Delta Rat Scrapbook – by Bill Wells
Pacific Boat Services
Ramon Mata took over the old Ladds yard and marina in Stockton over a year ago. Right when he moved in, he started making positive changes; he moved a portable office in while he remodeled the main building and generally cleaned up the entire footprint of the place. The transformation he has made is amazing.
Ramon hosted a recent Delta Chambers mixer. He brought his family in to help out and they put on an amazing party. They served delicious street tacos with all kinds of fresh vegetables, chips and salsa, along with beef, pork and chicken. Of course, there were plenty of cold drinks to help wash them down. The food was better than any restaurant and I guess if you are an insider Ramon serves food on some days.
About 50 folks attended, J Mills took time out from outfitting his new yacht in Seattle to drop in with his girlfriend Trish Kruse. Many local business folks were there; Claude and Jay from Village West Marina & Resort, Mike Garner, a yacht broker with Delta Marine Sales, Marc Bay, another area yacht broker, Danny from neighboring Riverpoint Landing Marina and many other folks from all around.
Stephens Yacht Rendezvous
Don’t miss this great event, bring your Stephens yacht and show it off to the public. No boat? No problem! Come and see these historic classic vessels and talk to the skippers. Once again it will be at Village West Marina & Resort, a prime venue for a gathering of famous classic yachts. If you want to bring your boat, please call Vickie Baumann at 209-951-1551. Space is limited so make sure you register in advance. Currently, there is space available in the bungalows and the RV park if you are not coming by boat. We expect visitors from all over the U.S. to attend this event so I strongly urge anyone interested to make reservations as soon as you know you are coming for sure. This will be a gala event and it will go down in history in the Delta.
The last Stephens was built in 1987 but there are still plenty around cruising all over the world. Jim Gabbert will have his fabulous Defiance there. Rusty Areias will have at least part of his beautiful collection of Stephens yachts there. I dropped by Delta Marine Yacht Center on West Fremont Street in Stockton where Rusty Jose is putting the finishing touches on JOIE. We also saw the beautiful Stephens Pomi d’oro there for some maintenance. Hopefully, she will be at the rendezvous; she was unable to attend the last one due to a Caltrans bridge failure.
The event is to honor the memory of family patriarch Dick Stephens who passed away in 2020 at age 100. His birthday is on Sept. 15 and I am confident his memory will live forever in the hearts of Delta boaters.
Pat is the newly elected Sacramento County Supervisor for the Delta area. Our resident videographer Gene Beley arranged for us to meet at Wimpy’s restaurant for a cup of coffee and a conversation. Pat is recently elected, taking the place of supervisor Don Nottoli who has retired. Pat is from the Elk Grove Area and spent a lot of time enjoying the Delta when he was a young lad. The Sacramento County part of the Delta starts in Sacramento and follows the Sacramento River to the Delta Loop area with the most southerly point at the Antioch Bridge. It is a big area to cover and it is good to have someone with experience and love for the area. Don Nottoli was very popular in the area and we look forward to working with Pat.
While we were meeting with Pat, Wimpy’s owner Jerry Goodie happened by and after Pat left, he gave me a tour of the resort and explained some of the great plans he has for the summer. Unfortunately, the recent high waters flooded the dock and lower level, but Gerry and his crew were rapidly putting everything back together.
He has created an excellent outdoor venue and has bands lined up for the entire season, check the social media page. Wimpy’s is boat friendly with 100 plus feet of dock space and a launch ramp. The food is great there too. The kitchen and dining room have been recently remodeled and he has a great friendly staff.
Sacramento Boat Show
Ty had a booth for Bay & Delta Yachtsman at the Sacramento Boat Show in March at Cal Expo. Cal Expo is only a few miles from where I live so I went over to work a shift. I love this type of work, sharing stories with passersby and seeing a lot of friends, as well as learning more about new boat models. Sue joined me on a rainy Saturday afternoon. The rain did not deter the crowd though, the parking lot was full and there were people everywhere inside. Keith and Michelle Marie Burgad dropped by to talk. Keith is an expert on solar energy so it is interesting to hear his ideas on how to keep your boat supplied with power while you are anchored out. Cliff and Sally Kenst came by while they were out looking for their new boat. I met Kylee and Jayden who were trying out a personal watercraft for size while their parents browsed for boats. They were charming young ladies and I am confident their mom and dad will find the perfect vessel for them. It was a great show and there were plenty of boats to fit every need from stand up paddle boards being displayed by Joe Sabina and his staff at the Further Customs booth, to offshore fishing rigs and everything in between. There was plenty of gear available too – wakeboards, water skis, fishing equipment and safety equipment. We even saw Kendra of the Sacramento Marina working her booth and informing boaters of the marina’s offerings.
