Out & About The Bay – by Jillian Humphreys

Thank you Bill Wells, for the warm welcome to the Bay & Delta Yachtsman.

It is a pleasure to be a part of this community. Although I grew up as an avid sailor, I have been spotted on my friends’ power boats from time to time. This is about getting to know the woman behind the pen, or keyboard if you will. I am looking forward to meeting boaters of all kinds.

Fisherman at Bethel Island trying his luck before the tournament season opens up.

I was born and raised in Stockton, and literally raised at the Stockton Sailing Club (SSC) as my parents were passionate sailboat racers. But by the time I was born, my mother had stepped back and started working as a race committee person. My first time on the water was when I was 2 weeks old and in the bilge of a 5.5-meter, as that was the one place my mother could rest her foot (to keep me from rolling out) and continue to trim the sails. As I approached the age of 6, the Stockton Sailing Club decided that it would be a good idea to contact the State of CA Boating and Waterways about a class that taught children boating safety in sailboats. I was in the first Learn to Sail class at the SSC, and continued to be an active participant as it grew in popularity throughout the area. The Stockton Sailing Club and Richmond Yacht Club (RYC) host an annual overnight race clinic every July. You probably have noticed the tents on the shore if you speed by the SSC on your way to Taco Tuesday. The clinic was to teach kids how to race, and has been the beginning for Olympic hopefuls like David Liebenberg, as well as known sailors like JV Gilmour. I had the pleasure of accompanying them for years, and went on to assist in teaching and coaching the next two generations as the camp evolved. The camp is still around and I try to volunteer as much as I can with them, as I believe in their mission. Kids that participate now are encouraged to sail in the El Toro North American Nationals. My parents would take me on summer vacations like every other kid in America, only I would go by sailboat, a Cal 27. This is where I got most of my diverse yacht club knowledge. We stopped at unusual yacht clubs like Loch Lomond, San Rafael and Oyster Point, as well as our go-to spots like Richmond, South Beach and Benicia. I can still recall these adventures, as they continued until I graduated high school. My favorite memory of these days is when I was 8 years old and we were at Ayala Cove. One of my family friends told me that there was a Nation’s Giant Hamburgers up at the top of Mount Livermore, and to this day I still swear it is the fastest way to get kids up to the top.

JV Gilmour racing in the Delta Ditch Run on an Moore 24.

When I hit my teen years, I was interested in going faster and that meant learning either water skiing or wakeboarding. I chose wakeboarding. My father’s friend had a boat and a wakeboard, so I started. It took me all summer to learn, but I did. I started practicing before and after work, as I wanted to perfect it, similar to what I have been trying to do with sailing. My high school job was something that most kids would probably be jealous of. I worked with the St. Francis Yacht Club (StFYC) at Tinsley Island as a dock master and sailing instructor, as well as a sailing instructor at the SSC for the Learn to Sail Program.

Moore 24s (along with Express 27s) are a hot boat in the Delta Ditch.

When I turned 16, I decided to expand my education in sailing instruction and passed the U.S. Sailing Level 1 certification, Power Boat Safety, and have continued to this day. When I was off from work and in high school, I participated in my high school sailing team. We traveled around the state competing against other high schools. My lifelong friends that I stay in contact with today are people that I met at these regattas. Santa Barbara was one of my favorite locations to sail, and that includes our home regatta at the Stockton Sailing Club which is no longer on the calendar. At this time, I was awarded the Yachtswoman of the Year award at the Stockton Sailing Club for my zest of the sport and leadership on the sailing team as president. My family upgraded their sailboat to a Morgan30/2 as I was preparing for college in Sacramento.

In college, I continued to travel from Sacramento to Stockton Sailing Club or to Richmond Yacht Club to race and go sailing when I was off from work at the CSUS Aquatic Center. While working for the Aquatic Center, I assisted in teaching sailing and wakeboarding, stand-up paddleboarding and kayaking. Besides teaching, I would assist in learning the details on how to rig sailboats (wiring and electrical work.) After college, I continued to expand my sailing experiences to different boats in the Bay and grow my sailing connections.

Rufus Sjoberg’s Rufless, a Melges 24, screaming down the Delta on the way to the finish.

In 2013, it all paid off when I was offered a position with the America’s Cup. I happened to be driving to the StFYC for the Rolex Big Boat Series in 2012 when I saw the sign “help wanted.” The next month was a whirlwind of excitement, starstruck and lifelong lessons that I use today. I continue to stay in touch with all of the sailors that competed in the America’s Cup World Series and in the actual America’s Cup. They keep offering advice on how to get youngsters in sailboats. We (all sailors) agree that sailing is a dying sport from years past. Getting to interview sailors like Nathan Outteridge and local sailor Paul Cayard were amazing opportunities that were definitely seized.

