Delta Doo Dah
Latitude 38

Delta Doo Dah: First Time for Everyone, 2009

Visions of heat waves and water fights bumped those of dancing sugar plums clean out of our heads last December when we came up with the idea for a new week-long rally from the Bay to the Delta. Over a few bottles of wine at our company Christmas party, the details were hashed out and the Delta Doo Dah was born.

Originally, the plan was to have organized events at different locations every night in an effort to cover as many of the Delta's 1,000 miles of waterway as possible. But that rather ambitious concept was quickly scrapped in favor of one that was as laid back as the region itself: A kick-off dinner, a BBQ, and a final party, with a few free days thrown in to explore or simply laze about. The entry fee was kept low - a very reasonable $49 - and would include a burgee, T-shirt and swag bag. To keep this first year manageable while the bugs were worked out, the entry list was limited to 30 boats.

We were sure that Bay sailors would embrace the event, but we had no idea the response would be so tremendous. Within two days of our announcing the Doo Dah in 'Lectronic Latitude, all 30 spots had been filled and a waiting list was started. Now the pressure was on to host a truly kick-ass affair!

On Friday, June 26, Doo Dah'ers descended on Richmond YC - some by boat, others by car - to check in, claim their swag, grab some grub from the galley, and get to know each other. The fleet set off the next morning to ride what was supposed to have been the start of a flood tide. Unfortunately, a slight - heh hem - miscalculation by the rally committee meant most of the fleet bucked the end of the ebb before a favorable current caught up with them.

"I've been coming up to the Delta for years," said Doo Dah'er Doug Thorne, who sailed with his wife Tamara and kids Taylor, 16, and Max, 12, aboard their San Francisco-based Celestial 48 Tamara Lee Ann. "I always try to calculate the current carefully but only get it right about half the time."

It was slow going for those who tried to sail in the day's light breeze, so they were spared the bombing blitz faster boats received when they reached Benicia, homeport to Ruben and Robbie Gabriel's Newport 30 Windsome Wench. "We waited for everyone to show up, then yelled 'Welcome to Benicia' and pelted them with water balloons," laughed Robbie. "We only got a few glares."

"It actually felt great," claimed fellow organizer Christine 'Doodette' Weaver, who caught one to the neck.

The majority of the fleet ended up in Antioch Marina Saturday night, with the rest scattered between Benicia and Middle Slough. "Instead of playing on the Internet that night," said Tamara Thorne, "my teenage daughter sat on deck with me. We looked at the stars and had an actual conversation."

Everyone knew Sunday was going to be a scorcher when the thermometer read 80° at 8 a.m. In Middle Slough, where 10 Doo Dah boats had anchored, the morning was spent cooling off in the water. By the time all the stragglers meandered into Antioch Marina for the afternoon BBQ, the thermometer was reading triple digits, and everyone was swimming between boats or hiding out in the air conditioned bathrooms.

"In a way, you're all lucky," one marina tenant insisted. "A cold wind usually howls through here." He was last spotted running from a balloon-wielding mob.
The BBQ, hosted by the marina, featured melt-in-your-mouth tri-tips, chicken, potluck dishes, and the rockin' sounds of the Romano Marchetti Orchestra, brought in by Twin Rivers Marine Insurance. Though everyone had a great time, the party was a bittersweet occasion, as it also marked the retirement of well-respected Harbormaster John Cruger-Hansen.

The day was topped off by a sunset cruise aboard Delta Discovery Cruise's Island Serenade. Heather and Steve Ingram - who hope to join the event next year aboard their Ranger 33 - welcomed a couple dozen Doo Dah'ers aboard with snacks, a generous wine tasting courtesy of Carvalho Winery and, of course, air conditioning.

"I can't believe more people didn't come," said Kathe Hashimoto of the Sausalito-based OL 33 Tamara. "This is really the perfect way to end the day."

Those who weren't too impaired by the previous night's wine tasting - and post-wine tasting nightcaps - left Monday morning for the next rendezvous point: The Rusty Porthole on Bethel Island.

Bethel resident Peter Yates contacted us early in the planning process to offer the restaurant's docks, as well as those of neighbor Boyd's Harbor, as an official stop. Yates, who keeps his Wylie 34 Coyote at Boyd's, volunteered to not only coordinate fitting all the boats into the tiny basins, but also to arrange some fun activities for the fleet. When asked which harbor he was affiliated with, he replied "Neither. I'm friends with the owners and just think it'd be fun."

Doo Dah boats began trickling in just after lunch, and continued into the late afternoon. Yates managed to shoehorn 25 boats into the two basins. "We've had more boats in here," Yates said, "but never this many big boats - and never this many sailboats. The locals have been coming down all day to take pictures."
After the majority of boats were settled, Yates then shuttled folks to a nearby beach, where he'd arranged shade, cold drinks, snacks and an assortment of water toys - including three PWCs and a Hobie 16 borrowed from neighbors. "Peter is just amazing," effused Patti Boucher of the Santana 22 Carlos. "Our boys had such a great time!"

