Delta Rat Scrapbook – by Bill Wells

Delta Rat Scrapbook

Tony Kopshever Retires

It seems like yesterday that Tony Kopshever was a young lad hanging around the Stockton Yacht Club with his parents, and now he has retired after a 20-year career with the United States Coast Guard. Sue and I were honored to be invited to his retirement party. It was held at the Stockton Yacht Club naturally. Tony’s Dad Jim, his partner Cathi and her daughter Melisa created the charcuterie table which was a big hit for everyone.

Nita leads the group in prayer.

Many of his friends and family attended. It was good to see his mom Jeanne, who is a former commodore of the Stockton Yacht Club.

Tony put in 20 years of distinguished service and retired as a Chief Boatswain’s Mate. His first tour was at Port O’ Conner, Texas for four years where he earned his basic coxwain’s letter. Then he was re-assigned to Coast Guard Station Golden Gate for five years of service. He attained his Surfman’s Letter during this assignment. From there he was assigned to Depot Bay, Oregon for five years where he was promoted to First Class Petty Officer. After Depot Bay he moved back to Coast Guard Station Golden Gate for four years and was promoted to Chief Petty Officer. His last tour was at Bodega Bay, where he served as Executive Officer.

Andrea roasts Tony at the party.

Being a Surfman in the Coast Guard involves a rigorous process. According to the Coast Guard website, “There is no secret, surfman is a challenging but rewarding position. If you get seasick, are scared of the dark, have an allergic reaction to risk or fear or hate being wet or cold, do not apply,” said Chief Warrant Officer Tom Molloy, commanding officer of the National Motor Lifeboat School (NMLS.) “Also, if you like to fish, hunt, surf, dive, mountain bike, hike or snowboard, this may be your calling.

“Operating rescue boats in surf and heavy breaking seas remains one of the most challenging and dangerous tasks Coast Guard boat crews perform. The predominate need for surfmen and consistent training conditions exists in the Coast Guard’s 13th District. Located on the Columbia River Bar in Astoria, Oregon, the NMLS trains students in one of the most consistent surf zones in the country. The Coast Guard is working to increase the number of surfmen and heavy weather coxswains, and is actively seeking candidates to join the Prospective Surfman Program (PSP.)

Linda, Dave Breninger, Jeanne Kopshever, Pat Carson.

“The surfmen prepare for waves over the bow, as well as waves of training.

“We only certify on average about ten surfmen per year,” Molloy said about the training pathway. “The process of certifying the person who will back you up no matter the conditions cannot be rushed. We need surfmen who are willing to do this for the rest of their careers.”

“The surfman qualification process is extensive and extremely demanding. This program is intended to attract, guide and develop surfmen trainees. Interested members should expect an average of four years of training to become a qualified surfman.”

It is okay to call him Chief now instead of Tony. He has a beautiful family including his wife Andrea and daughter Kennedy. We look forward to seeing a lot of them around the Delta from now on.

A Road Trip

It started with an argument. Sue found something online about the Corn Palace and asked me if I had ever heard about it. I said of course, every grammar school student is familiar with the Corn Palace, it was a famous icon in Sioux City, Iowa back in the late 1800s. She laughed at me and said no it is in North Dakota. It ended up we were both right, well I was more right. In 1888 Sioux City built an actual palace out of ears of corn. They did it for a few years as a tourist attraction, and it gained considerable fame throughout the country. In North Dakota they have built a conventional building and covered the interior with corn murals and other corn artworks and call it the Corn Palace. Technically this is not a corn palace, it is a building filled with corn artworks. We decided that we would have to take a road trip to investigate further. We set off driving to Sioux City. It took a few days but we made it safely. It was basically a nostalgia trip. I was also on a secret mission for Jim Gabbert to study AM and FM radio signals across America. We also found that once you are out of California most drivers do not drive with their high beams on at night.

