Delta Rat Scrapbook – by Bill Wells
We dropped by the Rusty Porthole on Bethel Island along with many of our friends for an ad hoc party… It was a beautiful evening overlooking Franks Tract and the gentle breeze really cooled things off. When we arrived, all of sudden I was overcome by hunger so I ordered one of their special hamburgers. It was as good as I remembered, smothered in fresh vegetables and grilled to perfection. Masks were required and distance was maintained.
The Porthole is a year-round happening place. They always kick off the new year with the Frozen Bun Run and host several events throughout the year. The summer is the best time with the fish biting and fast water available just a few yards away in Franks Tract. This is where I met Hydro Dave Hernandez for my memorable ride in his race boat across Franks Tract.
Jack Hanna is a local resident, contributor to Yachtsman Magazine and the fellow that creates the excellent collages from the Frozen Bun Run. Jerry Fisher was there, he you may remember, got me active in the Delta Chambers after Hal Schell recruited me. In retrospect I think they might have conspired. Jerry is a good friend and is the go-to guy for Bethel Island real estate.
Leo Willis, Les Horne, Jim & Katie Senior and Martha Esch were all there. Thom and Wendy Foulks came by boat from Stockton. Fred Weibel brought his posse over on his pontoon boat. I am sure I have left some folks out but I will catch you next time. It shaped up into a nice party with a lot of good folks maintaining distance and following the COVID rules.
Rob & Kim Brunham have kept the Porthole as a great place to stop for a cocktail or some excellent Delta fare. They have some great parties and events as well as a fantastic view of the open waters of Franks Tract.
Franks Tract Futures
Somehow this project just will not die. “The department has met several times with a local advisory group of recreationists, fishermen and homeowners over the past year to revise plans,” Carl Wilcox of the Department of Fish & Wildlife said. They are now down to three options that feature different configurations of navigational channels and positioning of land masses.
The Steering Committee (SC) was comprised of senior representatives from state, regional and local agencies responsible for decision making, funding and implementation of the planning project including California Departments of Fish and Wildlife, Water Resources and Parks and Recreation, as well as the Delta Protection Commission and Delta Stewardship Council. Their primary responsibilities are to provide overall guidance for the project, attend project AC meetings for technical support and secure and share information within their respective agencies regarding the project.
The project is being funded so far by Proposition 84, the Safe Drinking Water, Water Quality and Supply, Flood Control and River and Coastal Protection Bond Act of 2006.
“The Safe Drinking Water, Water Quality and Supply, Flood Control, River and Coastal Protection Bond Act of 2006 (Proposition 84) authorizes $5.4 billion in general obligation bonds to fund safe drinking water, water quality and supply, flood control, waterway and natural resource protection, water pollution and contamination control, state and local park improvements, public access to natural resources and water conservation efforts.”
I am not sure Proposition 84 funds qualify for this project that is certainly not going to benefit Bethel Island or Discovery Bay residents, in my opinion. We also hear that the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California is a supporter of the project.
In an article in the Brentwood Press by Tony Kukulich, Carl Wilcox is quoted as saying: “I’ve always been pretty straightforward in that I don’t think that, unless there is local interest and support to do something, and it’s overt support, it’s not tacit, it’s likely that things aren’t going to go much further than they have at this point.” Wilcox also says that the State Water Project contractors also stand to benefit from the project as a result of improved water quality (for export from the Delta) particularly if the Delta Conveyance Project fails to see the light of day.
The state has an extremely poor record of bringing large public works projects to successful fruition. Just look at the Bay Bridge, Oroville Dam, Oroville Dam Spillway and High-Speed Rail Project. The list is endless. One of the big problems too is that state workers are never held accountable for anything. You see it over and over. People come in, spend a lot of money, cause a problem and get promoted or transferred to another job. We cannot afford to keep operating this way.
The project itself is estimated to cost 3 to 600 million dollars. That means it will be $600 million plus. California is essentially bankrupt; I am confident this money could be put to better use than destroying a beloved waterway in the Delta. Martha Esch, a local environmental activist is printing bumper stickers to help stop the boondoggle. You can order yours free from Martha: Send a SASE to P.O. Box 402 Courtland, CA 95615.
Recreational Boaters Of California (RBOC)
Dave Breninger is a Delta boater, Stockton Yacht Club member and past president of RBOC. He filed this report:
“The Senate Appropriations Committee in late August placed AB 3030 [by Ash Kalra, a San Jose Democrat] ‘on suspense’ with the result that the bill should not move forward this year.
