All boaters required to get their Boater Card
Starting Jan. 1, 2023, state law requires all boat operators 50 years old or younger to take a certified safe boating class and to carry the California Boater Card to operate a motorboat. Some insurance companies offer a discount on insurance to boat owners who successfully complete this course.
But for Contra Costa boaters, it will be more difficult to find a qualified in-person class program with the disbanding of the county’s U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary Diablo Flotilla 57, which had been based in Martinez. The course is also available online for $39.95 at www.boated.com/california.
Once an active Auxiliary with nearly 100 members, the group hosted boating safety classes at Alhambra High School for years. However, the COVID-19 pandemic and advancing age took their toll in recent years.
Margie Balch, who joined the Diablo Flotilla in 2006, said this week that “it was with a heavy heart” that the members decided to fold up shop in December
2022 after membership had dwindled to six. The Diablo branch was folded into North Solano County Flotilla 53.
“Dissolving a flotilla that had been so active and vibrant in the past was a hard decision to make. Perhaps when your readers read about this, some may be interested in helping us establish a community flotilla again,” said Kit Galvin, the Flotilla 53 Division Vice Commander.
Another option for area boaters looking for boating license classes is the Discovery Bay Yacht Club, according to the club’s captain, John Garza.
The yacht club, in conjunction with the Bay Area Water Ski Club and the U. S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, has been holding a series of California Boat Driver’s License courses. Space is limited to 20 students. The cost for course participants is $25 discounted from the Coast Guard’s normal $45.
The yacht club also offers Boat America, a boating certificate class that offers an in-depth and interesting boating safety course, and provides the
knowledge needed to obtain a boating certificate. Some insurance companies will also offer discounts on boating insurance to boaters who successfully complete this course. Contact Cyndie Puckett at email@example.com for more information, or call the Club at 925-634-1210.
The United States Coast Guard Auxiliary is the uniformed auxiliary service of the United States Coast Guard. It is composed of 26,000 members who volunteer to support the operation of the Coast Guard, promote and improve recreational boating safety, and provide trained crews and facilities to enhance the safety and security of U.S. ports, waterways, and coastal regions, officials said. Collectively, the Auxiliary members contribute more than 4.5 million hours of service each year and complete nearly 500,000 missions in support of the Coast Guard. Every year, Auxiliary members help save about 500 lives, assist 15,000 distressed boaters, conduct more than 150,000 safety examinations of recreational
vessels and provide boater and water safety instruction to more than 500,000 students. The Auxiliary was created by Congress in 1939.
The Coast Guard Auxiliary has units in all 50 states, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, American Samoa, and Guam, and participate in the following kinds of missions:
♦ Safety and security patrols
♦ Search and rescue
♦ Mass casualty or disasters
♦ Pollution response and patrols
♦ Homeland Security
♦ Recreational boating safety
♦ Commercial fishing and vessel exams
♦ Platforms for boarding parties
♦ Recruit for all service in the Coast Guard
Balch has also been organizing a Water Safety Program for Kids at the Mt. Diablo Unified School District’s elementary schools. The program teaches the wearing of properly-fitted life jackets; what to do if they see someone in the water who appears to be in trouble; the buddy-system; ways to deal with boating emergencies and the importance of keeping waterways clean.
For more details, contact Balch, Auxiliary Public Education Coordinator, at 925-768-1608.
For more information, visit www. cgaux.org.
If you are a boater looking for a slip on fast water leading into the Delta, the Antioch Marina may be offering what you’re looking for.
Derek Traya, operations supervisor of the city-owned marina, said recently that the COVID-19 pandemic left behind a wide wake on the boating industry. “COVID was hard on boating recreation, but we’re doing pretty good this year,” Traya said. “We’re looking to bring more people back to the Delta.”
The city recently arranged to remove derelict boats that had been abandoned at the marina with 25 boats removed including one 50-foot sailboat. Traya said that the city works with the county Office of the Sheriff to hire a salvage company to perform the pullouts. The city has also installed a wave attenuator and performed repairs to the boat launch following damage caused by a passing container ship.
