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Oct-Nov 2020 Newsletter

Oct Nov2020 newsletter header

Writing Outdoor Stories about the California Delta

California’s Sacramento–San Joaquin Delta can be a treasure trove of outdoor stories.

Located between Sacramento and San Francisco, the delta is a 1,153-square–mile area formed by the Sacramento and San Juaquin rivers as they flow into Suisun Bay.

The delta consists of 57 reclaimed islands and nearly 200 others islands, that are named and some that don’t have names. The delta has 1,100 miles of levees that are used to manage flooding. The area has quaint little towns and including Locke, an historic Chinese village that is very popular with photographers.

The delta, which was designated a National Heritage Area on March 12, 2019, is a popular location for a myriad of recreational activities, such as fishing, hunting, hiking, biking, wildlife viewing and all types of boating, such power, sailing, kayaking and canoeing. It has miles of sheltered covers and wetland areas.

Here are some links for getting more information for stories about the delta:

General Delta Information Links

VisitCADelta and Wikipedia

Delta Chambers and Visitor’s Bureau

Maps of Things to do in the Delta

Delta Bass Fishing

Delta River and Boating Maps

 President’s Message from Carrie Wilson

Carrie Wilson

Fall Colors Erase a Crazy Six Months

What a crazy six months it’s been since this stinkin’ pandemic hit the world and altered all of our lives so greatly. And then came the massive wildfires throughout the state that have affected all of us in one way or another. A very weird year. It has been tough, but like so many challenges that come our way, the more time we can spend immersed in the outdoors, the better. We will get through them.

Although so many things, like OWAC’s conferences, have been put on hold this year, at least your OWAC Board of Directors have remained active behind the scenes trying to keep everything moving along. The annual Excellence in Crafts (EIC) Awards selections are complete, and the announcement of winners will be coming to you shortly. We hope to better celebrate these achievements by our talented members at a later date whenever we can hold our next conference.

Some actions of note include Gigi de Jong’s revamping of the website is moving along nicely. Bob Semerau and Peter Schroeder have been doing an outstanding job of boosting our finances through great investments and sound money management practices. Betsy Senescu and Barbara Steinberg are continuously working hard to promote OWAC and our members’ work and accomplishments through social media networks and news releases. If you have anything you’d like to share, please contact them with details. They are always looking for new material and interesting photographs to feature.

Speaking of, as the season changes and California’s fall colors start popping and coming to life, what a great incentive to grab your cameras and head out on a color safari! We are always looking for nice photos for the newsletter, website and for our social media posts. If you need ideas on where to go and when for the best color palettes, check out John Poimiroo’s award-winning website He has the timing of the season’s changing colors all dialed in, and the photos and color on his site are stunning!

Best of all, immersing one’s self in the outdoors among a beautiful backdrop of rich deep reds, oranges and yellows is so good for the soul and provides a respite, even if only briefly, from the daily challenges that we are all facing.

Good luck and enjoy the view!



What a Job

From OWAC Executive Director, Bob Semerau

Bob Semerau JunJul NLimage

There’s a Bright Future Ahead for OWAC

No matter what comes along we just have to get out there. Because out there is where we need to be.

Pandemics, fires, even floods, come along, and yet we find a way.

This season has tested each of us, some more than others and some giving a much fuller measure, yet we still see the beauty of our California Outdoors.

OWAC has been held back from having our usual conferences but the board of directors and the working individuals continue to make progress on our important initiatives. These include our Pat Vachini writing contest and scholarship program, expanding in the coming year, and more outreach to come. Completing the EIC awards was done after many trials; results to be announced shortly.

And we continue. The organization remains healthy and financially sound with a bright future before us. Looking out beyond the current issues confronting us, we see a better day ahead. A day filled with promise and hope for everyone's enjoyment of our wonderful natural outdoors.

Let's tell the world.

