Delta Rat Scrapbook – by Bill Wells
Stephens Yacht Rendezvous
Rusty Areias approached me in Sept of 2019 and mentioned that we should do something for Dick Stephen’s 100th birthday which was coming up in Sept. of 2020. We began tracking down Stephens boat owners and aficionados last fall. In January we started working in earnest. There was a lot of positive initial response and as time progressed, we were making contact with people all over the United States.
Everything was going swimmingly until the pandemic hit in early March. Many events all over California were being cancelled and we considered putting the kibosh on the party, but since this was going to be a once in a century opportunity we forged on ahead. My own prediction was that the virus would come under control when the weather heated up during the summer – I admit I was wrong on this prediction. Things got worse and many businesses were closed, events were cancelled and there was chaos among many government agencies. In the end, Village West Marina & Resort was game and likewise was Village West Yacht Club.
On Thursday, Sept. 10 Jim Gabbert came up Fourteen Mile Slough in his 85-foot Stephens, Defiance. He draws about five feet of water so he comes up at high tide. Bob Cole’s beautiful Stephens, Take Five II, came in the same day skippered by Pat Carson. The smoke was thick, limiting visibility to a few hundred yards. We thought we would have a Stephens Farallon Clipper attending but the owner was concerned about the depth of the slough. With the boat drawing six feet it was cutting it real close with the slough being less than six feet deep in spots (at low water) so he decided not to make the trip.
Take Five II is a beautiful Stephens owned by noted car collector Bob Cole. He got interested in owning a Stephens yacht from his association with Theo Stephens through the Saint Francis Yacht club. First he had a 1955 32-foot Stephens. Later he wanted to up size and he saw an ad for a 37-foot Stephens in Marina Del Ray. At the time she was a live-aboard owned by a fellow that was writing a book about the history of Marina Del Ray. Reportedly she was a little rough but he took her out for a sea trial, had her surveyed and struck a deal with the broker that was accepted by the owner. Bob had her shipped to the Melgoza Brothers yard in Antioch. They conducted a keels on up restoration of the vessel that took a few years. Bob’s wife designed the beautiful interior. They swapped out the Mercedes diesels for a fresh set of Yanmar diesels and four bladed props. Now at 4000 RPM the vessel will do over 20 mph. The motors don’t redline until 5,000 RPM. Bob Cole has over 40 years of experience restoring collector cars specializing in British brands, so a classic yacht was right up his alley. Oh yes – Take Five II is available to someone who has the means and interest to keep a beautiful classic yacht going for another few decades.
On Friday, Maverick, Beauty, The Donella, Catherine E and Miss 102 made it to the guest docks. Village West Yacht Club hosted margaritas for the crews on Friday evening. They also had a Mexican dinner available that was very popular and I think they sold out. Sue and I were starving from working all day. We did have a bite to eat at Bob’s at the marina earlier in the day but we were still famished. I have some experience and I think that the Village West Yacht Club galley serves some of the best food in the Delta.
We met Noel Lindsay who has owned the 36-foot 1941 Stephens Beauty for a few years. Now he is in the process of fixing her up. She is looking good; Noel has been having some minor engine work done at J&H Marine in Stockton. Beauty has a large iron water tank amidships between the fuel tanks and Noel is planning to remove it and install a modern plastic tank. I had the same tank in my boat and ripped out my bridge deck so I could lift it out. The decking was tongue and groove and was a little awkward to remove. I am amazed that somehow I lifted the tank out by myself. I installed my holding tank where the water tank was and installed a new 20-gallon water tank under the settee at the stern. About the time I took out the water tank I replaced my iron fuel tanks with aluminum ones. These were 70 gallons each and somehow I managed to lift them out and off the boat by myself too. Of course, this was all about 20 years ago and I was younger and stronger then.
