Delta Rat Scrapbook – by Bill Wells
Korth’s Pirate’s Lair
I was at Korth’s to meet Ty, naturally he was running late as usual. While I was waiting Tiki Tom introduced me to Mark Bettis and his wife, the lovely Catherine Miskow. Mark is the harbormaster at Coyote Point Marina and likes to enjoy the Delta on the weekends. It is always great to have folks from the Bay visiting the Delta. It has to be great for them to get away from the cold clammy weather and enjoy our sunshine. Catherine and I have been friends on social media for a few years. They have found a great way to enjoy the Delta. They have a Four Winns runabout and also a Sea Ray Sundancer 280 cruiser. They drive them out to their favorite anchorage and spend the weekend there using the runabout to explore the area and return to the Sea Ray for meals and sleeping.
Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park Camp-Resort: Tower Park
Ty and I stopped at Tower Park for an ice cream at Sunset Sweets. I had not been to Tower Park for a while and there has been a lot of construction going on. They are investing a lot of money into the buildings there. They are rebuilding the area where the fire was, and have gutted the restaurant building and are totally remodeling it. When we popped into Sunset Sweets Dennis and Tuyen were there wearing masks and only allowing two people in the establishment at one time. Dennis says they have been there for eleven years. I remember when they first opened, it seems like yesterday. They are an utterly charming couple and it is easy to see why people will come from Discovery Bay and points beyond just to enjoy their ice cream. They not only have several flavors of ice cream but possibly the best brownies in the Delta. Do not worry about getting fat here as they also rent human powered boats that you can use to burn off those calories.
Tommy came on as the new manager of Tower Park Marina and he is assisted by the office manager Chris. Over the years we have had a lot of fun at Tower Park. We held the Taste of the Delta there several times and also had several classic yacht events at the marina. Now with the improved campgrounds and their Lazy River feature which should be open by the time you read this, the experience at the resort is even better.
Turner Cut Resort
Turner Cut Resort is one of the most beautiful and friendly hangouts in the Delta, located on Turner Cut, a backwater right off the San Joaquin. It is near downtown Stockton and many other resorts and right in some fine fishing grounds. When you turn off the San Joaquin River onto Turner Cut it is like crossing into a microclimate, the wind calms and the waves turn into ripples.
I met Dan & Annabelle Dumas who have recently purchased the resort. They live in Discovery Bay, a short commute whether by car or boat. Dan and Annabelle own rental properties in the Bay Area and they are also the founders of SCIFIT, an exercise rehab center for the disabled located in Dublin, Sacramento and Fresno. Dan and Annabelle have been boating on the Delta for over 30 years and are excited to begin their adventure as the new owners of Turner Cut Resort and Marina.
Turner Cut Resort, once an obscure fishing camp, was purchased by Florence and Darrell Hannan along with two partners back in 1967. By 1985 the resort was in complete control of the Hannans. Eventually it was passed onto their daughter and son-in-law, Skip and Kathy McGuinness, who improved it and operated it for a few decades. Unfortunately, Kathy recently passed away and Skip sold the property to Dan and Annabelle. They are the first new owners in over 50 years.
The marina has 200 covered slips and Dan is looking at replacing and improving the docks. There is a gas dock and launch ramp and plenty of parking. Dan and Annabelle recently turned the restaurant into a store offering a wide variety of drinks, snacks, items for your boat and for fishing. There are full time RV residents and 25 daily RV spaces. There is also daily tent camping available. The RV park is beautiful with grass and shade trees, you think you are in a well-kept park.
They have some great plans for Turner Cut Resort. They plan to add concrete pads to the daily RV spaces, a pool and sport court area and a club house for all overnight guests and berthers to enjoy.
You should drop in sometime and enjoy a cold drink, say hi to Gus, the resorts long time manager and one of the friendliest folks on the Delta. You never know, the legendary Fillemup Phil might make an appearance while you are there.
I have told you before about Jim Gabbert’s beautiful Stephens yacht, Defiance. Jim is planning to bring her to the Stephens Rendezvous so I thought you might want an update on her. One of my correspondents, Ty Mellott, spent a morning with Jim learning more about this beautiful craft.
She is hull number M-165, launched in September of 1972 as Seven Sons and built for K.L. Williams. Jim has owned her since 1977 and is the fifth owner. He was actually in Stockton at the launch party for the original owner. She was designed to cruise at 10 knots and the 5,000 gallons of onboard fuel give her a long range.
Unfortunately, K. L. Williams, the original owner, had an emergency and sold her before she was even launched. Dick Stephens remembers Jim being at the launch party that day.
