Delta Rat Scrapbook – by Bill Wells

Delta Rat Scrapbook

M & M

Martin McNair and Margi Cellucci joined in holy matrimony in early November. The ceremony was conducted at the common area at their condominium development’s garden. After the ceremony, the reception was held at Martin and Margi’s condominium across the street. Two bars were set up and the kitchen was taken over by the caterers that were constantly walking around plying us with exotic canapés. We had tri-tip on crackers, shrimp and a host of other exotics that were irresistible.

Martin & Margi exchange vows.

Their patio out back gives you a beautiful view of the Bay Area from the Bay Bridge to Mount Tam. The Richmond Yacht Club is just up the shoreline from their home.

I have told you before that Martin is a Navy SEAL and a retired captain. The guest list included many SEALS, Navy captains and an admiral. Someone spotted my Navy veteran lapel pin and asked if I was a captain. I had to explain that I had been way down the chain of command from captain. Many of Martin’s friends from Grindstone Joe’s attended while Rusty and Julie Areias, Alan Almquist and Sue and I represented the Classic Yacht Association. Martin sold his classic Stephens yacht, Allure a couple of years ago and now he has a houseboat he keeps at Grindstone Joe’s. Between them, Martin and Margi have several attractive children and grandchildren who were also in attendance.

The McNairs and their wedding cake.

Margi is a well known and highly respected realtor in the Richmond area. She is also involved in music and drama. There was a musical theme to the wedding, renowned opera singer Dolora Zajick sang an aria from “The Merry Widow” and Margi sang her vows to Martin. I am confident that between Martin and Margi they have every possession they have ever wanted, so they asked guests to donate to their preferred non-profits in lieu of wedding presents. These included The Washington Elementary School PTA-Music and the Brain and the Institute for Young Dramatic Voices.

Mt. Tam viewed from the McNair’s patio.

Oh yes, they want to be referred to as M & M as one of the reception favors was M & M candy to help us remember. I am confident that this new Bay Area power couple will have many adventures and accomplishments ahead of them.

USS Lucid MSO 458

USS Lucid is a minesweeper ocean (MSO.) You have seen her moored near the Stockton Sportsman’s Club on the San Joaquin River. David Rajkovich conceived the idea maybe ten years or so ago. They found the ship being reclaimed by the elements in a back slough near Bradford Island. I was with them the day they towed her to a mooring at the former Naval Reserve Center on Monte Diablo Avenue near the Stockton Rod and Gun Club. Since then, they have recruited a squadron of volunteers that have worked on her restoration and gathering parts. Don Rienhart says he answered the phone one night and David told him that he had been elected second in command of the operation. Don has yet to learn who actually voted for him. I have visited the ship a few times, and it is amazing the amount of work they have completed in their five-year plan. Much of the interior has been restored to the way it was when the ship was in service. They have recently painted the starboard exterior of the ship and it is looking good. Minesweepers you know were made of wood with no ferrous metals used. They have a lot of young folks that volunteer their time to help too. The San Joaquin Building Futures Academy is involved in the restoration too. The young folks there are all enthusiastic and interesting to talk to.

Checking out the .50 Caliber Browning.

Lucid was built by Higgins in New Orleans and launched in 1953. She is a sister ship to minesweepers built in Stockton. The MSO’s were the “aggressive class” of minesweepers. After completion, she did her shakedown cruise in the Caribbean before cruising to the West Coast and home port at Long Beach. She made five Transpac cruises and did four tours in Vietnam, not only looking for mines but also inspecting boat traffic in the South China Sea looking for weapons and supplies being smuggled by the North Vietnamese.

Don Rienhart showing the ship model he built.

She was decommissioned in 1970 and used as a liveaboard for a few years in the Bay Area and eventually moved to the Delta where she was used as a warehouse for a scrap dealer. Over the years she was stripped of anything of value and a hole was cut in the side to allow easy access from the shore.