 Julie Gonzalez

By Julie Gonzalez,

Park Ranger,

San Diego National Wildlife Refuge Complex

I balance on a downed log laid over a muddy part of the trail, feeling the weight of my climbing gear on my back. We make our way down the trail, aiming for the edge of the cliff. Trusting the grip on the bottom of my shoes against the coarse granite rock, I lean in to take a look. “We’ll have to rappel down,” my friend informs me. Reading the astonishment in my eyes, he quickly follows up with, “You’ve rappelled before, right?” This, in fact, was my first time rappelling down a rock face.

I take a step back to center myself and remember my father’s words, 'You can do this. You are an intelligent human being who can figure this out because the problem cannot think, but you can.' This is his unique way of teaching me to move past the fear and be courageous.

After a quick lesson on rappelling, under my breath I whisper to myself, “You can do this.” I set up my harness, tie in the rope, and slowly back off the cliff until I am only suspended by the rope.

I started climbing about two years ago. This wasn’t a sport that I saw myself pursuing until I was introduced to it by friends who had the gear and the patience to teach me. Through my journey in this and other outdoor sports, I’ve realized that lack of exposure to sports and access to gear are barriers for people. These barriers are even greater for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color because the representation of folks who look like them doing these sports just isn’t there.

As a person of color, the fear that I experience while climbing isn’t limited to rappelling down a rock face. It also looks like questioning if I belong in that space, can I call myself a climber? In spite of this fear, I lean on courage to take up space to be the representation I am looking for. At the same time helping break down barriers for people who look like me. This is true both on and off the wall.

I bring this same energy to my role as a park ranger for the San Diego National Wildlife Refuge Complex, working to connect community members to their public lands through education and recreational opportunities.

 CWW logo

California Watchable Wildlife Wants Your Stories

By Barbara Steinberg

The idea that spending time in nature can make you feel better is intuitive. We all feel this to be true, and many of us have anecdotes of our own or from friends or family that support that idea. People who have been suffering from stress, sickness, or a trauma can spend quiet contemplative time in gardens or take to the mountains or woods to heal. But nature is not just wilderness. The benefits of nature can also be found in our communities’ parks and green spaces. Scientific studies support these beliefs. Reviews of scientific literature like this one on the Children & Nature Network website agree that humans have a basic psychological need for nature.

What we all know to be true: nature is good for everyone and has both long and short term mental and physical health benefits. Below you will find first-person stories from wildlife and nature lovers to help us all create a responsible, respectful and more inclusive outdoors. Consider sharing one of your own California Wildlife Stories with Barbara Steinberg, Outreach Coordinator, California Watchable Wildlife.

California Watchable Wildlife

Children and Nature Link

Meade Fischer Kayaking

Falling In Love With Kayaking

By Meade Fischer

I was living in the Central Valley, traveling to the coast on weekends to surf, camp, and hike. One day a friend said she was going to rent a kayak at Cannery Row and wondered if I would like to come along. Water lover that I am, longtime surfer and snorkeler, it sounded like something I would enjoy. So, “Yes!”

We rented from Monterey Bay Kayaks. After a short lesson learning how to paddle and behave on the water (not to disturb the wildlife), we were on our way heading from the beach toward the Monterey Harbor jetty. By the time we reached the end of the dock where all fishing companies were located, I shouted to my friend, “I’m going to buy one of these!” She responded with a why, and I said, “I’d either better buy one or go broke renting every weekend.” I was totally hooked.

There was something about gliding through the water, hardly making a sound, not having to watch where my feet were, able to focus my attention on everything around me - otters, seals, sea lions; fish darting through kelp beds – it was a natural high and convinced me that this was something I would be doing for the rest of my life.

It wasn’t long before I bought an entry-level sit-on-top kayak which I kept for almost 20 years. I paddled all over California, Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia. Kayaking was the central part of most vacations which were mostly road trips with a kayak on top of my car. I even wrote a book about solitary kayaking. Unlike kayaking with a group, it’s a raw experience, one without any kind of filter.

That was almost 30 years and three kayaks ago. As I write this, I’m getting ready to kayak to Castle Rock in Crescent City.

