First, he purchased Cruiser Haven along Old River in 2007. Although the area had become run down over the years, the place reminded him of the Oregon rivers of his youth.
“I had a Tom Sawyer childhood, spending time on the river and out in nature,” Hinman said. “When I saw this place, it was like stepping back in time. I fell in love with Cruiser Haven immediately. It was like going back to Mark Twain’s era. The next thing I knew – I was in the marina business.”
As the marina had decayed into a junkyard, Hinman, a former architectural engineer, knew he had his work cut out for him. But he also knew that with determination, hard work and help from his friends, he could restore Cruiser Haven into the hotspot it was 40 years ago. The renovations included pulling sunken boats from the harbor, cleaning up the docks, refurbishing a picnic and recreation area and redoing the main office – among other things.
Today, although Hinman has more work to do, Cruiser Haven is a quiet, secluded cove in the Delta. The 30 acres of waterfront property off Orwood Road is home to 155 berths that can accommodate boats as large as 65 feet. The cove is also home to an array of wildlife, including beavers, sea otters, turtles, ducks and a variety of fish. The access to the Delta’s native neighbors is one of the things that sets Cruiser Haven apart from other marinas, and Hinman has no desire to mess with the habitat – except for clearing out Delta’s unwanted visitor egeria densa.
While the California Department of Boating and Waterways has been spraying areas of Discovery Bay and Bethel Island in an attempt to eradicate the pesky weeds, Hinman is taking matters into his own hands. He operates a Weedoo, an eco-friendly boat engineered specifically to perform a vast range of waterway tasks such as extracting aquatic weeds and other pollutants. The Weedoo technology is so new that Hinman is the first person on the West Coast to own the vessel.
“The weeds have been such a pain,” Hinman said. “They get twisted up in motors and cause all kinds of trouble. It’s bad for business. I’ve already seen a drop in business as people are moving their boats elsewhere to get away from it. I’m doing what I can to get the weeds out and keep them out so my renters won’t be inconvenienced by it. This is a place to come and relax, so I don’t want them worrying about the weeds.”
Hinman’s second marina, Holland Riverside, which he purchased last year, is the opposite of Cruiser Haven. The marina features a boat ramp, so boats are coming in and out of the area all the time. On the weekends, more than 150 boats pass through the marina. The area is so popular that River View Yacht Club recently relocated to Holland Riverside and operates a clubhouse onsite. The marina also features a minimart and boat storage.
Hinman believes the Delta’s appeal is its mystery. “You could spend a lifetime exploring the Delta and you still won’t have seen it all,” he said. “There are all these sloughs and estuaries. The Delta has so much to offer. Lakes get crowded, but the Delta is always open, whether you want to wakeboard, water ski, cruise around, fish or sail. There are so many possibilities for spending an afternoon.”
Hinman said it will be another five years before he’s completely transformed Cruiser Haven into the destination it was in the 1970s, when it was a premiere Delta port of call, but he looks forward to the work.
“I was really burned out from the building business,” Hinman said. “I built homes, malls and I just got tired of it. But this … I love what I’m doing here in the Delta. I’m bringing these little marinas back to life. Back to what they’re worth.”
For more information about Cruiser Haven and Holland Riverside, visit www.cruiserhaven.com and www.hollandriverside.com.