Delta Rat Scrapbook – by Bill Wells

Delta Rat Scrapbook

Life In The Virtual World

We attended the PICYA Virtual Opening Day in the Bay. Due to the global pandemic, the scheduled parade accompanied by a chartered boat for the officials and a blessing of the fleet by the God Squad offshore from the Corinthian Yacht Club, had to be cancelled. Folks were able to participate via an online meeting room. PICYA Commodore, Robert Willis, called the event to order at 1300 hours. The participating yacht clubs had some highly creative entries. I would say there are a few folks out there that have mastered this remote meeting technology well using scenic backgrounds and special effects. The parade was two hours and 15 minutes long. About 190 people attended, representing 43 yacht clubs and more than 100 model boats were entered. Dave Breninger and Winston Bumpus co-hosted the party and served as MCs. Coast Guard Captain, Marie Byrd, Commander of Sector San Francisco United States Coast Guard, Gerry Kamilos, skipper of the Classic Yacht Aurora V, which was scheduled as the blessing boat, Oyster Point Yacht Club Commodore, Bruce McPhillips, John Arndt from Latitude 38 Magazine, David Perry, a yachting historian and yours truly representing Bay & Delta Yachtsman magazine.

Lisa Kirk enjoying an ice cream bar.
Bikers on a visit to Locke.

On Memorial Day weekend, things started opening up. Lisa Kirk called me from Locke and said many of the businesses there were open. I was cruising down I-5 when she called, so I made a detour and went into Locke to see for myself. Al’s place was serving takeout, and all businesses were maintaining social distancing. I talked to a group of bikers, who said they were happy to be on the road after being sequestered for several weeks. They were making a tour of the Delta, with a stop in Locke to visit Al’s place.

I put on my Delta history slideshow for the Latitude 38 magazine’s Delta Doo Dah Virtual Kickoff Party. I keep updating it with newer slides each time. These presentations are fun, but just not quite as enjoyable as being there in person. It does save an incredible amount of travel time though.

Mike and Jules Guzzardo have been entertaining the Delta with a Friday afternoon podcast from their home. It is like a Discovery Bay version of a Johnny Carson talk show. It is very folksy and a lot of fun. I understand that Mike has some radio experience, and it shows. It is a lot of fun to check in on them.

Dennis McNeil is a hugely talented singer and opera star, who lives in Los Angeles. He has entertained several presidents and government officials, and has also performed with Jimmy Buffet, the Grateful Dead and many classical musicians. He has a great voice. During the pandemic, he has been going out in his front yard in the afternoon and singing for his neighbors who gather around to enjoy his performance.

Memories of Mandeville past.

Lisa Kirk said her store, Strange Cargo in Locke is surviving. If you ever stop in Locke, be sure to check it out. She has an eclectic collection of items that you cannot live without. Tom Herzog, who is one of the best Delta historians keeps his collection of Delta and California History books there for sale too. I can’t seem to go in there and be able to leave without spending at least a hundred dollars. Also, the Wops is next door, and has been doing a bustling takeout food business. Martha Esch has her B&B a couple of doors down the street with its downstairs ice cream and soda bar. Did I ever tell you Martha is an artist, and does gold leaf names on boat transoms? She does a beautiful job, and has embellished some famous Delta yachts.

For the first time since Barron Hilton started his Mandeville fireworks extravaganza in 1958, it has been cancelled. As you know, when Mr. Hilton crossed over the bar in 2019, he left an endowment to continue the display. There are many pieces that need to fit together to be able to hold an event like this, and the sponsors thought it would be best to hold off until 2021 given the unknowns going forward.

Regretfully, we also have to report that the 2020 Taste of the Delta event has been cancelled too. This is another event that requires hundreds of people to pull off. The Delta Chambers starts working on the event the month after the last one is held. Please patronize our wonderful Delta restaurants and wineries who have all been great supporters over the years.

Unfortunately, the Rio Vista Bass Festival has been cancelled for 2020. This is a big festival that attracts fishermen and women from all over the United States. It also attracts visitors from all over California. This has been a do-not-miss event for decades. This would have been the 73rd edition of Rio Vista’s largest event, but look for it in 2021.

