Regency Hotel Conference Center in downtown Sacramento, kicking off with an evening Welcome Reception on the 18th and a full day of interactive events on the 19th. Resource Secretary Wade Crowfoot is scheduled as one of the speakers. Register here: httpsccwwwddmarina.org/events/6th-annual-california-boating-congress.
The Vagabundos Del Mar Boat & Travel Club is holding its annual crab feed and Fiesta Grande at the Lighthouse Marina and Resort in Isleton on the weekend of May 11-14. The club dates to 1966 and if you travel by boat or vehicle in Baja California, you should join the club. Their office is in Rio Vista at 190 Main Street, or you can call them at 707-374-5511. The dues are only $35.00 per year and well worth it just for the informative newsletters alone. The office is right around the corner from my bank in Rio Vista and I can testify to the friendly and knowledgeable staff there.
Marina West Yacht Club has a new drink on the menu – the Cozumelpolitan. I haven’t tried it yet but I plan to soon on a purely scientific basis you know.
People are reporting that they are seeing an “incredible” increase in the property taxes on their boats. This has to be bogus; rarely does a boat increase in value. If your bill does not look correct you should inquire with the tax collector.