Maverick is a beautiful 50-foot 1966 Stephens owned by Bill and Jonea Aubrey. She is hull #M-121. Bill is from the East Coast and his family has owned Trumpy yachts in the past. When they moved to the Bay Area they were looking for a Trumpy, but there was a shortage. Then they spied Maverick and knew she was the boat for them. They were able to make a deal and now they have a beautiful boat for cruising the Bay & Delta. She is powered with her original GM 6-71 motors and I would rate her to be in Bristol condition. Bill and Jonea also have an antique Chris Craft runabout and a Herreshoff ketch to round out their fleet.
Catherine E is not a Stephens, but she is a beautiful boat and should be a Stephens. George and Candace Homenko cruise her all over the Delta. She is a custom trawler that George purchased in Detroit. He cruised her down the East Coast, across Florida, and over to Texas where she was loaded aboard a ship and taken to Vancouver BC. From there she was cruised down the West Coast to the Delta. George had many adventures on this trip. I don’t have the space here to recount them, you should ask him about it sometime.
The Donella owned by the Wiseman family is a stunning 45-foot 1958 Stephens. Bryan Wiseman lives aboard her at Pier 39. You might notice a very large cleat on the stern. This helps keep her close to the dock when there is a surge in the Bay. She is kept in beautiful condition and turns heads wherever she goes.
SKAL is a 1928 34-foot Stephens. Rob Sesar keeps her pretty much original as far as the interior is concerned. She is a stout little ship and Rob cruises her all over. He comes to functions by boat that many of us attend by automobile. She gets a lot of use.
I did not have my boat at the Rendezvous and the marina had an opening in one of their bungalows which are near the yacht club. Sue and I stayed there for the weekend. It was convenient as we had quite a bit of stuff for the event and it was great to have a place to lay it all out. If you ever are looking for lodging in Stockton I recommend the bungalows at Village West. They have a separate bedroom and a kitchen area in the main room. They are beautifully decorated and have a deck facing Fourteen Mile Slough so you can sit out and watch the beautiful sunsets over the Delta.
We had a great time at the club on Friday night with great food, great friends and great fun. On Saturday morning we headed back to the club, a short walk from the bungalow. The crew had prepared a continental breakfast with plenty of hot coffee. Many of the boat crews were preoccupied with cleaning up their vessels and washing off the ash that was raining down from the sky, so we delivered rolls and juice to them.
We contracted with the Sea Scouts from the ship Point Weber to help us with access control to the docks. They did a great job all day and we supplied them with masks and hand sanitizer, and the marina provided a digital thermometer (just in case.) All the visitors were great and there to have fun and see the boats. No one felt the need to make a political statement, so that took some of the stress out of the day.
The Easy Way cruised in on Saturday morning. She is a beautiful 56-foot 1970 flush deck owned by Jon Parker. The yacht was originally commissioned for Richard and Roselyne “Cissie” Swig. Richard was the chairman of the Fairmont Hotel Management Company. The overhead in the main salon is bamboo and legend has it that it is bamboo from the famous Tonga Room at the San Francisco Fairmont. John has made some tasteful upgrades to the craft and you would think they were from the factory. She is aluminum with an epoxy bottom and Jon says the metal is like brand new.
Folly II made a grand entrance on Saturday afternoon. The YP144 syndicate has been working on her steadily since she arrived at New Bridge Marina. The syndicate has had a full-time crew working on her ever since. Jose and his gang were installing chrome and parts while the people were admiring the boat. Martha Esch did the gold leaf lettering on the transom. It was not quite finished, so she came down to work on it. Folly II at this stage is better than brand new and beyond Bristol condition.
There were plenty of visitors to the docks during the day and the scouts did an excellent job guiding them to the boats. The club was open and Thom & Wendy Foulks generously loaned their patio boat for use to ferry people from the marina guest docks to the yacht club guest dock. Rusty performed his audiovisual Stephens history presentation in the afternoon at the club. He originally performed it at the Saint Francis Yacht Club a couple of years back. He has performed it around the Delta at various functions since. He is constantly revising it with new information. He has scoured the Stephens archives at the Haggin Museum, and has developed an extensive list of contacts of Stephens owners, former owners, and enthusiasts, not to mention I think he is close to being an adopted member of the Stephens family. The presentation covers the period from 1902 up through 1987 when the company quit building boats and beyond now that enthusiasts keep the vessels alive. You can see the presentation on the Saint Francis Yacht Club Facebook page if you scroll through the Wednesday Yachting Luncheons.