The Season Is Upon Us

Boating season is upon us in full force. Memorial Day weekend brought out many of the people that have been isolated at home for the last few months. The Delta turned hot at the end of May, which helped draw people out, and hopefully helped kill off any viruses floating around in the air. Fuel is available at fuel docks, and for you trailer boaters, most of the launch ramps are open.

Many of the lakes and reservoirs were closed for much of the spring. This has caused an influx of boaters without a lot of Delta experience to come out. There have been some minor incidents, mostly on the launch ramps, where a few folks launched their trailer along with the boat. Then of course, there are the folks that launched the boat onto the ramp prior to reaching the water. There have been a few collisions, but I have not heard of any serious injuries as of this writing. One poor child drowned at Tiscornia Beach where the American River meets the Sacramento. He was there with his family, but was not wearing a personal flotation device (PFD.) That was a needless tragedy. There are free PFDs at the beach. The American River is much colder than the Sacramento River, and can come as a shocking surprise to people jumping in. Another fellow apparently fell off a boat on the San Joaquin River and drowned. He was not wearing a PFD either. Someone sent me a photo of a ski boat cruising by Bethel Island. It appeared to have about 15 people on board, but no one was wearing a PFD.

The Delta is different than the inland lakes. In the Delta you are on your own, and there are no park rangers every few hundred yards to save you. It is up to us old-timers to help educate the new crop of Delta Rats out there. I have helped my share of people running out of fuel, as well as folks that have run aground. There are some big boats out here that leave a large wake, and they can catch you by surprise if you do not keep a good lookout. Every boater should take a class; you will learn things you knew nothing about. If you live in California and are 35 years old or younger in 2020, then you are required to have a California Boater’s Card which will certify that you have passed a boating course.

A few years back, the state introduced the Blue Light Law, which says any vessel approaching, overtaking, being approached, or being overtaken by a moving law enforcement vessel operating with a siren or illuminated blue light, or any vessel approaching a stationary law enforcement vessel displaying an illuminated blue light, shall immediately slow to a speed sufficient to maintain steerage. Boaters cannot make a wake near a law enforcement vessel displaying a blue light. Every year, several boaters get caught by this regulation; there appears to be zero tolerance. If you are in sight of a law enforcement boat displaying a blue light, slow down. I have seen them go after people hundreds of yards away and ticket them.

Stephens Yacht Rendezvous

The Stephens Rendezvous is on for September 11, 12, and 13 at Village West Marina. Do not miss this historic gathering of classic boats and yachts. Family Patriarch, Dick Stephens, will turn 100 in September, and the gathering is to honor his birthday and contributions to Stockton and the boating community. The culmination of the event will be a cruise past his house with all horns, sirens and artillery blaring.

Dick Stephens at the helm of Contessa.

We still have room for a couple more boats. If you are interested in bringing your Stephens, send me an email at This will not be a large public gathering, so regardless of what happens with the pandemic we are good to go for this one-time event.

The Classic 1940 Stephens Hiltot II entering Village West Marina.

Not A Yacht Club

A few months back, Jackie Philpott contacted the Delta Chambers and asked for some Delta information which we mailed to her. She said she was planning to visit the region by boat, and was gathering information. Come to find out, she is a writer and member of the Singlehanded Sailing Society. She has sailed her boat to the Delta, and is now keeping her on I dock at Owl Harbor. She gets together with friends, and they sail their boats around the San Joaquin River single-handed.

Jackie Philpott at Oxbow.

She asked if she could interview me, and we met on the deck by the Oxbow Marina office. I told her of my cruising experiences around the Delta, and gave her a summary of Wade Crowfoot and Karla Nemeth’s plan to destroy the Delta by diverting the Sacramento River. Jackie makes you feel comfortable when you talk to her, and has a genuine interest in what you are up to.

Jackie gave me a copy of her excellent book Not A Yacht Club. It tells the history of the Singlehanded Sailing Society, which was started by George Siegler in 1977. He started it after the first single-handed Farallon race. Siegler sounds like he comes out of the Hal Schell mold: the society “would necessarily be structured very simply, avoiding the time-consuming rhetoric and B.S. of committee and board meetings, typical of ‘yacht clubs.” You will note that the acronym for the Singlehanded Sailing Society is SSS, while Hal’s club the Super Secret Ship Club is SSSC, which is remarkably similar.

