Delta Rat Scrapbook – by Bill Wells
A Day On The River
Early on a recent Saturday morning I was driving by Korth’s Pirates’ Lair and noticed a large group of people on the lawn. I thought it was way too early for the “lawn people” to be out, so I pulled in to investigate. It ended up that a group of my friends met at Korth’s Pirates’ Lair to spend a day on the river. It was another beautiful Delta morning, sunny with a slight breeze. Fred and Ida Weibel, Lisa Wednesday Gomez, Maggie Azer, Blair Hake, Eric and Liz Koster, Joseph Mann, John Hodges, Russell J. Robinson, Shari Cecchini, Ty and Becky Mellott and John Charlesworth all met on the lawn at the marina after cruising up in a fleet of boats. I was informed later that Adam Farrow, Debi Wells and Adam’s pup Marley caught up with the group in the North Fork of the Mokelumne. Everyone ordered breakfast at Korth’s café as Dee, along with help from Angie and Crystal, served everyone eggs, bacon and coffee; it was a great way to start a day of adventures. Kim Korth happened to be working in the office that day, so I popped in to say hello.
After topping off fuel tanks, with the help of Tiki Tom Tate, the fleet headed upstream on the Mokelumne. They transited past the local resorts and headed up the North Fork of the Mokelumne River. From there, they went up Snodgrass Slough and through the Delta Cross Channel gates. Once on the Sacramento River, the group headed for Ko-Ket Resort and stopped for a cold drink. Rumor has it that some of the non-drivers enjoyed a Bloody Mary. Maggie Azer crewed on Russell J. Robertson’s boat. She alleges that he purposely hit every wave he could to see how high he could bounce her out of her seat. Russell denies any such thing, naturally.
They then headed some 45 miles or so up the Sacramento River through the Tower Bridge and past Old Sacramento where they stopped at Crawdads on the River for lunch. Lee Marchand and Susin Ollis, who normally are cruising the Delta in their large aft cabin motor yacht, decided to take Lee’s immaculate and very stylish corvette for a drive. They just so happened to run into the group and joined them for lunch. Crawdads is a great spot just upstream from downtown Sacramento. It was one of my favorite hangouts when I worked in downtown Sacramento. Presently, the group headed back downstream and made it back to the Stockton area well before dark.
The Last Taco Tuesday At Village West Yacht Club
The last Taco Tuesday for the 2021 season brought over 100 people out to enjoy the delicious food and music. There were beef, chicken and pork tacos and a lot of fresh vegetables to go with them. “Touch of Magic” entertained the crowd with some great music. Commodore Brenda Jackson singled out several people for their assistance in pulling the event off: “Tom Palacioz, Byron Beck and Mike Krutsinger. Karen Reed and Deborah Bartlett were once again at the door and our special birthday girls Sonia R. Mountjoy and Wendy Anda Petties were shown lots of love from the members.”
Steve Stingley, who lives in Long Beach and has recently become a Delta boater, was sworn in as a new member. I was honored when Commodore Jackson and Sonja Mountjoy announced that the club made me an honorary member. An amazing thing happened; Rita Cordova accidently dropped her beautiful ring into the trash. She noticed it missing later and went through the 30-gallon trash can and found it.
Well, there are still many more events planned at the club in the coming months so don’t despair, there will be plenty of fun times ahead.
Pacific Coast Water Rescue (PCWR)
I spent a great day with John Garza and the PCWR folks in late September. They had been training for a few days in the waters off of Benicia and in the Benicia community swimming pool. There were over 25 firefighters and first responders involved. They had already been training for a few days, and the day I was there they conducted a large-scale search and rescue drill. The class was hosted by the Benicia Fire Department. Benicia, Fairfield, Napa, Suisun City, Rio Vista and Montezuma Fire Departments all participated.
Special credit goes to the Napa Fire Department. They came all the way by boat on a foggy day. They said they had zero visibility until they got to Carquinez Strait. The trip up or down the Napa River is a little tricky even on a clear day, but the fog can prove to be stressful for even the most experienced boater.