Thirty-Nine Big Ones
Adam Farrow celebrated his almost 40th year of business at Lodi Marine in the Delta. He held his anniversary party on a recent Friday at his shop. He has been at the same location for that time and when he needed to expand, he took over the property next door. Many of his friends showed up to enjoy a hamburger or a hot dog, or two. He had the barbeque going right in his workshop. It was a drizzly day so the hot food really hit the spot. There were plenty of soft drinks available too.
His shop is like a museum of interesting stuff. There are a few jet skis, plenty of outboard motors and even a float plane that Adam is building. He is also building a 1,100-horsepower drag boat at this time. Of course, he keeps his yacht The Joker at his private dock on the Calaveras River. I would say that Adam can do about anything with high performance boats, as well as about anything with regular power boats too. Have an unusual problem? Run it by Adam, he probably has a solution.
Joseph Mann was there taking photos; I always enjoy talking with him. He will give you a free masters class in photography. He has one Nikon lens that is worth more than all my camera equipment put together. Today he was giving hints on lighting and exposure. He should be teaching at the community college. Of course, that would eat into the time he spends creating beautiful photos. He has his own studio and does some amazing portraits.
Some people say you cannot change the name of a boat or you will have very bad luck. Most of us subscribe to the view that you can change the name as long as you conduct the proper renaming ceremony and have the boat blessed. Maggie Azer took delivery of her, new to her, Bayliner yacht at Village West Marina & Resort and Joseph Mann conducted the renaming ceremony.
Now, part of the ceremony is to remove all traces of the previous name inside and out (on Stephens boats you do not do this, you leave the original builder’s plate with name in place where it was originally.) Joseph had Maggie cast champagne in each of the four corners of the world and say a prayer to the gods of the sea. He did a grea, comprehensive ceremony and at the end Maggie revealed the vessel’s new name: Nefertiti. Maggie is Egyptian you know, so this name will be perfect for her. We did a champagne toast to close the event. She also had plenty of exotic snacks and plenty of drinks to wash them down. Before she moved aboard, she upgraded the carpet and installed some new appliances. I am confident Maggie will have many happy years on her boat. Her slip is close to the Village West Yacht Club so I am pretty sure we will be seeing a lot of her this summer.
I am reading many reports that Tulare Lake located in the southern San Joaquin Valley and fed by the King and other rivers is refilling with all the precipitation that is coming down this winter.
Many years ago, Tulare Lake was the largest lake west of the Mississippi River and the third largest lake entirely in the United States (for surface area.) It was a reported 75 miles long. Indigenous American people had several villages around the lake at one time. The area has been inhabited by humans for at least 10,000 years. There were large populations of wildlife too including tule elk and pronghorn antelope. There was a time when Chinook salmon migrated up the San Joaquin River to the lake. In the late 1800s the lake also supported a commercial fishery and native turtles were exported to San Francisco as a delicacy. Over the years, more and more water was diverted from the rivers feeding the lake until the lakebed was dry and converted into cotton fields and pistachio groves.
According to an 1852 map in my “Early California Atlas,” Tulare Lake looks about three times longer than Lake Tahoe. At one time it covered 1,000 square miles with a maximum depth of 50 feet. News reports are saying its capacity is one-million-acre feet, but if you do the math 1,000 square miles is 640,000 acres x 28-foot (average) depth you get 17,920,000-acre feet. Contrast this with Governor Newsom’s proposed Sites Reservoir at 1.8 million acre-feet of storage. How about this, we purchase the farmland in the Tulare Lake basin and use it for water storage or we lease the land from the farmers and pay them to allow water storage there. Since the lake is right in the heart of the desert that we irrigate there would be considerable savings in electricity versus pumping Delta water there. Also, since this is an existing lakebed no massive, expensive dam structure would be required. Everybody wins. Another benefit to the location is that over the last few decades the groundwater has been dramatically depleted so the lakebed is actually lower than it originally was, which would allow the lake to hold even more water.
I bring this up because snowfall and rain in the watersheds of the Kings and other rivers that flow naturally into the Tulare Lake basin are surpassing the record levels of 1982-83. It’s almost certain that the lake will reemerge, maybe by the time you read this.
There have been a few times in the twentieth century when the lake flooded the fields and reappeared. The most spectacular re-emergence of Tulare Lake in recent years occurred in 1983 as record snows in the Sierra once again overcame human efforts to control the rivers. According to Dan Walters, “The lake was so high that two men, Bill Cooper and John Sweetser, kayaked 450 miles in 11 days from central Bakersfield to San Francisco Bay. They paddled down the Kern River, across Tulare Lake, up the Kings River and through the Fresno Slough into the San Joaquin River for a downstream run into the Delta and San Francisco Bay.”