David and Karen.

She was originally powered by four Packard ID1700 V12 diesel engines. The engines were made of aluminum, stainless steel, copper and brass so they were not magnetic and did not attract mines.

Sally, Nita and Sue at the USS Lucid party.

David held a “Volunteer Appreciation Evening” party for his volunteers and crew of USS Lucid at his ranch just out of Stockton. His beautiful wife Karen and his children all pitched in to pull it off. Maybe a hundred or so folks attended. Sue and I met a fascinating group of people. Many were former sailors that had served on minesweepers, plus many other Navy and military veterans that volunteered on the project. Others were folks that have been helping with the restoration and gathering parts. They found a 40-millimeter Bofors cannon on the East Coast and shipped it out to Stockton. They bolted it into the back of a truck for the trip. These guns weigh a few tons, but they were able to get help moving, loading and unloading it. The gun is not mounted on the ship yet, but they have a crew with a crane that will load it aboard the vessel. They made a trip to Washington State to secure parts off of USS Ranger before she was sent to the scrap yard. I think they got the whole helm station from the ship and managed to offload it from the flight deck to the wharf and on to their truck for the trip back to Stockton.

Wes and Cliff.

The most amazing thing to me at the event was a scale model of USS Lucid that Don Rienhart made using the actual blueprints of the ship. It is an amazing model with great detail. It even has scale model sailors standing on the deck. Don said most of the model was scratch built. He did find some stock parts that he was able to modify to work. It even has a 40-millimeter Bofors gun mounted on the bow and you can see scale ammunition loaded onto the piece. Interior lights in the model work and there is even a signal spotlight that flashes SOS in Morse code. I have known Don for many years and know he is a fine craftsman. He designed and built his waterfront house and his basement workshop is a treasure trove of model ships and trains. He even has a live model steam locomotive.

Of course, he keeps his yacht, Defiance in Bristol condition at his home dock. Don is a staff commodore of the Stockton Yacht Club and has had a lifetime of adventures and fun on the Delta starting with an outboard powered dinghy when he was a pre-teen.

PICYA Awards

The Pacific Inter-Club Yacht Association held their awards ceremonies on Nov. 7 at the Encinal Yacht Club. In year’s past I have attended the award’s presentation in person, but this year I was unable to. It was covered quite nicely by Out and About the Bay columnist Jillian Humphries. I will summarize the evening but make sure to catch a more in-depth coverage in her column this issue. Commodore Patti Mangan called the gathering to order and Staff Commodore Reggie Smith delivered the Invocation followed by Staff Commodore Fred Rutledge leading the Pledge of Allegiance. After the regular business was completed, the annual awards were presented. Winners are:

Otis & Marilyn Brock with Ebony boat club members at Encinal Yacht Club. Photo courtesy of Morris Lum.
  • Individual Meritorious Service Award – Otis & Marilyn Brock, Ebony Boat Club.
  • Club Meritorious Service Award – Ebony Boat Club.
  • Bay and Delta Yachtsman Public Service Award – Oyster Point Yacht Club.
  • Edwin H. Wilder Perpetual Trophy.
  • PICYA Newsletter of the Year Awards – 1st – Tahoe Yacht Club, 2nd – Stockton Yacht Club, 3rd – San Jose Sailing Club.
  • Lloyd Ryland Trophy – Catherine Miskow, Coyote Point Yacht Club.
  • Harter ‘RBOC Gale Force Wind’ Award – California Carver Club.
  • John and Stephanie Sims Webmaster Award – Ox Bow Yacht Club.
  • Jo Bates Memorial Delegate of the Year Award – Linda Blue, Petaluma Yacht Club.
  • Admiral Chester W. Nimitz U.S.N. Perpetual Trophy – Marin Yacht Club.
  • The Condon Award – Kevin Kirberg, Coyote Point Yacht Club.
  • Robert S. Olson Memorial Poseidon Award – Colleen Stauss, Loch Lomond Yacht Club.
  • Douglas Boswell Perpetual Trophy Yachtsman of the Year Award – Dick Loomis, Richmond Yacht Club, Posthumously.
  • Club of the Year (COTY) – San Jose Sailing Club, Ebony Yacht Club, South Beach Yacht Club.
Cindy Breninger, Linda Gordon and Gary Gordon at PICYA. Photo courtesy of Morris Lum.

