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Sailing directions for the west coast of North America. Embracing the coasts of Central America, California,… Imray, James F. (James Frederick), 1829?-1891 1853

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1853. ERRATA.
Line from top.
Line from bottom.       For                      Read
10                                    delete § after life.
10                                    insert " after point.
Gulf of Fonesca     Gulf of Fonseca.
River Toutonnis     River Toutounis
17 &" 18
so much more so    so much so.
4 3?
«*>/ / ^^^^
The rapid development of the resources of California and Oregon, and
the increase of commerce with the countries on the sea-board of Central
America, have had the effect of raising into importance many ports
which, but a few years since, afforded only an occasional shelter to
whalers. Hitherto, there has been but little call for a work of this
nature, but as the countries of Western America are daily becoming of more
commercial value, and the ports are visited less as harbours of occasional
shelter than as places of trade, a work affording some information to the
seaman, however scanty, of the ports he is about to visit, has become
necessary. In the compilation of this work considerable difficulty has
been experienced, from the want of information that could be considered
authentic and trustworthy, no complete survey having yet been made of
the West Coast of North America, although detached portions of it have
been from time to time examined by the various expeditions sent out
for that purpose by the governments of Great Britain, the United States,
France, and Spain. From the works resulting from these examinations we
have obtained much information, although it cannot in every case be
considered so satisfactory as we might wish, still, through their means, we
have, to some extent, become acquainted with many parts of which we
were previously in entire ignorance; we have also embodied much
private information with the object of making the work as complete and
serviceable as possible. The information thus brought together, it will
he seen, cannot be connected so well as might be desired, seeing that UHi
each observer had either a specific portion of coast to examine, or only
took a general survey of it without entering into details. All the information, however, which might be useful to the mariner has been collected together, and it only remains for us to add that we shall avail ourselves, in future editions, of any hydrographical information that may
tend to the improvement of this work, and shall always thankfully
receive communications from correspondents which may contribute to its
future usefulness.
Several of the ports of Central America have been examined by Sir
Edward Belcher, from whose work we have obtained many remarks;
and a survey of the coasts of California and Oregon is now in progress, by
order of the United States Government, the completion of which will
tend still further to improve our knowledge of these countries. Fuca
Strait, Admiralty Inlet, and Puget Sound, have been so well examined by
Vancouver, Commander Wilkes, Captain Kellett, and others, that we
believe but little remains to add to our acquaintance with these extensive
inland waters. It is also right to mention that the pages of the Nautical
Magazine have materially assisted us in the completion of the work.
Coasts op Central America, &c.
General Remarks, 1; Gulf of Panama, 8; Gulf of San Miguel, Bay of
Panama, 9; Quibo or Coiba Island, 12; Hicarons, 13; Bahia Honda,
Pueblo Nuevo, 15; Contreras Islands, Secas Islands, &c, 16; Gulf of
Dulce, Gulf of Nicoya, Port Herradura, 17; Calderas Bluff, Arenas
Point, Cape Blanco, 18 ; Nigretas Islands, 19; Gulf of Papagayo, Port
Culebra, 21; Tomas and Salinas Bays, 23; Port San Juan, 24; Realejo,
25; Gulf of Fonseca or Conchagua, 29; Conchagua or San Carlos de la
Union, Port Libertad, 31 ; Sonsonate Road, 32; Port Istapa or Ystapa,
Gulf of Techuantepec, 34; Santa Cruz, Island Tangolatangola, 35; Bay
of Bamba, 37; Bay of Rosario, 39; Acapulco, 41; Sihuatanejo or
Chequetan,. 44; Point and River Tejupan, Manzanilla Port, Cape
Corrientes, 46; Las Tres Marias, Prince George's Island, 48; San Bias,
50; Town of Tepic, 52; General Remarks on the Coast, 53; Mazatlan,
59; Guaymas, 62.
Coast of California
General Remarks, 65; Bay of La Paz, Mission of Loretto, 68; La Bahia
Escondida, 69; Moleje Bay, 70; Rio Colorado, 72; Cape St. Lucas, 74;
Magdalena Bay, 75; San Bartholomew, 79; Cedros Island, Playa
Maria Bay, San Quentin, 80; San Diego, 81; San Juan, 84; Santa
Barbara, 85 ; Bay of San Pedro, 87; Point Conception, 88 ; Bays of St.
Luis Obispo and Esteros, 89; Carmel Bay, Monterey Bay, 91; Directions for Monterey Bay, 93; San Francisco, 97; Bay of San Pablo, 100;
Sausalitoor Whaler's Harbour, Bay of Sooson, 101; Capt. Beechey's directions for Harbour of San Francisco, 102; Remarks by Capt. John Hall on
Harbour of San Francisco, 107; Richardson's Remarks on Harbour of San
Francisco, 108; Buoys in the Bay of San Francisco, 109 ; Point de los
Reyes, 110; Farallones, 111; Bodega Bay, 112; Cape Mendocino, 115;
Humboldt Bay, 116; Trinidad Bay, 117; Port St. George, 120.
Coast of Oregon
General Remarks, 122; River Toutounis or Rogue's River, Cape Orford
or Blanco, Cape Gregory or Arago, 123 j Cape Perpetua, 124; Cape
Lookout, Columbia River, 124; Cape Disappointment, 126; Point
Adams, 127 ; Astoria, Fort Vancouver, 128; Directions for Columbia
River, 131 ; Shoalwater Bay, &c, 136 ; Gray's Harbour, 137; Cape
Grenville, 139; Cape Classet, Tatooche Islets, 140. ■Ha
Fuca Strait and Puget Sound
Fuca Strait, 142; Cape Classet, Neeah Bay, 144; Callam Bay, 146; Crescent Bay, 147; Point Angelos, 148; Port Angelos, 149; Dungeness Bay,
151; Budd's Harbour, Port Discovery, 154; Port San Juan, 157 ; Sooke
Inlet, Pedder Bay, Royal Bay, 158; Esquimalt Harbour, Victoria Harbour, 159; Sailing Directions, 160; Admiralty Inlet, Port Townsend,
163; Port Orchard, 165; Puget Sound, 166; Nisqually, 167; Case Inlet,
Mounts Rainier and St. Helen's, Hood's Canal, 169 ; Whidbey Island,
171; Bonilla Island, Fidalgo Island, 172; Possession Sound, Caraano
Island, Penn Cove, 173; Haro and Rosario Straits, 175; Bellingham and
Padilla Bays, Birch Bay, 176.
Vancouver Island
Geneneral Remarks, 178; Nitinat Sound, Clayoquot Sound, 180; Nootka
Sound, 181; Friendly Cove, 182; Woody Point, Cape Scott, 184; Beaver
Harbour, 185.
Islands and Rocks off the Coasts of Central America and California     .........        186
Cocos Island, 186; Chatham Bay, 188; Wafer Bay, 189; Malpelo Island,
Gallego Island, 190 ; Clipperton Rock, 191; Revillagigedo Islands, 193;
St. Benedicto Island, Roca Partida, 194 ; Clarion Island, Alijos Rocks,
Guadaloupe Island, 195.
Gulf of Tehuantepec   .......
Winds in the Pacific   ......
West Coast of Mexico ......
Passages to and from various Ports in the Pacific
Monterey to the Columbia River ....
Bearings and Distances, with the variation of the Compass, from San Francisco
to Monterey, and from San Francisco to the Columbia River     . .       231
ion tiii:
*„* Thk Bearings auk all by Compass, unless wren otherwise f.x-
i'hksski).   Thb Soundings are reduced to the level of Low Water,
Si1 kim, Tides.
It has urgently been ordered bt the Lords Commissioners of the
Admiralty, that the word " Port" is to be used instead of the
word '' Larboard," in all II. M. Vessels, in consequence of the
similarity existing between the words Larboard and Starboard.
Before giving a nautical description of the Bays and Harbours of
Central America, a few remarks on the geography and natural features
of the country, will not be considered out of place.
Central America comprehends all the territory lying between
Mexico on the north, and the Isthmus of Darien, or Panama, on the
south. Its entire length is 1,000 miles, and its breadth varies from
upwards of 100 miles to 300; giving an area of 200,000 square miles,
or more than twice the extent of Great Britain. Situated in the torrid
zone, between 8° and 18° N. latitude, and 80° and 90° W. longitude,
it at once separates the Atlantic from the Pacific Ocean, and unites
the continents of North and South America; a position as important
commercially, as it is geographically remarkable and unique.
It includes the, fine independent states of Guatemala, Salvador,
Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica; and also British Honduras, and
the Mosquito Shore. It is bounded on the north bj Mexico; on the
west and south by the Pacific; and on the east by the Caribbean Sea,
and the Bay of Honduras. 2
The five states of Central America nearly correspond, at the present
time, with the I Intendencias,' as they existed under Spanish Colonial
rule. Their boundaries are pretty clearly defined, and vary but little.
They are subdivided into Provinces, Departments, and. Districts; the
latter applying to the less peopled, though often extensive tracts,
covered with almost impenetrable forests.
The state of Guatemala is by far the most extensive of the five. It
includes a considerable and populous highland district to the north,
named * Los Altos de Quesaltenango;' and to the eastward, vast
territories, such as those of Vera Paz and El Peten, which are but
thinly inhabited. Altogether it occupies full one-third of the whole
country. It has also the largest population, and far surpasses the other
states in importance. Its growing trade is even now considerable. It
is principally carried on with the English. The chief export, which is
cochineal, amounted in 1846 to 9,037 " surrones," or bales of 150 lbs.
each, valued at £211,804 13*. 9d.
