Delta Rat Scrapbook – by Bill Wells
Every year in the fall B&W hosts a steamboat regatta and an Antique & Classic Boat Society (ACBS) get together. Unfortunately, this year the events were cancelled due to the pandemic. Some die-hard vintage runabout owners did show up for the weekend and spent time cruising around the Mokelumne River and Delta Loop. The weather was perfect with glass-like water, the only downside was smoke drifting in from some of the major fires in the area.
Lilly Deak from B&W sent us a couple of great photos too. These boats are absolutely beautiful, when you see one you think of a Steinway piano. In fact, one of them is named Steinway. The ACBS has been visiting B&W for a few decades. I think this is the first time the event has been officially cancelled.
The Return Of Hydro Dave Hernandez
Hydro Dave retired from California and moved to Arizona about seven years ago. Dave lived and worked in the Bay Area, but his boating was based in the Delta mainly out of the Rusty Porthole on Bethel Island. He knows about everyone on the island and nearby Frank’s Tract is a great spot for high speed runs.
He is making a name for himself in Arizona. The boating there is in reservoirs and lakes which is great for drag boats, but there is not a lot of cruising available. He attracts attention whenever he is towing a boat down the road. Dave also has a personality that lets him make friends wherever he goes.
Hydro and his lovely wife Muff made a trip back to the Delta to see old friends and relatives. We managed to meet up with them at the Rusty Porthole for lunch on a beautiful fall day. We dined on the deck overlooking Frank’s Tract and caught up with the couple’s latest adventures. They are the kind of people that are always helping others and it must be a karma thing because good things continue to happen to them. They showed us their 40-foot class A motorhome that they cruise around in nowadays. This is easily a $250,000 vehicle that they got at an amazing low price from a person that they befriended. Now they have a land yacht that they can travel the country with their pet cat.
Scott Andrews advises us that the Army Corps of Engineers has dredged the Petaluma River from the San Pablo Bay Channel up to the downtown turning basin. I knew the work was scheduled and I am pleased and amazed that it was completed so quickly. It looks like the fuel dock and guest docks are open too. Downtown Petaluma is an excellent spot to cruise to. The yacht club there is friendly and there are plenty of restaurants, wine tasting rooms, antique stores and funky spots to keep you busy for days. It is a charming town and well worth a visit in your boat. Be sure to check in with the folks at the marina at 707-778-4489. The turning basin is also a great spot for you kayakers and other human-powered boat fans.
Trump Rally And Parade
In mid-October, a few hundred boats assembled near the Sacramento Yacht Club and paraded upriver to the Virgin Sturgeon restaurant a few miles upstream from downtown Sacramento. There were many boats that made the few hour cruise from the heart of the Delta. I came to take some photos and was amazed when I drove through downtown Sacramento as there were hundreds of cars and trucks sporting Trump flags and signs.
There were a few thousand people lining the Tower Bridge and the nearby riverbanks. People were amazingly courteous. I was carrying two cameras so I guess people thought I knew what I was doing (I frequently carry a backup camera with a longer focal length lens.) As I walked along the bridge several people offered to move so I could get photos of the boats. This was in distinct contrast to when I was filming some recent civil disobedience in Sacramento where I was threatened with violence.
There were plenty of horns and sirens blowing, and naturally you heard the blast of the occasional signal cannon.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers requested comments on the Delta Conveyance Project plan to divert the Sacramento River around the Delta with a tunnel starting at Hood. Michael Brodsky, an attorney for the Save the California Delta Alliance submitted six pages of comments explaining why the project should be stopped. The Delta Chambers, Delta Legacy Communities and many other organizations and individuals submitted comments too, explaining what a bad idea the project is.
Here is an excerpt from Michael Brodsky’s comments, it will give you the idea of what is going on: “DWR has settled on two intakes, intakes #3 and #5, both located adjacent to the small low-income minority community of Hood. No alternative intake locations are considered or have been seriously considered. Please see Attachment 4 for a graphic depiction of intakes #3 and #5 looming over and dwarfing the small town of Hood. Attachment 4 was prepared for hearings on the former California WaterFix, but the location of intakes #3 and #5 has not changed. DWR believes that it has existing water rights at these locations and therefore its SWRCB process would be a Petition for a change in the point of diversion. If it locates the intakes anywhere else, its SWRCB process would be the initiation of a new water right, a somewhat higher bar to pass. This administrative convenience for DWR does not excuse the environmental justice atrocity being perpetrated on Hood. Hood will be destroyed by the multi-year construction activity needed to build these two intakes. The town will be largely abandoned and residents who remain will suffer irreparable harm. The injury to Hood and insult to principals of environmental justice is all the more acute because DWR recently concluded that intake #2 be eliminated from consideration because of the community impacts on the small town of Clarksburg. Attachment 5 is DWR’s statement of unacceptable impacts on Clarksburg with no mention of Hood. The impacts on Clarksburg were significant and unacceptable in their own right but less than on Hood. Clarksburg is more prosperous and more white than Hood and one wonders aloud, if the lesser impacts on Clarksburg were an unacceptable imposition on that community why are greater impacts being imposed on the less prosperous community of Hood acceptable to DWR? Intakes #3 and #5 must not be placed at these locations. They must be moved.