The presentation drew a standing room only crowd of interested enthusiasts. It was presented on two large screen televisions, one inside and one out on the deck. The bar was open and it was a pleasant way to spend the afternoon. Some folks supplied a birthday cake to help celebrate Rusty’s birthday which fell on Saturday the 12th. After the birthday celebration there was just enough time to relax for a couple of hours until dinner was served.
At about 1800 hours folks started showing up for cocktails before dinner. I think the total head count was around 100. We were all able to sit outside with tables several feet apart. Families and crews were able to sit together and maintain physical distance. We were served an excellent dinner of tri-tip, green salad, pasta, rolls and green beans. The Stephens owners, their guests, VWYC members and aficionados were all in attendance. A contingent of folks from the Southern California fleet of the Classic Yacht Association made the trek to Stockton. 2020 Commodore Janet Beggs and several staff commodores were in attendance. We caught up with what our friends had been up to and made many new friends. It was a pleasant evening. Somehow the smoke had disbursed and there was a gentle breeze blowing. The sunset was beautiful.
On Sunday we had scheduled a parade of boats from the Stephens home to McLeod Lake and back. Rusty picked up the Stephens family aboard Folly II. They loaded Dick Stephens aboard with other family members on the foredeck and met the rest of the fleet at the mouth of the Calaveras River. There was plenty of airhorn honking and siren blasting. Jim Kroeger brought his Big Bang carbide powered cannon all the way from Southern California and used it to good effect during the parade. Wendy and Thom Foulks once again helped out and carried the folks from Southern California on their boat, Island Oasis during the parade.
The parade proceeded upstream on the San Joaquin and was joined by boats from other clubs, including a sailboat from the Stockton Sailing Club. A special treat was the appearance of an 85-foot Stephens built ASR boat or “crash boat.” These were powerful vessels used to rescue downed airmen during World War II and the Korean War. They were similar to PT boats without the torpedo tubes. They were generally powered by three Packard V12 gasoline motors.
The fleet cruised up into McLeod Lake and past 5 Star Marina where the boats were all built when it was the Stephens yard. Sea Breeze, a 41-foot 1939 Stephens owned by David & Bunny Cobb cruised up from Grindstone Joe’s to be part of the parade. There were many Stephens family members aboard Miss 102 and Folly II. I am sure it was a trip filled with nostalgia for them as well as Dick.
Overall, it was a great event and I am confident that it was one of the more memorable birthday celebrations in Stockton history. Thanks to Rusty, Dick Stephens not only got to enjoy the parade, Folly II had to go to the yard to fix a small leak in the garboard plank so Rusty brought Dick over to inspect the excellent job Jose was doing. The management of Village West Marina went all out to help on this event. The entire crew of the marina are great people, they all contributed to this being a fun filled friendly event. Delta Marine Sales let us use their sales dock. Village West Yacht Club opened their doors to the participants for the whole weekend. The club not only hosted a great margarita and taco party, but the bar was open all day Saturday starting when the continental breakfast was served in the morning. The Saturday dinner was outstanding – equal to any restaurant. Gary Clausen of Twin Rivers Marine Insurance helped us through an insurance challenge plus provided some great SWAG and bags to put it in. He also was instrumental in getting Take Five II to the party. VisitStockton donated some great SWAG too. Thanks also to the San Francisco Chronicle and the Stockton Record. All of these folks chipped in and said they would do anything in their power to help pull off the event. We had plenty of media coverage, two TV stations, the San Francisco Chronicle and Stockton Record newspapers, and The Voice of San Joaquin & Stockton Radio. Gene Beley and Cyndy Greene each made a great video of the event. George Homenko and Blair Hake got some great photos of the event.
