Delta Rat Scrapbook – by Bill Wells

Delta Rat Scrapbook

Up The Sacramento River

My first article for Bay & Delta Yachtsman when they asked me to fill in “for a couple of months” a decade and a half or so ago was about a trip to Sacramento from Ox Bow Marina. I thought it was time to revisit this northern outpost of the Delta. Sacramento has a lot going for it boatwise. There are several marinas in the area and plenty of restaurants, museums, and points of interest to keep you amused.

An aerial view of Sacramento Marina.

Sacramento is a straight shot up the Sacramento River from the Bay or a beautiful cruise up the Mokelumne River and Georgiana Slough for boaters from the Stockton area. It is a leisurely five-hour cruise for me from Ox Bow Marina at my eight knot cruising speed. There are several no wake zones along the way so you might as well take your time. A great spot to stop along the way is the Walnut Grove Public Dock, you can tie up there for a nominal fee and walk up the stairs to the top of the levee to visit restaurants and shops.

If you are headed to Sacramento from the Bay; Benicia, Pittsburg, or Antioch are good stops if you want a leisurely journey. Delta Marina at Rio Vista is a good stop too, they have fuel, a restaurant, and a store, as well as a charming town to visit.

Boat traffic at Old Sacramento.

After you leave Rio Vista the river splits to the starboard and the deep water channel is straight ahead. A few hundred yards upstream on the deep water channel you come to Steamboat Slough, if you take this waterway you will shave a few miles off your trip upstream. Either Steamboat Slough or the river are nice scenic trips, take your pick. If you take Steamboat Slough you miss the chance to stop in Isleton or Walnut Grove but you go right by Hidden Harbor and Snug Harbor, two excellent Delta marinas.

If you take the Sacramento River instead of Steamboat Slough, consider stopping at Walnut Grove. They have a great guest dock on the east bank of the river just upstream from the bridge. If you are hungry there are several spots to get a bite to eat nearby. Mel’s Mocha, Almas, and the Pizza Factory are both at the top of the levee above the guest dock. Tony’s is just over the levee on Market Street. This place is an icon with great food and old Delta rat ambiance. Right around the corner is The Bartlett if you are looking for lodging in Walnut Grove. It is a beautiful historic building with several rooms to rent and it is kept immaculate by the proprietors.

A beautiful sunset horizon overlooking the Old Sacramento Waterfront and the famous Tower Bridge. Photo courtesy of Praveen Singh.

I just learned that Al the Wop’s in Locke is open again after changing hands and a remodeling. Al’s is an iconic Delta eatery; it was run by Al Adami from 1934 to 1961 when Al passed. It still has the ambiance it had in the 1960s when I first dropped in for lunch. Close by is Strange Cargo, the local bookstore that has possibly the best collection of Delta history books anywhere. They also have a great collection of eclectic merchandise and I am confident you will find things you cannot live without. You can spend an afternoon exploring Locke, there are art galleries, a bookstore, and an excellent museum, be sure to drop by Locke B&B a few doors down from Al’s Place. You can get a bite to eat here or a cold soft drink and have a lot of fun at the same time. Upstairs there are rooms you will enjoy staying in. On the other side of the street from the Locke B&B you will find Seeker, where a large collection of vintage items to include art work, jewelry, antiques and cowboy boots await you.

Farther up the river the Sacramento Yacht Club welcomes visitors to their guest docks and events. Back in the old days there would be a hundred or so boats that came to the club for the Sacramento Jazz Festival on Memorial Day weekends. You would see vessels trekking up the river for days before the weekend.

Old Sacramento waterfront at night.

The Sacramento Marina is the premier marina in the area. It is a harbor out of the current and has plenty of guest slips as well as a fuel dock, mini mart, and hot showers. I have stayed there many times and the management team is great. The marina is a harbor off the current of the river with excellent security for land vehicles. You are just a short way from Old Sacramento, a refreshing walk or quick rideshare.