I got there at 0900 hours and reported to Incident Commander John Garza who somehow puts all the pieces of these events together and makes them work. We started with a demonstration of drone technology by Simon So, the general manager of the Aerial Intelligence Group. He demonstrated a few drones, including one that carried four cameras that have different capabilities. An infra-red camera can detect the heat from a human body. He dropped a target a few hundred yards offshore and used a drone to find and lock onto it. The rescue swimmers then retrieved it. Simon told me about his drones and the technology. These are not toys, they can be deployed to track people in crowds, provide security and a myriad of other uses. He said they were working with African countries to track poachers and in Mexico to provide security for gold and silver mines. The possibilities are endless. With facial recognition software they can track individuals on the ground and keep track of crops, traffic or just about anything. Check them out at www.fly aig.com
Ben Rifkin provided a wealth of advice based on his vast experience. His Rifkin Yachts business operates out of the Benicia Marina. He has spent his life working on the water and has captained vessels all over the world. He gave a lot of good hints and anecdotes involving his personal experiences aboard vessels.
Presently, Incident Commander Garza ordered us to board the boats and head out to the middle of Suisun Bay. I got to ride in the newly acquired Isleton Boat Number 93, a former Coast Guard patrol boat repurposed for the fire department. She is built like a battleship and you feel very secure inside the cabin. Garza is grateful to John Nichols of Nichols Marine in Rio Vista and Eric Koster of J&H Marine in Stockton for their tremendous help in some of the mechanical issues faced when the boat was acquired. Garza also noted that Eric was also responsible for setting up and installing the navigation and electronic equipment installed aboard these boats.
Garza had kept hinting to me that there would be a special boat arriving, and soon the 75-foot fireboat from Port Chicago joined us. This is an impressive vessel that is jet-powered for shallow water operations and has three water cannons that are capable of delivering 10,000 gallons of water per minute on a target. We operated in the Bay between Benicia and the Carquinez Bridge. A CHP helicopter dropped two swimmers in the water. Then, while the various boats protected them, the helicopter returned with a basket to practice retrieving the swimmers. They conducted latitude and longitude searches, vector searches and sonar searches. Navigation exercises and equipment familiarization took place too. Most of these boats are equipped with side scan sonar and sophisticated GPS systems.
Garza runs a tight ship with military precision. It is always a pleasure to be able to join him on a training day. His goal is to have the entire Delta region covered with trained first responders and well-equipped rescue boats. You can check out their website at https://www.pcwrf.com
Recently, a question came up about the value of VHF marine radios on a social media boating forum. It was disturbing that there were many people that did not think they were necessary. If you cruise the California Delta, you need a working VHF radio. My colleague Pat Carson covered this recently in his column. If you have a radio, the FCC requires you to monitor channel 16 unless you are transmitting or receiving on another channel. I answer the phone for the Delta Visitors Bureau and get phone calls every month from people that have run out of fuel or have broken down in a local waterway. The first thing I advise is for them to call TowBoatUS on VHF channel 16. When they say they don’t have a radio I advise them to call 925-684-2183. The Coast Guard monitors channel 16, and if you are in trouble, they have technology to find your position. They can also track down that pesky teenager making bogus VHF calls from his father’s boat in the driveway. Cell phones are better now, but I would not count on emergency responders being able to track your signal and find you. The marine radio lets you communicate with other nearby boats even if you don’t know the operator; try that with your cell phone.
Memorial For Ron Malmquist
Ron was the first person I met at the Stockton Yacht Club some 20 or so years ago. I remember him from many opening days, flag retirements and other events. Ron was definitely a one of a kind individual. Whether it was driving his V8 powered three-wheeler or at the helm of his yacht, Ron exuded competent individualism.