Everyone else apparently did too, as evidenced by the nearly $300 collected during a hat-passing at dinner. Yates was humbled by the gesture. "I just wanted to throw a good party," he said.

Those who arrived later in the day, or simply chose to stay behind, enjoyed a lazy afternoon - until Official Doo Dah Troublemaker Robbie Gabriel declared war with a gigantic water cannon. Chaos ensued, with every remaining Doo Dah'er getting into the action. Some attacked from the water while others retaliated from the relative safety of their boats. Aaron Dunlap - who flew down from his home near Seattle to sail aboard his Sausalito-based Valiant 32 Feolena - took the 'more is better' approach and grabbed a bucket.

Regardless of where they spent their afternoon, the fleet met up again at the Rusty Porthole for dinner. Owner Belinda Bittner's staff expertly handled the 70 or so crazies that descended on the restaurant like locusts. After the crowd was sated, the party moved to the deck - where Yates had set up some amps - and rocked the night away. Okay, no one made it past 11 p.m.

Tuesday was the first of three so-called 'free' days - a time for folks to split off on their own for a little exploration. Several Doo Dah'ers spent the morning consulting charts and grilling Yates on the best routes to take to their chosen destinations.

One by one, the fleet peeled off, some heading to the Meadows, some to Venice Island, some to Georgiana Slough. About one-third of the fleet made their way to Little Mandeville Island, where they tucked into a shallow horseshoe bend off Connection Slough that was later dubbed 'Broken Rudder Slough'.

The sweltering heat and lack of wind caused most boats to quickly rig tarps and bug screens. After those chores were complete, though, it was play time. For some, play time meant kicking back with a book and a refreshing beverage. For others, it meant a little light air dinghy sailing. For Valencio and Tino Grygier (ages 13 and 12) of Carlos, play time was water time. It didn't take long for them to engage nearby boats in a water battle.

"We were a little worried that there weren't any other kids in 'Broken Rudder Slough'," said dad Jan Grygier. "But the adults here act like kids, so it's turned out well."

In the meantime, the wind picked up enough that the sailing became interesting - a little too interesting for one sailor. "I was just scooting along," he said, "when suddenly the boat lurched and half the rudder popped up beside me." A replacement rudder made of scrap plywood - hand-delivered by Peter Yates the next day - also snapped, earning the cove its nickname.

Rumors began circulating through the anchorage on Wednesday that the crew of Greig and Leslie Olson's Searunner 40 Doggone were planning a not-so-secret attack on other boats. Forewarned is forearmed, so a supply of biodegradable water balloons and fully loaded cannons awaited them.

As expected, the crew of the tri proudly flew their pirate flag as they dinghied over to a certain three-boat raft-up. In a show of trimaran solidarity, Ari Samole, skipper of the Lock Crowther Buccanneer 24 Kalona, and his crewmember, Chris Almquist, also took up arms against the monohulls. It's sad, really, that they were so soundly spanked.

Heh hem.

Similar craziness undoubtedly sprouted up wherever Doo Dah'ers landed during their free days, and we wish we had room to share it all. Needless to say, Friday came all too soon. "I could have spent another week out here," said Jay Hickman of the Ericson 29 Moor'ea as he lounged in a hammock.

Not wanting to miss the final Hoopla Party, Doo Dah'ers made their way from all over the Delta to converge on Stockton Sailing Club on Friday, July 3.

Stockton Sailing Club is famous for its hospitality, and it certainly lived up to its reputation. As Doo Dah boats - easily identified by the event's screaming yellow burgee - approached the club in the early afternoon, a crash boat met each one to give them their slip assignment. Once tied up, they were greeted by club members bearing hot-off-the-press issues of the July Latitude. "I was hoping they'd be here," exclaimed Ben Mewes of the custom Van de Stadt 41 Georgia, who quickly ran off to the air conditioned clubhouse to grab a beer while he read the magazine.

The club also made available a fleet of Optis and FJs for daysailing, and a shuttle to take folks to West Marine and the grocery store. And it was their efforts that really helped make the Hoopla memorable.

Starting with a mouth-watering BBQ dinner, the party got underway. Dozens of Doo Dah'ers and club members crowded the pavilion to gorge themselves before the 'Dood' and 'Doodettes' (John Arndt, Christine Weaver and yours truly) had the pleasure of doling out prizes to every single entry. Some even got two! (Check out all the swag at To top off an already great party, the Blue Water Rockers got the crowd on their feet with some classic rock.

On July 4, the fleet dispersed - some beat their way back to the Bay while others stuck around for the Hilton family's annual Fireworks Extravaganza. As each boat motored out, a certain melancholy grew - it had been a frenetic and fantastic week, and now it was over.

By all accounts, the inaugural Delta Doo Dah really hit the mark. Participants raved, but even more importantly, shared their ideas for making the event even better. And while the dates haven't been set, it seems certain that there will indeed be a Delta Doo Dah Deux.

- latitude/ladonna

This story was reprinted from the August, 2009, issue of Latitude 38. To order a copy with all the color photos, use the subscription order form, and specify the 7/09 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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