Delta Doo Dah
Latitude 38

Here Comes the Sun, September 2010

This summer may well come to be known as 'The Summer That Never Was'. Bay sailors are accustomed to the biting winds so typical of summer here, but this year they were less than thrilled with a persistent marine layer that hid the sun behind a veil of gray for most of the month of July, as well as much of August. In fact, according to the National Weather Service, this July was San Francisco's coolest since 1971, with an average daily high of 63 degrees (the average July high is 72). So it was with great anticipation that the participants in the second annual Delta Doo Dah — aka, Delta Doo Dah Deux — prepared themselves and their boats for a week of basking in the Delta sun.

Thought up over a bottle of wine at the company Christmas party, the Doo Dah was intended to encourage folks to explore their own backyard. Considering the entry fee was just $49 — which included a T-shirt, burgee and swag bag, not to mention free moorage at three marinas or yacht clubs — we assumed the inaugural event's 30-boat entry list would fill up fast after registration opened on 'Lectronic Latitude, but we were surprised that it took only two days. Clearly folks were looking for a good excuse to use their boats, and we intended to show them a good time. By all accounts, that first Doo Dah exceeded everyone's expectations, and we all looked forward to a repeat performance.

Since the response was so tremendous last year, we increased the entry list to 50 for the Deux, while keeping the low entry fee, in hopes of accommodating everyone who wanted to join. With 20 more slots, we figured it might take an extra day to fill the list. Imagine our surprise when, after opening registration on March 15, we were 'sold out' within 12 hours!

Little did these eager sailors know, come July, just how eager they would be for the Doo Dah to start.

While the official start of the event was the following morning, most of the fleet gathered at Tradewinds Sailing School & Club in Richmond on Friday, July 30, for a potluck-cum-skippers' meeting. Some came by car, but many boats started their trip a little early by descending on event sponsor Marina Bay Yacht Harbor. As the crowd huddled on Tradewinds' sheltered patio, Doo Dah'ers got a chance to see just what they'd be missing — or, rather, not missing — over the following week: biting winds and gray skies. "Welcome to Marina Bay, where it's always this warm," joked Harbormaster Steve Orosz.

So many delicious dishes — paella, fruit salad, enchiladas, brownies, pie — were heaped onto the lone potluck table that another had to be put into service. The wine and beer fellow Doo Dah'ers brought to the party helped loosen tongues for the introduction portion of the evening, before 'Doodettes' Christine Weaver and yours truly ended the festivities with prizes from Trinitas Cellars, Little Venice YC and Glen Cove Marina. "You should probably know," Christine announced, "that next week's forecast for the Delta is 85 degrees and 15 knots — every single day."
The crowd roared.

Walking the docks the next morning, we saw more than one sailor decked out in full foul weather gear. "The guys are all making fun of me," said one such dressed up gal, "but I'm just gonna laugh when they're freezing their butts off out there!"
One thing's certain: while her precaution wasn't in vain, it wasn't necessary for long. Almost as soon as the fleet sailed under the Richmond Bridge around 11 a.m., the fog gave way to sun and 15 knots out of the south, making for a fantastic broad reach up San Pablo Bay.

The relief the 120 or so dreary-weary Doo Dah'ers felt upon leaving the gray behind was evidenced by happy chatter on the event's working channel. "I want to thank the 'Doodettes' for a beautiful sail," chimed one voice. "Yeah, I'm finally stripped down to my shorts," said another. But the highlight of the gaiety was instigated by 10-year-old Elani Cassero of the Hunter 30 Volaré when she started a G-rated joke-telling session. "I don't think I've ever heard sailors tell such clean jokes," noted Doo Dah vet Adam Correa from the Santa Cruz 27 Bozo.

Thanks to a strong flood that lasted all day, boats reached their destinations quickly. Some broke off for Benicia or Glen Cove, while others took advantage of their speed to make it closer to Pittsburg Marina, site of Sunday's Welcome to the Delta Party.

“These are the most beautiful bathrooms I’ve ever seen,” Katherine Smith of the Pearson 35 Carousel gushed about Pittsburg Marina’s facilities. In fact, the marina recently completed a total revamp, including beautifully appointed heads. Once too silted-in for easy keelboat access, the marina was recently dredged, which allowed every boat in the fleet to make it in, even at low tide — though the deep drafters, such as Ben and Lucie Mewes’s Van de Stadt 41 Georgia, which draws nearly eight feet, may have left the next day with a little less paint on the bottom of their keels.

As boats trickled in throughout the day — while dodging moving targets in a high-speed waterskiing competition that was taking place just outside the marina on New York Slough — folks acclimated themselves to the warm weather by taking to the water. Stand-up paddle boards (SUPs), dinghies, and water cannons were broken out and put to good use.

