Sharing A Love For The Water


The Boating Retirees

Edited By Ann Dermody
Published: October/November 2013

Whether planned or by chance, these retirees have incorporated boating into their golden years in fun and unusual ways.

A One-Man Gilligan's Island

Boats and self-sufficiency are hallmarks of this Californian's retirement.

Photo of Bill Conner

Bill Conner, 82, is proud to be one of the last true "river rats" on the California Delta. In the 1970s he and his ex-wife owned the infamous Lost Isle Resort there, catering to family houseboaters and a flurry of pet monkeys. After they sold it, Conner, a boater all his life, retired to his own version of Gilligan's Island by building a 60-by-40-foot barge (with a full workshop and pile driver aboard) and houseboat on the San Joaquin River in the Delta. To make fishing even easier, Conner carefully cut a hole in his pontoon houseboat floor for his version of fast food. On weekends, he visits his girlfriend, Mary Pelican, in Fremont, and to commute keeps an old car at Windmill Cove Marina and Resort just a few miles upstream. His water transportation is a small skiff with a 9.5-hp outboard motor.

Fitter than many half his age, during the week he exercises on his boxing punching bag and putters about working on various projects. He's even gotten ordained as a minister and has performed many weddings in the Delta for friends. "Out here, you can't just run to Home Depot for anything you need," Conner says. "You have to be very self-sufficient." His life philosophy, he says, "is that my cup overfloweth." He's still friendly with his ex-wife, Georgia Conner, joking: "She left me out here to suffer."


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