The Stockton Sailing Club presented me with the Bonnie Mae award for my dedication in keeping the club involved as I recruited 20-30 fellow club members to volunteer. Due to my work with the America’s Cup, I was offered an employment opportunity at Catalina Direct. I have now been with them for some time and continue to expand my knowledge in boats, engines and locations around the world that I would love to see by water. I was awarded the Crewman of the Year award by the Stockton Sailing Club recently, and am active with the PICYA, Stockton Sailing Foundation (a nonprofit that helps get kids of San Joaquin County on the water) and different committees at the Stockton Sailing Club. I am still wakeboarding regularly in the Delta and visiting as many yacht clubs as I can outside of PICYA. Now with COVID-19 behind us, I can visit fellow yachtsmen and continue to volunteer in the boating community. In 2022 I am set to do the Pacific Cup, a race to Hawaii from San Francisco.

Life After COVID In The Boating Community

When thinking about the year of the pandemic, you either enjoyed the days on the water, in the office, or at home daydreaming of getting on the water. I personally was a person that had all the above. The normal things like the Berkeley Swap Meet, the Delta Ditch Run, Napa Valley Marina Flea Market and more regular events that we as boaters enjoy were cancelled due to the pandemic, but they are now opening back up.

Plenty of marine goodies to be acquired. Photo courtesy of Kirby Long.

The Delta Ditch Run is back for its 30th year (well 31st, but SSC/RYC are not counting 2020) and it looks to be another solid year. The race draws boats from all over California and the country. Most people who sail the 65 nautical miles upriver do not know that the race started as a feeder for the notorious South Tower Race, a race that goes from the Stockton Sailing Club to a weather mark of Crissy Field (Blackaller buoy) and back to the SSC non-stop. The Delta Ditch Run was thought up by numerous minds, but the two most memorable are John Dukat, an RYC member who now provides the cruising division trophies and the late John Walker, an SSC member who raced numerous South Towers on his Choat 40 Bottom Line. Now, if you are a small boat sailor or want to take your chance at it, there is a race for you and it is Lake Washington’s Dinghy Ditch. They are celebrating 18 years of being the longest dinghy race. The race begins in windy Rio Vista and ends at Lake Washington Sailing Club in West Sacramento on Aug. 7.

The Napa Valley Marin Flea Market is back and ready to be enjoyed by vendors and boaters alike. Napa Valley Marina offers spots to vendors from all over at no charge which is great, and a great way to get people out of the office and finding treasure. Flea markets and swap meets are always something that all boaters can benefit from, as who wants to spend $100.00 on a set of fenders when they are just as good (maybe not as clean) and used for $20.00. People find paper charts that are no longer provided by NOAA, and honestly who knows of an electric device that has failed in a crisis, I know I can relate. Some scavengers find books on fishing in the SF Bay, or what season is the best for sturgeon. The Napa Valley Marina Flea Market is on June 26 this year, and they expect to have 25-50 vendors with everything a boater would need or want, from replacement lights, shackles and oil filters, to a book about James Cook. If you have never been to the Napa Valley Marina, this is a marina worth visiting. I remember visiting as a young child and being in awe of how similar in appearance it is to some of the marinas in the Delta. Give Kirby Long a call at 707-252-8011 for information on the swap meet, the marina, boat storage or haul out capabilities.

Enjoy the wine country and the nautical flea market in the same day. Photo courtesy of Kirby Long.

The Great Vallejo Race has changed dates and is ready to host one of the greatest races in the Bay area. The 121st annual race is moved to Aug. 21 and 22. The race is one of the biggest as far as par[1]ticipation, 200 sailboats and 1000 sailors take over the yacht club across from Mare Island. The day begins in the Berkeley Circle and is a drag race all the way to Vallejo Yacht Club. Once the sailors finish, they are greeted with live music and Mai Tais. The next day sailors will race back to the SF Bay for the second portion of the race. Come and enjoy watching the sailors race up the channel to the finish. It is a sight worth seeing.

Plenty of space to display your unwanted items. Photo courtesy of Kirby Long.

The UNLEASHED Poker Run is back for the second year and is coming to a body of water near you. I am ready to see what these boats can do, and although this is not the Big Cat Poker Run that most boaters are used to, be prepared to watch the water on July 30 for the speed demons. The UNLEASHED Poker Run organizer Dan Bouchard put this together to support the Animal Protection League which moves 800 to 1,000 animals a month through the shelter, and is successful in placing 95 percent of them with new families.

As you can see, a year of staying home and daydreaming has paid off. The Delta and SF Bay have something for everyone. You can hit a local flea market, spectate a sailboat race, join in a poker run to benefit the APL, hit Windmill Cove for live music, Tiki Lagoon for Taco Tuesday or just enjoy being around friends and the water. The water is for all of us to enjoy, whether we are sailors, water skiers, windsurfers, fishermen or swimmers.

I would enjoy hearing from you if you have a story or information you wish to pass along. Contact me at jillian@yachtsmanmagazine.com.