Monday, July 10, 2017

2017 Mid Year Report

Caliente Isle Yacht Club:

Fleet Captain's 2017 Mid-year Review and a Look Forward

To make for good member communication, each year we take a pause after the busy 4th of July activities to look back on what we've been up to and what's coming up in the remainder of the year.  As you remember back in January when you sent in your dues check, the calendar was pretty full. Below are the events we've enjoyed and some details about upcoming activities.

Commodore's Ball--this year's ball was held at the venerable Rusty Porthole whose owners, now good friends of CIYC, closed the place to their regular customers for a few hours.  Several boats cruised in and enjoyed fine weather on the docks before and after the ball -- except for 50 mph winds on Saturday night.  Nevertheless, it was a great party with an especially fine band. Plenty of our folks were out on the dance floor for much of the night.
Crab Feed.  The week following the Commodore's Ball was the annual Crab Feed at Oxbow Marina, now the home of our old crab feed friends at the Marina West Yacht Club.  Ours was a relatively small turnout for this dead-of-winter cruise out but we did have some 12-15 members and guests who drove or boated in on the three boats braving winter rain and wind to spend a couple of nights on the MWYC guest dock.

We had scheduled a cruise -in to our old friends at San Joaquin Yacht Club on Bethel Island's Sandmound Slough for their Valentine's Day party.  Being in the middle of February and in the wettest winter in years, we had our challenges.  First, the SJYC clubhouse (the still floating, somewhat, the historic SS Sutter riverboat) was challenged by what the Commodore would call a sinking incident.  The vessel didn't really sink, it just listed badly till stopped by the pilings that hold it in place.  Long story short, SJYC simply picked up and moved the entire party to Tug's restaurant on Bethel Island's main drag.  The band was really cooking,  the food great and the setting unique. It was nice catching up with Page Pratt the proprietor (he, a real deal tugboat operator in the Bay for many years) who is a former Caliente member.

After a very wet February, we got into an even wetter March, but our St. Patrick's Day cruise to Windmill Cove was in beautiful weather. A great time was had by all, especially our beer tasting off the sterns of member's boats in which we were joined by plenty of people we didn't know (it was St. Patrick's Day you know.)  Didn't matter--great fun!  Later in the month, we had pre-paid reservations at Delta Yacht Club, as we have had for many years, but the Commodore called to say that they had to offer to give our deposit money back.  It turns out that their island was flooded, the clubhouse very muddy and fences were down all around.  Most troubling, the Commodore (a major plumbing contractor in SF) said he couldn't say that the septic system wasn't damaged. Without much additional thought, we decided to take him up on his offer of a refund and headed off to Moore's Riverboat on the Mokelumne River as a fall back. The wind blew as hard as it could on Friday get-away-day, so only Happy Clown braved the situation that day and many more came a day late.  Winter boating is always fun but can be a challenge!

Our Spring General Meeting was held at Sugarbarge Resort on Bethel Island's Piper Slough. These folks are always happy to see customers and basically gave us their downstairs restaurant at no charge.  Members turned out in large numbers to hear about the good news regarding membership holding firm in the new year (and growing recently), a sound financial picture and a full calendar of events for the rest of the year.  After the meeting, many members stayed around for dinner and the music of a terrific band whose drummer was just short of deranged.

This month turned out to be full of activity.  We started with a cruise out to Village West Marina and the Garlic Brothers Restaurant. The weather was fine, the Cinco de Mayo party at Village West Yacht Club hot on Friday and the Saturday dinner at Garlic Brothers cold (just kidding, only for the salad eaters amongst us.)  Saturday also included a visit to the Haggin Museum in Stockton and a look at the Stephens boat and the history of the Stephens Brothers company.  The month's main event, of course, was CIYC's 50th Anniversary Party!! (I hope you've taken the time to view the photos at all our events.)  We had nearly 100 members and guests in attendance, a number of them former members returning for the celebration.  We read the names of members who had taken their last voyage across the bar during an Eight Bells ceremony. We had raffles. We had a blessing of the fleet.  We had fine food and dancing at the Stockton Yacht Club, our hosts for the long Memorial Day weekend.  Finally, we had a scattering of flowers and a wreath out on the main river with club members' boats sounding their horns.  Thanks especially to Kim Sechler and Sally Sue Christopher for their fine efforts to make this milestone event the true success it was!  It was also terrific to have Scott and Andrea Ancha join us that weekend, with their two kids (Dylan, who loves to fish) and Maya (who is "good with dogs"--very, very good.)  It's particularly great to have some young kids in the club.  They have a 44' Sea Ray  that  is very easy on the eyes.  Mike and Erica Lawrie also joined us on our 50th year anniversary. They have a 34' Sea Ray which is also quite nice.

Busy as May was, there was still time to load a few of our folks on buses to join Discovery Bay Yacht Club for a Day at the Races  at Golden Gate Fields.  This event is a continuation of CIYC's annual affair.