Jim told of how he was at the Stephens boat yard during the build of the 85-foot yacht and although interested in the construction, he was not all that fond of the boat at the time. As time would prove, that attitude changed into admiration and love of the vessel.
He has owned three Stephens Yachts. A 47-footer, a 55-footer and currently Defiance at 85-feet. Prior to owning Defiance, Jim spent quite a bit of time with Dick and Theo Stephens, and there were talks and plans of having a new Stephens built for him.
At the time when he was in the market for another boat he owned a 1946 76-foot Grandy that he purchased on the East Coast and brought back through the Panama Canal to the Bay area. While he was searching for a replacement boat he went to Southern California to look at one but the deal fell through. Coincidentally there on the same dock was the 85-foot Stephens that he admired. Strange how they would come to cross paths again after he was at her launch party in 1972. He bought her and brought her back to his home port of Sausalito. Jim noted that the previous owner had a crew of five and is quite proud to say that since his ownership the crew is him and his partner Tim.
Jim’s first ever boat was a 21-foot Trojan that he cruised to the Delta many times. Although Defiance is Jim’s pride and joy, he has also had even larger yachts. Up until 2018 he owned the 50-meter Codecasa, Invader. He sold Invader and then picked up a 115-foot Benetti which is currently in British Columbia. The crew is from Mexico and they have been unable to get back home because of the pandemic travel restrictions.
Jim is an accomplished pilot and actively flies his trijet Falcon 900B. He currently has over 11,000 hours of flight time, including 4,000 that he earned flying his previous plane an Executive 727.
Hal Schell Award
You know by now that Dick Stephens won the 2020 Hal Schell Award. The award is always presented at the California Delta Chambers July mixer. Many folks assembled at Wimpy’s Marina Café in Walnut Grove for the event. Host Dawn Schuman has done a fabulous job reinvigorating this classic Delta restaurant. She went all out this evening with scads of tasty snacks. Delicious chips and salsa, Lockeford sausage, cold watermelon, stuffed mushrooms and bruschetta. The bar was open and there were plenty of cold drinks for everyone. Dick Stephens’ 100th birthday is on September 15th, and although he is in great health he felt that he should not be in a crowd situation during this current health crisis. One of his best friends and a renowned expert on Stephens boats, Rusty Areias volunteered to accept the award on Dick’s behalf. Yachtsman publisher, Ty Mellott, presented the award to Rusty and Rusty gave a fabulous talk about how much Dick loves the Delta, his background and the history of Stephens Brothers. Dick via Rusty said he was accepting the award for his brothers Barre and Theo, his father and uncle, along with the hundreds of craftsmen that built the beautiful vessels for close to a century. It was a distinct honor for me to be part of this historical event. I look forward to Dick being around for another century.
Governor Newsom released his “Final Water Resilience Portfolio” in late July. He says he will “Plan, permit, and build new diversion and conveyance facilities (such as a tunnel) in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to safeguard the State Water Project, and potentially Central Valley Project deliveries drawn from the Sacramento and San Joaquin river systems.” In other words, he is moving forward with plans to divert the Sacramento River around the Delta. It will take a lot of work but I am confident we can stop him. With the state currently about $53 billion in debt, adding another $55 billion (per Arnold Schwarzenegger) to divert the river will have many Californians living in poverty. If you think it is a problem now with people living in makeshift shelters on streets and along our waterways, it will become a lot worse in the future if this massive boondoggle comes to fruition.
We have discussed before that it appears that other state agencies besides the Natural Resources Agency have been involved in attacks on the Delta. The ongoing disaster with Caltrans districts 3 and 4 continues to get even worse since we got the Delta Protection Commission to add Delta transportation problems to their monthly meeting agenda. You literally do not know when the Real McCoy or the J Mack ferries will be running. They have a hotline (510) 622-0120 that they claim is updated every day, but people frequently tell me the information is incorrect.
A motorcyclist had a head on with a semi near the Mokelumne River Bridge shutting down State Route 12 for a few hours. Lately there have been frequent accidents on both 12 and 160. I think part of the problem is that people are frustrated with the gridlocks and traffic jams they encounter almost every day and tend to drive faster and take more chances. Caltrans management has not demonstrated that they are even aware of the problems, much less done anything about them. A while back I paid a visit to their yard in Rio Vista and wandered around for a half hour or so with no one there to ask who I was or what I was doing. Now I see they have a gate with card control to regulate who enters. I guess they can get some things done.
The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association released its “Roundup of Wasted Taxpayer Money” in mid-July. Caltrans did not fare too well under their scrutiny. They report that the “Caltrans Director’s San Diego to Sacramento work commute has been previously cited as wasteful, but Caltrans once again was caught paying for the same flights, at an annual cost of $21,000 a year. This doesn’t include the additional thousands in reimbursed rent for a Sacramento residence, rental cars and meals.”