There is also a guest dock at Old Sacramento a short distance up the river. The dock extends upstream from the Tower Bridge with stairway access to the top of the levee, there is about 1,000 feet of dock space on the river side. Smaller boats can tie up on the land side of the dock. Reservations are recommended, you can call the dock attendant at 916-264-8857. I have stayed here a few times and it is very convenient for visiting Old Sacramento. If you are overnighting I suggest not staying directly under the bridge, the automobile traffic on the bridge is noisy and tends to echo around under the bridge. Then there are the sea lions, a few years back we were helping scientists find out where they stayed at night and one of the places we discovered was under the Tower Bridge. They seem to enjoy barking all night. One time I fired off my signal cannon and they shut up for a while. Make sure you are tied up securely as there is a strong current on the river at times.

Midwestern tourists visit Old Sacramento.

Old Town Sacramento is a gem, the buildings have been restored to their late 1800s appearances and there are plenty of restaurants, watering holes, and shops to keep you amused. I buy my skull rings at the Super Silver shop on the corner of 2nd and K Streets.

The Firehouse restaurant, one of finest eateries in Sacramento is just a few doors down from Super Silver. The Delta King riverboat has been moored in Old Sacramento for many years and has great food in the Pilothouse Restaurant along with a bar overlooking the river. The Delta King is also a hotel, the rooms are a little Spartan but they come with the ambiance of a classic yacht or vintage cruise ship. The Delta King is a great place to hang out and an excellent spot to watch boat traffic on the river. There are several hotels close by including the recently completed Kimpton Sawyer Hotel which is anything but Spartan.

Sacramento Yacht Club.

Fanny Ann’s Saloon on 2nd Street opened up in old Sacramento a couple of years before I moved back to Sacramento in the 1970s. I had lunch there a couple of times a week during the years I worked in downtown Sacramento. The interior is a visual treat with the walls covered with antiques and memorabilia. They have some of the best hamburgers in Sacramento.

Joe’s Crab Shack is on Front Street overlooking the river and the Tower Bridge. This is another excellent spot to get a bite to eat. As you might imagine they specialize in seafood with many entrees available, they also have chicken, steaks, and a variety of burgers. The Rio City Café is right on the river with outside dining, (weather permitting). It specializes in California Cuisine, A new restaurant recently opened on 2nd Street, the Original House of Soul. I have not tried it but I have heard good things about it.

Well, you can’t just eat while you are here, you should walk off some calories. The California Railroad Museum is fascinating with many historical artifacts and includes nineteen antique steam locomotives. You can even take a one-hour ride on a real train, the Sacramento Southern Railroad offers excursion tours along the river that are very popular. The California Automobile Museum is at 2200 Front Street, they have over 150 historical vehicles and have rotating exhibits throughout the year.

You can cruise past Sacramento, the American River flows in to the Sacramento River less than a mile upstream from the I Street Bridge it is navigable for about a mile, there is a good beach on the south bank of the river. The American is a popular spot for yacht club raft ups.

Riverbank Marina and the well-known Crawdads on the River.

Riverbank Marina is another couple of miles up the Sacramento River where you will find plenty of covered berthing as well as guest docks and a fuel dock. Three restaurants are on site, including Crawdads on the River, Peral on the River and if Mexican cuisine is in order, Chevys on the River. Keep in mind if you come by car and wish to leave by boat, you have two options. Nor Cal Mastercraft has a location at Riverbank Marina and is more than willing to accommodate all your needs in purchasing a new Mastercraft. Also nearby is Carefree Boat Club, where the club membership offers all the benefits of having a boat without ownership. It has been a while but I have cruised up to the confluence of the Feather River. It is a little confusing as the Feather is straight ahead and the Sacramento veers off to the port side. The feather generally is much shallower so I would only venture up it in a small boat. Some of my friends have cruised all the way to Knights Landing which is another few miles up the Sacramento River. StingRayz Marina is at Knights Landing and worth a visit if you are in the area. It is quite like a Delta dive with basic good food and plenty of cold drinks.