Don’t miss the PICYA change of watch and Commodore’s Ball coming up on Saturday, Jan 22 at the Corinthian Yacht Club in Tiburon. You can register here:

Nautilus Barge

Joe Faso keeps wondering why this huge barge is moored across the San Joaquin from his home. I was afforded the opportunity to pay a visit to the barge, thanks to Tracie Glaves and her San Joaquin Delta Neighborhood Watch organization. She got us registered with the security department at Rough and Ready Island, and after going through a couple of security checkpoints we went to the Nautilus Data Technologies office near the barge and saw a great presentation of the history of the Nautilus corporation.

To say they are “state of the art” is an understatement. I have had some experience with data centers 30 years ago or so, but the barge is just amazing. Cooling is important to computer systems to make them operate efficiently, and there are generally two methods – air cooling like the fan in your home computer or water cooling like in big data centers. Water cooling is much more efficient than air cooling. Generally, in most data centers the water is cooled by large refrigeration units. Nautilus uses river water that is drawn in and put through a heat exchanger, similar to your boat’s closed cooling system. The clean water in the heat exchanger is what is actually used to cool the equipment. There are several intakes, and if one becomes clogged it is easily shut down and cleaned while the others keep operating. As you might imagine, using river water for cooling saves considerable energy compared to a refrigeration unit. They can place these data centers just about anywhere there is a steady supply of cool water. Ok Joe, they are not spying on you. Check Nautilus out here:

Mei Wah Beer Room

Iva Walton is a great lady and a lot of fun. Her Mei Wah Beer Room is a do not miss spot in downtown Isleton. I had trouble figuring out what “Mei Wah” meant. Somehow, I got the idea that it was a native American term. Come to find out it is Chinese and means “beautiful place.” It is not only beautiful, but it is cool and fun. Iva restored one of the old Isleton buildings into a warm gathering spot. She has 24 beers and ales on tap (I don’t suggest trying them all in one sitting.) However, many of them are exotic and all are worth a try at some point.

Mei Wah Beer Room. Photo courtesy of Morris Lum.

We attended the Delta Chambers mixer at the Mei Wah and it was a fun time. Iva says there is no TV or Wi-Fi at her place so people will get back to communicating with each other by talking, very refreshing. The decor is amazing with a great collection of artifacts and photos of the Delta. It is like a mini museum. When you are there be sure to check out the opium den (ok Ken, you cannot smoke opium there nowadays.) According to Iva, the Mei Wah building was a gambling hall, brothel and opium den until 1957. I think it was abandoned for years until Iva took it over and restored it.

The gang at the Mei Wah Beer Room. Photo courtesy of Morris Lum.

Jean Yokotobi of the Isleton Chamber came and spoke to the crowd. Jean has been a powerful force in the town for years. She is the main force in the chamber, has participated in restoring local buildings and is a very active community member. Jean was named Sacramento County Woman of the Year by Senator Bill Dodd in 2020. If you are planning a business in Isleton you need to talk to Jean.

Sue, Martha and Gene at the Mei Wah Beer Room.

The Mei Wah Beer Room does not serve food, but Iva catered a feast from the nearby McBoodery, a restaurant at 25 Main Street in Isleton. I need to make a trip to the McBoodry for lunch. Their specialty is the “zombie.” It is similar to a calzone, if you take one bite you are hooked. I managed to limit myself to two for the evening, but the whole plate of zombies disappeared very quickly.