Sue and I were the guests of Ron, his lovely wife Joan and their family aboard their boat, Justavacation II many times, generally for opening day or Christmas parades. Ron and Joan were great hosts. Ron would run things from the flying bridge and Joan would keep the guests entertained in the saloon. Ron was an expert with audio gear. He had speakers set up on his boat, and I am confident that his parade music could be heard a mile or more away. He was involved in all club activities and served as Commodore in 2002. Carrying on the family tradition, his daughter, Ronda Beasley was Commodore in 2017. His son in law Darren Beasley is frequently seen around the clubhouse helping out. Ron and Joan together ran the respected M & M Heating & Air Conditioning Service, serving all of Stockton and beyond.
Ronald G. Malmquist was born on Jan. 10, 1948 and passed away on April 9, 2020. During the COVID pandemic, public gatherings were discouraged so the family postponed Ron’s memorial until mid-Sept. of 2021. Bob Cain served as the MC and Beverly Cain created the excellent audio/visual presentation covering Ron’s life from his childhood to his passing. Most of the Stockton Yacht Club members were there, along with many of Ron’s other friends and relatives. The event started with Bob calling things to order. Nita Reinhart led the group in prayer, followed by the slide show. The finale was when several of Ron’s close friends told stories about what a great person he was, and how he went out of his way to help others. Ron was a good man and we all miss him and his great low-key sense of humor.
Jay Sorensen Memorial
Jolly Jay Sorensen passed away over a year ago on June 22, 2020. He is gone physically, but his memory as a defender of the California Delta will live on forever. We attended a memorial dinner for him in late September at the Italian Athletic Club Meeting Hall in Stockton. It was put on by Jay’s sister, Mary Escobar and family members.
The place was packed with Jay’s family and friends, and everyone had colorful stories to tell about him. We learned from Mary that he had an interest in science and the environment from an early age. Mary told a tale of Jay and some of his grammar school male friends experimenting with burning sulfur in the basement of their family home. Mary was excluded from the experiment because she was a girl, so for revenge she locked the basement door from the outside. Inside, the boys were overcome by the smoke and fumes. Luckily Mary let them out before any of them succumbed to the gases. I am sure she found a new level of respect from Jay and his gang.
The evening started with an invocation and blessing of the food by John Van Driel, Jay’s nephew. We then dined on roast chicken, pasta and a fresh salad. At precisely 1900 hours, Jay’s brother Reed welcomed the attendees. This was followed by Jay’s niece Julie Posey singing a heartfelt rendition of “Amazing Grace.” Next, Jay’s nephew Robert Escobar delivered the eulogy.
Mary read a poem written especially for Jay. We saw two video presentations, one by nephew Steven Escobar and one by friend Dave. They were accompanied by a song “The Ballad of Jolly Jay.” Julie then sang another beautiful song “Love me Tender” (Jay was a huge fan of Elvis Presley.)
The climax of the evening came when many of Jay’s friends and relatives gave colorful accounts of their dealings with him. Jay not only founded the California Striped Bass Association (CSBA) but served as state president for a number of years. Many members of the CSBA were on hand, and all of them had personal stories about Jay and learning from him. I am pretty sure that during his life he received awards from just about every outdoors related organization in northern California. I was with him at meetings at the Capitol, and he would be surrounded by politicians and people trying to curry favor with him. I am confident that Jay will live in our hearts forever as a champion of the California Delta and a warrior who worked to preserve the region from the water cartels.
Labor Day 2021
There was plenty of boating activity in the Delta for Labor Day, the last major summer holiday. Not only were there plenty of big boats out on the water enjoying cruising events, there were also numerous wakeboard and ski boats, runabouts and fast boats. The rumors of a great 2021 boating season are true.
My people report in from the Central Delta Area around the Mokelumne River. The Waterfront Grille at Tower Park was packed each evening of the holiday. Their RV Park patrons and many from the boating community were on hand enjoying the delicious food.
Sue and I went to the grand opening a while back and surely agree that the food is certainly exceptional.
Boat traffic near the Mokelumne bridge came to a halt for a few hours while an accident on State Route 12 prevented the bridge from opening for boat traffic. Loren and Marvell French’s boat was one of a few that were caught up in the mix, but if you had your choice of waiting out a traffic jam by car or boat, I would think the boat would win hands down every time.