Much of Jackie’s book is devoted to individual stories of people participating in the single-handed Transpac. You learn about kill switches, or a fellow that got to the finish line at Hanalei Kauai, before the race committee got there. It is a great book. You should read it. While I was driving away from our meeting, I wished that I had asked her to autograph it for me. Imagine my pleasant surprise when I got home, lay down on the couch to begin reading it and saw that she had indeed autographed it along with a personal note to me.

Unofficial Bethel Island Opening Day Parade

Jack Hanna and Katie Senior report in from Bethel Island. The San Joaquin Yacht Club Opening Day Parade was cancelled, but the intrepid folks of the island did not let that bother them. Jack was concerned that he might be prosecuted for taking his boat out, but after checking with the Contra Costa County Sheriff he learned that it was okay.

Bethel Island Opening Day Parade (courtesy of Katie Senior.)

The pirates of the Taylor Nautical Association decided to hold their own parade. Read more about it in Jack’s letter to the editor.

Sue Ann cruising in the Bethel Island Parade (courtesy of Katie Senior.)

Hydro Dave

Hydro Dave Hernandez retired from his job and moved to Camp Verde Arizona several years ago now. We keep in touch via phone and emails. Hydro reports, “my first boating this year was May 20th, quite the late start for me due to the coronavirus pandemic. I had to launch off the ten-boat ramp, and it was busy for a Wednesday! Luckily, I had good help from my crew member, Katelyn Setter. We quickly got out of the no wake zone and took off. My temp gauge was looking a little hot, so I turned on the electric water pump. But it was still 160 degrees. It usually runs about 140, so I decided to go to the shoreline at a nice spot and check it out. Sure enough, the electric pump was not working. Turns out the pump froze up, so I removed the impeller as a field or lake repair, and force-fed the engine. Of course, I had a great day. Oh yes, and Bill I stopped at a really small town to get a burger, and this guy yelled out to me, “What the hell is that?” He had never seen a race boat before!”

Katelyn at the helm of Hydro’s Hydro.

I told you a while back about Hydro taking me on a 120-mph ride across Frank’s Tract when he was living here in California. That was one of the highlights of my life. Imagine you are moving along like a bat out of hell. When he hits the nitrous oxide, it is like the second stage of a rocket taking off. I tell you, the far side of Frank’s Tract approached very quickly on that trip.

Headed out on my epic voyage across Frank’s Tract with Hydro a few years back.

Hydro builds his own motors and drive trains. He also designs his own graphics, and paints his own boats. He is definitely a modern-day folk artist. It is our loss since he has moved to Arizona and no longer cruises around the Delta. He has told me several times about when he pulls into a parking lot towing his boat, and tells the crowd of onlookers about the history of his boats and boat building. Oh yea, the motor, I think it is still a 510 cubic-inch GM big block, with two four barrels and nitrous injection.

Waterfraud Update

The California Waterfraud moves forward, unabated with the Department of Water Resources (DWR) and the Delta Conveyance Design and Construction Authority (DCA) leading the way to divert the Sacramento River around the Delta. The pandemic crisis has been a stroke of luck for them. Now they hold Stakeholder Engagement Committee meetings remotely, but it is hard for some of the members to join the meetings due to the lack of internet connections in remote areas.

I attended another Stakeholder Engagement Committee meeting via computer. I must say it does make it a little easier not having to drive to get to a physical meeting. The problem is that you can’t see their graphics very well, and it is easier to exclude the more radical members of the committee.

Don Hubbard of Caltrans put on a presentation about traffic considerations in the Delta as they spend the next 20 years building the boondoggle. Don explained that yes, there would be increased traffic in the region, but with the improvements Caltrans will put in place the traffic will actually be reduced. Traffic is already a disaster in the Isleton, Walnut Grove and Rio Vista areas. It has been like this for over a year. The Real McCoy Ferry has been broken down for most of the year, and the J-Mack Ferry seems to be out of service on a regular basis. Add to this the intermittent closure of local draw bridges to both boat and vehicle traffic, and Caltrans says not to worry, the tunnel traffic will get better. I don’t think so.