My family was in the coal business in Sioux City from about 1875 to 1945. Back in those days most heating was done with coal and the winters in Sioux City were legendary for the cold and snow. Wells Coal Company would purchase freight car loads of coal in Spadra, Arkansas (nicknamed Spad) ship them to Sioux City and then distribute the coal with horse drawn wagons and later gasoline powered trucks to local homes and businesses. Virtually every home had a furnace in the basement and a coal bin. Eventually, natural gas replaced coal as a fuel. The coal business dried up over a period of years, and my father eventually moved our family to Sacramento.

My great grandfather, William Wells Jr. moved to Sioux City in 1869 when he was 22 years old and was the first agent for the newly constructed Sioux City and Pacific Railroad that ended at the Missouri River. According to his obituary he would ride on an outbound steamboat, meet an incoming boat and have all the passengers and the cargo of buffalo hides ticketed for the railroad when they landed at Sioux City.

Unfortunately, he lost his right hand in a coupling accident (remember the railroad cars of the day had to be uncoupled by pulling a pin out of the coupler between the cars) so he was retired by the railroad and was able to buy a farm and start the Wells Coal Company. I wanted to see if I could find his grave. We went to Logan Park Cemetery to try to find his grave and the graves of my grandparents, William Campbell Wells and Francis Monroe Wells. The cemetery is huge on rolling hills and quite a beautiful place to spend eternity. When we pulled into the cemetery I was overwhelmed by the size of the place, but as luck would have it, I spied the groundskeeper, Kenny Strand and he took me in the office and showed me a book like a phone book with all the names and grave locations in it. He showed us where my grandparents were buried but we could not find my great grandparents’ graves. We left after searching for a while. The next day Kenny emailed me and sent a photo of the graves we could not find the day before. After we left, he did some research and found the graves and sent a photo. What a good guy Mr. Kenny Strand is.

Sergeant Floyd

There is a lot of history in Sioux City and we spent a few days exploring. Our first stop was the Sergeant Floyd visitor center, you can’t miss it as you are heading up the highway.

The riverboat Sergeant Floyd was built in 1932 at the Howardville Shipyard in Jeffersonville, Indiana for the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Kansas City District. Her early service was as a support vessel on the Missouri River moving men, equipment and supplies throughout the district and conducting inspection voyages. She remained in active service until 1975, when Congress authorized her to be remodeled for use as a USACE museum ship. She served in this role first as a traveling exhibit, and then berthed at St. Louis, Missouri until 1982, when she was given to Sioux City. She now sits on the bank of the Big Sioux River and is a museum/welcome center.

Sergeant Floyd.

She has a total length of 138 feet, a beam of 30 feet and a hold depth of 5.6 feet. Compare this with San Joaquin Yacht Club’s boat, Sutter at 156 feet or Delta King at 285 feet. The boat itself is fascinating and filled with interesting exhibits including many models of historic Missouri River steamboats. She was originally powered by twin 300-horsepower Fairbanks-Morse diesel engines and was repowered in 1962 with two 600-horsepower Cooper-Bessemer diesels. The engines are huge eight-cylinder behemoths. She reportedly burned about 70 gallons of fuel per hour. The most interesting thing to me was a dugout canoe that was found buried in a nearby field in 1941. It is amazingly intact and you have to be impressed with the amount of work that went into building it. The expedition used dugout canoes for much of their travels; they also had a prefabricated iron frame that could be covered with hide making a canoe which apparently did not work too well. In the early days of steamboats, they would heat their boilers with wood which was very abundant along the riverbanks at the time. Eventually, as the steamboats’ proliferated wood became scarcer, and just like today the further away from the source the higher the price. Smaller boats would use 10- to 24-cords of wood a day and larger boats used up to 75-cords of wood per day. Most boats could only carry a 24-hour supply of wood. From Saint Louis to Omaha in 1867 wood cost $2-3 per cord. By the time the boats got to South Dakota and Montana wood would cost $6-8 per cord. The whole crew and the lower paying passengers would chip in and help load the fuel aboard; it was called “wooding.” Wooding was great fun with contests held for who could carry the heaviest load or move the most wood in a given time.

The Missouri River drains 529,350 square miles, approximately one-sixth of the United States. The Missouri is the country’s longest river, flowing 2,341 miles through seven states from the headwaters at Three Forks, Montana to the confluence with the Mississippi River near St. Louis, Missouri.