This brings us to the present.  We've just returned from a long stay at anchor awaiting Barron Hilton's annual fireworks display at Mandeville Tip, just off the San Joaquin River.  The CIYC fleet grew as the days on the hook grew to a week or more for some.  At its apex, the raft up had something like 15 boats, including the boats of two visiting couples, both of whom had so much fun they joined the club! At the moment, we only have the name of Richard and Willie Ann Davidson at hand. They have a very fine  33' Wellcraft (I know from my conversation with Rich that they have a 42' sailboat in charter on the East Coast where they hail from.)  Soon all these new members will receive in the mail their burgee, membership card and club directory.
And, don't forget the 18th Annual Glen C. Scrimger Go Fast Mystery Cruise on July 29th.  This one day event features using our fast boats--runabouts and the like--for a day tooling around the Delta visiting some of the most notorious Delta Dives known to Delta Denizens.  Watch this space!

You've just received a "save the date" reminder promising more information on the Commodore Island cruise out. The dates for this cruise are August 11-13. Commodore Island is a very scenic, privately held spot owned by Cruiser Haven Yacht Club on Disappointment Slough, within sight of King Island Resort.  Several of our members are also members of that club, making for formal sponsorship of our visit.  There is a long, very well protected side tie dock, ample grass for lounging, etc. as well as many picnic tables and a couple of nice BBQ pits. A key feature for this mid-summer cruise is the protected swimming area.  More info will be coming soon as this date comes into sharp focus.

First up, is the long Labor Day weekend September 1-4.   As the temps get into the 90's and higher, water fun is in order!  We will anchor against the shore at Three River Reach, just upstream from Mandeville Tip. Once bothered by grass and bugs, this venue has been checked out and found to be largely clear of these problems because of the high water flows this spring/early summer.  Anchoring out means having good bow and stern anchors and the ability to use them (helpers will be in dinghies but don't abuse their offers and expect valet service!)  Bring water toys of all kinds.  If you have a drone, bring it---we need some aerial shots of our fun! 

This month also hosts our annual end of summer week-long cruise, usually down into the Bay but this year up to Old Sacramento.  I hope you set your work vacation when the calendar first came out as this trip promises to be different.  Some fine details are still being worked out but plan on rendezvousing on Saturday, September 9th at Korth's Pirates Lair on the Mokelumne River (berthing details being worked on.)  From there, we will cruise down the San Joaquin River, turn north through Three Mile Slough, under the Hwy 160 lift bridge and N/E up into Delta Marina in Rio Vista.  From there we will sail under the huge Hwy 12 bridge and up stream into the picturesque Steamboat Slough and on to the much photographed,  iconic bascule bridge at Steamboat Landing. From there, we move further up the Sacramento River for a night at Sacramento Yacht Club to enjoy their park-like setting.  We then move upstream and across to Old Sac where we will spend a couple of days/nights.  Old Sac offers plenty of activities from fine dining, to museums (steam locomotives plus, plus,) the historic Delta King riverboat  hotel, and shopping of all kinds.  A couple of our folks are likely to hire a salmon guide, if fishing for that cultural creature is allowed at that time. Be prepared to sleep well at night. We will return via the very cool upper Delta waterways past the Chinese community of  Locke and the public docks at Walnut Grove (pizza and ice cream) and finally down the heavily wooded banks of Georgiana Slough. Figure a week-long trip.  Watch for further details!

Plans are being set for our Fall General Meeting which will likely involve a weekend-long cruise out to a meeting venue. Mark it down for October 13-15.  Might there be yet another event in October? How about swimming in the heated pool and eating ice cream at Tower Park, now under new ownership and really nice.  We've gotten to know the proprietor of Sunset Sweets ice cream parlor and can personally  recommend Pralines and Cream--truly extraordinary!  (Last minute editors note--wifey tells me that the ice cream joint closes after Labor Day--maybe ice cream bars at the well-stocked store and pricey coffee at the new cafe.)

Once again, CIYC's patented "Friendsgiving Cruise Out" is calendared, this year for November 17-19 to be an anchor out at "a secret place"  (details of this hidden location to be provided by special courier at a time and place of the Fleet Captain's choosing.)  Get ready for a most unusual and really fun Thanksgiving on the water.

As set out in the 2017 calendar, this year's annual Change of Watch will be held at the Commodore's Ball in January.

Final reminder--
Only five more monthly Caliente Character stories to endure in this, CIYCs 50th Anniversary year.  Trying to figure out how to write about Jo Anne's father without causing marital strife.  Now, there was a real beaut of a guy!

Sunday, July 2, 2017

More memories to share

Bill Bennett became Commodore of CIYC in 1996.  He was a bit different than most Commodores in that nearly all incoming Commodores of the time pretty much stuck to tradition.  Only a few came in with lots of new ideas for the club--Bill was in this category.  He was full of ideas, some truly great, some semi-great and as this story will show, some just plain lousy.

Bill and his wife, Jean, joined the club in the late 1980's.  As the incoming Commodore ten years or so later, Bill saw opportunities to make improvements to the clubhouse and its surroundings.  He was a degreed engineer, maybe a structural engineer of some kind. His business was in Alviso where his small company built large things out of steel. I’m pretty sure that many of Silicon Valley’s structures have Bill’s mark on them. Soon he was putting his mark all around and inside the clubhouse.