Several Delta public service and environmental protection organizations, including the Delta Counties Coalition wrote to DWR Director Karla Nemeth, asking her to suspend work on the Delta Tunnel until the pandemic is over. The Delta Counties Coalition said, “disruptions caused by COVID-19 will deprive citizens, local communities and other stakeholders the opportunity to engage with agencies on important matters, and this includes the Delta Conveyance Project. We also believe that virtual meetings are an inadequate substitute to a temporary stay of public processes around Delta conveyance.”

Nemeth responded, “The COVID-19 pandemic underscores the need to protect public health and safety. For the Department of Water Resources (DWR) this means continuing essential functions, such as reliable water delivery, flood protection, dam safety, infrastructure maintenance and environmental enhancement while maintaining the highest standards for transparency.” In other words, they are moving forward and damn the taxpayers. The letter was authored by Robert Gonzalez. We can’t find him on the DWR or Natural Resources Agency employee rosters. As far as transparency, we can’t find any public announcement where Nemeth discloses that her husband, Tom Philip is employed by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.

Ever since this conflict began, many people have asked officials to give us a few examples of where removing more water from an ecosystem actually restored it. So far, over the last fifteen years they have never offered one example. Of course, it is a trick question because there are no examples. Attorney Michael Brodsky says, “it has been conclusively proven through extensive evidence introduced in the former WaterFix proceedings that a tunnel route through the Delta is not feasible. Impacts on Delta recreation and navigation of a through-delta route are unacceptable.”

The other thing we have discovered is that apparently Kathryn Mallon is reaching out to various members of the Stakeholder Engagement Committee, and offering community benefit funds to groups that will throw in the towel and support the tunnel. The amounts are alleged to be between $150 and $300 million. Those that don’t go along with the scheme could be offered $5 million. We emailed Mallon and asked for clarification on this, but have not heard back as of this writing. In summary, it looks like we are right back to where we were with the previous twin tunnel scheme. You have a group of highly paid officials who don’t have a lot of knowledge about the Delta putting out a lot of previously debunked information, and using that as a basis to move forward with a plan to build their water tunnel around the Delta.

We are currently faced with the biggest budget crisis in the history of California, and indeed the U.S. that will have an impact on Californians for generations to come. Kathryn Mallon is being paid more than $47,000 per month, (that is not a typo) as the executive director of the Delta Design Conveyance and Construction Authority. Previously, she was the Commissioner at the New York City Department of Environmental Protection. A year ago, Mallon said, “the DCA will work with all stakeholders, which include Delta residents, farmers and business people who say the bypass will hurt the economy and divert too much fresh water away. They say the diversion worsens environmental degradation. We have no allegiance to any one thing. We will work with the stakeholders to embrace a wide range of goals.” Well, so far it appears that she has an allegiance to the water exporters that want to divert the Sacramento River, and not the taxpayers fighting to save the Delta.

As near as we can tell, the water barons and the DWR have spent about a billion dollars so far on the various schemes to divert the river over the last decade or so. This does not include state workers’ wages. In the meantime, many Delta businesses are suffering and going out of business. People are laid off from their jobs, and most state agencies won’t even answer the phone.

The Delta tunnel scheme is literally the biggest boondoggle ever perpetrated on the citizens of California. You need to contact your state legislators and other public officials, and tell them it is time to stop this travesty and come up with some real solutions to the water supply situation. These people are stoking the boilers with hard- earned taxpayer dollars.

More Government

Of course, with the new world order that has taken over in the last few months taxpayers have a renewed interest in making sure their money is spent wisely. Numerous people who have been laid off from their jobs have contacted me and said they can’t get through to the Employment Development Department (EDD) to file for unemployment. One fellow said he called EDD every day for a month. He stayed on hold for at least half an hour each time, and no one ever answered the phone. One friend of mine after getting nowhere with EDD for several weeks wrote Julie Su, the Secretary of Labor an irate letter, and included some suggestions on how EDD could be run more effectively. He was contacted a couple of days later, they processed his claim and now he is collecting his benefits.

Some people that actually got through on the phone said the phones were being answered by people out of state. Apparently, EDD signed an $11 million no-bid contract with Deloitte Consulting to hire those out-of-state workers. We hear they are hiring 500 employees to handle the California contract.