Meade Fischer

Recreate Responsibly

Join 400 Organizations to #RecreateResponsibly

By Barbara Steinberg

With or without Covid-19, the concept of responsible recreation should come as naturally as breathing. Loving the land. Leaving no trace. Following the rules. Building an inclusive outdoors for all people regardless of race, color, religious, or sexual orientation access to natural resources. It is a human right. Nurturing the soul by thanking Mother Nature for all she has provided - she sets no barriers or borders.

The new #RecreateResponsibly coalition embraces all of these guidelines and more. Seven guidelines, in fact. The guidelines are meant to provide a starting point for getting outside during COVID-19, and as things have evolved in 2020, the guidelines have too. Most importantly, the critical seventh guideline, “Build an Inclusive Outdoors,” recognizing that safety in the outdoors is not just about packing the right gear or bringing a face covering, but ensuring everyone feels safe and welcome.

As we venture more into the great outdoors - urban and rural open spaces, public and private lands - #RecreateResponsibly! We have just this one planet that is depending on all of us to help her survive.

More than 400 organizations have signed onto #RecreateResponsibly. An all-volunteer organization, you can join the coalition. Or just adopt and share the guidelines. We all win!

Website Redevelopment Project Update

By Gigi de Jong

Work on the new OWAC website was temporarily stalled when we realized that the relationship with the web design team we had contracted was not working as we had hoped. We agreed to part ways and, except for a little time lost, we are still moving forward with our plan.

We have not lost any of the work done to date and it is currently hosted on a temporary staging site. The process has made me realize that we, OWAC, need to have full control and ownership of all aspects of our website, including hosting, all builder and plugin licenses, and any other development aspects that are needed to run a robust, integrated, e-commerce site.

The development and annual technology costs will remain largely the same. There will be a reduction in the hosting cost, as it will not include any updating, upgrading, or maintenance. There will be a slight increase in license costs, but all licenses will be held by OWAC directly and therefore better protected from loss due to non-payment, or negligence by an external license holder or their business becoming defunct.

Site monitoring, updating, upgrading and ongoing maintenance will be needed to keep the site in good working order and this is a service that may need to be procured separately once the site is live. We will nominate at least three board members as site Administrators so that we never lose access to the site. Whenever any board member who is designated as an Administrator leaves the board or organization, the Admin role must be passed onto another board member for continuity.

There is still much more work to be done to develop and populate the site. All the old content from the current site needs to be transferred or, at least, archived. Once this is done and we have achieved the functionality we are aiming for, the site will be published on our official URL of We hope to achieve this by the end of November.

I still firmly believe in our mission and that a new website can strengthen our organization and help to build membership and leverage our content in the future.

Thank you.

CA Boater Card

State Requires Card to Operate a Motorboat

All boaters now need a “Boater Card,” which is issued by state water officials.

“As of January 1, 2018, the California Department of Boating and Waterways (DBW) will implement the California Vessel Operator Card law contained in California Senate Bill 941 passed and signed by the governor in 2014.”

That law, more commonly known as the California Boater Card legislation prohibits the operation of any motorized vessel in California without a valid DBW-issued Boater Card.

The card program is being phased in by age, and began with boaters 20 years of age in 2018.

This program has been around since 2015 in an effort to promote boating safety, according to the DBW, which adds that “in 2015, 724 California recreational vessels were involved in reported accidents and 49 boaters died.”

The program is being implemented as follows: Jan. 1, 2018 card required for persons 20 years old or younger; Jan. 1, 2019 for those 25 years or younger; Jan. 1, 2020, 34 years or younger; Jan. 1, 2021, 40 years and younger; 2022, 45 years or younger; Jan. 1, 2023, 50 years and or younger; Jan. 1, 2024, 60 years or younger; and Jan. 1, 2025, all person regardless of age.

To be eligible for the card, boaters must take and pass a new safety course.

DBW is making available a 130-page California Course for Boating Safety, which includes a quiz that is completed and submitted to the agency. DBW is also making available a 60-page guide called “ABCs of California Boating Safety.”

For information on the program and how to apply for a card, see

This writer read all the boating course material, which was very informative, submitted the completed answer sheet and earned a passing grade. In a letter notice, DBW said the card would be issued on sending an application along with paying a $10 fee.