Jan McCleery suggests we read “The King of California: J.G. Boswell and the Making of a Secret American Empire” by Mark Arax to learn more about the Tulare Lake saga.
The Upper San Joaquin River
For most boaters the San Joaquin River ends at Stockton, but it was not always like this. The steamer JR McDonald made it almost all the way to Fresno in 1905. She made the voyage in a week while towing a barge. She stopped at Skaggs Bridge in Firebaugh and was met by a crowd of 2,000 (according to Hal Schell). The Fresnans (Fresnoans?) said it was going to be the dawn of a new era of steamboat navigation up the river, but alas when the little ship was loaded up with firewood and started downstream, she ran aground. The skipper somehow convinced the upstream farmers to stop pumping water for 24 hours and the river rose high enough for the steamer to head back downstream. One book I have “Paddle Wheel Days in California” says the San Joaquin was navigable up to Sycamore Point (near Kerman) 272 miles upstream from Stockton.
Steamers would call on San Joaquin City up until 1917 until they could no longer float there. San Joaquin City dates to 1849 and was a crossroads for river and overland traffic. In 1879 the railroad came and steamer traffic on the river was less important. The city is no longer there and a 50-pound bronze plaque was placed on the site in 1962. It was reported stolen in Oct 2005 and it was replaced with a wooden plaque in 2017.
The NOAA chart is very vague above Stockton and I have never ventured up there in my boat. I hear there are a couple of bridges with a vertical clearance of 13 feet or less, not far up the river. I remember when I was selling boats, we sold a nice 18-foot Stingray runabout to a young lad and on his maiden voyage up the San Joaquin he called and said the boat quit moving but the motor was still running. Our technician went out and towed him back to 5 Star Marina. We discovered that all the blades had been sheared off of the prop. He swore that somehow it just happened spontaneously. Later, a friend of mine said he saw him run up on the rip rap and break the prop. He was in the Army so we covered this repair and gave him a stern talking to about staying away from the shore.
U.S. Army Corps Of Engineers
Gene Beley attended the USACE open house in Stockton and offered me some comments, “I thought there was going to be a speaker tonight at the Army Corp. of Engineers Stockton event but nope, just an open house with the usual information placards on easels and Army Corp of Engineers employees answering questions.”
As luck would have it, Delta attorney Michael Brodsky was at the meeting and was able to grill the USACE people about the water fix. The corps has to put their stamp of approval on the scheme to divert the Sacramento River around the Delta before it can be allowed to be completed. “Here is Michael Brodsky with Zachary Simmons, regulatory project manager, while Michael was asking him questions and commenting on the tunnel route. I thought Zachary had an interesting comment when he told me, no matter which way they rule, they will be hated by either Southern California or the Delta region (editor’s note: I think they will be hated the most for attempting to destroy an entire eco-system).
“It was good socializing with a lot of the long-time tunnel protesters like Barbara Barrigan Parrilla who said she likes my proposal of getting a national traveling photo and video exhibit and might be able to raise some money for that purpose.”
I am confident that the plan to build a tunnel or tunnels to divert the Sacramento River will never come to fruition, the question is how much California’s taxpayer money is going to be squandered attempting to build it. Heck, lets fill up Tulare Lake and call it good. Our governor has visions of becoming president. It would be a huge feather in his cap if he abandoned the Delta Conveyance/tunnel scheme and was credited with restoring Tulare Lake and restoring a valuable water supply and eco-system to California. He would be a hero.
Blair’s Big Birthday Bash
I don’t know how he did it, but if you look up “bon vivant” in the dictionary low and behold you will find Blair Hake’s photo next to the definition. But even more amazing, if you look up the word “raconteur” his photo is there too, they even used the same photo. Blair is very well known in Stockton and the Delta. He is not only a famous party person but a community activist too. He works to stop government agencies from destroying the Delta and works to get qualified candidates elected to public office.
He threw himself a birthday party at Windmill Cove Bar & Grill with 100 or so of his close friends. Host Jerry Wolfe provided a great buffet of tri-tip, drumsticks, scallops, egg rolls, Lockeford sausage, enchiladas, Cesar salad, carrots and celery. I would say the crowd descended on the food like a hoard of locusts on a wheat field. The bar was open naturally and the servers were kept very busy.
Windmill Cove is just a short cruise down Fourteen Mile Slough and across the San Joaquin River from Village West Marina & Resort. It is also just a few miles downstream from the Downtown Stockton Marina. It is not too far up the river from Korth’s Pirate’s Lair and the Delta Loop too. Jerry has worked wonders there over the last several years. It is one of the primo spots on weekends with live music and plenty of fun. It is a happening place all summer. He brings in some excellent bands every weekend including rock, blues, country, tribute, they are all there. Come and stay the weekend. No boat no problem, you can stay in a cabin, your RV or tent camp.