The state of Salvador is situated on the western coast. Its climate
is hot, but more healthy than that of the eastern shores—perhaps because
the land is better cleared and cultivated. The chief product of this
state is indigo, which used to be extensively cultivated and at one
time rivalled, in the number of seroons exported, the cochineal of
Guatemala. But so much has it diminished, that in 1846 the number
of bales exported did not exceed 1,500, in value about £10,000. The
city of San Salvador, its capital, is only a few miles distant from the
Pacific Ocean. Its commerce still surpasses that of most towns in
Central America. And its political influence, taking as it does the lead
in all liberal movements, is considerable. During a certain period it
was the seat of the Federal Government, and, like Washington, it had
at that time a certain territory around the city, distinguished as the
Federal District.
The state of Honduras takes its name from the Bay of Honduras,
signifying depths, which forms its northern boundary. The first navigators so denominated it, because they with difficulty obtained any
soundings in it. The surface of the ground is in this state even more
generally uneven than elsewhere. Its population is scanty in comparison with the two former states ; and, like Guatemala, it still comprises vast districts of virgin forests, partially peopled by wild Indians.
The climate, like that of the other states, is varied, being generally
temperate in the interior, which is notable for its mines, and hot near
the coasts, which abound with rivers, from the banks of which much
mahogany and sarsaparilla are taken. Comayagua, the capital, is still
a city of some importance, though said to have been much more so
formerly.    This state possesses two sea-port towns, Truxillo and Omoa, THE WEST  COAST  OF  NORTH AMERICA.
.which were active as military and commercial depots of Spain, but they
,are now fallen into comparative decay.
The state of Nicaragua is exceedingly fertile, and generally salubrious; but, notwithstanding it possesses several advantages over Honduras, it is but little more populous. This may partly be accounted
for by the absence of any leading branch of industry, or any considerable
activity in its commerce, but still more by its frequent civil wars. In
a land surpassingly volcanic, this state is pre-eminently so. The very
roads, in some parts, sound hollow under the hoofs of the mules or horses.
Leon, the capital, and Granada are large cities, and once enjoyed great
wealth and commercial prosperity; butflike all chief towns in Central
America, they have suffered much from crime and consequent internal
disorganization, as well as from civil wars, political commotions, and
misrule. These cities, from the highest rank in repute and influence,
are now reduced to little better than heaps of ruins, scantily inhabited,
and, where best, affording abundant evidence of both earlier and more
recent devastations. Leon, on the Lake of Managua, often called the
Lake of Leon, is said to have contained at one time 32,000 people. It
is now reduced to less than half that number. Granada may still have
about 13,000 inhabitants, It is beautifully situated on the borders of
the Lake of Nicaragua. The town of Nicaragua, about 36 miles southeast of Granada, though inferior in size and importance,, gives its name
to the state and the lake. Like Granada, it is advantageously situated
on its banks, not far from the populous island of Ometepe, which is in
the lake, and contains an active volcano. Great interest at present
attaches to this state and its waters, in connection with the long formed
and often talked-of project of connecting the two oceans at this point,
which is now about to be put to the test of experiment, if not actually
to be realized.
The Central America state which at present enjoys the greatest
degree of tranquillity and political prosperity, is Costa Rica. Its isolated
position on the narrower part of the Isthmus, making communication
with the other states difficult, has preserved it in a great measure from
participating in the wars that have desolated the rest of the country : a
circumstance which, conjointly with a great accession of commercial
vigour, arising out of the successful cultivation of coffee, has given it of
late an impulse unknown to the sister states. More than 70,000
quintals (cwt.) of coffee, worth 7£ dollars the quintal in the country,
(making a' total of £105,000), is now annually exported. "While other
large cities are decaying, San Jose, its new capital, has risen into importance within a very few years. It already numbers upwards of
20,000 inhabitants. Cartago, the former capital, and two other towns
of some magnitude (Heridia and Alajuela), occupy, with the modern
•capital, an extensive table-land stretching almost across the Isthmus.
These towns, together with two or three small ports on each ocean,
include almost the entire population of this compact and thriving
In lat. 14° 46' N. and long. 91° 46' W. is Guatemala la Nueva, or the
the new city, so named because the inhabitants abandoned the old city
on account of earthquakes, which is the present capital, and may on
many accounts be considered as the principal town in Central America.
It is situated on one of the elevated plateaux of the main Cordillera,
known as ' Los Llanos de las Vacas,' or the valley of ' Harmita.'
This plain is surrounded by bold ranges of mountains, among which
stand prominent the two volcanoes of the Antigua, ' De Angua,' and
' De Fuego,' and a third called 'El Volcan de Pacaya,' which is
scarcely, if at all, inferior to them. The plain is about 5,000 feet
above the level of the sea, and is 15 miles wide and 18 broad. The
climate, though considered inferior to that of La Antigua, is mild and
salubrious. The thermometer rarely rises above 70°, and still more
rarely descends below 64°. The number of inhabitants, who are chiefly
Ladinos, the mixed or Mestizo race, and pure Creole-Spaniards, the
unmixed descendants of Spanish colonists, is estimated at 36,000 or
40,000; and in importance, wealth, and beauty, it is second, in Spanish
America, only to the city of Mexico.
The principal lake in Central America is that of Nicaragua, whose
surplus waters descend to the Atlantic by the Rio San Juan del Norte.
It is an inland sea, larger than the island of Jamaica, being 180 miles
long from east to west, and nearly 100 broad from north to south, and
150 Spanish leagues in circumference. In many places the water is
10 to 15 fathoms deep, and it is stated that there are but few shallows.
It contains a small archipelago of islands, and on one fertile and
populous island, named Ometepe, there is a volcano. This lake is also
connected with that, called Managua, itself no inconsiderable body of
Water. The shores of these magnificent waters, which are likely to
afford important faculties for commerce, are of surpassing fertility, and
as salubrious as they are beautiful.. It is from the Lake of Nicaragua
that the canal is proposed to be cut, connecting the lake with the port
of San Juan del Sur, on the Pacific.
Not far from the western or Pacific coast, the country is traversed
from north-west to south-east by a continuous cordillera or unbroken
chain of mountains, unbroken at least as far as the Lake of Nicaragua,
which are covered with diversified vegetation. This forms a kind of
connecting chain between the Rocky Mountains of the north, and the
Andes of the South American continent. Some of the loftiest summits
are 17,000 feet high.    Frequent spurs   or offsets from the 'Sierra THE  WEST  COAST OF  NORTH AMERICA. 5-
Madre,* the main ridge, intersect the plains at right angles, and sometimes extend to the sea-shore.
At various degrees of elevation along the sides and on the summits of
the mountains, are numerous plateaux or table-lands, like so many
natural terraces, some of them of great extent, and all delightfully
temperate and luxuriantly fertile. These regions especially seem to
invite the residence of man, and to invite the culture of his hand. They
constitute a distinguishing feature of this and some neighbouring
countries. But no one of those countries, and probably no part of the
earth, presents a greater diversity of level on a surface of equal extent
than does Central America; consequently, no country possesses such
variety of climate, or offers such facilities of adaptation to all kinds of
productions and to all constitutions of men, from the sun-burnt inhabitant of a tropical plain, to the hardy mountaineer inured to perpetual
Most of the highest peaks and isolated mountains are volcanoes. The
rocks are of granite, gneiss, and basalt; but volcanic formations and
ejections predominate. Not less than thirty volcanic vents are said to
be still in activity. The traces of remote, as well as recent earthquakes
are clearly discernible in the fissures and ravines that everywhere
abound. Extinct craters, rent rocks, beds of lava, scoriae, vitrified,
charred, and pumice stones, together with hot and sulphureous springs,
all mark it as the most volcanic region known. Indeed, shocks of earthquakes, generally slight, are periodically felt at the opening and closing
Of the wet season.
The productions of Central America are numerous. Abundant
materials for exchange with other nations are afforded in cotton, coffee,
-sugar-cane, arrow-root, ginger, tobacco, and even silk-worms, though
but lately imported; but especially in 'anil' (indigo), and 'grana'
(cochineal), which, because most lucrative, absorb almost all the attention
of the planter. Other marketable productions are not wanting; but
both known and unknown sources of wealth decay in the forests, or lie
hidden beneath the soil. But, besides these, the more temperate regions
yield all, or nearly all, the productions which are raised in Europe.
Wheat and barley are cultivated sometimes by the side of the sugarcane, on the elevated plains ; and the markets of the larger towns are
supplied ^t once with the productions of torrid and of temperate climes ;
so that, at all seasons, the green pea, the cauliflower, and cos-lettuce, are
sold along with the Avocato-pear, sweet potato, olive, capsicum, or
chillies, and many other productions of opposite climates, less delicate,
perhaps, but more common and useful. Of edible fruits, those most
common are the banana, pine-apple, orange, sweet lemon, lime, shaddock,
forbidden fruit, water-melon, musk-melon, sapote, mango, guava, fig,
v !■
Vf i 6
tamarind, pomegranate, granadilla (fruit of the passion flower), sea-
grape, papia, mammae, star and custard-apples, and cocoa, cashew, and
ground nuts. There are said to be in all " more than forty genera,"
including, probably, those introduced from Europe, such as the apple,
pear, quince, cherry, &c, which, though they are found to thrive, are
little appreciated, and none of any sort can be said to be cultivated with
care. The same remark applies, though with frequent exceptions, to
garden flowers, which are still more varied.