They also discovered that “A new audit showed $13 million that Caltrans should not have spent, $7.4 million of which is from the 2006 transportation bond measure that voters approved. This happened due to 28 cases of misuse of resources and document falsification. Caltrans points out that none of the $13 million is from the latest gas tax increases but that does not exactly reassure taxpayers that this type of thing will not happen again.” Why not take some of the money they are wasting and use it to repair ferries and bridges in the Delta.
You may have seen the mysterious looking pirate ship lurking around the Delta waterways recently. She has been in Stockton, Tower Park and at this writing New Hope Landing (Wimpy’s.) I met her creator and skipper, Pirate Dan, when I was at Wimpy’s. If you drive past you cannot miss her. She is very prominent at the guest dock.
Pirate Dan says he purchased the Kevlar hull at a marina in the Bay at an amazingly low price. He built the interior, added the spars and rigging, installed a motor and outfitted her with several cannons.
Once he finished assembling the craft he set off with his crew on a shakedown trip to Mexico and back. The plan is to keep her at New Hope Landing for the future where she will be an attraction for visitors. Pirate Dan invited me aboard for a look around. The interior is just as you would expect on a pirate ship and has something interesting no matter where you look. There is an assortment of period weapons and a few skulls laying around. Dan even has a live parrot aboard.
I was amazed to see the vessel at the New Hope Landing dock and figured that they must have opened the bridge or came down the slough on the south side of Dead Horse Island. Dan explained that they went up to Dead Horse Slough and down to New Hope that way. He says they only touched bottom a few times. Dan says at one point on the way up the river they stopped in front of a local farmer’s home for the night. He said the farmer definitely did a double take when he saw the pirate ship on the river in front of his house when he went outside the next morning.
Folly II is a famous Stephens yacht that has spent the last 30 or so years in Monterey Bay. We thought she might make it to the last Stephens Rendezvous in 2018, but unfortunately was unable to attend. Fast forward to 2020 and bring on noted Stephens expert and collector Rusty Areias. Rusty put together a syndicate consisting of Ted Collins, Bruce Jones, Jonathan Perkins and Rusty himself to acquire, save and restore this historic boat.
They call their syndicate YP144 LLC. YP144 was the name the Navy gave Folly II when she was conscripted into service during World War II. Rusty and crew brought her up from Monterey and after a stop at the Saint Francis Yacht Club they brought her up to New Bridge Marina to join several other classic yachts there. They did an assessment and decided that the boat was in overall good shape and mainly needed some cosmetic work.
I paid a visit to her in her berth a couple slots down from Miss 102. The brightwork had been sanded and had a couple of coats of varnish applied. Jose Montano and his crew have replaced the deck in the rear cockpit along with the cabin top. They removed all the chrome hardware and sent it out of state for re-chroming. It had been returned and was ready to install when I was there. Folly II’s hull is teak and was originally finished bright. Reportedly, rum runner/bootlegger/smuggler, Johnny “Joseph” Marino, who originally commissioned the yacht, had her teak hull varnished so authorities would not suspect her illicit activities plying the waters of the Delta from Stockton to Sacramento and the Pacific Ocean from San Francisco to Los Angeles. Folly II was originally powered by two 998 cubic-inch, six cylinder Hall Scott Invader motors. These motors were state of the art in 1931. Clessie Cummins owned her later in the 1930s and converted her over to Cummins diesels which she still is powered with today.
If you have a copy of Barry Ward’s excellent history of Stephens Brothers you can find some drawings of Folly II on page 22 – a magnificent boat indeed. Come to the Stephens Yacht Rendezvous and you will be able to see Folly II in person. She will be in better shape than at anytime over the last few decades.
Stephens Yacht Rendezvous
Do not miss this once in a century event at Village West Marina & Resort on the weekend of Sept. 11-13. We have some beautiful classic yachts coming in. This will likely be one of the last big gatherings of Stephens yachts for a while. It is also the only chance we will get to celebrate Dick Stephens’ 100th birthday. This event has taken a lot of work on the part of many people, special thanks to those who helped out: Village West Marina & Resort, Village West Yacht Club, Delta Marine Sales, Twin Rivers Marine Insurance, the Classic Yacht Association and the California Delta Chambers & Visitor’s Bureau. Whatever pandemic guidelines that are in effect at the time of the event we will comply with. Social distancing will be easy to maintain on the docks.