Soon the rockin’ sounds of the Mike Osborn Band drew the group to the Island Serenade, the cruise boat belonging to party hosts Steve and Heather Ingram of Delta Discovery Cruises. Eating, dancing, and drinking — not necessarily in that order — ensued, culminating in a second round of prize-giving, including gift certificates to Owl Harbor Marina. But even though the party was over, the socializing continued between boats late into the night.

The next morning saw a veritable exodus out of the marina as boats made their way to Bethel Island, the next stop. “I don’t know why they’re all in such a hurry,” commented Nate Oleson of the Catalina 36 Lady Jane as he watched the parade pass him by. “I think we’ll stick around a little while to enjoy the nice accommodations.”

Another day of spectacular sailing conditions inspired a handful of boats — the Ericson 29 Moor’ea, the Mariner 31 Gitana Vela, and the Ranger 23 Rigel — to take the ‘long way’ around Franks Tract, while the rest of the fleet made their way to tiny Boyd’s Harbor. There, Bethel Island resident — and its loudest cheerleader — Peter Yates shoehorned everyone in with apparent ease. “We moved a few permanent boats out to anchor in Franks Tract to make room,” explained Peter.
In fact, four five-boat-deep raft-ups formed to accommodate the fleet — 47 boats, in all. For a number of participants, this was a very new experience. “We’ve never rafted up before,” Linda Stafford of the Catalina 375 Hotel California said — with only the slightest hint of nervousness — as we readied to throw her our lines.

In addition to marshalling the fleet into the massive raft-up, Peter, as he had done last year, organized a beach party across Franks Tract, where Doo Dah’ers enjoyed Jet Skis, SUPs, a Hobie cat, and sundry water toys. Peter’s fiancée Katherine Anderson played hostess, providing everyone with refreshments and snacks.

The day ended with a fantastic tri tip buffet laid out by Kim and Rob Brunham, owners of The Rusty Porthole, followed by a karaoke jam session with Peter and friends.

Each morning, Doo Dah'ers were treated to the 'Voice of the Doo Dah', Lucie Mewes, cheerily leading the daily net. Tuesday morning was especially busy with folks announcing their plans for the upcoming three free days, when participants get to choose their own adventure. The fleet broke up with different groups heading to Mildred Island, Walnut Grove, and Potato Slough, and a number of boats exploring on their own.

Some moved daily, others were content to simply sit in one spot, doing little more than picking blackberries, racing dinghies, hosting sundowners, or picking waterfights in which the kids from the Islander 36 Petite Sirah and the Islander 30 Bayeti soundly defeated their much-older foes (ouch!).

Friday morning — the final day of the rally — came all too soon, with that day's net concluding with bittersweet thanks to all the participants, organizers, and sponsors. Doo Dah'ers scattered across the Delta chimed in about how much they had enjoyed their week away from the oppressive fog of the Bay, and how much they were looking forward to the Doo Dah Hoopla Party at Stockton Sailing Club, while at the same time wishing it would never end.

But what a way go go out! Stockton SC — famous for its hospitality — once again hosted the fleet, and once again impressed everyone with their generosity. Not only did they provide shuttle service to the grocery store and West Marine, but also offered up their dinghy fleet for some lighthearted racing. 'Doodette' Christine and her skipper, Jonathan Gutoff, organized the races between FJs, El Toros, and Opti-like prams — "It was a simple upwind-downwind; what we call a 'single sausage'," Christine said — offering Latitude 38 hats to everyone who started. That simple bribe brought out 17 eager racers who gave every indication of having a total blast.

"I haven't sailed an El Toro in decades," hollered Richard Schaper of the Catalina 30 Ebenezer II as he scooted by. "I haven't had so much fun either!" He must not have been lying, as he turned around for a second lap after finishing first in his class.

As soon as the racers returned to the dock, their noses dragged them up to the pavilion where the club had laid out its always-scrumptious BBQ dinner. Before the classic rock band Last Call got everyone on their feet, we Doodettes doled out the remaining prizes, including items from Sol Light, Port Visors, Shockles, and the much-coveted inflatable boom tent from Ronstan — which had been thoroughly tested aboard one 'committee boat' for the duration of the Doo Dah.

During one late-night jam session on Potato Slough, someone suggested writing a Doo Dah anthem, one that perfectly described the event and its effect on the fleet. A few songs later, we realized that George Harrison had already done it for us:

Little darling, the smiles returning to the faces
Little darling, it seems like years since it's been here
Here comes the sun
Here comes the sun
And I say, it's all right

- latitude/ladonna

This story appeared in the September, 2010, issue of Latitude 38. To order a copy with all the color photos, use the subscription order form, and specify the 6/10 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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