Complete information on the program is available at California Boater Card

Women Fishing

Fishing Participation Increases Among Women and Minorities

Recreational fishing has reached new diversity milestones, according to a new industry study from the Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation (RBFF). The 2020 Special Report on Fishing found that:

  • 3.7 million African Americans participate in fishing, an increase of nearly 1 million over the last 10 years.
  • Hispanic Americans are participating at a new record of 4.4 million participants.
  • Women are also participating at an all-time high of 17.9 million participants.
  • Overall, more than 50 million Americans participate in fishing, the highest number in 12 years.
  • The activity gained more than 3 million new participants last year, the highest in five years.

"The outdoors belongs to all of us — not just those who fit a certain image," said Stephanie Vatalaro, senior vice president of marketing and communications for RBFF. "Fishing is about enjoying nature, making memories and bonding with the people you love. It's an experience that everyone should get a chance to have, which is why our work is grounded in the belief that the water is open to everyone."

The new participation data comes as Americans overall take increased interest in fishing as a remedy for COVID-19-related stress and anxiety.

According to a separate study, 1 in 5 Americans are more likely now to try fishing than they were prior to the pandemic. Among parents, the statistic is 1 in 4.

"Social distancing has taken a sizable toll on our collective mental health," said Vatalaro. "But being on the water has been shown in studies to have a calming effect that can help treat stress and anxiety naturally. Fishing — and by extension, boating — are excellent ways to practice self-care and recreate responsibly."

While fishing is enjoying notable gains, the news from the outdoor recreation front isn't all good amidst the global pandemic.

The Outdoor Recreation Roundtable recently updated media with a call on the state of outdoor recreation.

ORR recently surveyed its member trade associations representing over 100,000 businesses from RVing and camping to boating and fishing to hunting and biking businesses about the impacts their organizations and member companies have felt since the pandemic began.

According to the responses of the 20 participating national outdoor recreation trade associations, representing businesses with nearly 2 million employees, the impact is startling:

  • Of the businesses this survey represents, 89 percent, are experiencing difficulty with production and distribution, with 68 percent experiencing significant impacts.
  • 79 percent of these businesses have been laid off or furloughed a portion of their workforce, with 11 percent closing, or laying off most of or all of staff.
  • 89 percent of outdoor industry businesses are experiencing a decrease in sales with 39 percent seeing a decrease of 50-75 percent or greater.
  • 80 percent of outdoor industry trade associations are seeing a decrease in revenue with 30 percent seeing a decrease of 50-75 percent or greater.

“We knew there have been tremendous impacts to our members and to the entire outdoor recreation industry, but our survey results show the traumatic impact on every sector and to the heart of this once thriving economic engine,” said Jessica Wahl, executive director at Outdoor Recreation Roundtable. “Just a few short months ago outdoor recreation was growing faster than almost any other industry, contributed over 778 billion dollars to the U.S. economy and employed over 5.2 million Americans. To see that 79 percent of outdoor businesses have had to lay off or furlough employees and that 89 percent are seeing decreased revenue is jaw dropping.”

See More Boating Industry News

OWAC Is Looking for New Board Members

OWAC is looking for a few new board members. If you would like to help set policy and raise funds for the organization, please contact the office in Oxnard. Board service provides a great opportunity to meet new people and learn about outdoors writing and photography.

Here is the current OWAC board:


Bob Semerau – Executive Director

Carrie Wilson – President

Carol Martens - Secretary



Gigi de Jong

Chris Langley

Tom Martens

Peter Schroeder

Betsy (Crowfoot) Senescu

Barbara Steinberg

Don Vachini

John Williamson

Risa Wyatt


HEADQUARTERS: Bob Semerau, Executive Director, Outdoor Writers Association of California, P.O. Box 50136, Oxnard, CA. 93031

CORPORATE STATUS: OWAC is a California nonprofit corporation that has earned tax exempt status under Section 501(c)(3) of the IRS Code (Tax ID: 68-0298480)

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