A Photo Shoot
We got word that Miss 102 was heading from her berth at New Bridge Marina in Antioch to pay a visit to Dick and Donna Stephens’ home on the Calaveras River. Ty had been looking for a classic Stephens Yacht for the cover of this issue, so this looked like a great opportunity. Blair Hake volunteered his boat to use as the photography platform. We met at the Village West Marina & Resort guest dock and headed out. Just about the time we exited Fourteen Mile Slough on to the San Joaquin River we saw Miss 102 approaching from the west, captained by Steve Mannshardt. We followed her upstream and got some good video and photos. Blair, Ty and I were competing to see who could get the best photos, but I think we all got some great ones.
The weather was perfect, an exceptionally light breeze, a few clouds and the sun high in the sky. Presently Miss 102 turned to the port in the Calaveras River and skipper Steve Mannshardt pulled her into the Stephens dock with the bow pointed downstream, the makings for a perfect photo with the Stephens home in the background. Ty decided that one of us was going to have to go ashore on the opposite riverbank and take a photo while perched on the handrail of the nearby dock. We took a vote and Ty was elected to be the one to do it. He got the great photo that you see on the cover this month. Blair and I both got a lot of great photos, many of which could have been good cover shots too. While we were taking photos Roger Kelly and a friend came cruising down the Calaveras on Roger’s inflatable shore boat. Roger lives about a mile upstream and spends much of his free time tracking down pollution and polluters in the Delta.
Rusty, Steve and their crew went ashore and spent some time visiting with the Stephens family, several members of whom had assembled on the lawn. We headed a little further upstream and Blair showed us where they were building a flood control structure on the Smith Canal. In essence this is a dam that is supposed to be closed if there is a flood surge on the San Joaquin River. There has been a lot of controversy over this $37 million project that will supposedly reduce flood risk to the residents along and near the canal. After the structures are completed there will be a fifty foot wide opening at the entrance to allow boat traffic and water flow. One of the big problems on the canal is the bums and vagrants that have taken up residence on the banks and throw all manner of trash and human waste into the water. Hopefully narrowing the entrance will not impede the water flow and cause more pollution.
The Big Barge
We took note of the huge barge moored across the river from Joe Faso’s estate. Some people have speculated that it is there to conduct electronic surveillance on Joe. Others felt it was a government reeducation center to convince more citizens that diverting the Sacramento River around the Delta will create more water and reduce pollution. Tracie Glaves of the San Joaquin Delta Neighborhood Watch organization investigated and found out the barge is a data center owned by Nautilus Data Technology. It is innovative in that it uses water from wherever it is moored to cool the memory banks and equipment inside.
The barge was originally planned to be used in Alameda, but apparently there were a lot of concerns about the effect on sea life the 14 million gallons of cooling water that would be released daily into the estuary would have. Now the barge has been moved to the port of Stockton and many local people are concerned here about the effect it will have on Delta waterways. Stockton is plagued with toxic algae blooms this year and they are mainly a product of low water flows and high water temperatures.
Tracie got the Water Board to take an interest and apparently they are doing a study on the potential effects the barge could have on the river. She says hearings are scheduled in October to determine if the barge should be allowed to stay. I think the concept of using local water for cooling a data center is a good idea but you just have to make sure that it is in a spot that causes no harm to sea life. So far the city of Stockton has not been able to control the algae in McLeod Lake or elsewhere, so at this time I see potential for a lot of problems if the data center is allowed to operate in the city. I hope the Stockton City Council does a thorough evaluation of this potential disaster before allowing it to proceed.
Our esteemed editor, Daniel Witte, made it out to Mandeville Reach on the Independence Day weekend and sent me a few photos. Blair Hake and many others were out for the weekend too. All the reports I hear are that people had a great time even though there was not a professional fireworks display.
Regretfully the Delta Independence Day Foundation has canceled the Mandeville fireworks scheduled for Saturday, September 5th due to the ongoing pandemic and restrictions in San Joaquin County. The new day is set for July 4, 2021, hopefully things will be back to normal by then.
September will be Coastal Cleanup Month; this will include the Delta too. This year, rather than meeting at public events throughout the state on a single date, cleanups will happen every Saturday throughout the month. (If Saturdays don’t work for you, do not let that stop you! Clean up during any day and time that works for you.) “Participants must practice physical distancing and must strictly follow both local ordinances and the set of guidelines provided on the California Coastal Commission website.” Contact Vivian Matuk (firstname.lastname@example.org) to participate or get more information. I would like to see these state agencies coordinate with Tracie Glaves’ San Joaquin Delta Neighborhood Watch group. Last year I think Tracie’s group gathered more junk and trash than all the government agencies put together.
Let me know how you are handling these strange times.
A boat is a perfect place for social distancing!
email@example.com or 916-869-9141.