It has been well observed by Mr. Frederick Crowe, that "The
precious metals of Central America, together with quicksilver, copper,
lead, iron, talc, litharge, and most other minerals that are in use, only
await the labour and ingenuity of man to extract them from the bowels
of the earth, and convert them into objects of convenience and beauty;
and seams of coal, ochre, gypsum, sal-ammoniac, and wells of naptha,
are also ready to yield their valuable stores. Jasper, opal, and other
precious stones are also found; and pearl fisheries have long existed
upon the coasts. In fine, there is no lack of any thing that nature can
bestow to sustain, to satisfy, and to delight. So abundant are the
necessaries of life that none need want: so profuse are the bounties of
nature that they are suffered to decay through neglect. The peach-tree
and the rose run wild on the borders of the orange grove, whose fruits
and flowers are alike simultaneous and perennial; and the pine-apple,
the mango, and the water-melon are preferred to the almond, the olive,
and the grape. Such is the nature of the soil, that the exuberance of
that wealth which rots upon its surface in the less populous parts of
Central America, would amply clothe and satisfy with bread thousands
of the sons of want who fill our streets and unions, dispelling that
squalid wretchedness which penury and destitution have produced, and
mitigating some of the woes which embitter the lot of so many of our
fellow-countrymen. It may be that the time is not far distant when
many such will seek these fruitful shores, and under wise direction,
not only benefit themselves, but, while redeeming fertile valleys and
plains from desolation, greatly bless the timid natives with higher arts
of life."
Lying between the parallels of 10° to 18°, and almost insular as to
any influence of the continent on its temperature, the climate of the
coasts and lowlands is hot and humid. That of the interior varies with
the altitude, and is generally mild, equable, and salubrious. The two
seasons, aptly designated the " wet" and the " dry," are well defined.
They may be said equally to divide the year, though they vary considerably in different districts. The rains, everywhere copious, are more
continual in some parts, and the drought is more severe in others, but
the' dry season is nowhere uninterrupted by refreshing showers, and the r
wet is everywhere relieved by an interval of dry weather, which perceptibly separates " the former " from "the latter rain."
In the highlands of the interior, the seasons are singularly regular.
The dry weather commences about the close of October, and terminates
on the 12th or 13th of May, rarely varying even a few hours.    It is
ihost frequently on the 12th that " the windows of heaven are opened."
The sky is then suddenly obscured with thick clouds, which burst simultaneously, often accompanied with thunder, and sometimes with hail.
This is confined to the afternoon, and returns on the following days, or
perhaps for successive weeks, at the same hour, or a little later.    During
the whole of the wet season, which is by far the most agreeable, the
forenoon is almost invariably cloudless, and the-atmosphere clear, elastic,
and balmy.    The rains are often confined to the evening and night, or to
the night hours only.    During the dry season, the mornings and evenings
are often so cool and bracing as to predispose to active exercise, though
fires are never resorted to.    Through the day the sky is seldom obscured,
and light clouds only are to be seen sweeping rapidly along the plains
during the short twilight that ushers in the equinoctial day, thence they
rise and hang in clusters round the tops of the mountains till the sun has
gathered strength to dispel them: in the evening they return to attend
its setting, and add inimitable beauty to the gorgeous scene.    At all
seasons the entire disc of the moon is distinctly visible through all its
phases, but now it shines with such uninterrupted clearness, as entirely
to supersede, when above the horizon, the necessity of artificially lighting
the streets ; and even in the absence of the ruler of the night, the brilliancy of the stars dispels all gloom.    In some districts on the eastern
coasts, through local influenees, it rains more or less all the year; which,
however, adapts them for the growth of certain vegetable productions ;
while the districts where the dry weather lasts the longest are alone suitable for the cultivation of others.    On the more elevated plains, such as
those of Quesaltenango, in the department of Los Altos, the heat is never
so great as during the summer months in England; and though snow is
said sometimes to fall in December and January, it immediately dissolves,
and the thermometer never descends so low as the freezing point.
Nautical Remarks.—Ships bound from Cape Horn to the ports in
Central America, steer to the northward, generally hauling towards the
land, when they have reached the parallel of the Islands of Juan Fernandez and Masafuera; they then steer according to the direction of the
coast, with the prevailing winds from the S. to S.E., and without
following too strictly any given rules as to distance from the land, custom,
however, recommends to keep the land just in sight as the breeze is generally brisker, and steadier than at a greater distance off. Nevertheless,
Captain Marie, of Bordeaux, states that he has- sailed along the coast at 8
sailing directions for
a distance of from 15 to 25 leagues, running at a rate of five to six miles
an hour, and that even at 60 leagues from the land, he had met with
steadier winds from the S.S.E. than close in-shore, which were less subject to calms, being not so much under the influence of the land and sea
In the winter season, say from May to October, it is better to keep
at the greater distance from the land, because in that season, particularly
near the coasts of Chili and Peru, comprised between the parallels of V al-
paraiso and Lima, there are often bight northerly breezes, accompanied
with hazy weather and a heavy swell. As you approach the equator the
fog and swell of the sea gradually subsides, and is succeeded by light sea
breezes and clear weather.
If bound to Acapulco or the ports on that part of the coast, and being
unprovided with good instruments, it is best not to make for the port to
which you may be bound, because you might be carried to the westward,
and thus be uncertain of your true position, but to run for the Island of
Cocos, which, according to the observations of Captain Sir E. Belcher,
R.N., is in lat. 5° 33' N. and long. 86° 58' 22" W., in order to obtain
your true position, and start from a well ascertained point of departure.
If bound to the Gulf of Nicoya, it is advisable to steer for Cape Blanco,
the western side of the entrance, taking care to keep to the eastward of
it. If bound to Realejo, or to the ports to the westward of that river, a
course should be shaped for the volcano of Viego, because it is the most
conspicuous object on the coast, and is to windward of every port situated
to the westward of the Gulf of Fonseca. This volcano is the most remarkable mountain in Central America; its form is that of an erect
cone, hilly towards its summit, having its upper base, or rather its crater,
inclined, being less elevated towards the east than towards the west.
Viego may generally be known by several hillocks about it, but which
are of less altitude.
Having premised these few introductory remarks we will begin the
description of the coast, commencing with the Gulf of Panama.
GULF OF PANAMA.—The Gulf of Panama is a spacious bay, about
130 miles wide at the entrance, and extending about the same distance to
the northward, the coasts trending in a semicircular direction. The western
point of the gulf is called Point Mala, and the eastern, Point Garachine.
Its shores form two bays, the eastern of which, called the Bay of San
Miguel, is to the northward of Point Garachine, and the western, the
Bay of Parita, is to the northward of Point Mala. In the north-eastern
part of the gulf is a cluster of islets, named the Columbia Islands, formerly called the Pearl Islands, from the pearls which are found there, THE  WEST  COAST  OF  NORTH  AMERICA. 9-
the largest of which is the Isla del Rey; there are. also some islands off
the city of Panama, which afford some protection to the harbour. The
soundings over the gulf are generally pretty deep, shoaling gradually as
you advance, from 50 and 80 fathoms at the entrance.
GULF OF SAN MIGUEL.—The southern point of the Gulf of San
Miguel, called Point Garachine, is high and barren, and has a rock above
water off it, called El Caynelo, within which a good passage is said to
exist. Within the point is a cluster of houses called the Village, and
about three miles beyond it is the River Sambu. The land to the eastward of the point becomes low and swampy, and bends round to the
north-eastward, forming the Gulf of San Miguel, the water in which
shoals gradually as you approach the shore. tmX
' The Gulf of San Miguel is about 11 miles wide at the entrance, but
becomes contracted as you advance within it by the Points of Patino and
Lorenzo, which are only four miles apart; here, on the port side, will be
seen the Island Iguana, to the northward of which the gulf opens, and
receives the Rivers Congo, Sucio, Estero, and Cupunati. A long neck
of land here runs out to the southward, beyond which the channel becomes narrower, and has several rocks and islands within it; to the
northward is a large island, which divides it into two passages ; that to
the northward has the deeper water, but that to the southward, or Boca
Chica, is narrower, and free from dangers. Having passed these straits
the channel runs in a S.E. £ Easterly direction, towards the River Tuyra,
where, in mid-channel, there is a narrow and long sandy island, having a
passage on each side; that to the south-westward has the deeper water,
and is the broadest; the River Tuyra then winds south-eastward to the
little town of Santa Maria, up to which it is navigable, dividing near
this town into two branches, one of which continues to the southward,
taking its rise near the Cordilerras, and receiving numerous petty streams
in its way, some of which serve to support a communication with the
Gulf of Darieh. The other branch extends N.W. by N., so far as the
mountains which run along the northern part of the province of Darien ;
this is called the River Chuqunaque, and is navigable by canoes. There
is also another branch, dividing from the north-eastern part of the gulf,
called the River Savanas, which runs up the country about N.N.W., 12
or 13 miles to Fort del Principe. The country about these rivers is"
generally low, woody, uncultivated, and unhealthy.
Bay of Panama.—From the northern point of the Gulf of St.