Traya, who earlier worked in Napa and Honolulu, said he is working on a formal assessment of the marina operations in an effort to drum up more grant funding for further improvements at the marina. “We’ve got a lot of support from the city. They see our potential,” Traya said.
The success of Smith’s Landing Restaurant at the marina has also drawn more interest from local boaters. “It’s been packed,” Traya said.
For boaters who want an overnight dinner on the water, the marina offers seven boat slips with special overnight docking fees for boaters who want to have their restaurant order delivered to them on the water.
Boaters can also set up their overnight
reservations online: 45-foot boats and smaller are charged $25 per night; boats longer than 45 feet are charged $35 per night. Each boater is charged a $10 key fee. Overnight renters have full access to berther’s private restrooms; showers and laundry.
Traya hopes to get a minmart developed at the site in the future.
The Antioch Marina’s competitive rates for berthing are $6 per foot for
uncovered berths and $7.50 per foot for covered berths. Minimum size berth uncovered is 24 feet, covered is 32 feet. Amenities include:
♦ Water, electricity is metered, with 20and 30-amp service available.
♦ Computer-controlled access gates and on-site marina office.
♦ Access to exclusive berther restrooms and showers.
♦ Coin-operated laundry facility on site.
♦ 100-foot public dock located behind the restaurant is on a first come, first served basis.
♦ Boat launch available for $5 per launch, annual launch passes may be purchased for $100.
♦ Chevron fuel dock dispensing diesel, and mid-grade gasoline at competitive prices.
♦ Free waste pump-out station.
♦ Access to the Dow Wetlands Preserve with 7 miles of nature trails and bird watching platforms.
There are no channels to be considered as the approach to the marina is a natural shoreline gradient from 68 feet depth in the center of the San Joaquin River.
The marina is at 5 Marina Plaza in Antioch. It is open Tuesday-Saturday from 7 a.m.-4 p.m. and its phone number is 925-779-6957
For more information: www.antiochca.gov/antioch-marina/
Area boat industry bucks pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic harmed many parts of the economy, but the area retail boating industry stayed afloat.
“Our industry was one of a few that saw a significant rise in unit sales and revenue due to the pandemic,” said California Boat Company Chief Operating Officer Tim Vranizan of Discovery Bay. “During the pandemic, we were all encouraged, and at times required, to remain socially distant. Boating is one of the activities where we could get out of the house with our family or housemates and still remain socially distanced from everyone else. With that said, the retail boat industry saw record sales from the spring of 2020 through the summer 2022.”
According to Vranizan, they were sold out of their in-stock inventory by summer 2020, forcing customers to special order their boats. The upside of special ordering a boat was the customer could design the boat exactly as they would want it as opposed to purchasing what the store had in inventory.
The downside was that many manufacturers and suppliers were experiencing shutdowns and significant delays from their vendors so boat orders were taking as much as six months to arrive, retailers said. Today,
Brentwood’s Gateway to Fast Water
the business is generally back to 2019 prepandemic levels.
“Boating sales were up and selling like crazy during the pandemic, but charter service went down,” said Coast Guard Captain and rescue boat instructor John Garza. “Where are all these new boats coming from? There were more boats on the water in the Bay and the Delta. People bought boats, so they wanted me to train them. But my charter boats sat still.”
Statistics from the Boats Group, a Miami-based advertising and software company for the marine industry, show that in the United States, combined boat sales from 2019 to 2020 increased from 46,381 to 53,486 and then down to 49,846 in 2021,
with a $7.2 billion value in boats sold in 2020 and $9.2 billion value in 2021. Power and sail boat sales increased from 46,369 in 2019 to 53,473 in 2020, then down to 49,836 in 2021.
While boat sales have since dipped and returned to pre-pandemic levels in 2022, the resulting change from 2019 to 2022 in terms of value of boats sold has increased by 27 percent, with the average individual boat value having increased by 31 percent.
By and large a seasonal business, the boating season typically starts in late March and continues through Labor Day.
