Delta Rat Scrapbook - September 2018

Hal Schell Award

It is hard to believe that our beloved Hal Schell has been gone for twelve years now. He was such a presence in the Delta that there was a huge vacuum when he passed. Not long after his passing, Bay & Delta Yachtsman magazine initiated an annual Hal Schell Award that every year is presented to someone that has contributed to bettering the Delta. For those that are new to this playground we call the California Delta, Hal was a writer who spent time in Europe. He wrote for a variety of lifestyle publications. He discovered the Delta while on a sports car rally back in the early 1970s. He never left; all of a sudden he was everywhere. He became the editor of Bay & Delta Yachtsman, wrote a column in a Stockton newspaper and had his own radio show. He knew everyone in the region especially proprietors of establishments that sold alcoholic spirits. Hal’s favorite beer was Heineken and he single handedly got most area bars to serve the brew. He bought boats and had a beautiful trawler when he crossed over the bar. Hal was literally a legend in his own time and many of us want that legend to continue forever. We frequently refer to him as “the great man.” Hal became a fierce protector of the Delta and took no prisoners when it came to government entities attacking his adopted home. He spent a lot of time at Lost Isle when Bill Conner owned the resort. He even lived there for a while. He came up with a great quote, “The coldest winter I ever spent was at Lost Isle. We had to stay in the beer cooler to keep warm.”

Hal’s disdain for regular yacht clubs caused him to start the Super Secret Ship Club which became very popular with members wearing their purple jackets proudly around the Delta. Hal is the one who named Fill-em-up-Phil as well as creating nicknames for many other folks. Did I mention he also wrote the club’s hilarious newsletter? You get the picture, he was a great man.

The award is presented every year at the Delta Chamber’s mixer on the 2nd Wednesday in July. This time it was at the Tower Park Waterfront Grill. The place was packed and the management was serving some outstanding snacks. About 60 folks gathered to find out who the 2018 winner would be.

Ty Mellott took the microphone and after listing some of her many accomplishments announced Barbara Barrigan Parrilla, executive director of the Restore the Delta Foundation, as the recipient of the 2018 Hal Schell Award.

Barbara has been a tireless fighter for the Delta ever since Arnold Schwarzenegger announced his plan to divert the Sacramento River to Southern California. Her organization, Restore the Delta has been a leader in defending the people of California from the water barons. Barbara herself spends much time on the road traveling between northern and southern California exposing the lies and misinformation put out by state officials and their lackeys. She is confident that the WaterFraud twin tunnels will never be built and I believe her.


On The River

The Northern California Chapter of the Antique and Classic Boat Society (ACBS) held their first annual Runabouts on the River event at the Stockton Sailing Club. This would be on the San Joaquin River naturally. I tried to lure Richard Dunn over but he had other things going on. There was a large turnout from local folks and I spoke with one of the ACBS people he said they had several member boats attend that had not been seen for a number of years. In spite of it being a hot day and the pall of smoke from all the wildfires in the state, there was a good crowd there. Some of the owners were taking visitors for rides. As you can imagine this was very popular and they had to institute a drawing system to make it fair for everyone. The sailing club has its own harbor, right on the river, so when you exit you are able to go as fast as you want. We saw some children riding and they looked as gleeful as if they were riding the roller coaster at Santa Cruz.

Whenever you see a gathering of vintage runabouts like this you are sure to see at least a couple of old Maherajah or O’Brien water-skis and they are almost as cool as the boats. This was the case here too. I have an O’Brien decorating my patio, I think I will collect a couple of Maherajah skis too they are far less expensive than collecting wooden boats.

Blair and Mary Hake got to take a ride in a Besotes runabout. Robert Little, an acquaintance of theirs, had his Besotes there that his father purchased in 1968. Robert offered Blair a chance to drive the boat so naturally he jumped on it. Outside of having a lot of power, Blair said the craft handled like a go kart. He also remarked that this ride pretty much completed his bucket list.