If you are planning to go upstream from Knights Landing it will be pretty adventurous and I would recommend small boats for sure. There are shifting sand bars and the occasional large tree in the river once you venture beyond Knights Landing.

Village West Marina & Resort

The Global Gold Anchor Marina Accreditation awarded Stockton’s Village West Marina its prestigious Five-Gold Anchor Accreditation on March 19th, at a ceremony at the resort.

The Global Gold Anchor Marina Accreditation evaluation is a multi-year process that includes ratings on 87 different items and an independent third-party on-site assessment. There are only three marinas in California that have been awarded Gold Anchor Accreditation to date. West Point Harbor with a Four-Gold Anchor status and Village West Marina & Resort along with Southern California marina, Safe Harbor Cabrillo Isle are the only two to have received the Five-Gold Anchor Accreditation. “This award is recognition of our team’s hard work, care, and dedication to excellence over the years,” said Village West Marina co-owner Arron Pellarin. “I am also extremely thankful to the City of Stockton for their commitment in making Stockton a five-star destination.”

Arron Pellarin receives Five-Gold Anchor Award .

Established over 30 years ago, The Gold Anchor program certifies marinas in almost 30 countries. Gold Anchor marinas are rated on a two to five-anchor scale. The program includes only a few five-anchor marinas globally, which have achieved a score of 95 to 100% on the assessment. “We are extremely proud to be amongst the finest marinas in the world,” continued Pellarin. “We look forward to hosting boaters from around the world looking for a first-class experience.” Village West Marina & Resort is nestled in the heart of Northern California’s Delta, accessible to boating and fishing enthusiasts via the San Joaquin River/Stockton Deep Water Channel to the California Delta waterways, San Francisco, and the Pacific Ocean. With 600 covered boat berths and 26 open slips, Village West Marina & Resort boasts two of the Delta’s finest restaurants (Garlic Brothers and Bob’s at the Marina), waterfront vacation bungalows, boat/kayak rentals and a yacht sales office.

Stockton’s newly elected mayor Kevin Lincoln was there along with County Councilperson Tom Patti, and other area officials. I view this as the kickoff for a new era in Stockton as this award is an international recognition with only one other marina in California receiving this distinction. There is a deepwater channel all the way from the Pacific Ocean to Stockton. Ships and yachts from the very uttermost ends of the earth can come in for a visit to the port which is about 80 miles from the Golden Gate.

Mayor Lincoln, Tom Patti, and marina staff with Five-Gold Anchor flag.

Village West is developing into a one stop destination for boaters or recreational vehicle travelers. Besides a beautiful well kept marina there are two excellent restaurants; Bob’s at the Marina, and Garlic Brothers, also on site is the Village West Yacht Club, home of some epic parties as well as some great meals. Rob Fassett and Freedom Boat Club and one of Tony Faso’s Delta Marine Sales offices are located on the campus too. We just found out that Sunset Sweets, one of the two great ice cream and desert shops in the Delta will be moving in. Dennis and Tuyen Kulberg (Known from Sunset Sweets at Tower Park) will be moving into their New Ice Cream Shop. If you have not met them yet you will love them. They should be open for business right around or shortly after we are all enjoying our Memorial Day plans.

Tell your canine furry friends that they will love the Embarkadero dog park. Oh yes, throw in the fishing pier, excellent security and you have a total destination.

Russ and Lynn Gunter at Village West Riverside RV Park.

My friends, Russ and Lyn Gunter recently stayed at the waterfront RV park, Russ and I go back to our IBM days in the mid-1970s. The Gunters keep their boat near me on D Dock at Ox Bow Marina. Sue and I dropped by to visit them at the park and enjoy a glass of wine. They had their cute Scotties with them who I am sure enjoyed the Embarcadero. They had a great vantage point to view boats going in and out of the harbor from their RV space.

