Delta Doo Dah
Latitude 38

Delta Doo Dah Fab 4, September 2012

With a theme of 'Fab 4', this year's Delta Doo Dah — a weeklong rally for 50 boats from San Francisco Bay to the Delta — had a lot to live up to. It couldn't be just good; it had to blow all three previous Doo Dahs out of the water. Each Doo Dah has had its own flavor and personality, but we think this year's event really lived up to its name.

Doo Dah'ers were eager to get their vacations started, and the great majority of skippers and crew stopped in at Berkeley YC on July 27 for the Kick-Off Party. Once again, Berkeley Marina generously hosted several members of the fleet, and the yacht club invited crewmembers to join their Friday night beer can race. With its loose structure and friendly meet-and-greet nature, the Kick-Off Party really sets the tone for the entire event: Don't expect hand-holding, go out of your way to meet new people and, above all, have a great time.

The event started the next morning, Saturday, with the instruction that the fleet time their arrival at Vallejo YC — that night's host — after 1 p.m. to avoid a traffic jam with the club's Learn to Sail program. As the sailing students were putting away their gear, the first Doo Dah'ers started trickling in — with music from the The Beatles blasting over the loudspeaker. With help from club members, the boats were snuggled 'Great Vallejo Race-style' in the fairway between the first two docks, and soon their crews were up at the club enjoying some refreshing beverages and VYC's famed hospitality.

Great food and fun prizes kept everyone in their seats for the skippers' meeting, which included a short presentation by the good-natured James Muller of the San Francisco Estuary Partnership, during which he offered everyone anchored at Potato Slough on Thursday a free holding tank pump-out. Patty Boucher from the Catalina 42 Neener3 had the bright idea of quizzing the crowd for their guesses as to the source of the strange sounds near Pt. Pinole. "Chevron belching," said one Doo Dah'er. "A sound barrier for whales," guessed another. "The egos of the America's Cup skippers," joked a third. But it was Dan Baker from the Hunter 35 Fuzzy Logic who took home the grand prize of a solar-powered lantern for the most popular theory: "It's the sound of all the people in the Bay Area realizing they're missing the Delta Doo Dah." (The real answer is drag racing at Sears Point.)

With as much planning as it takes to organize a rally such as the Doo Dah, the Doodettes are bound to make an error or two in judgment. This year's biggest — but certainly not only — 'oops' was the timing of the trip to Bethel Island on Sunday.

In years past, this Doodette would be stationed by Red Rock at Saturday's start to capture the fleet as they passed under the Richmond Bridge. But, as we like to do, we switched things up a bit this year by scheduling the official photo op on Sunday to catch boats sailing under the Carquinez Bridge. We thought it would give us a better chance for sun and smiles. And since Dave Riggs and Tracy Venable of the Sugar Barge Resort & Marina, who kindly offered to host the fleet Sunday night as well as Monday, asked that we arrive after 5 p.m., we thought a noon 'start' at the bridge seemed reasonable.

Not so much.

A brisk ebb hampered the fleet's progress and made for a long day of sailing, which was at least made pleasant by warm temps that saw everyone stripping off clothes as they made their way upriver. As it turned out, the first boats didn't start tying up at Sugar Barge till the sun was low in the sky, but the kitchen stayed open late to serve hungry sailors fish and chips.

One thing that never fails to impress us is when sailors go to the aid of their fellows in need. This was driven home on Sunday when one Doo Dah'er fouled his prop at the entrance to False River and his boat ended up on the levee. Barry Foster of the True North 34 Tinuviel was able to maneuver his full-keel bluewater cruiser close enough to the stricken boat to drop off a crewmember and secure a tow line. While it wasn't a quick process, Tinuviel was able to pull the boat off the rocks and get it anchored securely while the owner waited for Vessel Assist to arrive. Thankfully no one was injured and the boat wasn't severely damaged. The next morning, Mike Kastrop from the Catalina 30 Goose cleared the prop and the boat was ready to go. It was a real team effort.