Miguel, or Point Brava, which is moderately high, the land becomes low
and sandy all the way to Panama, with a woody shore, in which are several small streams ; some rocky islands lie off it, but the usual passage
is to the westward and southward of them all. The passage between the
shore and the Archipelago de las Perlas is 20 miles wide, with from 15
i 10
to 22 fathoms water, mid-channel. The first islet met with is the Far-
rallon Ingles, bearing from Point Brava about N. by W. ^ W., distant
nearly three leagues; it is a barren rock, lying a mile off the shore.
Eight and a half miles N.W. by W. from the Farrallon is the Pajaros,
two low rocky islets, 2^ miles from shore ; and, in almost the same
direction, 7^ miles further, is Manjue, or Tiger Island, which is connected to some small islets near the land by a ridge of sand. Within
these islands, and close to the land, are some small islands called the
Majaquey, between which and the shore are two fathoms water, and a
passage for boats, &c. W. by N. from Tiger Island, 5| miles, and S.W.
from Majaquey, distant two leagues, lies El Pelado, a small island, near
which is 12 fathoms water ; the passage between El Pelado and Tiger
Island, and also between Tiger Island and Majaquey, is good, and free
from danger, with a bottom of mud, and the depth from 12 to 4 fathoms,
decreasing toward the latter island. Opposite to this part, the coast is
somewhat elevated inland, and the Sierras de Manjue become conspicuous ; from hence to the westward, a broad sand bank runs along the
coast, the water being shallow, all the way, to the Island Chepillo.
This island is low, and lies directly before the entrance of the River
Chepo, which is a deep and rapid river, about a mile broad, taking its
rise in the lofty mountains, about five leagues distant from the Gulf of
St. Bias ; by means of this river, a communication is carried on between
the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. The town of Chepo is four miles up
the river; but the mouth of the river is, at present, choaked up with
sands, and not navigable for ships. W. by N., eight leagues from the
Island Chepillo, is the city of Panama.
Panama is a large and somewhat irregularly built town, having its
principal streets extending, from sea to sea, across the peninsula on
which it is built. It is represented to be now in a very ruinous condition. The buildings, of stone, are generally substantial, and the larger
houses have courts or patios. It has a beautiful cathedral, five or six
convents, and a college. The harbour is protected by a number of
islands, a short distance from the mainland, and it is said that there is
anchorage under all of them.   The commerce consists in the exportation
wSH r
of the produce of the country to Lima and Guayaquil, and there is also
intercourse with Jamaica, gold and silver being frequently sent by way
of Panama to England. By recent observations, the north-east portion of
the town is considered to be in lat. 8° 56' 56" N. and long. 79° 31' 12" W.
It is high water on the days of full and change of the moon at 3h. 23m.,
and the greatest rise of tide is 22 feet.
Ledges of rocks extend some distance all round the peninsula on which
the town is built, outside of which shoal water of from 3 to 15 feet extends about a mile, which is succeeded by some rocky patches, called the
Sulphur and Danaide Rocks, lying from 1^ to"2i miles from the town.
The rocks furthest from the town are the Danaide Patches of 2^ fathoms,
having 3^ to 5 fathoms all round them, which may be cleared on the
south side by bringing the south steeple of the cathedral half-way between
the east and south-east bastions. To the N.W. of the Danaide Patches,
and between them and the town, are the Sulphur Rocks of 3 to 9 feet,
which may be just cleared on the south side by bringing the flagstaff on
Mount Ancon in one with the south steeple of the cathedral, a mark
that appears also to clear the Danaide Rocks to the northward in four
fathoms. About two miles to the southward of the town are five islands,
called Ilenao, Culebra, Perico, Flamenco, and San Jose, about \\ miles
from the shore ; between»them and the shore there is no passage, the
water being shoal. Beyond these, at the distance of-1^ miles, is the
small island Changarmi, having a reef all round it, with a rock above
water at its north-west extremity, called the Penamarca: this island is
about a mile from the shore. To the south-westward of this, at the distance of two miles, are the small islands Tortola and Tortolita.
At about eight miles to the southward of the town of Panama, are the
islands, Tobago, UraVa, and Taboguilla, the soundings about which are 8
to 15 fathoms. Of these islands, the largest, Taboga, has anchorage on
the north-east side in 8 to 10 fathoms, just off the village, where water
and provisions can be obtained. The island Urava is immediately off the
south end of Taboga, being separated from it by a very narrow channel;
it has, off its south end, a small island or rock called Terapa. The island
Taboguilla is about \\ miles to the north-eastward of Taboga, and about
half its size ; off its south-west end is a cluster of rocky islets, and there
are two or three rocks above water, called the Farrallons, off its south
extremity, having between them and the island 10 to 11 fathoms. The
channel between Taboga and Taboguilla has a depth of water of 13 to 20
fathoms, and is all clear excepting at its southern entrance, where, nearly
in mid-channel, there is a sunken rock, with 8 to 14' fathoms close-to
all round, lying with the Farrallons, bearing about N. by E. k E., and
the north end of Urava nearly W. by S. \ S.
To the southward of the Taboga Islets are the islands Chama, Valla- 12
dolid, Otoque, and Bana, which last is the furthest from the Taboga
group, being distant from them nearly 16 miles. Commander Sir E.
Belcher, R.N., recommends vessels, in approaching the town of Panama,
and after making Point Mala, to run up between these islands and the
main, on the western side of the gulf, as, by doing so, considerable time
will be saved.
QUIBO, OR COIBA ISLAND has lately been surveyed by Lieut.
John Wood, R.N., from which it appears that it is about 19 miles long, and
12 miles broad in its widest part; and that its south point, Negada, is in lat.
7° 13' 15" N. and long. 81° 3& 10" W.; variation of the compass, 7° E.
It is luxuriantly wooded, and would be fruitful in every tropical production but for the rains, which continue from April to November, and
render its climate unhealthy. Calms and variable winds prevail, especially in the rainy season ; it is therefore not so well adapted as a place
of general rendezvous, although more or less importance will be attached
to it whenever a transit by either of the adjoining provinces shall be
effected from the Atlantic.
On the eastern side of Quibo Island is Damas Bay, which is five or
six miles in extent, and affords a good depth of water and excellent
shelter from the eastward. The soundings are from 30 to 15 fathoms,
shoaling as you approach the shore ; and water may be obtained in the
northern part of the bay. Off the southern shore rocky shoals extend
nearly a mile out, so that care must be exercised to avoid them. In the
middle of the bay the land is low, and here there is a small stream, named
the River San Juan, at the entrance to which are some sandy flats.
Damas Bay was stated, by Captain Colnett, to be the most commodious place for cruizers he had met with in these seas, as it abounded
with wood and water; also trees of the cedar kind, large enough to make
masts for first-rate ships, and of excellent quality; his place of anchorage
was in 19 fathoms, the north point of the bay being in a line with the
north point of Cebaco Island, bearing N.N.E., the watering-place
N.W. I N., and the south point of Qnibo S.E. by S. ;* but vessels may
lay near enough to the shore to be able to haul off their water; the time
of anchoring must however be considered, for sandy flats run a long way
off, and may deceive you in the distance. It is high water in the bay
at half after three o'clock; the flood comes from the northward, flowing-
seven hours and ebbing five, the perpendicular rise of the tide being two
fathoms. The anchorages throughout the bay are good ; and five or six
miles off you will find 33 and 35 fathoms, good holding muddy ground.
Few vegetables or fruits are to be obtained here, but shell-fish, as crabs,
cockles, periwinkles, and oysters, may be had in plenty; there are also
* These bearings do not agree according to the new survey of Lieut. Wood. THE  WEST   COAST   OF  NORTH   AMERICA.
other fish to be caught, but alligators, sharks, and sea-snakes swarm on
the adjaeent shores, and seem to harass, destroy, and lessen the quantity ; deer and other animals are said to inhabit the island, and birds and
monkeys are numerous, but they are very shy, and difficult to get at;
which Captain Colnett considers to be owing to the state of agitation
they live in, from the wolves, tigers, hawks, and vultures that prey upon
them. Turtles also are in great abundance, yet hard to catch. Whales
also frequent these shores, but not in any great numbers; some of these
are of the spermaceti species.
Hicarons.—Southward from Quibo Island are the Hicarons, two
small islands, the southernmost lying in lat. 7° 6' N. and in long. 81° 48'
W.; this is about one mile long, and the northern island 3| miles; they
He north and south of each other, being separated by a narrow passage.
The least island is entirely covered with cocoa-trees ; and the largest
island bears an equal appearance of leafy verdure, but very few trees
there are of the cocoa kind. The most extensive look-out, says Captain
Colnett, is from the top of Hicaron, for it commands Quibo and the whole
of the coast and bay to the northward.
The channel between Hicaron and Quibo is about four miles wide,
and has an irregular depth of 6 to 20 fathoms. It is quite clear; but as
there are some dangers near the south-east point of Quibo, it will be
more prudent to pass to the southward of the islands than to attempt the
passage within them. The principal danger to be avoided is the Hill
Rock, a small patch of six feet water, lying two miles S. ^ E. from
Barca Island, a small islet lying close to the shore of Quibo, and 5^ miles
E. | N. from David Point, the eastern point of Hicaron Island. Close
to this rock there are 10 to 15 fathoms, so that it is very dangerous.