Ginny Giles in front of her store.

Isleton is coming back to life after the pandemic, you should drop by and check things out.

First Annual Locke Vintage Street Fair

In late October the town of Locke came alive with music and visitors from all over the west. In what is destined to become an annual event, this first vintage street fair was a great success. Organized by Virginia Giles, the owner of Seeker in Locke. We hope that with each passing year the event will continue to grow and gather even more vendors, as well as visitors.

Locke Street Fair.

Seeker in its own right already has a large display of vintage items, art deco, jewelry, hand crafted items, antiques and a very large vintage and well taken care of cowboy boot collection. Ginny basically moved the idea of her shop to the street. Vendor booths included plenty of vintage items, handcrafted artwork for sale, fresh from the farm fruits and vegetables and a massage tent, as well as a Tarot card reader.

The food tent served some of the best street tacos around and it looked as if most everyone there had at least one or three. There was live music throughout the event, and at any given moment there seemed to be people gathered around enjoying the performers. All the local businesses enjoyed additional traffic for the day as well. Al the Wops was packed. Lisa Kirk of Strange Cargo had people in and out of her shop and Martha Esch of Locke Bed and Breakfast was busy at her end of town as well. We look forward to attending this event again in 2022.

Waterfraud Update

In September, the good folks of the tiny Delta hamlet of Hood on the Sacramento River hand delivered a “Declaration of Protest” to the governor’s office. They were protesting the Department of Water Resources failure to “avoid and minimize the impacts that concern Delta communities the most.” Governor Newsom and natural Resources Director Wade Crowfoot are proposing to build their giant tunnel intakes near the town. This will destroy the town of Hood if allowed to come to fruition. The document reads: “We demand real justice, do not obliterate our poor brown community, move the intakes” and “It has been said that racism is the result of bad policies not bad people. The policy of locating the intakes on top of us and sparing Clarksburg visits a grossly disproportionate impact on a poor brown community. We do not know what was in the ear of your engineers when they made this decision, but we know the result.” It is a two-page document filled with equally strong language and signed by many multi-generational residents of Hood. Alas, as of this writing in late November the governor has not responded to these allegations of environmental racism.

Many state government agencies have a poor record of responding to the citizens. The Department of Water Resources (DWR) has not released their draft Environmental Impact Report for the conveyance as of this writing, we are still waiting… In early October the Delta Chambers wrote a letter to Toks Omishakin, the Director of Caltrans alerting him to the disaster occurring on the Delta roadways and offering to help resolve the situation. So far, he has not responded.

Ever since Arnold Schwarzenegger announced the plan to divert the Sacramento River around the Delta, the state has assured us that the “users” (the big water districts) will pay for the project. Well, so far it looks like the “users” have not put up a cent. The first billion dollars came from the DWR (us taxpayers.) The DWR plans to sell bonds to finance the construction of the boondoggle. If the “users” are going to pay, why don’t they just put up the money instead of selling taxpayer backed bonds?

In mid-November the DWR sponsored a community benefit workshop. Ninety-five people signed up for the online meeting. It was moderated by Juliana Birkhoff of the firm AG Innovations. I started investigating the community benefit funding in Dec. of 2019. I had heard that members of the Stakeholder Engagement Committee (SEC) were possibly being offered community benefit funds ranging from $150 to $300 million for supporting the tunnel project, and maybe $5 million for non-supporters. It was hard to investigate as it seemed the DWR was doing their best to keep things secret. One member of the group resigned soon after I started inquiring.