Lisa Hallow

Lisa is a powerful force in the Delta, she is like the energizer bunny and if you are around her you will be energized yourself. She was the den mother of the Delta Chambers board of directors for years. She is the life of the party everywhere and even if there is not a party there will be one soon after she arrives. Lisa is a thoughtful person and always thinks of others before herself.

Rod and Lisa.

The stars lined up perfectly with her birthday and Saint Patrick’s Day. The party was at Village West Yacht Club. We met there for a corned beef and cabbage dinner along with a few cocktails. Blair and Mary Hake invited us to join them at their table along with Ty & Becky Mellott and Russell J. Robinson. Lisa’s boyfriend Rod Pottichen was there too, coincidently his birthday is a couple of weeks after Lisa’s.

After dinner the band brought in by Rob struck up and the dancing began. Lisa had a St. Patrick themed birthday cake naturally. One cake was not enough for the sold out crowd and Brenda Jackson who just returned from Mexico the day before said she stayed up all night baking twelve more cakes for the party.

Island Oasis Heads To The Bay

Pacific Inter Club Yacht Association’s (PICYA) first formal event of the year was in honor of the 1939 “Golden Gate International Exposition” which took place in 1939 on Treasure Island, and the 125th Anniversary of PICYA itself. The event was well attended with a 50 boat parade around Treasure Island and Yerba Buena. One of those 50 boats was Island Oasis with a crew of Captain Wendy Foulks, Tyler Foulks, Kevin Adams, Terry McDonald, Thom Foulks, and YoYo the West-Highland Terrier.

Maggie & Russ.
Debi, Adam, & Lisa.

Thom reports: “The Foulks Crew considered it a shake-down cruise. Preparing for an 80 nautical mile trip from Stockton to the Golden Gate Bridge is not a trivial excursion. It meant a lot of support from J&H Marine among others, ensuring all the annual maintenance items were up to snuff. Captain Wendy loaded all the way points into the GPS so they were prepared for navigation in fog or bad weather. Terry volunteered to stock the vessel with culinary delights. Tyler and Kevin lashed the lines and swabbed the deck. Meanwhile, Thom sipped a Mai Tai with his bad leg up.”

Ida, Jeanette, and Fred.
Terry, Tyler, Kevin, Wendy, & Thom. Photo courtesy of Terry McDonald.

Island Oasis left the dock in Stockton at 0800 Friday in rain and fog. They rode the ebb tide to South Bay Marina. The trip took 5 hours 10 minutes – dock to dock. They arrived in early afternoon and ventured into The City for evening dining. They joined the parade Saturday morning and circled Treasure Island with Tyler and Kevin at the helm. They topped off the event with a quick venture under the Golden Gate to experience the Potato Patch – then set a course back to Village West Marina with an evening stop at Pittsburg Marina. It was a great shake-down cruise leaving Island Oasis and crew ready for many summer adventures in the Delta.

Yo-Yo cruising aboard Island Oasis. Photo courtesy of Terry McDonald.

Sacramento Yacht Club

Lindsay Nesbit-Antill in the Sacramento Yacht Clubs newsletter The Wingdammer informs us of Louise Brainard, the clubs first woman commodore: “Women’s History Month is an annual declared month that highlights the contributions of women to events in history, we are celebrating the extortionary achievements of Sara Louise Brainard a member of our past club the Sacramento Boat Club in 1912.

“Mrs. Brainard was the first women ever granted a U.S license to pilot and operate vessels on the river and oceans. She was also the only women to enter into the San Francisco to Colusa race in 1912 and won with her boat Louise. Over the years she had three boats all carried her name. She was active in boating in Northern California for many years, was a frequent winner in Competitions, and severed as Commodore in the Sacramento Boat Club. We believe Sara Louise Brainard was in fact the First Female Commodore in our clubs’ history.” If you have access to The Wingdammer you should check out the series they are doing on the history of the club which is basically the history of pleasure boating in Sacramento.