There has been an ongoing disaster with Caltrans over the last year with the Ryer Island ferryboats not working, and intermittent bridge closures along State Routes 12 and 160. The Three Mile Slough Bridge has been closed to boat traffic for a few months, and it looks like it will continue for the near future. The Mokelumne River Bridge is working intermittently, and it appears that Caltrans workers are all getting a $1,200 state bonus for 2020. Why don’t they take that money and fix the roads and bridges?

Eight Bells

Mavis Engfer, the beloved wife of Dick Engfer and longtime member of the Northern California Fleet of the Classic Yacht Association (CYA) has crossed over the bar. Mavis and Dick were the CYA delegates to the PICYA for over twenty years, and I am quite sure they either rarely or never missed a meeting. They have attended many CYA events over the years since they joined in 1990. I was involved in putting on the CYA change of watch dinner a couple of times. The first time we decorated the tables with American Flags, and Mavis commented that she would have preferred a British flag because she was British. So, the next time we worked on the event, we made sure there was a British flag at her table.

Mavis and Dick Engfer aboard Hiltot II.

Mavis had a great sense of humor, and was a good crew member aboard Hiltot II. One time, the mother of all storms descended on the Delta, and Dick and Mavis got caught in it one night while they were headed to Mimi Miller’s home on Sandmound Slough. We caught up with them the next morning when the storm abated. Dick told us tales of lightning strikes and huge waves breaking near them. Mavis took it all in stride, and did not seem upset about the wild ride at all.

Irish Pennants

Jay Sorensen, one of the greatest fishermen to ever inhabit the Delta is under the weather. Please send some good vibes his way. Jay has been a tireless defender of the Delta since the 1940s. He helped stop the original Jerry Brown boondoggle, the peripheral canal, and has been active helping to stop the last few iterations of this crazy scheme too.

Jay Sorensen in his living room with a few of his many awards.

Dan Bacher advised me that Joshua Giordano landed a 25.25-pound rainbow trout in the Thermolito Afterbay at the Oroville Dam. The fish was officially weighed at the Feather River Fish Hatchery. It was only a couple of pounds under the California record of 27 pounds. Joshua apparently catches many rainbow trout in the 20-plus pound category. Way to go.

Do you remember Humphry the humpback whale who interrupted his migration to enter the California Delta, and brought a lot of enjoyment and excitement to local Delta rats? I just found out that Jim Baumann from Delta Marina Yacht Harbor is credited with naming the Cetacean. Jim is quoted as saying, “Actually, I was in the kitchen at The Point helping out because they were so busy. Some of the staff members and I started coming up with names, and landed on Humphry. A few days later, a reporter from the San Francisco Chronicle, I believe, came in for lunch and we started talking. He asked me what I thought about naming him, and I told him my story. In the article he gave me the credit, but it was a group effort. A fun time, but I don’t think we ever had a busier week and I did a ton of interviews. My fifteen minutes of fame, thanks Humphry wherever you are.” Jim is ever the most modest person, but I have communicated with two people that give him full credit for coming up with the name Humphry. Humphrey by the way, paid another visit to the Bay in 1990, entertaining folks for several weeks. He was last seen in 1991 near the Farallon Islands. There is a monument in Rio Vista dedicated to him.

Sacramento Yacht Club has a beautiful new website with some excellent graphics. They give credit to Past Commodore, Simon Antill for creating it. Check it out at: The club has announced some summer cruises, so it looks like they are on the move.

Ken & Laura Scheidegger with Major.

When Laura Scheidegger is not helping her husband, Ken, run the Delta farmer’s Market or Riverboat Marina, she spends time with her fifteen-year-old Haflinger named Major. We are hearing rumors that they are moving forward with their Discover the Delta Center on the corner of State Routes 12 and 160.

Check out Karen Lile and Patti Magnan on Karen has a weekly talk show featuring some famous sailors.

The Delta Chambers Mixer is set for Wimpy’s on July 8th at 1800 hours. Try to drop in. It is always a fun time to hang out with your friends.

Whitey with his amazing fly collection.

We had a gathering at Windmill Cove, and Whitey Rasmussen who is a great fisherman on the level of Jay Sorensen was there. Whitey gave a live demo of fly casting off the dock, and showed us a box of beautiful flies he had tied himself.

Hopefully when you read this, we are all out partying like it is the roaring 20s. We have catching up to do. Let me know what you are up to! or 916/869-9141