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The Delta 28 Jan 2009 17:13 #1

  • Monterey10
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Over the years, I've written down some of my experiences. You may have seen them posted here before. I hope the new readers enjoy/learn from these experiences:

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The DeltaBaylinerClub is a loosely organized Bayliner club based in the center of the San Joaquin Delta. (California) Most club members with the larger boats are based out of the Discovery Bay marina/housing development. From this pristine marina, many delta anchorages can be reached in an hour or two.

Once a month, the club has an informal raft up in a quiet, backwater delta location. Most “good” locations are behind a north/south running levee, protecting the anchorages from the late afternoon Westerly. Depending on how close you are to the main rivers and channels, you can expect some tide movement. I learned early, that many of these anchorages were deep in the delta and were known only by word of mouth. Finding these spots required some work and good communication.

Vivi and I decided to trailer our boat from the cool foggy coast up to the delta and join the monthly club raft up. We left the modern cities behind and entered the hot inland valley. We passed miles of arid ranch lands. Ranch lands gave way to heavily irrigated fruit orchards. We passed through valley farming towns getting closer each minute.

When we approached the delta, we saw a brown dirt levee stretching for miles. At the top of the levee, we saw rich green waterways stretching to the horizon. Bamboo, Palm trees, and all sorts of rich green water plants lined the waterway. Frogs croaked and fish splashed in the dark green waters. Herons stalked the shallows for fishy morsels. Boys in overalls and straw hats sat on the aged docks, patiently watching their cane fishing poles. The warm humid air carried the scent of tropical flowers. It felt like we had entered a Huckleberry Finn storybook.

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Many delta launch spots are no more than a sun swept country store, bar and BBQ spot perched on the side of the levee. We saw a hand painted sign advertising the Friday night special BBQ. The place was vacant during the day. It appeared that most locals came out in the evening when things cooled off. Parched, we entered the store. At some time the footings to the building sank a bit on one side. We walked through the crooked building to the crooked freezer. We handed the crooked proprietor our launch and soda money. We paid $5 for the launch and 3 days of parking.

Some delta launch ramps are no more than steep pavement on the levee, suitable only to launch a skiff from. These are typically 2 or 3 feet deep. Other, more prosperous marinas had upgraded to trendy two lane cement launch ramps, with docks (!) These places were teaming with the water skiing crowds.

According to Chapman’s, the risk with inland waterways is running aground. Close scrutiny of the charts will reveal some of the problem areas. Only the locals keep tabs on the shoaling in the other places.

We proceeded slowly through the narrow channels of the upper delta. We slowed for several 5 mph zones. At one point, the channels opened up into the expansive “Frank’s Tract” bay. I was glad to get some open water around me. In the bay, I started noticing Clorox bottles moored in different locations. We ran aground shortly afterwards. Luckily, we backed off the mud and weed bar. We started looking for a way out of the “tract”. I prayed my Bluecharts were accurate about the 4’ of clear water ahead of me. At this point, I noticed most boats were taking the channels around the “tract”.

I’ve since learned that boaters avoided this inviting bay. A submerged tractor lay just under water in the middle. You could hit submerged tree stumps anywhere in the bay. We found the channel and proceeded on our way.

When you proceed down the bigger channels, you will see an occasion marker. These markers were numbered and were essential for finding your position on the map. Miles of levees gave way to thick tulle and tall grasses. Occasional signs warned to avoid under water pipes.

Further along the channel, we came across a low railroad bridge and a tugboat pushing a large gravel barge. Most bridges have a sign listing the bridge name and a VHF marina channel to call. We gave a call and the bridge operator tilted the bridge up, letting us pass.

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We were deeper into the delta. The waterways looked more like the rivers in the Deep South. Large trees with vines lined the shores. We approached the anchorage and spotted the club raft up. Club members waved and pointed to our position. Large boats were placed on one side, smaller on the other end. Numerous helping hands secured our position in the line up. Great care was taken to see that our swim step lined up with the other boats. I’ve since learned that the swim steps served as the informal side walk for the groups of visiting members.


This was our first raft up. Vivian was tepid to the thought of spending the “whole” weekend on such a small boat. I was relieved to find such warm sunny people at the end of our journey. Later, success was secured when a large group of women came down the swim platform sidewalk to visit. Vivian joined the group, and wandered down to the big 47 footer, chattering with her new found friends. I smiled; knowing that boating with the Admiral had just become a success.

I learned that club members put out some elegant meals, and drank beer, explored the nearby islands and drank more beer. Many brought PWCs and went exploring. We took our dingy around the anchorage. At one point we got stuck in a weed bed.


