Big Break Marina frozen in time

The Big Break Marina has been a part of Oakley's landscape for almost half a century and until recently was owned by the Du Pont plant. When Du Pont ceased its Oakley operations in 1998, the marina's future was in great doubt. A plan for its purchase by the East Bay Municipal Park District fell through in the face of unexpected restoration costs and vocal opposition from some Oakley residents. Once the park district pulled out, a deal was eventually reached with a private buyer who plans to upgrade the marina facilities so that it can better serve today's larger boats and the needs of area Delta enthusiasts.

Realizing that change is always inevitable, we set out in early October 2001 to document the Big Break Marina of old. Like many, we are excited about the plans the new owner has in store, but we will miss some of the quirkiness of the old Big Break, which is truly a place carved out of another bygone era.

You can click on the thumbnails for a larger image.

The simple logo at the entrance to the marina's office lets you know where you are. Inside you can pay your boat launch fee. Photo by Roni Gehlke.

The autumn colors are really showing in the berry brambles, which provide a natural buffer zone between the marina and the Delta wilderness that lies just beyond to the west. This is actually a composite of two photos — the only way we could capture the entire span of the omnipresent John A. Nejedly Bridge. Photo by Roni Gehlke.

This well-established palm tree seems right at home at the marina. There are others like it just down the road near the main parking area. Photo by Roni Gehlke.

These covered berths are just behind the palm tree pictured at left. Photo by Roni Gehlke.

Live-aboards aren't the only residents at Big Break. Here a gaggle of geese take an afternoon stroll along the shore after greeting a regular marina patron. The gentleman driving the van is instantly recognized by the birds, which race honking to his door in hopes of free food. The man obliges with crusts of bread and explains that this is a routine he and the geese have. Photo by Roni Gehlke.

Just across from the geese we find Harbor No. 4. The ancient sign marks the entance guarded by a locked gate, which is the only access to boats located in the harbor's middle slips. Photo by Roni Gehlke.

Only a handful of boats occupy Harbor No. 4 today. The marina's new owner tells us that most of the slips are too small to accommodate the larger boats that are commonly found today. Renovation plans include enlarging these and other slips. Photo by Roni Gehlke.

Now we are at the launch ramp, where a sign reminds boaters that those peaceful Delta waters can belie a host of hazards. Sadly, a summer never passes in which someone doesn't drown on our Delta. Accidents are easily preventable with common sense and proper safety precautions. Be safe on the water and have fun. Photo by Roni Gehlke.

We're in luck this afternoon. A boater makes his way toward the launch ramp, adding some nautical intrigue to an otherwise uninhabited scene. Photo by Roni Gehlke.

What's this? TWO boats. On a Monday no less. Boating is a 7-day-a-week way of life for many people, whether they are looking for the elusive big catch or are out for a little sightseeing. Photo by Roni Gehlke.

This is a view of the main harbor, which will be dredged and made to accommodate yachts and other large boats. The levee on the far side of the water marks the northern boundary of the marina property. Photo by Roni Gehlke.

This former marine shop has been abandoned for many years. If you get a close look at the front door you will still find old signage for products that haven't been sold here in a long time. Plans are to find a new tenant for store. Photo by Roni Gehlke.

You know what you get if you don't mow your lawn regularly, right? Weeds. The same goes for the Delta's backwaters, where elodea and egeria densa can become established and wreak havoc on boat propellers. If you look long enough you can usually catch a glimpse of fish hiding among the plants. Photo by Roni Gehlke.

Oh yes, and speaking of fish, take a look at this angler's dream catch! He and a friend were just returning from their expedition while we were on ours. This big-mouthed black bass weighed in at about 14 pounds. Lady luck was smiling on this fish, as the fishermen set him free shortly after this photo was taken. Photo by Roni Gehlke.