A Cooper-Bessemer diesel motor.

The boat was named after Sergeant Charles Floyd of Kentucky, one of the members of the Clark and Lewis expedition. Floyd joined the expedition in August of 1803. He was described as a “man of much merit” by William Clark and was probably chosen for the Corps of Discovery because of the close relationship between the Floyd and Clark families. Sergeant Floyd tragically died of a ruptured appendix on Aug. 20, 1804 in present-day Sioux City, making him the only member of the expedition to die on the journey. The M.V. Sergeant Floyd was built over a century later, keeping the memory of the fallen sergeant alive.

A dugout canoe found buried in a field in 1941.

Sergeant Floyd is buried on a bluff overlooking the Missouri River. In the late 1800s the river caused the bank to erode, exposing Floyd’s grave. At the time a cast was made of his skull and that was used to make a face mask for the model of Floyd in the museum. It shows him dressed in the garb that he would likely wear on the expedition.

The expedition covered more than 8000 miles in two years, four months and nine days.

The Return Of J Mills

James “J” Mills, former Regional Vice President with Westrec Marinas, and Marina Consultant who managed six Delta and Bay Area marinas from 1998 to 2006, including Tower Park and King Island resorts, recently sailed back into the Bay and Delta on his new-to-him Jeanneau 44 DS sloop, S/V Salty Dancer after a thousand-mile journey through Puget Sound and down the Pacific West Coast to San Francisco Bay and ultimately the Delta.

J has been a successful marina development and management consultant with Marina Business Associates since 2006, living in Newport Beach, Lodi and finally in Incline Village on Lake Tahoe for the past four years. He is now planning his retirement and contemplating a world cruise on his new boat.

J at the helm. Photo courtesy of J Mills.

He purchased Salty Dancer last winter in Seattle and then spent the ensuing six months upgrading and adding systems and equipment to enhance her ocean cruising capability and comfort.

In May he took her out of Seattle and sailed into the southern Puget Sound for five weeks, “getting used to my new boat, experiencing all the beauty of the Sound’s many quiet bays and waterways and getting ready for the transit down the northwest coast to San Francisco.

“On June 1, I picked up my sister, Martha, and headed out the Strait of Juan de Fuca to Port Angeles where we picked up another crew member, Steve Taylor, a friend from San Francisco.” Four days later, after waiting for better wind and weather, Salty Dancer sailed around Cape Flattery, the northwestern-most point of the continental United States and turned south.

“I had done a lot of weather routing and sail planning beforehand,” J explained, “and we had a nice first day of sailing before resorting to the engine finally as the wind fell away. Unfortunately, Martha couldn’t stomach the quartering seas and we eventually took her into the Harbor at Newport, Oregon and dropped her off on day three. After that it was mostly motoring for Steve and I in calm but heavy seas.

The crew: David, Martha, J. Photo courtesy of J Mills.

“We stopped again in Eureka for fuel and then had a nice day-sail around Cape Mendocino before getting slammed on a dark, ugly night rounding Point Arena. Steve’s help was really appreciated that night and neither of us got much sleep. I’ve done a lot of single-handed sailing, but it’s always better to have some company and crew during longer passages.

“From there it was just one more day and night motoring until we entered Drakes Bay with hundreds of Humpback whales feeding all around us. That was quite a welcome as well. I dropped off Steve at Gas House Cove in San Francisco and then spent the night anchored at Angel Island. Next morning, we motored across San Pablo Bay with the flood tide and up into the Delta for our last leg.”

“Wow! What a wonderful surprise,” J exclaimed as he pulled Salty Dancer up to the dock at Terry McDonald’s home on the Calaveras River in Stockton. A group of 30-plus friends, organized by Terry and J’s girlfriend Trish Kruse, cheered from the shore as the single-handed sailor passed Point Faso and arrived with the setting sun on June 11. Friends and guests included Blair Hake, Mike Garner, Thom and Wendy Foulks, Adam Farrow, Debi Wells, Juan Delgado and Claude and Marilu Pellarin (who sailed their boat down to Mexico several years ago and now commuter cruise back and forth) and of course, yours truly.