In addition to Blair and Mary being at the event, our local videographer Gene Beley was on hand to interview several of the owners. He spoke with Ron Berberian who told of seeing his first Besotes at Ladd’s Marina and knew then he would have one for his own someday. Eventually he was able to acquire one and even got to know Charlie and George Besotes. Ron now has a collection of nine Besotes and is starting a museum in Stockton devoted to them. He rightly refers to them as works of art.

He brought two boats to the meet, the 18-foot Rebel Rouser and Bat Boat. He said he was interested in acquiring Bat Boat for 30 years before he finally made a deal on it. Bat Boat is unique looking. She resembles a Chris Craft Cobra but has a wooden fin instead of fiberglass. Apparently Fred Gellard, the original owner wanted something built that did resemble the Cobra. Rebel Rouser is Cadillac powered and has a unique custom Besotes steering wheel.

Gene also interviewed Layne Davis and Don Leutz from ACBS. Layne is the president of the northern California/Lake Tahoe Chapter of the ACBS, Don is the vice president. They talked of the genesis of this show and how they plan to make it an annual event. They were expecting 30 boats and ended up with 49 arriving for the day. For a boat to be part of the ACBS it needs to be at least 25 years old.

On hand also was Eric Koster of J&H Marine. I am sure not only his love of these vessels from a bye-gone era attracted his attention but I would be willing to guess that his mechanical-experienced hands have laid touch to some of the beauties as well. Last I saw, he had his camera focused on a boat, no doubt on assignment from publisher Ty Mellott.

I personally think that Eric needs to be on staff as it seems his photos are continually creeping up in the publication including a few very brilliant cover photos. 

 The Sea Scouts from the SSS Challenger were there showing off the runabout that they had built, Scouts Honor. When I saw her, I thought she was an older boat that had been professionally restored. I found out from Layne Davis that she was actually built from a Glen-L plan and the scouts did all the work planking her with mahogany on white oak frames. The plans called for a 15-foot boat but they stretched it to 17-feet. She is powered with a 300 horsepower Ford 302 cubic-inch motor. Layne says he has had her up to 55 mph. He said the boat was a three year project for the scouts at their weekly meetings.

The event was like a festival. You could learn about boats from the ACBS, history from the Haggin Museum and even buy a hot dog and soft drink if you were hungry. They were great hot dogs by the way. I do hope this becomes an annual event. Stockton is home to so many famous boat names and many famous yachts were launched right on the San Joaquin River. Mike Fitzgerald in a recent article pointed out that Stockton had three sets of famous boatbuilding brothers; Besotes, Colberg, and Stephens. Sometimes we forget the maritime tradition in Stockton. Stephens and Colberg were right next to each other on the north side of the channel. The Delta King and Delta Queen were assembled on the Stockton Channel and the submarine USS Pampanito spent a few years on the channel when that great American, Harry Bridges prevented her from being berthed in San Francisco.

When I walked up to the Haggin Museum booth I overheard a gentleman talking about how his family sailed Alpha the first aluminum boat (hull number M-136) built by Stephens back to the mainland after the 1967 Transpac race. Peter Van Dyke told me how they sailed almost dead on to the wind for 21 days to get back to California from Honolulu. He was impressed with Alpha and wondered where she might be today. I told him that she is alive and well and I had seen her in 2017 at the Saint Francis Yacht Club.


Besotes Brothers Boats

Say that three times quickly. One of the great builder’s (aside from Stephens) that has always fascinated me is the Besotes Brothers. George and Charlie, the Besotes brothers, arrived in Stockton from Saint Helens, Oregon in 1927 with their parents. By the mid 1930s the family was operating the Besotes Brothers Equipment Company and building wood and steel truck bodies in Stockton. After World War II they built themselves boats so they could go water skiing and by 1950 they were building custom runabouts for others. Every Besotes was custom built to fulfill the buyers need. The brothers seemed to have the same philosophy as Don Garlits and Joe Faso, “there is no substitute for cubic inches.” I am familiar with one Besotes powered by an early 283 cubic-inch small block Chevy but overall they were powered with the biggest engines of the day. 392 Chryslers, 427 Fords, 427 Chevys, I have not heard of any that were Allison or Rolls Royce V12 powered but it would not surprise me if one turned up.

