Sunday, October 26, 2008

Anacapa and Catalina

As we've traveled south down the Pacific Coast, we've been reading the nineteenth century Coast Pilots, the book of sailing and navigational directions first published around 1880, and now in its 37th Edition. The first photos of coastal features appeared around 1900; before that mariners relied on hand drawn coastal views, like the one above, to confirm their locations. Last week we passed by this very spot at the east end of Anacapa Island, one of the northern Channel Islands, and had a chance to compare an old coastal view with the present day coastline.

We were interested in differences between the drawing and the same cliffs and rock arch one hundred and fifty years later. There may have been some imprecision in the original artist's sketch and its translation by the engraver (in this case, interestingly enough, a young James Whistler, then a recent graduate of West Point). But it is clear that the sea has eroded and changed the rock formations.

From the northern Channel Islands, we motored south sixty miles to Catalina Island. We spent a night at anchor in Catalina Harbour and explored the Twin Harbours area on foot, then sailed around the southwest side of the island, a wild and scenic coast with virtually no sign of habitation. Dramatic rock formations, like the one above known as Ribbon Rock, show layers of geological history.

We moored for several days and nights at Avalon on the eastern tip of Catalina Island. Avalon is unique; from the harbor, it looks for all the world as if you are in a Mediterranean Port, with its villas climbing up the steep hillsides, and a fine waterfront esplanade. There were relatively few boats tied up when we were there, and the shoreline was beautiful at night, with lights twinkling in the warm, still air. The tile fresco, found on the shore of the harbor, is of the Casino which dominates one end of the harbor, and still looks much like this. We think we could profitably spend months enjoying the Channel Islands, and hope to return.

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