Willow Berm Marina, along with the large amount of regular berthers on hand for the holiday had a standing room only situation on their large attenuator dock which serves as guest docking. The Sacramento Yacht Club was on hand in force, and it appears that everyone had a good time.
B&W Resort enjoyed their normal holiday routine with a full house in their cottage rentals. Boat traffic in and out of the harbor on all three days of the holiday weekend seemed to be nonstop with regulars, those staying for the weekend and those stopping in for fuel. Remember, their fuel dock is only one of a few that operates 24 hours a day. Some of the larger boats berthed there were out for the holiday. Jim and Gail Marshall took their boat, Farm Boy out for a small shakedown cruise on Friday night in preparation for their cruise to Benicia the next day. Once back in the slip, both were seen relaxing on the back deck watching the harbor traffic and saying their hellos to all that passed by.
With the official end of summer being Labor Day, I hope that you are able to get out and enjoy the Indian summer that California always seems to offer until at least mid-November.
Just because the Delta Conveyance has not been in the news lately doesn’t mean the Department of Water Resources and the Natural Resources Agency are not earnestly working to divert the Sacramento River around the Delta via their proposed giant tunnel. The Delta Conveyance Design and Construction Authority (DCDCA also known as the DCA) is the group in charge of the project. They brought in Kathryn Mallon from New York where she previously helped build a water tunnel. The “Stakeholder Engagement Committee” was started about two years ago with the idea that stakeholders would be able to give input about the Conveyance (tunnel). It got off to a bad start when the participants were told that discussing not building the tunnel was off the table and they would only talk about things such as tunnel alignment. Mallon resigned last spring as executive director and was replaced by Graham Bradner.
At least two members of the Stakeholder Engagement Committee have now submitted letters of resignation, alleging that they were misled by the DCA when they agreed to be on the committee. My contacts tell me that they will disband the committee by the end of the year. I looked at their website and there are no more meetings scheduled for 2021.
So far, it looks like this boondoggle has cost the taxpayers of California close to $1 billion. If it comes to fruition, it is estimated to cost between $55 and $75 billion or more. This will be the most destructive and expensive public works project in California’s history. It does not create one drop of new water; indeed, it takes needed water from one area and delivers it to another more affluent group.
Hood is a small Delta community that sits at ground zero for the tunnel intakes. Their town council and community leaders handed a Declaration of Protest to Governor Gavin Newsom on Sept. 10, urging his administration to stop the planned Delta Tunnel Project which will destroy local communities along the Sacramento River, including the historic Latino Town of Hood. These communities rely on the estuary for survival, and are already suffering from California’s two-year drought.
Hood’s community council and town members presented a petition signed by most of the town’s long-time Latino residents demanding that the intakes be moved and that the town not be destroyed for a tunnel designed to divert Delta water to powerful southern California water interests throughout the Los Angeles Basin.
The footprint of the intake dwarfs the size of the town of Hood and construction would last fifteen years, effectively destroying the local community. Governor Newsom continued to give verbal support to Latino communities throughout California while on the campaign trail to defeat the gubernatorial recall, yet he continues to move forward with the Delta Tunnel Project which will displace many Latino residents in the local town of Hood, most of whose families have inhabited the town for generations. So far, they have not heard back from the governor.
The Department of Water Resources (DWR) completed the Administrative Draft Environmental Impact Report for the Delta Conveyance Project (single-tunnel project) recently. However, they seem to be keeping this draft secret and refusing to release it. What are they trying to hide?
I am confident that if enough taxpayers stand up and fight this boondoggle, they will put an end to it and we might be able to live in peace for a while.