Sunset from Point Arena. Photo courtesy of J Mills.

J is a very experienced sailor. In 2006, he took his Catalina 470 sloop, Seventh Heaven to Mexico with the annual Baja Ha Ha and then spent four years commuter cruising the Sea of Cortez. “And now that’s sort of the plan again,” J says.

“I’ve got some more upgrades and maintenance to do over the next couple of months and then we’re sailing south in September and to Mexico in November with the Baja Ha Ha group. From there, most likely, sailing east with a 5-year circumnavigation in mind after revisiting old memories in the Sea of Cortez.”

J says he has crew openings for any intrepid souls who might want to join the adventure along the way and you can follow him or message him on Facebook at J. Mills.

Thanks to J for this great story, I don’t have time to publish all of his great pictures but you can see many of them on his social media page.

Oh yes, the party at Terry’s waterfront home was great. While waiting for him we had a few cocktails and hors d’oeuvres, while we checked out his home and his fruit trees. After J arrived, we sat down to an excellent dinner.

Delta Demo Days

During the weekend of June 24-25, the team at Silver Seas Yachts Sausalito, along with Willow Berm Marina on the Delta Loop, hosted the first “Delta Demo Days” event. Featuring the brand-new Cruisers Yachts 34GLS and 42GLS, the open boat demonstration event drew current and future boaters from all over the Delta and Bay Area. Boaters, both experienced and novice, came out for tours with demonstration rides on these amazing yachts with their joystick control and GPS position holding capabilities. At the BBQ and on the docks, guests were overheard talking about feeling confident and about how precise the control of the yachts felt. Willow Berm harbormaster Terry commented, “Once people realize that they can maneuver and dock their boats in any space they want, in any weather, they’re just going to use their boats more. They’ll have more fun with less stress and make more memories.” It was good food and great fun, with old friends and new, in one of the most gorgeous spots in the Delta. And that’s what it’s all about!

Sean Schlesinger and Trish D’Anna demonstrating the comfort and style offered by Cruisers Yachts. Photo courtesy of Silver Seas Yachts.

Along with Captain Roy Merlino on hand from Silver Seas was Sean Schlesinger and Trish D’Anna, both of who are very knowledgeable with not only Cruisers Yachts but all lines of yachts Silver Seas offers. Silver Seas Yachts would like to give special thanks to Willow Berm Marina for all the work they put in to host the event, to Captain Darren Cowdery with MD Yacht Services and Tina Merlino for running the popular BBQ and taking on the line handling duties, and especially to all the great people who showed up to experience these beautiful new yachts.

Willow Berm resident and Silver Seas Yachts Salesperson, Roy Merlino. Photo courtesy of Silver Seas Yachts.
Tina Merlino. BBQ host, line handler and well known Bay & Delta Yachtsman cover contributor. Photo courtesy of Silver Seas Yachts.
Cruisers Yachts showing off her moves coming into Willow Berm Marina. Photo courtesy of Silver Seas Yachts.
This could be you! Photo courtesy of Silver Seas Yachts.
Dave Weinstock from Petaluma and Willow Berm Harbor Master Terry Roberts. Photo courtesy of Silver Seas Yachts.

Captain Roy Merlino with Silver Seas Yachts said, “If you missed the event and you’re curious about these amazing yachts and their joystick technology, don’t despair. We’re keeping these boats at Willow Berm Marina for a while. Give me a call at 916-595-7500 and I’ll get you on board.”

Stockton Yacht Club

Barbara Bagley files this report from the Stockton Yacht Club: “We held our Family Day picnic cruise-in with Caliente Yacht Club. Jump house, shuffle board, bocce ball, corn hole and more that day followed by some good old fashioned “home burgers.” The day of fun was set up by Rear Commodore Bill Thompson and the luncheon chairperson was Kelly Carlson and team including her mom, Janelle who made the best potato salad ever! What a fun day for all who attended.” The club is accepting a few new members; contact Vice Commodore Tim Hamill and membership committee at 209-949-0527 or Commodore Marina Faconti at 925-759-2764 for more information.”

Diablo Yacht Club at the Stockton Yacht Club. Photo courtesy of Barbara Bagley.