“RBOC thanks everyone who participated in the United ‘call to action’ efforts among boating, fishing and hunting groups to advocate for amendments to the bill. Those amendments were presented during testimony on Aug 19 as well as previously submitted in writing.
“The amendments being to specifically acknowledge the extent and impacts of existing protections of the state’s waters as well as critical protections for boating and fishing.
“RBOC will remain vigilant during the remaining days of the 2019-2020 session of the California State Legislature in case some effort is made to move the bill forward.”
Delta Tunnel Project
“You will recall that late in 2019 Governor Newsom killed the twin tunnel idea but actually only downsized it to a single tunnel. At the time, he said that he was doing so to save money.
“Well, depending upon the math used, there isn’t much to be saved. In late August the Newsom Administration released a preliminary cost estimate of $15.9 billion for the single tunnel project – now named the Delta Conveyance Project – running beneath the Delta Estuary. Apparently, that is nearly as much as the 2017 twin tunnel cost estimate of $16.7 billion. However, the administration was quick with a comeback to say that the 2017 figure was not correct, as the twin tunnel design would cost $22 billion. Based upon the math now applied, the administration declares that the downsized project will save $5 billion.
“Whatever math is applied, the Project – if built – would drastically and forever deprive the Delta estuary and all of its 1,000 miles of waterways of fresh flowing water when the water is syphoned off by huge new water intakes.
“So, whatever the price tag may be, who pays the billions for the Governor’s project? The Sacramento Bee keeps close track on the goings-on of the Delta Project. And in late August the Bee reported, ‘while the state is pushing the project forward, participating local water agencies and irrigation districts south of the Delta would pay for it. It would take years to get the mammoth project completed.’
“So, continue to stay tuned for the latest developments on this, and know that for well over a decade your RBOC team has been on watch the entire time defending and protecting the Delta from any new water project.”
Dave is the one that introduced me to the tomfoolery practiced by our Natural Resources Agency and the Department of Water Resources. He invited me to attend a water meeting with him fifteen plus years ago and the woman running the meeting was so unbelievably rude and condescending to the attendees that it came to me like a crystal, like a diamond bullet right into my brain that there had to be something crooked going on. Ever since then there has been a ragtag army of taxpayers battling to stop three different governors from diverting the Sacramento River around the Delta. We have succeeded twice (three times if you include the initial peripheral canal that was voted down in 1982.) I am confident that we will ultimately win this latest war, but do not become complacent.
The Stakeholder Engagement Committee seems to stumble along. I tried to log into the last meeting with my smart phone but the system would not let me. I have spoken to some of the taxpayers on the committee. They say they have trouble getting in and then they get dropped off during the meeting. Seems like you would ensure that the members of the committee would at least be able to reliably participate in the process.
Village West Yacht Club
The club held its Hot August Nights event in you guessed it, August. It was a car show and classic American barbeque dinner featuring hamburgers. I am not sure but it was possibly on the hottest day of the year. Luckily it did not get going until late afternoon so it was not unbearable to walk around and admire the vehicles.
There were several great looking cars. One of my favorites was (I think) a 1949 Cadillac coupe. It looked pretty stock from the outside, except for being lowered and having nonstock hubcaps. It was powered by a late model Caddy motor. There were some 1960s vintage muscle cars and even a Volkswagen Bug. My absolute favorite though was a retro looking Harley Chopper with all modern running gear. It had a classic springer front end, a peanut fuel tank and a soft tail frame. It was a modern motor but it had the look of an old knucklehead. Both wheels were spoked and there was an abundance of chrome. If I were ever going to get another bike it would be something like this one.
We maintained distance while dining outside. Village West has one of the best galleys and crew in the Delta; they serve outstanding meals on a weekly basis. Tonight we were served hamburgers with plenty of fresh tomatoes, lettuce and onions along with the usual condiments. The fries were unusual in shape (somewhat stubby) but this did not diminish the taste at all. As the sun neared the horizon you could feel the temperature go down and it was pleasant out on the deck.
Unfortunately, I did not get their names but the club had an excellent duo of guitarists. They both could play lead and sing and they covered a big repertoire of songs, blues and rock spanning a few decades.
Stephens Yacht Rendezvous
Next month we should have full coverage of the rendezvous at Village West Marina & Resort. There is a great lineup of famous boats coming in and Stephens owners will be coming from all over the west coast to pay homage to Dick Stephens on his 100th birthday. Rusty Areias and his YP144 crew have been working full-time on Folly II to get her ready for the event.