A tragic fire consumed one of the Delta’s favorite watering holes and restaurants. Delta folks have been drinking and dining at this favorite spot on the Mokelumne River for generations. Giusti’s was the oldest restaurant in the Delta, dating back to 1912. In Erle Stanley Gardner’s 1967 book “Gypsy Days on the Delta,” there is a photo of the back of Giusti’s taken from Walnut Grove Road. It looks almost exactly the same as it did when I drove by a day or two before the fire. Some things just don’t change. Gardner said, “Giusti’s had been there since time immemorial” and that was close. Gardner further says, “The food is simply out of this world.” Your writer and virtually everyone that has visited the establishment agrees with that statement. Giusti’s has been mentioned in virtually every piece of literature published about the Delta including Gardner, Bob Walters and Hal Schell. Giusti’s became even more famous to a national audience when it was featured on Guy Fieri’s “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” back in 2009.
The building perched at the top of the levee on the Mokelumne River was originally called the Miller Ferry Saloon. It was a store, bar and fare collection point for the ferry. I have researched this and found conflicting dates, but the Miller Ferry seems to have been in existence from possibly the late 1860s to around 1910. A swing bridge was built there in the early 20th century. There are tales of area children having to swim out to the bridge when it was stuck open to supply muscle strength to operate the mechanism and put it back in place. The current bridge was installed in 1955 and has proven reliable.
The restaurant and bar have always been a favorite of local farmers, residents and boaters since they started serving home style Italian meals back in 1912. Egisto Giusti bought the establishment in 1912 and changed the name to Giusti’s. Mark Morias and his wife, Linda have operated Giusti’s place for the last several decades. Mark started working there when he was a child. It was definitely a family affair with Mark’s son, Matt, and his daughter Katie both working there.
The walls were covered with photos of famous people that had dined there, and the ceiling over the bar was covered with a reported 1,500 hats that had been put there over the years. Millions of dollars in business deals have been conducted over lunch at Giusti’s. Mark and his family were very generous to the community and supported many local causes over the years. Our hearts go out to the Morias family. The loss of Giusti’s came as a shock to the entire Delta community and beyond.
The fire broke out at the end of lunch hour and quickly consumed the building. Luckily no one was hurt. The wreckage is fenced off and now a wall of hats appears along the fence, put there by well-wishers. Giusti’s will live in our hearts forever.
Our resident Delta videographer Gene Beley is heading to Nashville to give a lecture on his friend Johnny Cash. You may remember that Beley covered Cash’s Folsom Prison concert back in 1968 as a young reporter. The two became lifelong friends, and kept in touch until Cash passed away. Beley recently sold the rights to his photos of Cash.
The Port of Stockton has a new director, Kirk DeJesus. “As a member of the Stockton community for the past 22 years, I know that it is imperative to support local programs and we will continue to do so,” says DeJesus. “As we grow, we will encourage and incentivize our tenants to support local jobs which will generate additional local tax revenue.” Welcome aboard, Kirk.
Katie Senior reports that the famous classic yacht Acania has been renamed Marie, and was sold in 2019 (we are running a little behind.) She was in the Delta for many years under the name Star-fjord. Miles Davis owned her. Miles sold her to David Olson who restored her original name. Indeed, he restored the entire vessel to Bristol condition. She was built by Consolidated Shipyard in 1930, and designed by John Wells. Legend has it that she was built for Chicago businessman and philanthropist Al Capone.
Well, a few months ago I had to change the impeller on my port side water pump. It had disintegrated and I had to pull pieces out of my cooling system. This month, my starboard pump is spraying water from the bearing. I am good at changing impellers, but a leaking bearing is beyond my job description, so when that happens, I replace the pump. I think that one has been serving me for 20 or so years. The first time I ordered a new pump it was $60.00. I ordered one in 2012 and it was $200.00, but the one I ordered now was over $300.00. I have kept my used pumps because there is a place in Sacramento that I think will replace the bearings and seals. I will take them in, have them repaired and keep them as spares.
The Delta Reflections/Lynn Hahn Memorial Christmas Boat Parade is on for 2021. It will take place on Dec. 4 at sundown on the Stockton Channel starting by Windmill Cove. Please contact Roger Hahn at 209-603-7147 for information.