Owl Harbor Swap Meet

Devery Stockon checks in from Owl Harbor’s swap meet: “We had a great turn out with lots of vendors that turned into buyers and then back into sellers. The Stockton Sailing Foundation provided lots of great finds, especially the foulies that Devery found for a great price – hoping not to need them for a while. We also had Sue Webb, with America’s Boating Club (previously known as the U.S. Power Squadron) to discuss safe boating and hand out boating kits with best practices for safe boating standards. It has been a great annual event for 14 years and everything nautical to be had – even great stories, places and solutions for those mystery problems.” Unfortunately, your writer was out of the area and missed this great event but had a few of my cub reporters on hand to inform me of how wonderful the event was. I will testify that it is a great place to find that unusual item you can’t live without. 

Running for a bargain at the Owl Harbor swap meet. Photo courtesy of Devery Stockon.
Bargains galore at the Owl Harbor swap meet. Photo courtesy of Devery Stockon.

JOIE de Vivre

The saga continues with JOIE de Vivre. After sea trials and cruising around the Delta, she headed for the Newport Wood Boat Festival in Newport Beach, CA.

Rusty Areias reports: “We left Stockton on our newly restored 58-foot 1960 Stephens motor yacht, JOIE de Vivre. We stayed in San Francisco the first night right at St. Francis Yacht Club and prepared for a 0500 hours first light departure. We took on new crew – our M.D. friend Dr. Brian Haus, my business/boat partner and marine biologist Ted Harris – and made our way under the Golden Gate to Santa Cruz. I was able to visit my sisters Marcia and Lucia and my brother-in-law Brian Foss (who was Port Director and Harbormaster at Santa Cruz Yacht Harbor for 33 years.) The harbor office is named for Brian and it was special to have him spend time on the boat. My cousin Greg Patricio and his wife Jane also came by, and all this made for an impromptu family reunion.

View of Point Conception from JOIE de Vivre headed south. Photo courtesy of Rusty Areias.

“Due to changes in weather and an inability to go around Point Conception, the boat remained there for eight days. After a couple of days with no relief in sight we all went home and back to work leaving JOIE in the capable hands of our skipper Casper Poiesz. After eight days in Santa Cruz our able captain Pat Carson, who was monitoring four weather services let us know it was safe to go, and just in the nick of time we caught a ride to Santa Cruz and prepared for a 0600 departure to Morro Bay. The first third of the trip was a little rough, then the seas settled down and we arrived at 1600 hours. The trip was enhanced by whale sightings and schools of dolphins frolicking in the wake of the boat. At Morro Bay we had dinner and enjoyed a surprise visit by my cousin Julie Block and her husband David.

Rusty receiving best of show award for JOIE. Photo courtesy of Rusty Areias.

“After a good night’s sleep, the skipper reported calm seas and we were on our way to Santa Barbara by Diablo Canyon Nuclear Facility and arrived in Santa Barbara where my partner Ted Harris rejoined us for dinner and a stay on the boat before heading out to testify before the San Luis Obispo Board of Supervisors.

“Santa Barbara was great with dinner at Brophy Brothers and drinks at the Santa Barbara Yacht Club with reciprocity from SFYC. We left leisurely for Long Beach in the morning only to encounter a problem with a cooler line which comes off the oil filter. We had to slow down and shut down one engine as we scrambled to find/fix the part. Our onboard engineer Jim Fitch came to the rescue along with our friend Jonathan Lennard, and upon arrival at dark in Long Beach we removed the part, had it re-engineered and delivered back to us at 0200 hours. It fit perfectly and we were off to Newport and Balboa Yacht Club for a scheduled 1015 hours arrival.

“We planned this trip to attend the sixth annual Newport Wood Boat Festival. The crew at Balboa Yacht Club was as welcoming as ever. This really is the premier Wooden Boat Show in Southern California, populated with great boats and better people. I was able to re-connect with friends I had not seen since before the pandemic when I was forced by circumstances to put JOIE on a truck and take her to Stockton – where my able crew led by Jose Montano and Jim Fitch took over the restoration. When I left my new friends at the Classic Yacht Association of Southern California I promised “we would be back…” and this was our homecoming.