The excitement of fitting nearly 50 boats into a space where just a few are supposed to moor was nothing compared to Monday's annual Beach Party, hosted by Peter Yates and his lovely fiancée Katherine Anderson. "Seeing all those people having such a great time is what it's all about," says Peter. And have a great time they did. It seemed nearly every Doo Dah'er made their way to Peter's favorite beach — we've never seen it so packed! Revelers enjoyed the delicious libations and snacks served by Katherine and her helpers, stand-up paddle boards provided by Hanna SUP, and a passel of Jet Skis, ski boats and other floating fun-makers provided by Peter and his friends. The night was topped off with the obligatory '60s costume contest, fantastic food and a jam band that couldn't be beat.

New on this year's itinerary was King Island Resort, nestled on Disappointment Slough just off the San Joaquin on the way toward Stockton. Jah Mackey and his crew welcomed the fleet — which all made it with plenty of daylight to spare, thank you very much — with real aloha spirit. "Everyone's a king at King Island!" Jah laughed as he put a paper crown on one Doo Dah kid's head. Indeed, all were welcome to join that night's luau-style party — complete with roasted pig — and enjoy the musical stylings of classic rock band Crystal Image.

The second, and thankfully final, mishap of this Doo Dah occurred just as the party was gearing up. A group of teenagers were out playing in a dinghy when a 14-year-old boy fell out and was injured by the prop. Two medical professionals — along with a host of others — helped get the boy stabilized and to a hospital, where he received 20 stitches. It was a sobering reminder that, while playing in dinghies can be a total blast, danger lurks just a few inches below the water. (At last word, the young man was healing nicely.)

With just two free days this year, the fleet wasted no time heading out to do a little exploring. About 25 boats joined this Doodette in Potato Slough's Bedroom Two, while eight boats hightailed it to blissfully bug-free Mildred Island, a handful worked their way up to Walnut Grove, and the rest explored on their own. Reports of potlucks on docks and insect repellent-free sundowners may have had a few Potato Slough'ers a little envious, but the swimming, sailing and sunset/full moon dinghy raft-up — not to mention the free pump-outs from BayGreen — made up for the minor inconveniences.

All too soon, Friday, August 3, the last day of the Doo Dah, dawned. From all corners of the Delta, boats converged on Owl Harbor Marina, where they were welcomed like old friends. The Mardi Gras costume party that Devery Stockon and her crew put on was, to say the least, outrageous. The killer blues band Big Cat and the Hipnotics rocked the house while Doo Dah'ers pranced around in silly costumes, gorged on a barbecued rib dinner, and shared one last evening with 100 or so new best friends.

The mood was subdued at the following morning's pancake breakfast. The Delta even threw a tantrum — in the form of a thunderstorm — that the Fab 4 was over. But all good things must come to an end, or so they say. What you take with you are 'forever memories' of an event that was, in every sense of the word, fabulous.

— latitude/'doodette' ladonna

Link to Fab 4 boat list

Fab 4 Sponsors
Berkeley MarinaBerkeley Yacht ClubVallejo Yacht ClubSugerbarge Resort and MarinaKing Island ResortOwl Harbor MarinaAlmar's Martinez MarinaB's BalmsBoatU.S.C&T PublishingCalifornia Delta Chambers & Visitors BureauCalifornia Department of Boating and WaterwaysHanna SUPLatitude 38Lauritzen Yacht HarborLittle Venice Yacht ClubOrgano Gold Coffee & TeaOwl Harbor MarinaSan Francisco Estuary PartnershipBayGreen Mobile Pump-out and Marine SanitationSouthbound SolarStockton Sailing ClubWest Marine

This story was reprinted from the September, 2012, issue of Latitude 38. To order a copy with all the color photos, use the subscription order form, and specify the 9/12 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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