Off the N.E. point of Quibo Island there are several islands and
rocks. The largest island, named Rancheria, is 1^ miles in length, and
lies about If mile from the shore; within it are 7 and 8 fathoms, but,
as there are several dangers, it will not be prudent to run through. To
the north-eastward of this, about 4J miles, and separated from it by
soundings of 40 to 60 fathoms, are two smaller islands, named Afuera
and Afuerita, which appear to be surrounded by rocks.
The western coast of Quibo Island appears, from the survey, to be of
moderate height, and bold to, and without any dangers but what are
close to the shore. At about half way down there is an open bay, named
Hermosa, in which are 14 to 20 fathoms.
Rear-Admiral Sir George Seymour has remarked of Quibo Island,
that " it is about the same size as the Isle of Wight. Off the points
ledges of rocks generally extend; but there is an appearance of an an-
choring-place in the intervening bays on the east side, along which I proceeded in the ' Sampson' steam-vessel.    The soil on the coast is good, 14
but the interior is nearly inaccessible from the steepness of the cliffs and
the tangled vegetation. We found traces of pearl-divers having visited
the shores; but there are no inhabitants (1847) except at the small islet
of Rancheria, between which and the north-east end of Quibo there is
good anchorage. A Frenchman, of the name of Sorget, is resident on
Rancheria; and this situation, as far as I could judge on a cursory view,
seems more favourable for an establishment than any we saw on the
larger island."
In the account of Lord Anson's voyage, by Richard Walter, published
in 1776, there is a description of Quibo Island, in the following terms.
It should be premised that the anchoring place was in Damas Bay.
" The island of Quibo is extremely convenient for wooding and
watering, since the trees grow close to the high-water mark, and a large
rapid stream of fresh water runs over the sandy beach into the sea: so
that we were little more than two days in laying in all the wood and
water we wanted. The whole island is of a very moderate height, ex-
cepting one part. It consists of a continued wood spread all over the
whole surface of the country, which preserves its verdure the year round*
Amongst the other wood, we found there abundance of cassia, and a
few lime-trees. It appeared singular to us, that, considering the climate
and the shelter, we should see no other birds than parrots, paroquets, and,
mackaws; indeed, of these last there were prodigious flights. Next to
these birds, the animals we found in most plenty, were monkeys and
guanos, and these we frequently killed for food; for, notwithstanding
there were many herds of deer upon the place, yet the difficulty of penetrating the woods prevented our coming near them; so that, though we
saw them often, we killed only two during our stay. Our prisoners
assured us that this island abounded with tigers; and we did once discover the print of a tiger's paw upon the beach, but the tigers themselves we never saw. The Spaniards, too, informed us, that there was
frequently found in the woods a most mischievous serpent, called the
flying snake, which, they said, darted itself from the boughs of trees, on
either man or beast that came within its reach; and whose sting they
believed to be inevitable death. Besides these dangerous land animals,
the sea hereabouts ia infested with great numbers of alligators, of an
extraordinary size: and we often observed a large kind of flat-fish.
jumping a considerable height out of the water, which we supposed to
be the fish that is said frequently to destroy the pearl-divers, by clasping them in its fins as they rise from the bottom ; and we were told that
the divers, for their security, are now always armed with a sharp knife,
which, when they are entangled, they stick into the belly of the fish,
and thereby disengage themselves from its embraces.
" Whilst the ship continued here at anchor, the Commodore, attended THE   WEST  COAST  OF  NORTH   AMERICA.
by some ofihis officers, went in a boat to examine a bay which lay to
the northward; and they afterwards ranged all along the eastern side of
the island. And in the places where they put on shore, in the course
of this expedition, they generally found the soil to be extremely rich,
and met with great plenty of excellent water. In particular, near the
north-east point of the island, they discovered a natural cascade, which
surpassed, as they conceived, everything of this kind which human art
or industry hath hitherto produced. It was a river of transparent water,
about forty yards wide, which rolled down a declivity of near a hundred
and fifty in length. The channel it fell in was very irregular, for it
was entirely composed of rock, both its sides and bottom being made up
of large detached blocks ; and, by these, the course of the water was
frequently interrupted: for in some parts it ran sloping with a rapid
but uniform motion, while in others it tumbled over the ledges of rocks
with a perpendicular descent. All the neighbourhood of this stream
was a fine wood, and even the huge masses of rock which overhung the
water, and which, by their various projections, formed the inequalities
of the channel, were covered with lofty forest trees."
To the eastward of Quibo Island, in the Bay of Montijo, are the
islands Cebaco, Governadora, and others, of which we possess no
BAHIA HONDA, on the main, immediately to the north-eastward
of Quibo Island, has lately been surveyed by Sir E. Belcher, R.N. It
is a small bay, extending about three miles into the land, and widening
when inside. In the north part of the bay is a little island named Talon,
to the eastward of which are six and eight fathoms. Midway in the entrance are 22 and 23 fathoms. The island, Sentinella, on the south side
of the entrance, is estimated to be in lat. 7° 43' 32" N. and long. 81° 29' 1"
W.    The variation of the compass, in 1839, was 6° 17' E.
PUEBLO NUEVO.—This port lies at the back of Quibo Island, on
"the main. At about 4j miles to the westward of the entrance, is a
small island, a quarter of a mile in extent, cabled Magnetic^ Island, on
which the observations were made in the course of Commander Sir E.
Belcher's survey of this neighbourhood, by which survey the position of
a small rock close to the south side of the island was determined to be
lat. 8° 4' 39' N. and long. 81° 45' 30" W. It is high water on the days
of full and change, at 3h. 10m., the rise of tide being 12 feet.
Commander Sir E. Belcher says, " The port consists of the outlet of
a large river, which takes its name from a small village of huts, situated
on the River Santiago, at some distance from the entrance. It is formed
by a neck or island about three miles in length, which affords good
anchorage for vessels of any class. Three larger streams discharge
themselves into the main basin at the western end of this island, where
II 16
the apparent great entrance is'situated; but so studded with rocks and
'shoals, as to be unnavigable for anything larger than boats. It is in
fact, an extensive arebipelago, as most of the regions towards the
Chirique territory will be found to be on future examination.
" Water cannot be procured in any quantity, although it may probably be procured by digging wells. The principal article of trade was
sarsaparilla, that of this neighbourhood being esteemed of superior
quality. The stream runs fresh at some miles up, but we did not either
meet it, or succeed in finding the town. Sugar-cane, of good quality,
was offered; and tortoise-shell, one of the articles of trade, can be
procured at the season."
The entrance of the river is about three-quarters of a mile wide, but
the channel way is very much contracted by a sandy spit, called the
Belitre Bank, which runs off from the north side of the river, and mostly
dries. The north side of the river is low and swampy, but the south
side, Cape Cayado, is high, making in hills of 300 and 400 feet elevation. When running in, steer close round Cape Caya'do, in 7, 8, and
10 fathoms; and keep the lead going, taking precaution to avoid the
Belitre Bank; which is the more necessary as it is steep to, and gives
but little, if any warning by the lead. A spit of 2£ fathoms runs off
about a cable's length on the west side of Cape Cayado, and on the
south side of the cape are some rocks close to the shore, called the
Nueces Rocks, which are above water.
About 1J miles N.W. of Cape Cayado is the small island of Si 11a,
from which a spit of three to nine feet runs to the northward towards
the main. On the west side of this island the soundings increase from
eight to ten fathoms.   Var. 7° 37' E. in 1839.
From hence the coast trends round to the south-westward to the
Contreras Islands, and then runs to the westward about 60 miles to
Burma Point, from whence it runs to the north-westward to the Gulf
of Dulce. Off this coast are the following islands and rocks, of which
the principal information, we have, has been furnished by Captain James
Colnett, R.N. in 1798.
The first islands met with, after passing the Contreras, are the Secas,
about two miles from the shore, and 36 miles eastward of Point Burica.
Outside of these, at about seven leagues S.E. by E. \ E. from Point
Burica, is a cluster of barren rocks, called the Ladrones, and S.E. 10
leagues from these, is the Island Montuosa, which is about six miles in
circumference, and rises to a considerable height, having its summit
covered with cocoa and other trees. Off the east and west ends of the
island,.rocks and breakers extend out three or four miles; and on the
south side of the island the bottom is rocky, so also is the shore near
the sea; still, there is a sandy beach behind some small creeks which THE   WEST  COAST  OF  NORTH  AMERICA.
run between the rocks, where the landing for boats is safe. Captain
Colnett found here plenty of parrots, doves, and guanas, and states that
it is probable that refreshments might be had by searching for them;
and that this is a place which might be serviceable to whalers and others,
whose sick could be landed here; the milk of the cocoa-nut might also
occasionally supply the place of water.
GULF OF DULCE.—On the eastern side of the Gulf of Dulce is
Point Burica, a narrow headland, the extremity of which is in lat. 8° N.
and long. 82° 59/ W. From hence the coast runs to the north-westward
about 30 miles, and then turns round towards the south-west about
seven miles, forming, a large bay called the Gulf of Dulce, in which are
said to be several places of excellent anchorage and good water.
From hence the coast runs towards the north-west 70 miles, and has
the small islands Cano and Queypo lying off it near the shore. It then
turns round to the northward to the Gulf of Nicoya, which is an excellent
place for shipping, having many good anchorages within it, but is said to
be unhealthy.
