Delta Doo Dah
Latitude 38

Delta Doo Dah 3D, September 2011

Who could have suspected that such a goofy-sounding event as the Delta Doo Dah would age as gracefully as the finest Bordeaux? OK, maybe more like a decent boxed wine, but still, the week-long rally from San Francisco Bay to the Delta just seems to get better and better every year.

"Best Doo Dah ever," enthused three-time vet Jay Hickman of the Islander 36 Zorza when asked how the third running of the event stacked up with the previous years. That was a common sentiment with the crews from the 20 other veteran boats who joined the Delta Doo Dah 3D, though they couldn't always put their finger on exactly why.

Maybe it was the hearty welcome the fleet of 50 boats received at each of the official stops. Or perhaps it was all the great prizes donated by generous sponsors. Or it could have simply been the excitement and entertainment that comes from bringing together 120 sailors who all want the same thing: to have a little fun in the sun.

Delta Doo Dah 3D kicked off the evening of July 29 at Berkeley YC, where skippers and crew got the chance to get to know each other, swap a few stories and dip into some of the mouthwatering pulled pork whipped up by vets — and BYC members — Erik and Brian Jones of the Glastron Spirit 28 Sizzle. Berkeley Marina graciously hosted a number of Doo Dah'ers who had brought their boats over in preparation for the following morning's photo op/start.

As has been so typical of this summer, the morning of July 30 dawned gray and gloomy but almost as soon as the fleet sailed under the Richmond Bridge at around 11 a.m., the skies cleared and the wind filled in enough for some brisk — yet smooth — sailing all the way to the event's first official stop: Vallejo YC.
Having a century's worth of experience fitting hundreds of boats into their snug harbor, VYC members neatly tucked the fleet in between rows and called everyone up for dinner. After an in-depth skippers' meeting — during which guest speakers Chris Lauritzen talked about getting around in the Delta and James Muller with the San Francisco Estuary Partnership offered everyone anchored in Potato Slough on Wednesday a free holding tank pump-out, and tons of prizes were handed out — the tables were cleared and the dance floor filled. Some revelers enjoyed the club's relaxed bar hours until the wee hours, making the next morning's early wake-up call a bit of a headache . . . in more ways than one.

With a 40-mile day lying ahead, coupled with an early switch in the current, the fleet was ready to break the raft-up at 9 a.m. — though some crewmembers were noticeably less perky than others. Their spirits were soon lifted as the wind picked up and the marine layer cleared, making for one of the loveliest sailing days many had had in a long time. Though some were worried about making it to Owl Harbor Marina by the time the 'Welcome to the Delta' party was scheduled to start at 6 p.m., nearly every boat was settled in before the band even started tuning up.
Owl Harbor Habormaster Devery Stockon and her crew went all out to welcome Doo Dah'ers, going so far as to relocate some tenants in order to fit the fleet. But it only got better from there, as everyone found out when they walked down the levee to a big tent and a free Mexican buffet. If that weren't enough for the crowd — and it would have been since we all know that the best way to earn a sailor's heart is to give him free food — Devery gave away prizes and then introduced a killer blues band that kept the house rockin' for hours.

As the sun rose Monday morning, this Doodette found herself being interviewed by the effervescent Bethany Crouch from Fox 40 Live, a Sacramento morning show. During one segment, Bethany wanted to illustrate some of the maintenance boatowners have to perform, so she gamely rode a bosun's chair up the mast! (You can see all the segments at or on 'Lectronic Latitude.)

Many were loath to leave the comforts of Owl Harbor, especially after being treated to a complimentary pancake breakfast (see earlier statement about hungry sailors), but the time had come to move on to what's become a Doo Dah tradition: the Bethel Island Beach Party.

After the fantastic welcome the fleet received at Owl Harbor, folks wondered how their week could get any better. Enter Bethel Island's Peter Yates and his madcap crew of partythrowers. As the fleet approached this year's new Bethel Island destination, Sugar Barge Resort & Marina, Peter deftly packed everyone in like those stinky little fish.

The mood was festive and many crewmembers hopped a ride aboard a WWII-era bridge tender to a small beach on Franks Tract, where Peter's vivacious fiancée Katherine greeted them. Folks took turns buzzing around on Sea-Doos, wakeboarding behind speed boats, testing their balance on paddleboards or just drinking up the sun (not to mention the rum drinks Katherine and her helpers handed to every over-age arrival). "I didn't do the Beach Party last year," said one Doo Dah vet, "and now I really regret it. This was a total blast!"

Just about the time the last boat full of partiers returned, Sugar Barge started serving mouth-watering tri-tip dinners, followed by locals and Doo Dah'ers alike getting up to sing karaoke, play instruments, and generally make a delightful ruckus.

Tuesday was the first of three 'free days', a time for Doo Dah'ers to do a little exploring on their own. While most of the fleet — about 30 boats — followed this Doodette to Potato Slough, a handful accompanied Doodette Christine Weaver up Georgiana Slough to Walnut Grove, and even more adventurous souls set off on their own.

Those in Potato Slough's Bedroom 2 were treated to free holding tank pumpouts on Wednesday, then later converged on Ruben and Robbie Gabriel's Pan Oceanic 46 Buffalo Spirit for a potluck. We stopped counting the bodies after 50 people boarded to chow down, visit with new friends they had yet to meet, and listen to the Potato Slough Jam Band, which included an electric guitar, bass, keyboard, harmonica and full drum set!

It's funny, but the days in Bedroom 2 seem to pass very quickly — one minute you're sharing your morning tea with some neighbors, the next you're in an epic water battle followed by an even more epic sailing dinghy race (a race won by the doublehanded team of Eric Kopps, 14, from Resolute and Austin Borg, 13, from Solace). The next thing you know, you're wondering how it got to be Friday morning already.

But Friday it was — the last day of the Doo Dah. The cooling winds that had kept everyone from overheating the rest of the week evaporated, forcing the thermometer to peak around 100° by the time the fleet arrived at the always-friendly Stockton Sailing Club.

Doo Dah'ers were greeted by helpful chase boats guiding them in, air conditioning in the bar, and plenty of ice cold drinks. A kayak race was organized for 14 of the more energetic folks, who earned Latitude 38 hats as a reward. But the real celebration started a little later with SSC's famous BBQ dinner and the Doo Dah Hoopla. Live music, dancing and prizes galore ended the Delta Doo Dah 3D in style.

As it is every year, Saturday morning's dispersal of the fleet was a bittersweet affair. But hopefully everyone was left with happy memories of a fantastic week in the sun. We'd like to think that, much like a 1999 Chateau Le Pin Pomerol, the Doo Dah "leaves a lasting taste and a lingering sensation."

- latitude/ladonna

This story was reprinted from the September, 2011, issue of Latitude 38. To order a copy with all the color photos, use the subscription order form, and specify the 9/11 issue, or just drop us a note with a check for $7 to Latitude 38, Attn: Back Issues, 15 Locust Ave., Mill Valley, CA 94941. This issue is also available for free on eBook.

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