Naturally, I was interested in this workshop and I thought they would talk about some comparable projects – wrong. One project that was discussed was a warehouse in North Charleston, South Carolina. It has 300 or so trucks going to it every day. The original plan was to send the trucks down local residential streets to the warehouse. After negotiations, the Low Country Alliance for Model Communities got them to change the entrance to the other side of the building and donate $15,000 to the local school for uniforms. You still have 300 trucks spewing exhaust in a neighborhood and poisoning the air. I don’t see any community benefit here. I thought they would talk about comparable projects like Mono Lake, Owens “Dry” Lake, Buena Vista Lake or maybe the Colorado River Delta, but no such luck. The point is that no amount of community benefits will make up for the destruction of the Delta ecosystem. So far, a few Delta members have resigned from the SEC, feeling that they were defrauded when they agreed to participate. The whole committee might be dissolved by the time you read this. Of course, the money they spent will never be recovered.

DWR announced that they will be selecting the “Bethany Alternative” (water would be conveyed in the tunnel consistent with the proposed project’s eastern alignment but continue further south and be pumped directly into the existing Bethany Reservoir) as the preferred alternative (if and) when they release the draft EIR. Attorney Michael Brodsky responds, “However, it also means that tunnel water will not go to the existing Clifton Court Forebay, but will go directly to existing Bethany Reservoir. In my opinion, this is part of DWR’s plan to abandon the Delta to salt water. The existing Jones and Banks pumping stations draw water from the Delta at Clifton Court. In order to use Clifton Court, DWR has to coordinate operations to keep the central and south Delta relatively fresh water. By abandoning use of Clifton Court, and routing tunnel water around the Delta to Bethany, that would facilitate abandoning Jones and Banks. It also could be used to pressure the federal government to join the tunnel project as federal water is now withdrawn at Clifton Court. If the feds join the tunnel and the tunnel connects directly to Bethany, that takes us a step closer to a saltwater Delta.”

The Poppy House

Howard Lamothe and Jim Baumann at the Poppy House.

Jim Baumann invited me to join him and his pals for a luncheon at the Poppy House in Rio Vista. They gather weekly for lunch and camaraderie. It is a who’s who of the town and a great time to pick up the local gossip. Bill Dutra, Howard Lamothe, Jim Lira, Tom Kelly, Ty Silva, Gene Resler and many other Rio Vista luminaries were there. The bar was open so we enjoyed a glass of wine or two and good conversation prior to lunch being served. The lunch was delicious featuring mac and cheese and an excellent BBQ beef and coleslaw sandwich on a fresh bun. After dessert I felt like taking a nap, but I took leave of Jim and the other folks and went back to work.

Jim Lira and Bill Dutra.

Eight Bells

In the before Hal Schell (BHS) era, Bill Conner held court at Lost Isle. Bill Conner was a friend to many of us in the Delta and loved by all. He crossed over the bar on Nov. 6. To say he was beloved is a big understatement. Bill was always up for a party and we all loved him. He just celebrated his 90th birthday and I thought he was good for another ten years. Unfortunately, he was stricken with terminal cancer. He spent his last month in the hospital and said he did not want to continue on if he could not walk. He had made plans to end his life at a hospice on Nov. 8.

Bill Conner – the King of the Delta.

His longtime girlfriend Mary Pelican “the Ambassador of Fun” in the Delta was by his side most of the time in the last several months. Bill was a fiercely proud American and U.S. Marine. He was a native of Stockton and lived there all of his life when he wasn’t in the military. He owned Lost Isle during its heyday from 1968 to 1980. These were the days of the peacocks, monkeys and other wildlife running loose on the island, and of course, legendary parties. This was the heyday of legendary bartender Fill-em-up-Phil and the one-dollar Mai Tais. Bill once ordered a bunch of cheap glasses with the Lost Isle logo on them to serve the Mai Tais, and they were so popular he ended up selling the glasses by themselves.

Bill created a phenomenon with Lost Isle, and it was famous not only in California but throughout the U.S. Over the years many celebrities paid a visit to this outpost on the San Joaquin River. It was definitely the favorite Delta hangout for many years. Located between markers 22 and 24 on the San Joaquin River Deep Water Channel, it was a short boat ride from downtown Stockton and many other resorts including Tiki Lagoon, Turner Cut Resort and Windmill Cove. The Delta Chambers still gets many calls asking about Lost Isle during the boating season. I would say there are many people still around that have wild tales to tell about this renowned Delta location and its one-time proprietor.

