Monday, November 22, 2010

Sacramento River Delta

My trip to the Delta was interesting and scenic, with a close call at the end. The scenic portion was the non-stop Delta character of the marinas and shoreside eateries I stopped at. I began my trip at Brannan Island State Park (because it has a large ramp facility, a patrolled parking lot, and I have purchased a season pass to CA state parks). The first night I stayed at the Brannan Island State Park “marina”, a humble concoction of docks in a little cove just downstream from the launch ramp. It was safe and I hadn’t had the chance to get to know the area yet, so I paid my $14 and called it a night (no power and water). NOTE: I don’t recommend this to anyone who has a problem with noise. There are tent campsites just across the way, and I can’t believe how loud and noisy they are, even after 11PM. There are many marinas and, if you look for them, many anchoring grounds nearby. I recommend making reservations or coming early enough in the afternoon to choose a spot for the night.
The next morning I visited the coin-op showers (nice!) and bathrooms, then set out to explore the area. My range included the Sacramento, Mokelumne and San Juaquin Rivers, and a number of sloughs. I ventured all the way up to Tower Park Marina, then came out the back way onto the San Joaquin. I spent the night where they have the 4th of July fireworks (had experienced this place when we’d taken “Tortuga” for a test drive). The next day I set out for Frank’s Tract and for Antioch, and then back up the San Joaquin River to Brannon Island. I enjoyed a couple of meals ashore, but ate on the boat most of the time. I took down the radar tower twice to make it under a couple of low bridges (at high tide), and enjoyed the slow Delta pace.
NOTE: I recommend the Angus burger at the Moore’s Boathouse (proprietary docks right in front of the restaurant), and the steak & egg breakfast at Spindrift Restaurant; both are a boat-up affair on 10-mile “the loop” off Highway 12. Spindrift Restaurant is across the street from the marina, so your tie up is at the guest dock near the office and fuel dock. The Spindrift  Restaurant is a nautically-themed restaurant with a 5’ model of the Normandie and a full-size diving suit on display. Though the bar was in full bloom at 9:30 AM, the restaurant side was very nice and the food was great.
Upon returning to the dock on Sunday, I put the boat alongside the dock and went to get my truck. As I stepped out onto the dock, another boat was making for the next dock over. I lent a hand landing the boat (the owner had recently purchased it and wasn’t used to it yet). When we finally got the boat tied up, I went on about getting my truck. The owner of the other boat was nice enough to help me get Kokomo lined up and on the trailer before he pulled away.
I was checking the front tie downs, when all of sudden there was a loud crash, and I looked around the other side of my boat to see the boat (a 25’ or 27’ Bayliner cabin cruiser) the trailer (minus the truck!), missing my boat and truck by a few feet, barreling backwards into the Delta waters. There was no getting in the middle of this, so I watched as the boat and trailer settled into the waters about 20’ aft of the water line, glad that my truck and boat had been spared. The owner was as amazed as I was that the boat hadn’t hit anything else and that it had gone back into the water where it had come out (it had to make quite a corner to do this). I told him I’d help him figure out what to do, and that I had a winch on the my truck that would pull it out. With my boat and trailer on it I pulled the truck and trailer out of the water and pulled in just ahead of his truck.
We had kept the boat and trailer from catching on the docks (under the docks) by attaching lines and lifting it towards the truck, but as we got it up the ramp, the weight became too heavy. I suggested a winch, and the owner said he had a winch - he pointed to a tiny little winch on his ‘headache’ rack and said that ought to do it. I looked at the boat and trailer and that little winch and chose not to say what I was thinking. I again offered my (big!) winch, and he refused. He got the winch line out and hooked it up to boat trailer and winched it slowly towards the trailer
Then two guys from the ramp area came running down to see if they could help. We were virtually done with the project (might still need the big winch), but they were sure they had the solution and loudly set about looking at the boat and trailer, etc. etc. I think they were more than a 6-pack (each) into their beer stores. The owner was too kind to tell them to ‘bug out’ so we just continued with what we were doing. Just about 3’ before the trailer engaged to the hitch, the little winch made some “gurgling” sounds and faltered. Too much of the boat was coming out of the water and the winch could barely keep up. I pictured loosing the boat into the water again, but stayed silent. But, after giving it a rest, the winch pulled the boat up the rest of the way and we got it on the trailer. The two guys were talking about how the incident had happened and how they’d figured out how to rescue it; was a little funny if you think about it, but I can see where the owner would be a little less prone to humor.  I excused myself from the loud, drunken excess of the two men and shook the owner’s hand, leaving to tend to my boat.
We still don’t know how the trailer came off. Maybe an adjustment on his hitch or perhaps he never had it on right from home. He had the right ball, and he had the safety chain (which snapped when the boat broke loose) engaged. Better here than on the highway!
Later, I was busy putting my boat in order, and pulling it up to the front roller and the winch broke. This was on dry, level land, but I was curious how I’d get my boat home safely. The owner of the other boat, who was out getting his boat squared away, gave me a clevis that I could put on the safety chain to get me home. I now have three connections that I make up front: (1) the winch line (13,700# breaking strength), (2) a double safety chain with a pelican-style hook, and (3) a vertical limiter that checks the up and down motion Rosboroughs want to make while on the trailer. 
And now I check my hitch/ball connection before I put the boat on the trailer.

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San Quentin Prison

San Quentin Prison
One of the more 'captivating' sites along the Corte Madera channel . Rowers from Corte Madera are practicing in the foreground.