Commander Sir E. Belcher mentions that " on the 28th of March
they passed the Island of Cano, and on the 29th, between it and the
main, found themselves at daylight off the mouth of a large inlet, which
they had not time to examine, the current at the same time setting
strongly to the eastward, with very hazy weather."
GULF OF NICOYA, occasionally called Punta Arenas, is an inlet
extending about 50 miles into the coast. It is about 25 miles wide at
the mouthy between Cape Blanco and Port Herradura, but soon begins
to narrow, gradually decreasing in breadth to the head of the gulf.
There are a few islands in it, among which good shelter may be occasionally obtained, using precaution to avoid the shoal spots.
On the eastern side of the gulf, in lat. 9° 38' 30", and long. 84° 36'
7" W. is Port Herradura, a small bay, sheltered from south-easterly winds
by the small Island of Cano, which lies on the south side of the bay^ but
open to all winds that blow from the westward; there is no channel between this island and the shore, the space being occupied by a rocky ledge.
The north point of the bay, £oint Herratdura, is high and rocky, and surrounded by a rocky ledge, which partly shows above water. Vessels in
running in, will find 24 to 18 fathoms at the entrance, but will soon
deepen their water to 10 and 8 fathoms, when they will be about half a
mile from the head of the bay, and may anchor. Excellent water may
be obtained in a small lake at the head of the bay, by rolling the casks
into the basin, where twenty can be filled at once. Vessels may ride
close to the shore by veering the whole cable with a warp to the
From Herradura Point the coast runs to the northward, about 2i miles,
. 18
to Point Sucia, off which a rocky ledge extends to the westward one
mile, and partly shows at low tide. Close-to, on the outside of this
ledge, there is deep water of 18 to 25 fathoms. From hence the coast
turns round to N.W. <? N. 4\ miles, and then runs N.E., 10 miles, to
Calderas Bluff, a high rocky point, to the eastward of which is Port
Calderas, which is the principal port in the gulf, having a custom-house.
Calderas is generally considered to be unhealthy to all new residents,
and the higher authorities usually manage to excuse residence. Here
wood, water, and provisions may be obtained.
From Calderas Bluff the coast runs round to the north-eastward, eight
miles, to Arenas Point, off which a bank of 3^ and 4£ fathoms extends
2J miles to the southward, having a small spot of two fathoms on it,
lying with the extremity of the point bearing N. ^ W., 1^ mile, and
the Pan de Azucar W.S.W. £ S., 3| miles. This bank is very steep on
the western side, deepening suddenly from 7 to 22 fathoms.
Arenas Point has a shelf of mud extending about a mile to the westward of it, which is awash at low water. It forms the south bank of a
small stream, which has its outlet immediately to the northward of it.
On the north side of this river there is another shelf of mud, which also
becomes dry at low water. From hence the gulf runs to the N.W. by
W-, about 25 miles, and shoals gradually as you approach the head of the
gulf.    Near the end of the gulf is a large island called Chira.
West side of the Gulf.—Cape Blanco, on the west side of the gulf, is
of moderate height, well wooded, even to the beach, and has a small
island lying about a mile off it, with a clear channel of 4J and 9 fathoms
between. This island is of a whitish colour, without verdure, and, at a
distance, appears to be part of the main land. It is surrounded by a
rocky ledge, which dries at low water, and has deep water of 10 to 30
fathoms immediately to the southward of it. Captain Belcher makes the
following remarks, on passing round the cape :—
" On the morning of the 30th of March, 1837, we passed the Gulf of
Nicoya, and close to the island named Cape Blanco, at its western point.
Here we found ourselves obstructed by a point, off which the breakers
and rocky ledges above water extended some distance to seaward. The
soundings were regular from 25 to 11 and 8h fathoms, hard sand, in
which latter depth we tacked successively within 1£ mile of the shore
surf, and an outer roller about half a mile from us on the last tack. The
weather, during the whole day, was thick and hazy over 4he land, followed, at nightfall, by thunder and rain.
These symptoms of the approach of the bad season, rendered me
doubly anxious to get to the northward, as our crew were not, at this
time, in the best condition, and the moist season we experienced was
very oppressive. THE   WEST  COAST   OF   NORTH   AMERICA.
At daylight, the weather very hazy, and Cape Blanco still in sight'
a short distance to the westward we observed a sandy sloping bluff, off
which a shelf, apparently composed of sand, with Conical studded rocks,
extended a considerable distance to seaward. On a sandy islet near
the Bluff, two very remarkable ears jutting up, off which we tacked in
13£ fathoms, sand."
From Cape Blanco, the western side of the gulf runs 11 miles to the
N.E. by N. J N., and is pretty clear, excepting that a ledge of rocks,
partly above and partly under water, runs one mile off the shore, at
about 2\ miles from the cape, having deep water of 17 fathoms close-to
outside. At the end of this distance, 11 miles, the coast bends a little
inwards, forming a small bay, called Ballena Bay, in which are soundings
of 18 and 9 fathoms, shoaling gradually as you approach the head of the
bay, which is low land covered with mangroves. The north side of Ballena Bay, called Ballena Head, is of moderate height, and steep-to,
having 14 fathoms a short distance off it. From hence, the coast runs
N.E. \ N., about eight miles to the Nigretas Islands, having about
midway two islands, separated from the shore by a narrow channel
navigable by boats, called Jasper and Alcatraz. The Nigretas are two
islands pretty close to each other, which run off 2f miles from the coast,
having off the eastern one a ledge of rocks extending a quarter of a mile
to the eastward, near the extremity of which is a large rock called the
Sail Rock.
From the Nigretas Islands the coast runs to the N.N. W., 6£ milesj
and has several islands off it, lying more or less near the shore; of these,
the largest, about two miles westward of Nigretas Islands, is called
Cedro Island. At the end of this distance are the Islands Aves, Pan de
Azucar, and San Lucas, surrounded by shoals to a short distance, but
separated from each other by soundings of 7 to 11 fathoms. The Pan
de Azucar, by the observations of Commander Sir E. Belcher, has been
determined to be in lat. 9° 55' 48" N. and long. 84° 50' 2" W. High
water on the days of full and change at 3h. «9m., the rise of tide being
10 feet.
The channel up the gulf, to the northward of the San Lucas Islands,
between them and the bank off Point Arenas, is If mile wide, with a
depth of 18 to 27 fathoms, muddy bottom. Hence up the gulf, and
failing a pilot, the eye and steady use of the lead will be the best
Directions.—The following, which are the only instructions we have
for the gulf, were written in 1843, and are added, as they may prove
" The entrance of the gulf is safe ; the tides, however, at times run
strongly, especially at the full and change of the moon.    There is ebb
9. 20
and flood, but the former is of longer continuance and much stronger
than the latter.
To run in, keep to the eastward of the meridian of Cape Blanco,
which is the westerly part of the gulf; and should you round the cape at
the distance of from one to three miles, the course will be about N.E.; or,
if you should be about half-way between the cape and Point Herradura,
the eastern side of the gulf, it will be a little more northerly.
Having sighted the Nigretas, named also the Boqueron Islands, which
will show themselves on the port-bow, you will see a rocky point a
little to the eastward of the Nigretas, having the appearance of a vessel,
and hence called the Ship Rock, to which you must give a good berth,
leaving it on the port hand. Haul then over to the starboard coast, so
that in the event of it falling calm and an ebb tide, you might anchor
in shallow water; whereas, if becalmed, with an ebb tide, when near the
Ship Rock, or Nigretas, it would be difficult to find anchorage, at least
in not less than 20 to 30 fathoms ; and if unable to anchor, the ebb tide,
which is very strong in this part of the gulf, would drive the vessel back
again past Cape Blanco. Steer along the starboard coast, so as to pass
the extreme points at a distance of from two to three miles, and you will
soon perceive the custom-house of Punte Arenas, towards which you
will shape your course, and as soon as the village is seen, bring the
custom-house to bear N.N.W., or the middle of the village N. by W.,
when you will have from 13 to 8 fathoms, and will see in the distance
the point named Punta Arenas. Further out there is a heavy breaking
of the sea, occasioned by some sand-banks, which run out a great distance,
and partly dry at low water. To the westward of the banks are the
islands of San Lucas ; to the eastward of which, between them and the
banks, there is good anchorage.
Merchant-vessels prefer lying closer to the harbour, on account of
their proximity to the landing-place and stores. The course indicated
above will lead ships into this anchorage. The leading mark is the
custom-house on with the flag-staff of the port. You will have about
eight fathoms water, muddy bottom, at from a half to three cables'
length from the shore.
The banks above alluded to have a tendency both to augment and
change their position, and the safest course is to keep the custom-house
a little open to the eastward of the flag-staff, keeping the lead constantly
going; and should the water shoalen, to haul immediately to starboard.
If desirous to come to anchor on heaving the ship to, at some two or
three miles from the port, in order to obtain a pilot, it may safely be
done, until one comes off and carries you to the place desired.