“As an avid boater, fisherman, and water sports enthusiast for approximately 50 years since I could cast a pole or strap
on skis, I can verify that in 2021 brought an onslaught of new boaters and RVs as suddenly this was the only recreation that was allowed or at least viewed as safe,” said boater Brad Morelock. “2022 brought on an absolute rush of new boats and boaters in numbers I have never seen. Just trying to find somewhere to camp or a place to anchor in our waterways became, and has continued to be, a chore.”
Bryce Perez, a boater from Oakley, added, “I’ve been boating since I was a kid –for over 30 years. The Delta area has always been busy even before COVID. Boat prices skyrocketed during COVID and everything new you had to put a deposit on put on a waitlist. Marinas have pretty much stayed the same around here before, during, and after COVID because it was considered social distancing. When COVID hit, the waterways were packed with people that had no experience on the water and made it very dangerous. Especially out on the Delta, there are so many hidden dangers, including irrigation for the farms that can suck a person up and keep them against the grate under water, sand bars, and logs.”
Jamie Bolt, Harbor Master from Bethel Harbor in Bethel Island, stated that the pandemic resulted in the burgeoning of many families going boating and fishing. While business for the most part has picked
see Pandemic page 5B
up and stayed up, the performance of this year remains to be seen due to the abnormally long winter and rainy season, local retailers said.
“We didn’t get the spring that we normally would have gotten,” said Bolt. “It only really just stopped raining. The spring season just started for us, so we can only hope. We’re looking forward to a robust summer if the weather gets nice and stays nice.”
Bolt added that all marinas are different, with each one offering different services such as dry storage, covered berths, pump-out stations, gas, launching, campgrounds, convenience stores, boat yards and service departments.
“We’ve all just grown to whatever specialty we have,” said Bolt. “We all have our own fortes. For us, we focus on our service department, while others might focus on their campground. And there’s no competition between the marinas. We’re all just great colleagues.
Brian Howard, co-owner of the Whiskey Tango Foxtrot restaurant at the Driftwood Marina in Oakley, says they have been trying to open since before the start of COVID pandemic. Having stayed afloat by word of mouth, business is now progressing well with ongoing renovations, including expanded service of breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days a week, building and expanding to accommodate the extra flow including an outdoor deck, with a planned grand opening in July.
“Things are coming together pretty
well,” said Howard. “People are starting to boat in to the restaurant as the weather gets better. We’re also coordinating with the Yacht Club and working with them in their kitchen, and have made a menu that fits a lot of different tastes, including burgers, fries, tacos, burritos, and prime rib on the weekends. We have a lot coming, including bands on Friday and Saturdays. We’ve just been busy.”
Going forward, while boat sales have come down to earth, the resulting boating boom has led to some changes locally in the marine industry, with more money and focus being invested in infrastructural improvements to marinas and surrounding businesses.
“I’ve been boating since I was 10, and have lived in water since 1995,” added Garza. “It’s a passion. I literally bring boats from Redwood City to Stockton. I see all the marinas. I see the investment in our marina. Also, when I go to Village West, I’ve seen a lot of investment.”
“Another big thing is that I see that the South Bay has invested millions,” Garza said. “Previously, the South Bay marinas were dormant. There was nothing south of Redwood City. Those marinas were landlocked and dying. But West Point Harbor in Redwood City has really stepped it up and invested millions, with a giant boat show recently taking place there. The bigger marinas have done a lot of improvements to draw people. They’re putting money into the industry. So that’s a good sign. I’m excited.”
With the increase in the number of boats on the water as the season progresses and weather gets warmer, avid boaters
advise that it is imperative to be mindful and cautious of the dangers on the water, while reminding those to be courteous and kind, and to give everyone plenty of space.
“Make sure you know all the laws and rules,” said Perez. “The Delta has many blind corners and unseen dangers. Never dive in the water, and always jump in feet first boats and jet skis don’t have breaks like cars and trucks. Stay at a safe distance from other boaters and always have an out. Make sure children and inexperienced swimmers are always wearing life jackets. And when you see a bunch of boats at a beach, be courteous and slow down.”