Pacific Coast Water Rescue

Captain John Garza checks in from Pacific Coast Water Rescue to remind us to jump in the water feet first. John says he has been involved in six incidents for the last several years of people being injured or killed by diving into shallow water or water with hidden obstacles. Every year people suffer crippling or fatal injuries from this practice. The water in the Delta is at best murky, never dive into water when you cannot see the bottom. Even if you can see the bottom make sure it is deep enough so you do not hit it when you dive. John and his team are concerned about our safety. Call him at 925-337-2294 or check their website at:

Waterfraud Update

The Department of Water Resources (DWR) has been sending emails to California citizens advising that there will be “Community Benefits” workshops on Thursday, May 6, 2021 from 1800 hours to 2000 hours and on Tuesday, May 25, 2021 during the same time slot.

DWR poses the question: “What is a Community Benefits Program?” They answer: “It is common for proponents of large infrastructure projects to develop a set of commitments called a Community Benefits Program. The objectives of the program would be: to acknowledge that if the project is approved it could have potential adverse effects that communities may endure through construction of major capital construction works, to create economic, social and other benefits in the local community, and to go beyond what traditional environmental mitigation typically affords. 

I have had some experience with community benefit programs, when I was a younger lad I marketed computer software to third world countries. You would be expected to provide about 25 percent of the total cost of the contract to government officials as a “community benefit.”

So far the DWR so far is offering a lot less, I have heard the figure of one percent mentioned. I think it is time for a short review of this scheme. I began hearing rumors of “community benefit” funds being offered to select members of the Stakeholder Engagement Committee (SEC) in December of 2019. As luck would have it a member of the SEC contacted me and said DCA Executive Director Kathryn Mallon had approached him about community benefit funds becoming available for a Delta group. I asked him to get something in writing from her but he was unable to do so. He did say that Mallon had mentioned the amount of $150 million could be available.

Then a member of the SEC from the Bethel Island area contacted me and said that perhaps $300 million could be available if Delta people would go along with the tunnel plan or maybe $5 million if they did not. I contacted other SEC members and Kathryn Mallon to try to clarify what was going on and how much was being offered to various groups. Kathryn answered back in October of 2020; “DWR has been working on a plan and Carrie Buckman is planning to discuss their progress on the CB program at the December SEC meeting.  Hopefully your questions will be answered at that time.” I guess they did discuss it but my questions were not answered. Now we learn that Kathryn is no longer the executive director and they have moved in Graham Bradner to take her place. Mallon is now the Senior Advisor to the project; I assume she will still be receiving $47,000 per month compensation. Now in my opinion, after trying to conduct the community benefits program in secret they have now been forced to come out in the open, should be interesting.

Patricia A. Clark from the DWR has advised us that they have abandoned the plan to use Recycled Toxic Muck (RTM) from the tunnel to fill in Frank’s Tract. It looks like they are still planning to dump the RTM on Bouldin Island across from Tower Park Resort.

Eight Bells

Ralph Banuelos

Ralph the Hat as we called him played hundreds of musical gigs around the Delta each year. I would see him almost everywhere I went. Ralph was a one man band with a huge repertoire of songs from to 1950s to the modern era. He entertained at most of the great parties along with his partner Katherine Evans. Many local ladies called themselves the “Ralphettes” and would follow him around from gig to gig. Many of us served as his ad hoc roadies and helped him lug equipment into venues, this cut down considerably when Katherine came on the scene and helped with the equipment.

Simon Chan

Simon was the proprietor of Simon’s Bar & Café on 16th Street in Sacramento. His place was a famous watering hole attended by politicians, boaters, and landlubbers alike. This was the hangout of choice for the folks from B-Dock at the Sacramento Marina. You might see a couple of lobbyists there and maybe a member of the legislature or even a former governor. When Les Cochran was around he and Simon would hang out together and travel together. One of my favorite pastimes on a hot summer day was to head to Simon’s for a couple of ice cold beers along with a couple of local investigative journalists to discuss Delta water issues. We would enjoy some hot hors d’oeuvres along with the brew. One time Les ordered some Omaha steaks that Simon cooked to perfection, we had a feast along with the folks from B-Dock. It looks like his son Simon will continue to run the establishment.