We needed a really nice BBQ on the patio. Bill built one that must have weighed a ton, almost literally. Lifting the dual hoods was in itself a challenge.  Lifting the massive grills to adjust heat was even more of a challenge. But when Bill was done with his cutting and welding, there is no doubt that we had one of the finest BBQ’s in the Delta. The island probably sank another foot when that thing came on board.

Inside the clubhouse, we had a variety of very heavy folding chairs for our sit-down events. In keeping with the “Caliente Way,” some were by one manufacturer, others by another and others still by yet a different builder, each chair having its own dimensions. You could say that they didn’t nest together very well—storage was a real problem. So, Bill welded up three huge roll-around chair holders. His brilliant idea was to hang the chairs upside down on hooks so that they didn’t really need to nest at all.  They  just hung there, clanging into each other.

Now these chair holders were “built by Bill.”  That is to say they were heavy.  When loaded with steel chairs the whole rig must have weighed several hundred pounds. But Bill saw this coming and put industrial strength wheels under each rack, the kind that roll and turn very easily. And there were three of these massive contraptions.  All this worked pretty well but woe be the person caught between these rolling beasts which were pushed by often over-zealous club members helping to clean up the place after an event. Many of these "helpers" found ways to have too much fun pushing and spinning the racks every which way. When put back in their corner storage area, the building sagged. We were lucky that nobody was killed by one of our rolling chair gizmos. It would have been an awkward eight bells ceremony.

Bill really put his mark on the club when it came to philanthropy and club participation in Delta events.  He saw an opportunity to give back to the community with his “Speak-Easy” fund-raisers. The idea was modeled on Driftwood YC’s annual “Make-A-Wish” fund-raiser. Bill was a long-time member of a fraternal organization that supported kids with speaking disorders. He figured that he could promote an event that would attract club members and boaters in the area who would give rides to people who donated to the cause. The money raised would support speech therapy for youngsters. This event went on for a few years and they were mostly well-attended and financially successful.  But, it must be said, he didn’t always have the full support of his Board -- maybe because Bill was a real driver and Board members liked to enjoy their weekends in other pursuits.  Implementing Bill’s many ideas, always overly grand, was a lot of hard work.

An example of active participation in Delta events was his interest in putting together fantastically decorated boat entries for Bethel Island’s annual Opening Day Parade around the island.  “Fantastic” was one of Bill’s favorite words and (not coincidentally) the name of his and Jean’s boat.  Perhaps his most fantastic decorating idea was to turn a small runabout into a floating duck.  Now this duck wouldn’t just have a head-like piece in front and a few tail feathers stuck out the back.  Nope, it would be a fully shaped duck, built in light steel (by Bill of course) and decked out in club colors. There would be nothing visible from the outside of the boat of the operators inside the thing. One of those would be Bill, who was huge (he played football for the legendary Bear Bryant at Alabama.)  When he got inside the duck there wasn’t much room left for other things--like air. 

As was the case each Opening Day, when the parade came into view, club members would pull themselves away from the bar just in time to watch the show from the deck, cheer the decorated boats they admired as they motored by and then returned to the bar the moment the last boat passed. As this particular parade came around the clubhouse, we awaited our duck in its Caliente colors from the deck. Bill and a mate piloted the duck slowly first toward and then away from our dock giving all a good view and him the adulation he sought (Bill might have thought pretty highly of himself on occasion).  Once he passed by, he brought the duck back in line with the other parading boats and we all yelled out to our duck final encouragement, and returned to the bar--as tradition would have it. However, non-traditionally a few minutes later we got a call from someone at a marina a quarter of a mile downstream-- “your duck is acting badly and hit our dock.” Truly worried, some of us managed to move from the bar to go check out what was wrong with the duck. Long story short—Bill had nearly passed out from carbon monoxide poisoning.  Fortunately, he was soon revived and our duck was towed home in disgrace. No prize that year.

You couldn’t say that Bill was the reckless type, except for the problem with the airless duck that year. A couple of years later, however, it was time to move closer to family up north. He told all that he didn’t need to truck the boat north, that he would simply motor the 42’ trawler up the coast all the way to Blaine, WA (Canada in easy sight). Having the guts of a gopher, as my mother would say, he simply took off. He was gone for a couple of weeks and then showed up back at the clubhouse one day with quite a story. It was the middle of summer on the California coast. He got as far as Bodega Bay or maybe it was Fort Bragg and the wind was really up and the seas as well. Things weren’t going well. I’m not sure but I think his refrigerator might have come loose, flying around the galley (or was that another character’s story) and causing some concern even for Bill, who piloted from the fly bridge and was never concerned. I believe he just left his boat there for the rest of summer, finally getting it to its new home months later and into the yard for some significant interior work. 

Bill passed away a few years ago but if you were to ask any club member around during his tenure, Bill Bennett would be said to be a really solid guy—and a true Caliente Character.