All the Besotes of which I am familiar are direct drive too, no I/O drives or V-drives to soak up a few horsepower.

They had some common features, many were built of plywood bolted to steel I-beam frames and then covered with fiberglass, at least a few were built of all fiberglass and at least one was built of aluminum. The boats were lightweight with reverse sheer and featured powerful American V8 motors, Cadillac, Chrysler, big block Ford and big block Chevy all come to mind. The buyer could specify any motor he or she desired. According to the club there are about 44 Besotes whose whereabouts are known today. A few have made it to the eastern states. There are still many located in the Stockton area, carefully maintained by their owners. There were several at the ACBS show at the Stockton Sailing Club. Besotes built boats from 1950 to 1973 with a production run of about 200 craft.


WaterFraud Update

The California Department of Water Resources (DWR) continues to play whack-a-mole with their WaterFix plan to divert the Sacramento River around the Delta. In April, attorney Michael Brodsky, Captain Frank Morgan and yours truly testified at the Water Board hearing that their plan to build an industrial complex in the Meadows and another one on the Potato Slough side of Bouldin Island were ill advised because of their effect on recreational boating. Now they have released a revised plan to eliminate the Meadows construction and moving the site on Bouldin Island farther east. They plan to dump thousands of yards of chemical laced mud just across Little Potato Slough from Tower Park. The prevailing wind will blow the stench from the mud right into Tower Park. We are headed back to the board in the near future to testify about this latest bad idea. I am sure you are aware that Bouldin Island is owned by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.

This new plan was apparently conceived by John Bednarski according to documents he submitted to the water board he is an “expert” in the California WaterFix project conceptual engineering design. He is also the manager of the Water Supply Initiatives Section at the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. It appears that he knows nothing of boating and specifically boating in the Delta. We can find no reference to him belonging to a yacht club or other boating organization. He did say in a presentation to Metropolitan that if built, the tunnels “would be virtually water tight.” I guess that is a good thing. I don’t know what he or Metropolitan has against Tower Park. Grindstone Joe’s is right in the target area of the muck dump too, not to mention the boats travelling up and down Little Potato Slough, a five mile-per-hour zone in that area.

The DWR claims they reach out to boaters for input on these crazy ideas. When I was testifying one of the other attorneys asked me if the DWR had ever reached out to me. I answered that they have never reached out or returned a phone call. In fact, I don’t know any boaters that they have asked for input.



Just when we are getting the invasive plants in the Delta under control a new scourge rears its ugly head in the region, the nutria. They were first brought to California in 1899 when someone tried to establish a fur ranch with the animals in Los Angeles. They spread throughout the state and were subject to intense eradication efforts. By 1978 they were thought to be gone but apparently they just went underground and hid, waiting for the day to launch a new attack. Since the first one was seen in Merced last November over 200 have been caught in traps around the greater Delta area. Nutria are found in 30 states including the entire west coast and wreak havoc wherever they are found. They were introduced into southern states to control invasive plants like hyacinth. Unfortunately, they eat all plants including the roots. They also burrow into levees and farmlands. In some places in the U.S. they have turned tidal marsh into open water.

Nutria are carriers and transmit a host of communicable diseases. They don’t have many predators in California and one female can produce 200 offspring in her lifetime. These are some bad hombres. Right now the only way to deal with the Nutria invasion is to trap, poison or hunt them out of existence. In Louisiana there is a five-dollar bounty for each Nutria tail turned in to state agents. Also, in Louisiana, Nutria meat is on the menu in restaurants. They also make dog snacks out of the meat. Supposedly it is high in protein and low in fat compared to most domestic animals. In California it is illegal to hunt or possess the cute little creatures so the best you can do is report them when you see them.