Les Horne

Les owned Pelican Landing Marina on Bethel Island. I met him when he joined the Delta Chambers several years ago. He was a great friend and had a dry deadpan sense of humor. Les’ career was with McIlhenny Company of Avery Island Louisiana, he marketed their Tabasco Sauces all over the U.S. and retired to Bethel Island. We had a special bond as I am addicted to Tabasco Sauce and Les on occasion would pull a fresh bottle out of his pocket.

Gregory Kondos

Beloved Delta artist Gregory Kondos has passed away at age 97. He had an 80 year career as a professional artist, a lot of it in and around the Delta. He was always painting or drawing, I am confident that he created at least a few hundred Delta images. He was a Delta activist too, you saw him at many events trying to stop the Department of Water Resources from Diverting the Sacramento River around the Delta. He moved to Sacramento in the 1920s with his parents. He is survived by his wife Moni Van Kamp Kondos.

Irish Pennants

The Commander of the Eleventh Coast Guard District advises us that San Joaquin County is proposing to secure the Eight Mile Road Drawbridge over Honker Cut in the closed position from October 25, 2021 to February 22, 2022. The vertical clearance of the bridge at Mean High Water is 6.65 feet. The Coast Guard is asking for comments if the proposal will unreasonably impact navigation on the waterway. You can email you comments to Rachel Zamora, Project Manager by phone at 510-437-3515 or email

Hog August Bites will be on August 28 in Rio Vista. There will be vendors with arts and crafts, community service organizations. There will be a variety of food to enjoy along with craft beers and margaritas in the beer garden plus a car show featuring custom, stock and vintage trucks and automobiles displayed on Front Street. The piece de resistance will be the chili and rib cook off. Time to find your grandmothers old recipe for rattlesnake chili! Contact the team at

The Rio Vista Chamber of Commerce has announced that the Rio Vista Bass Derby & Festival will be held from October 8-10, 2021. They will have the car show, the pancake breakfast, the parade, fireworks, and an overall grand time. This will be the 73rd year of the event. You will remember it was cancelled last year because of the pandemic. Give them a call at 707-374-2700 if you want to be part of this great event.

Unfortunately, the Delta Chambers Taste of the Delta event has been cancelled for 2021. The event takes a year of planning and there has been a lot of uncertainty, although now it looks like the pandemic is under control. We look forward to this event being revived in 2022.

Tom Palacioz, Brenda Jackson, Mike & Kristi Roots, Gerard & Christine Hammer, Rod & Naomi Johnson, Dave & Tanya Smith, Rick Lange, and Kari Brathen of the Village West Yacht Club recently visited Puerto Vallarta. It sounds like they had a grand time visiting many of the local restaurants and watering holes. Naturally they took Yachtsman Magazine with them, they gave their copy to the manager of the Puerto Vallarta Yacht Club who enjoyed it.

The VWYC Crew at Puerto Vallarta Yacht Club. Photo courtesy of Tom Palacioz.

From their posts on social media, it looks like they visited every spot in the city and even charted a boat to when the time came to leave a wheel fell off of the airliner and they stayed an extra day while repairs were completed. Somehow in the confusion Gerard and Christine Hammer were left behind, I think it is possible they have made it back to the U.S. by now.

As you read this Adam Farrow should be heading up the west coast of Baja California with his new boat Joker.

Dave and Linda Breninger check in from Saguaro Lake near Mesa Arizona. They say the two square mile lake is not like the Delta but still a beautiful place to visit.

Lake Saguaro. Photo courtesy of Dave Breninger.

We need to make up for lost time so I am confident we will have a great summer.
Help us make the 20s roar.
Let me know what you are up to, at 916-869-9141 or email: commodore