Bill’s father owned the island before him. He was a fisherman and apparently lost a lot of lures there. Somehow, he thought owning the island would be good. Bill is the one that turned it into a popular family resort. He would have his children out on the river in a rowboat flagging down passing boats and telling them to go into Lost Isle for food and drinks.

After he sold Lost Isle, he ended up with the barge that had been moored there. The barge was about 115 feet by 50 feet. He moved it out into the San Joaquin River and anchored it. Eventually, it sank and became an island. Somehow a collection of boats was attracted to the island like a magnet. The government at times ordered him to move the structure out of the river, but being an island, it was going nowhere. There would always be an American flag flying on a pole on the deck when you cruised past on the river.

A while back Bill entrusted me with his records of the Super Secret Ship Club. These include newsletters, party announcements and assorted memorabilia. It was all fittingly placed in a purple binder. Hal Schell’s hand is suspected in many of these documents. Bill was a great storyteller; he has appeared in many media interviews and written articles about the Delta. He called me monthly to discuss history or talk about politics. He loved the Delta and the people here and attended many local functions up until the day he entered the hospital.

There will be a celebration of his life at Windmill Cove on Jan. 15, 2022 starting at noon. Bill lived between Windmill Cove and Mary’s home for years after his barge burned, and would frequently hold court at Windmill Cove. This will be the mother of all parties to kick off the year 2022. Plan to come, but get there early.

Will Heryford crossed over the bar. He was another good friend and a professional newsman with Channel 3 in Sacramento. Will had a lot of interest in the Delta and covered many events here. He started as a paperboy for the Sacramento Bee. He was attending San Diego State University when he got an internship with Channel 3 TV in Sacramento. He ended up working at the station for 42 years.

Willie was a good man, and was interested in anything related to boating in the Delta. He started as a news editor, but by the time I met him he was writing, filming and editing his own work. He was like a foreign correspondent, but covering things closer in. He called me a few times for input and was always willing to meet somewhere that was convenient to me. His passing is a loss to the station and the folks of the Delta.

Irish Pennants

I have had an ongoing saga with the engine cooling pumps on my boat. As of this writing they are both working great. On my port motor I had to replace the impeller and seal. On the starboard motor I replaced the entire pump. I had to buy a couple of new wrenches to get to the mounting bolts on the starboard side. My water pumps run off of shafts coming out the back of the generators (yes, I still have generators, not alternators.) These are quite similar to the way the tach drive runs off the generator in early Corvettes. There is a little plastic x-shaped coupling between the pump and the generator that solves any minor alignment problems. For the almost 30 years that I have owned my boat, I have been fearful of losing or breaking one of these little parts thinking I could never find another one. Low and behold, this time when I had one out, I found a number faintly stamped on it and punched it into the internet. Sure enough, they are still available. I did not need any, but I ordered a few as spares just in case.

The little plastic part that is critical to my engines running.

George Homenko emailed me and reminded me of the times the Classic Yacht Association was rafted at Railroad Cut and we would head downstream to Giusti’s for some home-style Italian food and wine. One evening we jumped in George’s shore boat Ramboat to cruise over for an excellent dinner. Another time we piled into Mont McMillon’s Stephens yacht Cielito and cruised over for dinner.

Be sure to make it to the International Sportsmen’s Exposition at Cal Expo in Sacramento on Jan. 20-23. Your friends from the Delta Chambers will be in booth 3317 and there will be other Delta folks there too.

Don’t miss the Isleton Spam Festival on Feb. 5th. Contact Paul at 925-753-3551 for information.

It is a new year and things are coming back to life. Let me know what you are up to. Contact me at 916-869-9141 or Have a great New Year!