“The Application should be rejected for the reasons stated above. If not rejected out of hand, then a reasonable range of alternatives not considered by DWR should be included in the Corps-prepared EIS.”
Ironically the DWR recently sent a “Social Justice” survey out to many Delta Area taxpayers to see if they wanted a western alignment or a more easterly alignment of the tunnel. To me “Social Justice” would be to stop the project and use the billions of dollars saved to help get California’s economy going again.
Apparently, there is some skullduggery going on at the Stakeholder Engagement Committee. We keep hearing of “Community Development” funds that will become available to groups that support the tunnel. One fellow from the North Delta told us that there could be $150 million available if the community supported diverting the river. Another fellow from Bethel Island said that there could be $300 million available for tunnel supporters and only maybe $5 million available if the tunnel is not supported. Other SEC members are tightlipped about the funds. An attorney friend of mine says this sounds a lot like Quid Pro Quo and possibly illegal. I am sure we will be finding out more about this in the future.
Real Housewives Of Ox Bow Marina
Georgiana Slough is one of the most beautiful waterways in the Delta and has been featured in video and film. Folks have been kayaking out of Ox Bow Marina for years. I think these informal regattas were started by Kitty Levick or at least I remember her talking about it years ago. Now we have Debbie Steffensen and the real housewives of Ox Bow Marina that advised me that starting in August, once a month a group of ladies from Ox Bow Marina get together on Georgiana Slough. They make stops at the docks of the waterfront homes on the Georgiana and enjoy mimosas, Bloody Marys, oh yes, and brunch. They typically make four stops on their journey along the waterfront. I think it would be interesting to watch them paddle back to the harbor after they have a few mimosas. The October regatta brought out the Halloween costumes, I nominate Kitty Levick for the best of the bunch. By the way, I have information that Kitty just retired so I think we can expect the level of wacky things going on at Ox Bow to increase in the future.
Christine Hammer Birthday
On the first evening of the Stephens Rendezvous while we were quietly enjoying our tacos and Margaritas on the deck at Village West Yacht Club, in saunters Christine Hammer and her all-female posse. It was her birthday and she is one of the people that makes their birthday celebration go on for days. When she walks into a room you feel the energy level increase dramatically. When they walked in many people that did not know her thought her group was the entertainment for the evening. Hammer is an appropriate last name for Christine. You can generally find her at any good Delta party, oftentimes accompanied by her husband Gerard. Happy Birthday Chris!
We have had many challenges with Delta highways over the last couple of years. Several drawbridges have needed repairs and retrofitting which has caused detours and traffic backups. I met Kris Balaji, the Deputy District Director from Caltrans District 3. Kris is the former Public Works director for San Joaquin County and very familiar with Delta issues. We have met a few times and he took Barbara Daly, the Delta Chambers treasurer and I for a tour of the Paintersville Bridge which was undergoing some repairs at the time. I gained a new respect for Caltrans and the equipment they maintain. Kris introduced us to Andy Alvarado, the North Region Construction Division chief, and Meshack Okpala, Area Construction Manager. We walked the bridge and you could see several spots where vehicles had impacted the structure. The Paintersville Bridge was built in 1923 using technology dating back to Civil War days. It is a double bascule bridge that opens for boat traffic, and after it is opened for a passing boat the two spans need to align within an inch or so to allow vehicle traffic when it closes. When the bridge was built cars and trucks were definitely lighter than current models and caused less wear and tear on the infrastructure. As you might imagine, it would not take much to knock the mechanism out of kilter.
The Delta bridges and ferry boats are big attractions to visitors and potential visitors to the region and bring in people that spend money at local businesses. Kris explained that Caltrans works to keeping things looking original, but with upgraded and more reliable mechanisms. Kind of like repowering a 40 Ford coupe with a modern Cadillac motor and drivetrain or taking the Hall Scott Invader motors out of your 1936 Stephens yacht and replacing them with small block Chryslers. The bridge was built by Moore Dry Dock Company of Oakland and designed by the Strauss Bascule Bridge Company of Chicago. The current work is being done by Meyers & Son Construction out of Sacramento. They have completed many repairs and retrofit jobs over the years and have a great record of finishing projects on time and on or under budget.