More information can be found at www. CaliforniaBoatCo.com and https://www.axios. com/local/miami/2023/03/01/boat-buying-inthe-us-subsiding-back-to-normal. A link to Whiskey Tango Foxtrot can be found here: https://www.wtfrestaurantbargrill.com/ Here is a list of marinas in the area:
♦ Antioch City Marina
5 Marina Plaza
Hours: 7 a.m. – 4 p.m., (925) 779-6957 http://www.ci.antioch.ca.us/antioch-marina/\
♦ Big Break Marina
100 Big Break Road., Oakley
Hours: 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. (Wednesday-Friday only), (925) 679-0900 https://www.bigbreakmarina.com/
♦ Driftwood Marina
6338 Bridgehead Road, Oakley
Hours: 8 a.m. – 4 p.m., (925) 757-9449 https://driftwoodmarina2.weebly.com/
♦ Holland Riverside Marina
7000 Holland Tract Road, Brentwood
Hours: Weekend, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. (subject to change after Memorial Day, according to the website), (925) 322-4084
♦ Sugar Barge RV Resort & Marina
1440 Sugar Barge Road, Bethel Island
Hours: Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m., (925) 684-9075
♦ Bethel Island Marina
6050 Bethel Island Road, Bethel Island
Hours: 7 a.m. – 6 p.m., (925) 666-8906
♦ New Life Marina
1200 Taylor Road, Bethel Island
Hours: 9 a.m. – 5 p.m., (925) 684-2166
♦ Brentwood Marina
4888 Holland Tract Road, Brentwood
Hours: 8 a.m. – 9 p.m., (925) 350-2208
♦ Cruiser Haven Marina
7000 Orwood Road, Brentwood
Hours: 8 a.m. – 6 p.m., (925) 634-8000
♦ Jim’s Holiday Harbor
415 Fleming Lane, Brentwood (909) 917-7736
♦ Discovery Bay Marina
5901 Marina Road #1, Discovery Bay
Hours: 8 a.m. – 5 p.m., (925) 634-5928
♦ Orwood Resort
4451 Orwood Road, Brentwood (925) 634-5928
Discovery Bay ceremony, show honor late firefighters
The public and Discovery Bay Yacht Club members attended a Search and Rescue demonstration at the club’s marina on Sunday, May 7.
There were several classic vessels on display, including: a 1946 Navy Tug, Admirals Launch, U.S. Coast Guard Surf Boat and a Stephens 50, to name a few.
The club’s captain, John Garza, said Tuesday that about 90 people attended the demonstration. “We honored two fallen firefighters and the over 10,000 hours given to our local and Delta communities since 2012.”
Garza said Pacific Coast Water Rescue dedicated two vessels in the honor of fallen firefighters James Martin and Ray Perry. “Whenever we teach or respond to salvage and tow incidents the two vessels will bear the proud names and legacy of Chief James Scott Martin and Capt.Ray Perry.”
Fremont Fire Deputy Chief Martin died in 2015 after a three year battle with job-related cancer. Perry, a 30-year veteran of the Newark Fire Department died of Alzheimer’s Disease in 2020.
Former state Assemblyman Rusty Areias was also honored for his long service
to the area at the event.
“Pacific Coast Water Rescue was formed in 2012 as a result of cuts to Discovery Bay and South Delta Area Water Rescue Vessels,” Garza said. “In that same year, we met with local fire, sheriff and USCG Rio Vista personnel to form the Pacific Coast Water Rescue (PCWR) team.”
Garza added, “The future looks great for PCWR Captains on Call as we now have six USCG licensed captains, six rescue swimmers and six divers and as a direct result of our 12 seasons of experience in our vast bay and Delta region.”
For more information: https://www pcwrf com and https://www dbyc com/.”
To view more photos of the event, visit www.thepress.net/multimedia/slideshows
After a slow start to the season, anglers are finding more success in recent weeks. Due to the heavy winter rain storms, the water visibility had been poor in the early months of the year.
With the water being as muddy as it had been, fish had been reluctant to seek out any kind of bait angers may have been using. Now, with much of the rain behind us, the silt and mud is beginning to settle and the fish are beginning to bite.