The custom-house is easily known by its white painted roof; but
it should be carefully borne in mind that, from the rapid progress the ^
sea was making upon this spot, the said custom-house may by this time
have been destroyed, and another rebuilt elsewhere." *
It has been recommended that ships from the southward should make
Cape Blanco, for the purpose of obtaining a fresh departure for their
intended port. Such is the course recommended by the writer of the
foregoing directions, who considers that it is a better plan than to make
a direct course for the volcano of Viego; as in winter the winds are
light and variable, and attended with frequent calms, and it is frequently
the case that the high lands are obscured by mists or haze, which
renders the navigation difficult, even to those well acquainted with the
from Cape Blanco the coast runs N.W. J W., 50 miles, to Point Velas,
so called from being frequently mistaken for a sail, off which are some
rocks ; and about eight miles before you come to which is a small place
called Morro Hermoso. It is recommended to give the land a good
berth, in order to avoid what dangers there may be; for it has not yet
been-closely examined. It is represented to be, in general, high land
covered with trees, with occasionally some sandy plains and small deep
bays. From Point Velas the coast runs seven miles to the northward, to
Point Gorda, to the north- eastward of which is Port Culebra.
GULF OF PAPAGAYO is the bend of the coast in which are
situated the ports of Culebra and Salinas.
Port Culebra is an inlet running about four miles into the coast, in
a north-easterly direction. At its entrance it is about a mile wide, with
soundings of 10 to 20 fathoms, which depth decreases gradually towards
the head of the bay, where there are nine to six fathoms. On the south
side of the entrance are some islets, or rocks, at a short distance from the
shore, called the South Viradores; and on the north side are also two
similar rocks, called the North Viradores. Captain Sir E. Belcher has
determined the north end of the bay to be in lat. 10° 36' 55" N», and
long. 86° 8& 30" W., variation in 1838, 7° 5' 54" E. After mentioning
various difficulties experienced in finding the port, he describes it in the
following terms:—
*'At daylight on Sunday, the 25th of March, 1838, we were close off
the port, but not being able to detect the Viradores, we wore, and
intended running further south; as Kellet had informed me that, in his
search for me, he had been unable to find it.
• See page 18, in which Calderas is stated to be the chief port, from the information of Commander Sir E. Belcher, who says:—" Punta Arenas was formerly the,
port of this golf in the state of Costa Rica; but interested parties, whose property lay
near to Calderas, on the eastern side of the gulf, managed to have the port or customhouse officers, &c, shifted thither. It is very unhealthy/ almost fatal to all new-
residents ; and the highest authorities take care to excuse residence." H*
While in the act of wearing, a gleam of sunshine showed an island
in-shore, which induced me to make another attempt, and on reaching to
windward we opened the heads and discovered the Viradores ; but even
then could only ascertain from the mast-he%d that any recess of bay lay
within. At noon we entered the heads, and at 3h. anchored in eight
fathoms in this splendid port, justly deserving that appellation.
The port is certainly magnificent, and, from information derived
from the natives, I learned that it is connected with Salinas, and thence
on to Nicaragua, Granada, &c. If any railroad is contemplated in this
quarter, it ought to enter at the Bay of Salinas, which would render
these two ports important. When this portion of the country becomes
settled, civilized, and more populous, I little doubt but Culebra will be
better known, and probably the chief port of the state of Nicaragua.
Water, fit for consumption, was not found at the beach, but may be
obtained a short distance up the creek, which a boat may enter at high
water. If wells were dug, doubtless it would be found at the N.W. side,
as the surrounding country is mountainous. Another symptom in favour
of this is the thickly-wooded sides and summits, as well as bright green
spots of vegetation throughout the" bay.
Brasil wood is very abundant. Mahogany and cedar were observed
near the beach, but, as people have been employed cutting the brasil,
probably all the mahogany and cedar, easily attainable, has been taken."
From Port Culebra the coast runs to the N.N.W., about 20 miles, to
Cape St. Helena, round to the northward of which are Tomas and
Salinas Bays. On the south side of this remarkable cape is a cluster of
islands, called the Murciellagos, or Bat Islands. Captain Sir E. Belcher
makes the following remarks on these islands:—
" On rounding the point in view corresponding to Point Catelina of
Bauza, we discovered a cluster of eight islands. These I determined to
examine, as they did not appear on the chart. They almost formed two
distinct harbours ; the smaller islands forming a crescent by the south,
one large island protecting the east, and another of similar size forming
the line of separation. Passing into the bay, we anchored in the inner
or eastern, harbour; and, having fixed the positions, surveyed it, and
completed water at a very convenient position, where we anchored in 32
fathoms, with a hawser fast to the shore.
We quitted for Salinas, after having satisfied ourselves that Culebra
was not near us. The name of this remarkable cape, which we had
mistaken for Catelina, is St. Helena, and the cluster of islands is termed
Murciellagos, or Bat Islands.
The springs are numerous, and there are tolerable rivulets; but
only that which we watered at (between the centre point and the main)
is safe to approach, by reason of the constant surf.    We found the gulf- THE  WEST  COAST  OF  NORTH  AMERICA.
squalls, even" in this sheltered position, come down the gullies with great
force, and impede our work as well as endanger our boats. In forty-eight
hours, however, it was finished. The geological structure of the cape and
islands is a schistose serpentine, containing balls of noble serpentine."
Tomas and Salinas Bays, to the northward of St. Helena Point,
are separated from each other by a small headland, called Point Descarte.
They are quite open to all winds blowing from the westward. In the
south part of Tomas Bay, at about a mile from the shore, are some rocks
above water, named the Vagares ; and at the head of the bay is a small
island, called Juanilla, inside of which are seven and eight fathoms. The
north shore of the bay has also an islet lying off it, named Despensa.
The water in this bay is very deep, there being 30 fathoms at two miles
from its head; from whence it deepens gradually to eight and seven
fathoms within Juanilla Island.
Salinas or Bolanos Bay is about the same size as Tomas Bay, nearly
four miles; but has not such deep soundings, the depth averaging six to
ten fathdms, sand and mud. In the south part of the bay are some
rocks, above and under water, at a short distance from the shore; and in
the centre of the bay is a small island, called Salinas, the position of
which has been determined to be-in lat. 11° 2' 50" N., and long.
85° 39' 9" W. The north side of the bay is high land, but the south
side is low and flat.
The prevailing winds in this gulf, named Papagayos, blow with considerable violence out of the gulf, and frequently cause the loss of spars
and rigging. They commence about the meridian of Leon, long.
86° 50' W., and when you are coming from the westward, are first felt
off Cape Desolada, about six miles to the eastward of Realejo, and
suddenly give way to calms after passing to the westward. They
decrease about sunset, and attain their greatest force about nine or ten
in the morning.
Captain Sir E. Belcher says of this wind or breeze, that its limits
may be considered to be included in a fine drawn from Cape Desolada
to Point Velas; and it is rather a curious phenomenon, that its strength
seldom ranges so far as this chord, but seems to prefer a curve at a
distance of 15 to 20 miles from the land.
Captain Marie says of the coast to the eastward of the gulf, that in
this part of the coast, and as far as the entrance of the Gulf of Papagayo,
the winds are very light, with frequent calms ; the tides setting strong
from the N.W. Custom recommends steering along the coast in the gulf,
as by so doing it is thought that the squalls are less severe, the winds
more steady, and the sea much smoother. He has frequently crossed
this gulf, sometimes close in shore, and at other times been forced, by
strong winds from N.N.E. to N.N. W., to keep in the offing.    In the
$ 1
11 24
SAILING directions for
[>' f
summer time he has navigated in this locality both near to, and at a
distance from the coast, and in both cases met with strong winds, accompanied with sudden and heavy squalls, which are almost immediately
followed by calms; great care is therefore necessary. He has always
taken the precaution to keep from one to three reefs in the topsails,
taking care promptly to shorten sails when the squalls came on, and then
keeping as close to the wind as possible, with a good full sail, so as easily
to make Point Salade; and thus cross the gulf with this sort of weather
in about 12 or 15 hours. The winds generally enable ships,to make
a N.W. course, but in order to keep in with the coast, it is desirable, as
the squalls subside, to steer, if possible, a little to windward of that
Port San Juan.—From Salinas Bay the coast runs towards the
north-west, about 15 miles, to a place named Port San Juan,* which was
selected by Mr. Baily, who was employed by the government of Central
America to make a survey of this part of the country, as the point where
the railway or canal from the Lake of Nicaragua, projected at that time,
1838, should communicate with the Pacific. It is in lat. 11° 15' 37" N.,
and long. 85° 52' 56" W., and is but a small place, although sufficiently
commodious within. High land surrounds it on every side, excepting
towards the S.S.W. and W. by S. quarters, in which directions it is open
to the ocean. At its head the beach is low and sandy, and on each side
the land juts out towards the sea, forming promontories of 400 to 500
feet high. The port is about 1,100 yards in extent; and the entrance
from the sea is clear, with a depth of water of nine, eight, seven, and six,
fathoms, decreasing gradually to -three fathoms at the distance of 300
yards from the beach. In every part there is good anchorage, generally
on a muddy bottom; and the rise of tide is from 10 to 14 feet.
The prevailing winds on this part of the coast are North/and N.E.
which blow occasionally with considerable violence; and when such is the
case, vessels may sometimes experience some difficulty in makin°- the
port. Fresh water can be obtained at a short distance from the beach.
Fish is abundant, but nothing else, except firewood, is to be had; the
neighbouring lands at present being in a state of nature, without inhabitants or habitations; nor is there either village or town nearer than that
of Nicaragua, at a dis*tance of seven or eight leagues. There are a few
cattle about.
At the distance of less than a mile from the port of San Juan there is
another port named Nacascolo, which is of nearly the same size and
figure; and, as the land between them is low and nearly level, they might
be united by a cut, were it thought necessary.   As these places are so
Also called San Juan del Bur, and Concordia, THE  WEST  COAST  OF   NORTH  AMERICA.
nearly adjacent, they could, probably, both be usefully occupied, one as
an entrance to, the other as an exit from, the canal.