Kris told us about the lifting mechanism in the Rio Vista Bridge with its two towers. They have to raise at the exact same time or the span will jam and get stuck. They needed to replace the cable that runs between the two spans to control the lift. It had to be custom made and it has a special coating to waterproof it so it could be buried in the river. The coating will deteriorate in ultraviolet light, so it could not be left in the sun very long without damage. As you can imagine, there was a careful sequence of events planned from ordering the cable until its final installation.
Classic Yacht Association (CYA)
Oct. 24 was the 50th anniversary of the CYA. On this day in 1970, eighteen charter members of the Classic Yacht Association signed the Articles of Incorporation establishing the organization as a California nonprofit Corporation.
The first officers of the CYA were: Bob Ekoos (Commodore), George Freeman (Rear Commodore), Bob Heath (Secretary-Treasurer) and Buss Olson (Vice Commodore).
Bob Ekoos owned a sistership to my boat named Banquero (Spanish for Banker) a 36-foot Stephens, hull number 623 launched in April of 1937 (my boat is hull number 624 launched in May of 1937.) Bob later sold her to Keith Hanst and she spent many years cruising the Delta with the name Stacy Lynn. Later she was sold to John & Zita Winn (Four Winns boats) and now she resides in their private collection in Charlevoix, Michigan. They have renamed her Zita Anne.
The club originally met at the Long Beach Yacht Club and from the original thirteen members the organization now numbers over 300 and is international with members in Canada and Australia as well as all over the U.S. If you own or are interested in vintage power boats, you should think about joining the CYA.
About the time the Stephens Rendezvous was going on a friend of mine Jim Kroeger, a past commodore of the Southern California fleet of the Classic Yacht association, and the skipper of the classic Stephens yacht Sea Boarder contacted me. Sea Boarder is a 42-foot 1951 model.
Jim removed some joiner work so he could work on his radio and found the inscription “Ole Nielssen boatbuilder 1998” on a piece of wood he had removed. The boat, hull number 912 had originally been commissioned by Jim’s grandfather in 1951. She was launched on Sept 13, 1951. Jim had lost track of her for many years, but he had heard a rumor that she had been “restored in a barn in Stockton.” That kind of rang a bell with me as I was familiar with a similar vessel that was restored in a barn along Miner Slough. The work was done by a friend of mine Joe Oka and his partner Ole who turned out to be Ole Nielssen. They spent several years restoring her and repowered her with Chrysler 440 cubic-inch engines. When they put her back in the water, they moored her at Arrowhead Harbor. They were tied up next to me so I got to know both of them well. Joe kept an album of his work so he had a photo record of the restoration. She was owned by a local farmer Bob Anderson who spared no expense on her.
So, with the help of Joe I managed to help fill out the history of Jim’s beautiful boat. This photo is Jim surrounded by his female crew holding his pipe smoking grandfathers’ personal signal. Jim had a reproduction made that he currently flies on his boat.
Pacific Coast Water Rescue Services (PCWR)
John Garza checks in from PCWR. They have partnered with Eric Koster of J&H Marine in Stockton. PCWR is training firefighters on water rescue and J&H helps maintain their vessels on the Bay and Delta. John says that three vessels were recently placed into service: Rio Vista Fire Department – Zodiac 16, Suisun City Fire Department – Zodiac 16-foot and 14-foot.
Also, J&H is helping place into service the Thornton Fire District’s 25-foot ACB vessel and performed a mechanical makeover on the Cummins Diesel on the boat. The boat will provide service to the North and South Forks of the Mokelumne River. Additionally, J&H gave assistance to the Oakland Fire Department and helped them diagnose issues with the 60-foot Sea Wolf Fireboat at Jack London Square. They are also currently training the Rio Vista, Benicia and Suisun City Fire Depts in open water rescue. I would say that is a busy schedule. John invited me to join them for an upcoming training day. I should have some photos for the next issue of the magazine.
Change Of Watch
A few clubs are checking in with the officers for 2021. Stockton Yacht Club’s 2021 lineup is: Commodore John Contreras, Vice Commodore Terry McGregor, Rear Commodore Ellie Temple-Baumer, Directors Larry Brown, Jorja Ivie and Bill Jones.
Terry Silva checks in from the Weber Point Yacht Club with their 2021 bridge: Commodore Barbara Mensch, Vice Commodore Marilyn Cutting, Rear Commodore Terry Silva, Staff Commodore Terry Silva, Secretary Larry Mensch, Treasurer Sue Silva, Directors Teri Davis, Sue Silva, Jack Cutting, Dick Jamison.
Generally Thanksgiving has been considered the beginning of the Holiday season. This year with the quarantine and local resorts being closed people have been going stir crazy. We are declaring the start of the Holiday season to be Halloween.