Trump Boat Parade
Whatever side of the political spectrum you find yourself on, you have to be impressed that 400+ (some people estimated 600) boats turned out on the San Joaquin River to support the president. On Sept 6, they met at Ladds and proceeded downstream to Village West Marina and then down to Tiki Lagoon. On Sept 5, there was a parade of a few hundred boats that started near the Sacramento Yacht Club and proceeded upstream past Old Sacramento to the confluence of the American River and back. They were all displaying Trump banners and or American flags.
Art Show At The Ryde Hotel
Demi Stewart and Don Wisdom held a joint art show at the famous hotel in mid-September. They are two of the greatest photographers in the Delta. Demi you might recall got a cover shot of my boat, Ranger, going down the Mokelumne River last year. I picked up some custom note cards from Don and a photo of Mount Diablo from Demi. The Mount Diablo photo was similar to the one she took with my boat in it, but this was a pure landscape. The view makes the Delta look like a tropical paradise.
On Sept 17, Delta Legacy Communities, Inc. sent a formal objection to the Department of Water Resources for providing a $15 million loan to the Delta Conveyance Design and Construction Authority (DCA) for Delta tunnel engineering design.
“Since May of 2019, the Department of Water Resources (DWR) has loaned $33.8 million to the Delta Conveyance Design and Construction Authority (DCA) for Delta tunnel engineering design through amendments to the Joint Exercise of Powers Agreement,” according to a statement from Delta Legacy Communities, Inc.
The group said DWR is proposing to provide another $15 million to the DCA for a total of $48.8 million in loans.
“Delta Legacy Communities, Inc. objects that DWR does not have legally available revenues in the State Water Resources Development System accounts to pay for the $15 million loan. For each statute governing a State Water Resources Development System fund (Burns-Porter Act, Central Valley Project Act, Davis-Dolwig Act) the letter has an explanation of how the statute restricts DWR’s use of the funds,” the group said.
Delta Legacy Communities, Inc. Chair, Dan Whaley said, “DWR cannot take money dedicated to maintenance and repair of the existing State Water Project facilities and use it to pay for the Delta tunnel engineering efforts.”
The “new” project now called the Delta Conveyance Project is still claiming that the users of the water exported from the Delta will pay for the project. If they are going to pay there should be no need to borrow money from the DWR and no need for the state to issue bonds to pay for the project.
Now with the state being totally bankrupt, the $47,250 per month paid to Katheryn Mallon and the $17,500 paid to Nazli Parvizi monthly needs to end along with other exorbitant amounts paid to people riding the tunnel gravy train. Many state entities seem to have no concept of how to spend money effectively.
The Delta Protection Commission in their 2019 annual report to the governor says: “Continued momentum on the Delta Marketing Campaign included the creation of a printed Delta Recreation Map.” The reality of this is I met with Brandon Chapin of the Sacramento San Joaquin Delta Conservancy back in Jan of 2017. They had been spending a few hundred thousand dollars on a “marketing campaign.” I told him it would be helpful to Delta businesses if they could come up with a reliable Delta map for the upcoming recreation season and estimated a cost of around $20,000 (assuming 5,000 maps at a cost of $4.00 each) based on the Delta Chambers 40 years of experience producing maps. The chamber printed the Hal Schell map until the plates wore out. They cost about $1.25 each. We then went to a beautiful full color map designed and printed by my friend, Kelli Pearson. They cost $3.69 each. Finally in late 2019 the Conservancy and Delta Protection Commission released their Delta map. They printed 6,500 copies at a cost of $88,000 – that is about $13.50 per map. The maps are basically useless. They have incorrect information, are hard to read and of very low quality. This project was a huge disservice to the businesses and people of the Delta. Not only was there a lot of money wasted, the final product provides no benefit to the California Delta.
Mark my words, if this tunnel boondoggle comes to fruition the taxpayers are going to end up paying for it and it will be obsolete before the first water is delivered. Keep in mind, this scheme does not create one drop of new water, it merely takes it from one part of the state to another more equal part. I think I will start reporting the waste of taxpayer money every month. I doubt if there is much chance of recovering any of the funds but maybe at least we can stop them from squandering more hard-earned taxpayer dollars. The California Natural Resources Agency seems to be totally out of control under the leadership of Wade Crowfoot. We need to help them operate more effectively and educate them on why the Delta Conveyance Project is a terrible idea for the State of California.