Here is a link: sives/report. Recently I have seen two dead animals alongside the road in the Walnut Grove/Isleton area that looked a lot like nutria. The roads did not have a shoulder near where I spotted them so I could not stop to investigate. Keep your eyes open for these pests; from a distance they can be confused with a beaver or muskrat. They are identifiable by their white muzzle and white whiskers.


Weibel Tasting Room

Weibel Family Vineyards & Winery have only been in their Lodi tasting room for a little over two years. During that short time period the business grew to the point where they needed more space to accommodate the increasing crowds of fans that love their wines.

Luckily, they found a spot just a couple of doors down from the first location. They recently held a grand opening and ribbon cutting for their new location at 9 North School Street in greater downtown Lodi. The new place was packed for the event, many of their friends and fans attended, along with local business people and representatives of the Lodi Chamber and the California Delta Chambers. The star of the show was Miss California, MacKenzie Freed a charming young lady who attended to assist with the ribbon cutting. Vice President Judy Weibel cut the ribbon and afterwards everyone raised a toast to the new venture. Lois is the official greeter at the tasting room and she was dressed in her summer outfit, looking great as always.

You should visit Lodi on a Thursday evening during the warm months. They shut down North School Street to vehicle traffic and have a farmer’s market for a few blocks. You can not only get some excellent local produce, but also, they have a lot of hand crafted items also along with booths set up by local businesses. It is a street fair and attracts a good crowd each week.

There are several wine tasting rooms in downtown Lodi and even a cheese shop. I like to wander around in the local antique stores; there are quite a few within a few short blocks of the Weibel Tasting Room. I frequently find nautical related items that I can’t pass up.

Just across the street from the Weibel Tasting Room is Angelo’s Mexican Restaurant where they serve some excellent food and a perfect finish to an afternoon of wine tasting and antiquing. The place gets packed so I try to go there during the off hours. They have a full bar and lots of delicious items on the menu.


Captain Morgan’s Delta Adventures

Frank and Melinda Morgan run a very popular charter boat business out of Discovery Bay. Frank has many years of experience pleasure boating in the Delta and has appeared at the water board hearings as an expert on Delta recreation.

In 2012 they purchased a 55-foot houseboat with the goal of exploring the Delta at their leisure. They put her in drydock for renovations and customizing to their specifications. Eight months later she was still in drydock with costs escalating. The Morgans decided to start a part time charter boat business to help recoup some of the costs. When they re-launched her they named her Rosemarie after Frank’s mother.

Frank and Melinda printed a one page flyer and passed it out to every home and business in the Discovery Bay area. They started the first year with several cruises but by 2017 they were hosting 185 cruises per year. They have experimented with many types of cruises visiting many parts of the Delta. Over time they dropped off the trips that were not as popular and refined those that were. They now have bus loads of fans coming from all over the Bay Area and Southern California. Recently they hosted “The Scarlet Ladies of Torrance” for a three-night, four-day “Discovering the Delta” cruise. They also had two busloads of people come from Yorba Linda, California to explore the Delta. Frank and Melinda have done a great job working with local restaurants and lodging to enhance the cruise experience. They have also provided boat/bus tours not only exploring the sloughs but also visiting local wineries and other attractions.

Frank reports that their website captainmorgansdeltaadven gets about 11,000 visits per month. The website is very informative and describes some of the cruises that are available.

Frank originally advertised to Melinda that this would be a part time job, now she is claiming it was false advertising on his part as they now, on an average, have a cruise every other day and it has developed into a full time job for both of them. They desire and hop to spend time with their grandchildren in Pennsylvania and travel to places beyond the Delta. Melinda retired after 20 years of Army service so she is used to being on the move.