As the warmer weather approaches, plant growth in the Delta expands rapidly. The new growth provides additional cover for fish while simultaneously creating additional obstacles for boaters when navigating the shallower rivers and sloughs. Early reports are that anglers have been finding success targeting striped and largemouth bass using swim lures and spinnerbaits near the edges of surface growing flora like water hyacinth.
The end of April saw the final MLF Toyota Series Western Division
Presented by Tackle Warehouse of the year, with first-place honors going to Conrad Demecs of Phoenix, Ariz. He tallied up 19 pounds a day for the tournament, bagging him the top payout. He attributed his success to using a - punch vibrating jig with creature bait as well as a yellow and black popping frog. Other successful tournament pros were quoted using Senko bait at the edges of the weeds or tules.
The spring and summer months bring out more pleasure boaters who may not be as well versed in the intricacies of the Delta’s winding waterways. Your friends at Holland Riverside Marina implore you to be safe while boating to keep the California Delta a happy and enjoyable place to spend time on the water.
Max Unterbach is a Managing Member at Holland Riverside Marina is a family-run facility in Brentwood, on Holland Tract. The marina’s central and convenient location makes it your gateway to fast water.
For more information about Holland Riverside Marina, visit www. hollandriverside.com
Boat breakdowns and how to
East County loves boating. No surprise, considering the area is surrounded by miles of rivers and sloughs making up the Delta. What locals – and visitors – don’t love is a boat breakdown. Here are some tips from local experts on how to handle an incapacitated boat on the water.
“One of the first things we advise is that you throw out an anchor,” said Bethel Harbor Harbormaster Jamie Bolt. “One of the reasons it’s that so, especially if it’s windy, you don’t drift onto the rocks. Then you determine what happened and who you should call.”
Whether the trouble is engine failure or an empty fuel tank, it’s better to be rooted to the spot than drifting around in traffic, endangering your own boat and others, experts said. Once the boat is safely anchored or tied up, tackle the issue of getting the boat back to the marina.
“Sometimes it’s best to flag down a passing boater, but we recommend to all our customers to subscribe to TowBoatUS vessel assist.”
TowBoatUS is a locally based marine assistance, towing and salvage company. With four rapid response vessels in Bethel Island, assistance to members is usually no more than 60-90 minutes away. Audrey Delano, office manager of TowBoatUS, said in addition to securing a boat once a problem arises, all passengers should put on life jackets. Towing a boat can cost between $400 and $1,000. Most companies (including TowBoatUS) have hourly rates. The membership is approximately $100 with TowBoatUS, according to Delano.
“Then reach out to a local tow
company, which would be me, and I can help figure out if their insurance company will help them. Or I can help them and start to get them towed,” Delano said. “But the first recommendation is to get safe, put the phones on the chargers if possible so the phone is charged and try to understand your location.”
There are also certain U.S. Coast Guardrecommended items all boat owners should have stowed in an easily accessible location: an air horn, orange flag and flares. Bolt said the orange flags aren’t just to alert others there is a person in the water, but also to flag
down other boats in an emergency.
“A vessel can overheat, or smoke, and that scares a lot of folks, especially new boaters,” Bolt said. “So have those three safety devices. The flag and horn for alerting others in the daytime. And the flares are good for when it’s dark. And don’t be afraid to ask for help.”
Bolt said another piece of advice is don’t panic. Anxiety can spread quickly through a group, especially to young children. So she recommended staying calm as much as possible. Once the boat is safely secured, and all passengers are in life jackets, try to determine the source of the problem. Gas gauges are not always reliable, so check fuel levels before leaving the dock, and stay on top of maintenance, especially if the boat has been out of use all winter.
“And always check the weather before going out,” Delano advised. “Winds can be a big problem on the Delta. And wear sunblock.”
Bethel Harbor offers dry storage for boats up to 26 feet, launching, a campground, small store, fuel dock, sewage pump out, in-the-water covered berths and a large boat yard and service department. For more information, call 925-684-2141 or visit www. bethelharbor.com
For more information on TowBoatUS memberships, call 925-684-2183 or visit www.towboatusdelta.com