I enjoyed my conversations with seasoned “delta rats”. I admired their boats. As the weekend progressed, the aches and pains of the workweek faded and were replaced with the warm glow of the sun, the camaraderie of the group and memories of the beautiful anchorage.

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Craig Capitola Village, CA
1988 Bayliner 2556 (BoatAsaurus)
1996 Trophy 2352 (Mystic)

The Delta 29 Jan 2009 05:40 #2

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Great post. Sounds like a nice trip.

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The JoKiKa
Freeport, California
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The Delta 29 Jan 2009 06:13 #3

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Nice! Any links to the club? I was just up there monday, luanched from Tracy(rivers end) to do some fishing screwing around. Its fun up there. Is the sunken tractor in Franks tract?

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Jeremy, Just trying not to sink!
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The Delta 29 Jan 2009 14:17 #4

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We were thinking of cruising from south of Stockton to San Fransisco Bay in May. Were planning to take in alot of small towns and marinas. What kind of time frame should we be looking for?

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The Delta 29 Jan 2009 16:00 #5

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http://www.deltabaylinerclub.org/

Spring and fall are the times that you can avoid the intense heat inland and the fog along the coast. That said, we've had three trips that were warm and clear, and one that had storms. We had to hunker down in the marinas.

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When we did our trips, we tried to hit the festivals. Thursdays, Benicia had a Farmers market that was fun. Sausalito has a Spring fair the first part of May. We stayed at Marina Village in Alameda and took the ferry across to Jack London Square. There's good dining there and Yoshi's has some pretty good Jazz shows. Later, we went to South Beach marina and spent days in S.F. watching Baseball and seeing the sites. (Learn their rail system before you go). Mid week, when there wasn't much to do, we went to Angel Island and hiked. Clipper cove is a nice place to stay as well. If you find that a storm is coming, just call around and find a marina to duck into. We stayed at Emmeryville one storm because they had good bus service from the marina and the "Bay St" mall/movie theater was fun to visit.

I'll try to post the SF and Sausalito stories

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Craig Capitola Village, CA
1988 Bayliner 2556 (BoatAsaurus)
1996 Trophy 2352 (Mystic)

The Delta 30 Jan 2009 02:21 #6

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nismopowered;249872 wrote: Is the sunken tractor in Franks tract?

I know more people who've run around on Franks Tract than have not. Very shallow in parts.

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The JoKiKa
Freeport, California
1985 Ciera Sunbridge 2750

The Delta 31 Jan 2009 08:06 #7

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Charts for this area are very cheap, and do a pretty good job of directing you where to beware of. I spent several weekends in and around Frank's Tract, looking for a lost coworker, and they helped a great deal. Also beware of going full tilt thru various passageways as there are a few boaters that work on the principle of fast is right.

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Jim --it is better to be on shore wishing you were out there than to be out there wishing you were on shore.
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The Delta 31 Jan 2009 18:28 #8

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nismopowered;249872 wrote: Nice! Any links to the club? I was just up there monday, luanched from Tracy(rivers end) to do some fishing screwing around. Its fun up there. Is the sunken tractor in Franks tract?

The Delta Bayliner Club is here:
http://www.deltabaylinerclub.org/
I've known a few people who have gone straight across Frank's Tract at speed and had no problems. This was probably at high tide as many people have also run aground there as well. No one claims to have hit the tractor yet.
Here is the Frank's Tract info

Anyone who's spent time on the water here is familiar with Franks Tract, the huge "lake" near Bethel Island. But it wasn't always like that.

Franks Tract was originally about 3,500 acres of farmland belonging to John C. Franks. In 1937 a levee broke and the island was flooded. The local reclamation district spent $100,000 to repair the levee and pump the water out.

But the following winter the levee broke again. In 1938 the Great Depression was not yet a memory and another $100,000 was deemed too much to spend, so the area was left as is, giving us the "lake" we know as Franks Tract. It's now a California State Recreation Area, part of the state parks system.There have been many other levee breaks since Franks Tract was flooded, causing floods and occasional damage to marinas, but most are repaired and pumped dry.

"Rural legend" says there are still submerged cars and tractors that can be seen in certain spots on Franks Tract - and they are probably down there - but the delta waters are notoriously murky so it's unlikely anyone but a scuba diver could see them.

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:cool: Doug
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The Delta 04 Feb 2009 23:55 #9

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I used to live up in the suisun bay/fairfield/vacaville area.....it was nice living there albiet expensive....thanks for bringing that back to memory....fun times for sure..

:arr arr

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The Delta 05 Feb 2009 02:30 #10

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Isn't that tractor marked on Hal Schell's Delta Map?

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Kåre
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The Delta 08 Feb 2009 05:59 #11

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Sounds like a nice trip

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Tom Bassett
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