Captain Morgan’s Delta Adventures is for sale and this would be a fantastic business for the right person or couple. Frank and Melinda have honed the profits to a sharp edge and they have learned a lot over the last several years and are willing to pass that knowledge on to a new owner or owners. They will stay on to help and support the new owner while they learn the business. They will finish out the 2018 season and would like to “find a person or couple that is tired of sitting in a cubicle all day and wants to live the dream cruising the Delta and getting paid to do it.”

If you might be interested in making some money and have a good time doing it, get in touch with Captain Morgan. You can contact him at 925/383.5346 or If I were a younger lad, I would jump on this opportunity. Think about it, where would you have more fun working than showing folks our local waterways?


Eight Bells

I am sad to report that a good friend to many of us, Larry Hazelett has crossed over the bar. He was killed in an automobile accident in late June. Larry was the skipper of the 42-foot, 1959 Stephens sport fisher, Sea Witch. When he purchased her the previous owner had dismantled much of the interior. Larry got it all back together and brought her back to her former glory. Somehow Larry knew where just about every Stephens boat was berthed and when they came up for sale. He was the go to guy for folks looking for a classic Stephens yacht. Larry and his wife, Janet, were Classic Yacht Association members for several years. They attended many events and Larry was always a lot of fun at any party. I would describe his sense of humor as crazy. At the time of his passing he was a member of the Diablo Yacht Club. At his request no service or memorial was held. Janet survives him.


Irish Pennants

Jan McCleery of the Save the California Delta Alliance reports that their recent golf tournament fund raiser was a huge success bringing in $25,000 that will be used to help stop the Brown/Laird/Metropolitan Water District, twin tunnel WaterFraud project.

Jerry Tremain reports that the Marina West Yacht Club (MWYC) hosted the Discovery Bay Yacht Club in July. One of the members took aerial photos with his drone. It was a Luau Theme. John Romero and Paul Cameron did a fantastic job of cooking. Here are some dinner pictures. The event fed well over 60 of their members.

Paul Cameron, MWYC port captain, reported on a day trip the club made. They traveled from Oxbow Marina up Georgiana Slough to the Walnut Grove guest dock. They made a quick run to Tony’s for a cocktail. When they returned to the boats they headed down the Sacramento River to Rio Vista to The Point Restaurant for lunch. After lunch they headed west through Three Mile Slough then up the San Joaquin and up the Mokelumne back to Georgiana Slough and home. They made it back to Oxbow by 2000 hours. Oh and yes they had plenty of drink and food aboard to consume between stops.

Recently a sailor on Lake Michigan drowned when he fell overboard during a race and his inflatable PFD did not inflate (see Mark Reid’s column, Front Rudder, in this month’s issue). Remember these devices need inspections at least annually and you should inspect yours anytime you wear it. It never hurts to review the manufacturer’s instructions once in a while, assuming you did not throw them away.

Just after I hit enter and send this masterpiece to the big editor in the sky, I am heading to Village West Marina in Stockton. The Pellarin brothers have invited Stephens boats in for the weekend. Stephens and other classic yachts are coming from all over northern California; it should be an interesting weekend. It is also the weekend of the Taste of the Delta at the marina. I will have a full report on both events for you next month.

Patricia Atkins of the San Joaquin Yacht Club advises me that they are in their final push to reach their goal for Meals on Wheels to have raised $500,000 in the 30 years they have been involved with the program. She mentioned they have their annual Champagne Cruise on September 15th, but also keep your eyes out for the Feeding Grandma & Grandpa $1 At A Time campaign.

This year is flying by, since Clara Yeats Asletine crossed over the bar a few years back I have no one to tell me when to transition from summer whites to winter blues, it is hard to keep track.

Let me know what you are up to, send me your 300dpi jpegs: 916/869.9141 or commo H

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