We arrived by automobile. Driving out to Windmill Cove reminds you of driving through the farmlands of the Midwest, and just when you think you are totally lost and not in Kansas anymore you come upon the San Joaquin River with the Cove in sight. You are definitely thirsty when you arrive.
Many folks came by boat and moored in the lagoon. Christine Hammer brought her yacht, Hammertime. She brought along Gerard and some friends as crew.
When we walked in there was a line of folks waiting to pay their respects to Blair. We were working our way through the crowd when we discovered the food table so we made a slight detour until the party lad was freed up. I can safely say most of the important people from Stockton were there. Yachtsman Magazine publisher Ty Mellott was invited but was out delivering the latest issue of the magazine so the beautiful Becky Mellott came in his place. It was great to see her and we caught up on the latest gossip about Ty.
Russell J. Robinson was on hand to charm the ladies, well as a matter of fact it seems that wherever there is a party in the Delta Russell is there. I need him to start sending me a copy of his social calendar.
Taste Of The Delta
While we are discussing Windmill Cove, don’t miss the 20th annual Taste of the Delta on Aug. 5. It will be held at the Cove this year; Jerry Wolfe, and Dave & Marsha Theis are going to make this a memorable event. Come by car or boat, this is always one of the most popular events of the season so get your tickets now online at www.tasteofthedelta.com
Bud Camper has crossed over the bar. Bud was the former manager of the Sacramento Marina and a former board member of the Delta Chambers. He was a friend of mine when he retired a few years back and I lost track of him. Sherri Keyes sent me notification that he passed away on Feb. 20. Bud had been married to his wife Eileen for 59 years until she passed away a year ago. Bud managed Leisure Landing in Bethel Island. He was an avid boater and loved classic boats. He came to work for Westrec in 2003 and managed King Island and Tower Park marinas. He then went to manage Sacramento Marina until he retired. Sherri says, “I loved him so much, he was the person that helped me grow and taught me about marinas and boating and also helped me in life. He was my mentor, my teacher and my friend.”
The Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Conservancy Board on March 22 approved a new multimillion dollar planning project that aims to bring a world-class water sports facility to the city of Stockton, bolstering recreation and tourism opportunities in the community.
Rumor has it that B&W Resort has their frosty machine all tuned up for the summer. Be sure to drop in.
We hear Liz Zamora and Ryan Gauger tied the knot! Congratulations! We have not seen too much of them for the last couple of years. Hopefully, they can spend some time with their pals in the Delta this summer. Liz is now Elizabeth Gauger. If you see her called Luis on social media it is a typo.
My science advisor, Gene Beley advises me that there is a revolution taking place in propellers. Toroidal propellers appear to be a significant advance for both aviation drones and marine remote operated vehicles. MIT students were trying to mitigate sound produced by multirotor drones and were experimenting with differently shaped propellers, and this new design was developed. They are much quieter than traditional propellers in air and water, and as a by-product they are also more efficient. I don’t have an image of one but they sort of look like a regular propeller with big holes in the blades which are sort of twisted around into a loop. I am confident we will be hearing more about this innovation in the future.
The Classic Yacht Association is cruising to Petaluma on the weekend of May 19-21. The cruise is happening on the same weekend as the American Graffiti celebration and car show in Petaluma. Besides classic yachts there will be 400 or so classic and custom cars and trucks. You old timers like George Homenko and Tom Clothier will remember that the film “American Graffiti” was filmed in Petaluma which was a stand in for one of the valley cities in the early 1960s.
The East Bay Municipal Utility District is a significant diverter of Delta water out of the Mokelumne River (364,000 acre-feet per year) and also diverts water from the Sacramento River and the American River. The district was organized in 1923 and is holding its 100th birthday party. “For 100 years the East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD) has delivered on its promise to deliver safe, reliable drinking water, manage natural resources, protect the environment and be a part of the community. We are celebrating with a free 100th Birthday Party and Community Fair on May 21 from 1100 hours to 1600 hours at Lake Temescal in Oakland.”
CB’s Pontoon Boat Rentals & Cruises operates out of Discovery Bay and Tiki Lagoon. You can rent a pontoon boat or paddleboard for a few hours or a week. Check them out at cbspontoonboatrentals.com or call 925-281-0040.
It is shaping up to be a great boating season. The pandemic is behind us and there is going to be an amazing runoff from the Sierra mountains that will flush a lot of problems out of the Delta. Don’t be left out, let me know what you are up to by sending your correspondence to email@example.com or by texting or calling me at 916-869-9141. I look forward to hearing all about the start to your summer boating adventures.