Parties broke out all over the Delta, and all manner of strangely dressed people and mythical creatures were sighted on Halloween and the days leading up to it. I think things kicked off with a gathering of witches at the home of Tom Palacioz and Brenda Jackson. They had their vintage 100-year-old domicile decorated to the gills with spooky decorations. A baker’s dozen or so of spooky witches helped Brenda kick Tom out and they spent the evening casting spells and snacking on exotic fare.
Next Debi Wells held a Spooktacular event at her home with plenty of food, drink, and dance music, for the ghosts and goblins that joined her. Her Schnauzer entertained folks for much of the evening but eventually got tired of the festivities and wandered off to his bedroom. The human contingent continued to party well into the night.
These events were all leading up to the big day which fell on Saturday this year and was also a full moon, you could say the stars were lined up. Jerry Wolfe held a spectacular party with live music and a costume contest at Windmill Cove. Village West Yacht Club got in the act with their big party. On Bethel Island the Rusty Porthole sponsored a boat parade. Yvonne Morrison was wielding a sword with Jack Hanna’s name engraved on the hilt. We are not sure if Jack was able to retrieve it.
The mother of all Halloween parties had to be the one at Faso World sponsored by Joe Faso and his daughter Jill Faso Antonini. Marquis Entertainment supplied the disc jockey and he kept things moving all night. As one person said “it was another wild night” where there were people dressed in every imaginable costume and some unimaginable. Once again there was enough food and drink to provision a fleet of pirate ships. If people weren’t eating, they were dancing. Several folks came by boat after attending the Windmill Cove party. The highlight of the evening was when a contingent of minions arrived, they were all dressed alike and the women carried the same purses packed with tiny bottles of alcoholic spirits, another wild night indeed.
John Contreras, Commodore of the Stockton Yacht Club sent me more information about our mutual friend Dedrick Denison. He certainly lived a full life, so much more so that instead of an obituary he should have a book written about him. “After a successful career in real estate and public service, Dedrick became intimately involved in the yachting and boating community in California and was named “Outstanding Yachtsman of the Year” in 1980. Always a leader in whatever he set out to do, Dedrick was a founding member of the Marina West Yacht Club in Stockton and became Commodore in 1980. He later served as Director of the Pacific Inter-Club Yacht Association (PICYA) and in 1987 was elected Commodore. Dedrick continued as a delegate to PICYA and chaired several committees and causes over the years. He was also a long-time member of the Stockton Yacht Club and belonged to the International Order of the Blue Gavel, an association of former yacht club commodores. His penchant for giving back and his commitment to boating safety lead him to participate beyond his PICYA duties. He was the president of the Recreational Boaters of California organization in 1993 and participated in the National Advisory Council for the Boat Owners Association of the United States. Dedrick continued to actively communicate with his beloved fellow yachtsmen and offer his support to PICYA and the yachting community until his final days. Dedrick is survived by the love of his life, Betty Denison, his wife of 71 years. He is also survived by his children: Debra (Steve) Hilgedick of Portland, Stacy (John) Swain of Orinda and George Denison, also of Portland. Mr. Denison’s eldest son Rick preceded him in death. Grandchildren are Tavia (David) Dechant, Justin (Courtnie) Kurland, Brian (Chanda) Kurland, Molly Swain, Drew (Sherri) Denison, Courtney Denison and 14 great-grandchildren. Dedrick was a sharp-as-a-tack 91-year-old gentleman and will be fondly remembered for his formal organizational skills, public speaking prowess and his impeccable business acumen. Throughout his life, Dedrick valued honesty, integrity and good will towards others. In his later years, Dedrick’s greatest joy came from seeing his children and grandchildren achieve their dreams no matter what path they had chosen in life. His family meant the world to him. Dedrick’s big heart and kind demeanor will be greatly missed by all who knew and loved him.”
Many Christmas and Holiday parades have been canceled this year. We hear there will likely be an ad hoc parade on Saturday, Dec. 5. It will start at the mouth of 14-Mile Slough/Windmill Cove and proceed up into downtown Stockton and McLeod Lake and back. Sources tell me it will begin around dusk. Check the Delta Chambers Facebook page, we will try to give updated information as we learn more.
You know I have people all over Northern California watching everything. My correspondent Blair Hake caught a good shot of Chuck and Shirley Lenart entering Half Moon Bay aboard their boat, Knots & Bolts.
Don’t forget to set the resolution on your new camera that you got for Christmas to at least 300 dots per inch or higher. Every month I get some excellent photos that I can’t use because they are too small. Remember, you are recording the history of boating in the Delta; we need to make sure it is available for future generations.
Greg Brazil advises us of an upcoming ship commissioning: USS Oakland (LCS-24) is expected to be commissioned at Howard Terminal in the Port of Oakland in April 2021. She recently completed acceptance tests with the builder, Austal USA. Greg will advise us of the actual date when it is determined.
Be sure to ask Ty how he broke his ribs. No, Becky was not beating him, he can tell you about it.