Two Years Before the Mast eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 591 pages of information about Two Years Before the Mast.
We sailed well to the westward to have the full advantage of the northeast trades, and when we had reached the latitude of Point Conception, where it is usual to make the land, we were several hundred miles to the westward of it.  We immediately changed our course due east, and sailed in that direction for a number of days.  At length we began to heave-to after dark, for fear of making the land at night, on a coast where there are no lighthouses and but indifferent charts, and at daybreak on the morning of—­

Tuesday, January 13th, 1835, we made the land at Point Conception, lat. 34 32’ N., lon. 120 06’ W. The port of Santa Barbara, to which we were bound, lying about fifty miles to the southward of this point, we continued sailing down the coast during the day and following night, and on the next morning,

January 14th, we came to anchor in the spacious bay of Santa Barbara, after a voyage of one hundred and fifty days from Boston.


California extends along nearly the whole of the western coast of Mexico, between the Gulf of California in the south and the Bay of San Francisco on the north, or between the 22d and 38th degrees of north latitude.  It is subdivided into two provinces,—­ Lower or Old California, lying between the gulf and the 32d degree of latitude, or near it (the division line running, I believe, between the bay of Todos Santos and the port of San Diego), and New or Upper California, the southernmost port of which is San Diego, in lat. 32 39’, and the northernmost, San Francisco, situated in the large bay discovered by Sir Francis Drake, in lat. 37 58’, and now known as the Bay of San Francisco, so named, I suppose, by Franciscan missionaries.  Upper California has the seat of its government at Monterey, where is also the custom-house, the only one on the coast, and at which every vessel intending to trade on the coast must enter its cargo before it can begin its traffic.  We were to trade upon this coast exclusively, and therefore expected to go first to Monterey, but the captain’s orders from home were to put in at Santa Barbara, which is the central port of the coast, and wait there for the agent, who transacts all the business for the firm to which our vessel belonged.

The bay, or, as it was commonly called, the canal of Santa Barbara, is very large, being formed by the main land on one side (between Point Conception on the north and Point Santa Buenaventura on the south), which here bends in like a crescent, and by three large islands opposite to it and at the distance of some twenty miles.  These points are just sufficient to give it the name of a bay, while at the same time it is so large and so much exposed to the southeast and northwest winds, that it is little better than an open roadstead; and the whole swell of the Pacific Ocean rolls in here before a southeaster, and breaks with so heavy a surf in the shallow waters, that it is highly dangerous to lie near in to the shore during the southeaster season, that is, between the months of November and April.

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Two Years Before the Mast from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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