Fire At Ox Bow Marina
We were just leaving a meeting in Stockton on the evening of Sept 14 when Steve Mannshardt called and said there was a fire on “G” dock at Ox Bow Marina. We rushed over. Due to poor phone reception and my own hearing disability I thought he said “D” dock. You could see the flames high in the air from a few miles away on State Route 12. When we there, there were at least ten firetrucks. Thankfully the wind was barely blowing or the situation could have been more of a disaster. As it was several boats burned to the waterline and sank. G dock is where the bigger boats are berthed at the marina, so damages totaled in the millions.
River Delta Fire District uses Ox Bow Marina to conduct their training. The fire was just about exactly what they had been training for. They were the first responders and set the tone for the entire effort. They called in reinforcements from the Montezuma, Isleton, Walnut Grove and Cosumnes fire departments. A fireboat from Walnut Grove and TowboatU.S. responded. As tragic as the fire was with some of the boat shed destroyed, three boats sinking and a total of ten destroyed, it could have been far worse and no one was injured. It was pretty much confined to the far end of the dock and did not blow on to the nearby homes or other docks. Some of my friends lost their boats and I feel so sorry for them. The fire is currently being investigated. Some of the people I spoke with said the fire was preceded by an explosion.
Just as I am ready to send this off to the great editor in the sky I get word that one of my best friends has crossed over the bar. Dedrick Dennison, a member of the Stockton Yacht Club and a PICYA past Commodore, Dennison passed on the 29th of Sept. Dedrick was a fascinating person who led a fascinating life. I should have some more information in the December magazine.
I have a portable VHF radio that comes in handy sometimes. It does not have a long range but it is good for talking to skippers approaching a dock or folks in a parade when you are not at your fixed station. After I had it for a while I was dissatisfied as it seemed that every time I replaced the six AA batteries I could transmit a couple of times and then it would not have enough power to transmit, but I could still listen. I spent a lot on batteries over the years. At the rendezvous I was fooling with it and complaining about it. George took a look at it and discovered that it actually used nine AA batteries, not the six that I had been replacing frequently. George pulled the batteries out and discovered the remaining two batteries way in the innards of the device. They were labeled “use before 2011.” I replaced all the batteries and it has been transmitting great ever since.
During the parade into McLeod Lake we made note of the massive amounts of algae in the waterway. I actually wrote to the city prior to our event asking if something could be done about the health and safety problem. Here is part of the answer I got from Connie Cochran, Community Relations Officer for the city. “This happens every year; some years are worse than others. These are waters of the State, and the State Water Resources Control Board is responsible for testing and seeing that areas where there are algal blooms are posted. It goes away as the weather cools, but there isn’t anything that can be done as it is a biological reaction/nature.” Apparently there is some confusion over which government agency has responsibility to keep McLeod Lake clean. I have been cruising my boat into the Downtown Stockton Marina almost every summer for 28 years. I have never seen the algae this bad but it has been getting progressively worse. Of course, something can be done it just takes the will to do it. If any of you have a relationship with Stockton Mayor Tubbs please have him call Brandt Knopp at 707-330-7491 if he has a solution to remove the algae in a cost-effective manner.
The election is coming and there are many issues facing the citizens of California. Please review the election literature and ballot. Make sure you understand what and who you are voting for. Some of the propositions are confusing and you might vote for something that you did not intend to. The state is virtually bankrupt due to the pandemic, forest fires and civil unrest. Not only are Delta businesses struggling, indeed, all over the state businesses are stressed. We can’t afford to raise taxes anymore. We need to elect people that understand how to run an organization and we need to help our government agencies learn how to spend their money more effectively.
Dawn Schuman, the proprietor of Wimpy’s Marina Café had a recent birthday. We stopped in to help her enjoy it and drop off her chamber member badge.