I dropped into Ladds to pick through their used parts inventory and to pick Alan Bonnifield’s brain for some maintenance ideas. While I was there I saw the Stephens yacht Silver Crest in the yard. She is a 47-foot mahogany planked flush deck motor yacht. In the past she was owned by a friend of mine, Gene Moore. He kept her in bristol condition; she was his pride and joy. Gene did not like to single-hand her so he invited some of his friends along when he would cruise somewhere.
One time he invited Doug Ball and I to help him bring her back to Stockton from Bob Walton’s yard on the Delta Loop. We were cruising up the San Joaquin River and all of a sudden the whole boat went dead, all the electric, electronics and worst of all the twin diesels died. We were adrift in the deepwater channel, but we were headed to the shore so Gene deployed his anchor, which if I remember correctly weighed about 100 pounds.
He somehow jumped some batteries so he could operate the starters and got the motors running again. I was dreading pulling up the anchor by hand (besides the weight, it had an all chain rode) but Gene worked some more magic and got the windlass working too so we were able to pull it up without any manual labor. We were adrift for not much more than an hour but it was a pretty exciting hour. Luckily, no ships came along while we were in distress. Gene never did explain to us what might have happened to cause the catastrophic failure.
UNLEASHED Poker Run
This was a much-needed day of fun for Delta boaters that have been going stir crazy for the last few months. Jill Faso Antonini spearheaded this event in late August to raise funds for the Animal Protection League. She calls it “chasing tail on the Delta.” I think there was something like $10,000 in prizes for the poker hands. It seems like everyone in the Delta was there except me. I am not sure but this might have been the Delta’s only poker run in the summer of 2020. There were two starting points: Stockton and Discovery Bay.
Jill, along with help from others came up with the idea for the poker run. Dan Bouchard, president of the Board of Directors for the Animal Protection League (APL) and Jill who is the Director of Development and Marketing for the APL worked tirelessly in all the planning, organizing the dozens of volunteers and setting up the event’s venues over a vast area of the Delta cannot be congratulated enough in all their efforts.
The event started in the aforementioned two locations with stops at Orwood Resort, Garlic Brothers, Rusty Porthole and Moore’s Riverboat to eventually end up at Windmill Cove. It was spectacular and came off without a hitch. With 75 boats and well over a hundred participants, not only was it a fantastic time but the event also raised a lot of much needed money for the well-deserving animals that the APL is committed to help protect.
Boats included everything from competition ski boats, family runabouts, medium go-fasts and of course the high-powered cats. It seemed everyone knew everyone, or at least had an idea of who they were and it made for a great time of catch up.
Jill is an expert at pulling off events. I am confident she will build on this success and a new Delta tradition will develop.
My sources tell me that the run included a cool swag bag, breakfast at the starts and then dinner at Windmill Cove. Along with the raffle, silent auctions, and winning poker hands there were few who walked away empty-handed. The two lucky hand holders of 1st and 2nd places were rewarded with trips to Costa Rica and Las Vegas respectively. I am probably one of the few people in the Delta that did not get to go and I am pretty jealous.
Lewis Deak, the youngest son of Joan and Jim Deak, crossed over the bar in mid-August with his wife, Barbara, by his side. He is survived by his three children, his five siblings and extended family. From Joe Deak: “As you know, my parents bought B&W Resort in 1977 when Lewis was in the 5th grade. In 1990 my parents built Delta Boat Storage. Since DBS opened Lewis continued to be the friendly face of both businesses until his passing. He was certainly loved and will be missed by all of those who he graciously collected launch fees from for so many years.”
The family has requested that in lieu of flowers they would like donations made to: Friends of River Delta Fire Department, 16969 Jackson Slough Road; P.O. Box 541, Isleton, CA 95641. I drive by B&W a few times a week and frequently I would see Lewis tending to the needs of one of their customers. He will be missed.
I am sure you know already Howard Arneson passed over the bar back in June. This was sad news to anyone who not only knew him personally but as well to those who knew of him. The Delta Lunch Bunch took a Saturday in August to hold their own memorial tribute to a man who meant a great deal to them. A handful of boats departed Discovery Bay and made quick work of a day on the water headed to Benicia to meet up, reminisce and remember the Godfather of going fast on the water. Among the group who participated was Dale Rayzor, who’s Skater prior to being completely retrofitted graced the cover of Yachtsman some years back.