“We had a great time, only made better when to my complete surprise JOIE de Vivre was named “Best of Show.” You could have knocked me over with a feather! It was frosting on the cake and made this five-year restoration undoubtedly worth all the time, effort, and $$$. Thanks to everybody who made this journey possible, especially the Harris family and my family who must have had a lot of questions along the way but never wavered.”

You have noticed a slight name change from JOIE to JOIE de Vivre. Rusty and Ted were tired of people pronouncing her name Joey instead of the correct JO-AH so the ever-clever Martha Esch suggested adding the de Vivre to her name. Joie de Vivre is a French expression that means “exuberant enjoyment of life,” a fitting name indeed for a beautiful yacht.

Eight Bells

Les Cochren has crossed over the bar. We generally addressed him as “Commodore” or “The Commodore.” He was commodore of the Northern California Fleet of the Classic Yacht Association (CYA) in 2012 and a member of the International Order of the Blue Gavel. Les was a very active person and put on many events for the CYA including the Forget Me Knot classic yacht parade in Sacramento for a decade.

Les cruises down the river.

Les was a veteran of the Airforce and was always interested in veterans matters. His Forget Me Knot events honored many veterans that he tracked down over the years. He brought WWII veterans, Korean War veterans and Vietnam veterans, as well as more recent warriors to his parades. He traveled to Normandy, France and brought back sand from the beach. His brother in Kansas City would put on sister events on the Missouri River. He also helped put on children’s events at the Sacramento Marina and created a coloring book featuring classic yachts.

When Les became CYA commodore the perpetual cup that is passed to the incoming commodore was showing its wear after many years so Les took it upon himself to have it updated, repaired and ready for a new generation of leaders.

Les was a former candidate for state Assembly and at one time owned a restaurant in Old Sacramento. He had many contacts in both the public and private sectors. He kept his two classic yachts on “B” dock at the Sacramento Marina and was a friend to everyone on the dock. He eventually moved to Las Vegas and spent his last years marketing his culinary products and creating new products.

He is survived by his family members: Mary, Patricia, Alvin, Chris, Ricky, Dennis, Michelle, Ramona and George Jones. I am proud to say he considered me a friend. Rest in peace Les!

Irish Pennants

Entering the Delta Marine Services yard was none other than Karl Keller of River Pirates Enterprises. If you are not familiar with them, you should be. Aside from captain services, marine towing, salvage and tug services they also offer land transport as demonstrated. Pictured is Karl bringing the Sac Brew Crew boat into DMS for yearly maintenance. Keep RPE on your speed dial for when you find yourself needing services on land or water. 209-662-1340.

Karl Keller of River Pirates Enterprises demonstrates nearly anything can be towed.

The 51st Annual Marine Recreation Association (MRA) Educational Conference & Trade Show, is set for Oct. 16-18 at the beautiful Hilton La Jolla Torrey Pines in La Jolla, including this year’s annual MRA Golf Tournament to be played at the spectacular Morgan Run Club & Resort is posted now on the MRA website at or go directly to the conference website at

Don’t forget the fourth Annual Delta Dog Day Unleashed Poker Run on July 28. The Animal Protection League continues to support the Stockton Animal Shelter and this event like many others the APL is involved in, goes a long way in helping our furry friends. Come out and enjoy the day while knowing your donations are going to a good cause. Visit for all the details. Look for our coverage of the poker run in upcoming issues.

There is still time to make your plans to attend the 20th Annual Taste of the Delta being held on Aug. 5 from 1-4 p.m. at Windmill Cove. Come by car or boat and enjoy tastes of local restaurants, wineries and breweries. Freedom Boat Club will be on hand displaying some of the club’s vessels that are available should you take the opportunity to join their boat club. Rob Fassett will be on hand giving information about the club’s unique opportunities you can benefit from by being a member vs actual boat ownership. Visit for advance ticket purchase and we look forward to seeing you there.

Send me images of your adventures in 300 DPI jpeg format for possible inclusion in the magazine. I can be reached at or 915-869-9141.