I met Howard back in 2012 at the car and boat show at the Marin Yacht Club. He was a fascinating person and obviously very brilliant. He was a real gentleman and took time to tell me about his 4,500 horsepower boat with Arneson Surface Drives. It was awesome when he pulled out into the Bay and put power to his Lycoming turbojet engines. I knew I had some photos of him, but at some point I took the photos off of my computer and stored them on compact disks. I try to catalog them by year and make notes on them of what they contain. I finally found the correct disk after several weeks of looking. I figure when my time comes to cross over the bar whoever is going through my things can spend a year or two going through my jpeg files to see if there is anything worthwhile.
Downtown Petaluma via the Petaluma River used to be a prime destination for boaters to cruise to. Unfortunately, it has not been dredged for some seventeen years. Now the Army Corps of Engineers has announced that they will dredge the river and turning basin. The town is literally at the head of navigation on the river. The Petaluma Yacht Club and nice restaurants grace the banks of the waterway. It has been several years since boats have been able to travel up the river. The Corps of Engineers estimates there has been a $1.3 million annual loss of revenue to local businesses because of boats not being able to navigate the river. The project is reportedly costing over $9 million. Many of us feel this is money well spent. Petaluma is a charming city to visit and coming by boat is really special. You can spend a few days exploring the shops and restaurants downtown.
Greg Brazil, a friend of mine and the skipper of the classic 1938 Wheeler yacht Shanelle forwarded me a photo he took of the old Svendsen’s building in Alameda being demolished to make way for a new project. Yes folks, you cannot stop progress.
Latitude 38 Magazine held their 12th annual Delta Doo Dah event this summer. The event attracted 90 sailboats from the Bay that came to explore the Delta. It was a DIY event so folks were pretty much on their own cruising around to different anchorages and resorts. I caught up with part of the fleet at Park Delta Bay Resort. Owner Erik Chiu was having a party for the folks complete with a barbeque. The Delta is a great place for sailing and the wind in the summer is pretty constant. It is advised to have a good motor to get back through the straits of Carquinez as there is generally a west wind blowing through and the channel is fairly narrow for tacking.
Ty and I stopped by Moore’s Riverboat so he could buy me lunch. We pulled in in Ty’s boat and as we were tying up we saw Tommy Keller and his lovely wife Magic in the next slip over. They were part of a Sacramento Yacht Club weeklong cruise to the Delta. Tommy is a popular figure in the Delta. I cannot remember the last time I saw him before this but I hope I see more of him in the coming months.
According to BoatU.S. the top five boat names for 2020 are: Serenity, Island Time, Scout, Pura Vida and Seas The Day. Rather good I think, nothing outlandish here.
Check out the new Yachtsman Magazine website. I liked the old one but this new iteration is easier to navigate, has more stuff and the colors are brighter! I am confident you will like it too. Technology has come a long way in a few decades. Back in the 1990s my partners and I owned a bulletin board service, kind of what a website is like today except much more primitive. We had a bank of dial in modems and to allow people to dial in without long distance charges around the greater Sacramento area we had telephone lines installed at our friends’ houses and had the phones forwarded to the next link in the network and finally being forwarded to our office in Sacramento. We would just attach a phone to the new line for a few minutes and have the number forwarded to the next link in the chain. One time I accidently left the phone on a hedge in one of our associate’s yards after forwarding the number. He called me up and asked, “Bill am I going to have to leave that phone on my hedge all the time? Maybe I should put it in a plastic bag in case it rains.” I went back and retrieved it.
The California State Parks Division of Boating and Waterways (DBW) is accepting grant applications for the Clean Vessel Act Education and Outreach Program. A maximum of $330,000 of federal funding per targeted region is available to organizations for educating coastal and California Delta boaters about proper vessel sewage disposal, the use of pump out facilities and to monitor pump out stations in the identified regions. The deadline to submit applications is Oct 12, 2020 at 1000 hours. Contact Vivian Matuk for more information or to request the grant package: Vivian.Matuk@coastal.ca.gov
This pandemic is still going strong at this writing in late August. My heart goes out to the local Delta small businesspeople that are struggling to stay solvent while conforming to the various distancing and mask rules. Please support these folks with your purchases. It is important that they be able to survive after this disaster is over.
People have asked about how Ty got the great cover shot for the September issue. Here he is perched on railings to get the exact right angle. Give me a call 916-869-9141 or email email@example.com