Captain Sir E. Belcher had great difficulty in finding Port San Juan,
and remarks—" as we could not fetch Salinas, I beat up to a position
where we observed a flag displayed, rockets fired, and a number of men
and women in holiday garb collected; and, it being Sunday, we anchored
for the day. The surf was too heavy to attempt landing, therefore we
could neither fix our position satisfactorily, nor obtain information about
San Juan, although I strongly suspected this to be the spot. On Monday
we ran up to Salinas Bay, and then commenced the coast survey to
Realejo, under very easy sail, anchoring for observations near noon as
well as at night. Every nook was narrowly examined, but without
success; therefore I am satisfied that Sunday's position, before noticed,
was the port in question."
From Salinas Bay the coast runs towards the north-west, a distance of
about 100 miles, to Cape Desolada, a term answering its description, as
only one or two stunted shrubs are on its summit; it is in general pretty
clear and bold-to, and has 10 to 12 fathoms a short distance off. About
10 miles to the westward of Cape Desolada is Cardon Island, at the
entrance to the port of Realejo. It is said that at about seven miles
before reaching the port there is a reef running off the land, having two
rocks above water, the one eight and the other five feet high, which are
distant from the beach rather more than three-quarters of a mile. In
passing it, give the rocks above water a berth of two miles. The ground
between the rocks and one and a half mile seaward of them, and probably
more, is very uneven. In the year 1835, H.M.S. Conway struck on
a part of this reef, at f of a mile S.S.W. J W. from the north-west, or
highest of the rocks.*—Nautical Mag. 1836, p. 70.
REALEJO.—The village of Realejo is about nine miles from the sea,
and in 1837 had a population of about 1,000. Its prosperity has for
some years past been declining, more from want of capital, and the little
security afforded by a weak government, than from any want or field
for speculation. The principal employment of the males is on the water,
loading or unloading vessels. There is a custom-house, a collector,
comptroller, and other officers necessary for the management of the port.
Water and provisions can be obtained. The branch of the river on
which the village is situated, the Donna Paula, takes a course towards
Leon, and is navigable to within three leagues of that city.    It has been
* It should he observed that, according to Captain Sir E. Belcher's chart of
Realejo Harbour, there is a reef, named the Conway Beef, lying three-quarters of a
mile from the beach, with Castanon Bluff, south side of the Barra Falsa Channel of
the harbour, bearing N.W. t W., nearly three miles. Probably it is the same
ill 26
suggested to carry a railway from Lebn to the Lake of Managua, which
might be effected; but neither the population or consideration of the
returns at present warrant such a step, unless as the sole act of the
Off the mouth of the river is the island of Cardon, which divides the
entrance into two channels, the Cardon Channel on the north, and the
Barra Falsa on the south. It is about three-quarters of a mile long, and
a cable's length broad, at the south end; thence widening a little towards
its other extremity, and is surrounded, to a short distance off, by a sandy
flat of one and two fathoms water. The island is of moderate height,
appearing of a brownish red colour towards its north-west part, Cape
Ponente, which has some trees on it. On each side of the entrance, the
shore, for some distance, is low and woody.
The Barra Falsa Channel, the south channel into the river, lies between
Cape Austro, the south end of Cardon Island, and Castanon Bluff, the
western part of three islands running off the main, but which are connected together at low water by dry sand. The distance between the
two capes is about a quarter of a mile, but the channel-way is not more
than a cable's length wide, being confined by the shoals on either side.
In approaching thfe channel, you should open the western point of
Cardon Island to the southward of Castanon Head, as it will clear the
Conway Reef in six and seven fathoms; and, in running in, bring the
Vigia, a conspicuous building, about 4J miles up the country, to bear
about N.N.E., appearing between the two points, and it will lead in, in
about five and four fathoms. Both flood and ebb press upon the Castanon
Shoals, and without a knowledge of the tides, this channel will be unsafe
for a large vessel, unless with a strong leading wind.
Cape Austro. The Vigia.
Castanon Bluff.
The Cardon Channel is the safest for strangers. It lies close round
the north end of Cardon Island, between it and the Sawyer Shoals,
extending off the south-west end of Aserradores Island, which have not
more than 3 to 15 feet on them. To sail'in, run towards the entrance
with the south end of Aserradores Island and Cardon Head touching
each other; and when up with Cardon Head, haul close round it, as the
current sets direct on the Sawyer SJioals.   A heavy swell breaks on THE  WEST  COAST  OF   NORTH  AMERICA.
Ponente Point. You may go close to Cardon Head, off which, at a
short distance, are 11 fathoms.
If bound to this port from the southward, and having passed about 20
miles to the eastward of Cocos Island, you should steer so as to make the
land to the eastward of the port, near Cape Desolada, during the period
between November and May, as the winds prevail from the north-east,
and blow, occasionally, with considerable violence out of the Gulf of
Papagayo, causing a current to set along the shore to the N.W. From
.Cape Desolada you run along the coast in about 10 fathoms water.
A good mark to make Realejo is the mountains Viejo and Monotombo;
the former of which is visible 60 miles, and bears about N.E. by E. from
the anchorage.    In our chart of the coast we have given a view of it.
VIEJO VOLCANO, bearing N. 10° E. 25 miles. „
M. Marie recommends that, in the winter time, and wanting a pilot,
you should anchor in eight or nine fathoms, muddy bottom, on the west
side of Cardon Island, with the island bearing E.; and in the summer
time, the north-west point of the island bearing S.E. |E.; in both cases,
at about a mile off the island.
It is imprudent to attempt to run in without a pilot. When inside,
the usual anchorage for merchant-vessels is eight or nine miles below the
village, at a place named the Four Rivers. Here there is less annoyance
from the musquitoes than if higher up. Good water can always be
obtained by going to one of the small rivers a few miles above the
anchorage. In winter this place is considered to be unhealthy, on account
of the fevers, which are frequent and very dangerous.
The north end of Cardon Island was found, by Commander Sir E.
Belcher, to be in lat. 12° 27' 55" N. and long. 87° 7' 47" W. The time
of high water is 3h. 6m. on the days of full and change; and the rise
at spring tides of 11 feet. Upon this port he makes the following
" Cardon Island is of volcanic origin, and the beach contains so much
iron, that the sand, which probably is washed up, caused the magnetic
needle to vibrate 21° from zero. I do not believe, however, that the
needle was much, if at all, affected on the summit of the island, where our SAILING DIRECTIONS  FOR
observations were conducted. Our position was on its new cliffy angle.
The boats having examined and found the anchorage safe, the Sulphur
was brought in and anchored within the Island of Aserradores, in perfectly still water, four fathoms, mud.
On the Island of Aserradores our tide-guage was established, being
free from undulation, although directly open to seaward through Barra
Falsa; and we were fortunate enough to find a good well of fresh water
close to the beach.
Trusting to the accounts I had read of the magnificence of this port/
I had fully intended placing the ship near the town. The visit of the
Captain of the port soon undeceived me. He assured me that at low
water not more than three feet would be found near the town, and so
narrow, that there was barely room for the oars of my gig, and then only
by careful steerage. Indeed, I found, that although the ship might be
warped two miles higher up, she would there be entirely shut from any
breeze, her yards probably locked in the trees, and swarming with
This port, if a settlement were established on the Islands of Aserradores, Cardon, or Castanon, would probably be more frequented; but
the distance from the position where vessels usually anchor (within
Cardon) to Realejo, is a sad drawback to vessels touching merely for
supplies. Rum is also too cheap, and too great a temptation for the
seamen. Supplies of poultry, fruit, bullocks, grain, &c, are, however,
very reasonable, and of very superior quality ; turkeys are said to attain
an incredible weight; they still, however, justly maintain a very high
The present village of Realejo (for the name of town cannot be
applied to such a collection of hovels) contains one main street, about
200 yards in length, with three or four cross openings, leading to the
isolated cottages in the back lanes. With the exception of the houses
occupied by the commandant, vice-consul, administrator of customs, and
a few others, there is not a decent house in the place. The ruins of a
well-constructed church attest its former respectability. The inhabitants
generally have a very unhealthy appearance."
From Cardon Island the trend of the coast is'about N.W. alone Aser-
radores Island, which is low and well wooded, and has a sandy beach.
A near approach to this coast is not recommended, as, if the'wind should
subside, the current and swell would soon drh% you ashore. During
winter, when the wind sometimes blows from S. to S.W. with rainy
weather, there is also danger in remaining at anchor off this shore, as the
sea runs very high.
At a short distance to the N.W. of Aserradores Island there is a small
round island, covered with trees, and with a beach of a whitish colour, THE  WEST  COAST  OF  NORTH  AMERICA.
called Manzana, between which and Aserradores there is a channel
nearly dry at low water, at which time it appears to consist of a single
bed (plateauJ of rocks. It is dangerous to attempt this passage, even in a
boat, unless in very fine weather and nearly high water. Between
Manzana and the main there is another passage, but even more dangerous
than that alluded to; for, although the sea breaks less, and consequently
does not so readily discover to you the rocks and sandy shoals, there is
actually much less water upon them than is found in the previously mentioned channel.
It has occasionally happened that vessels bound to Realejo, and unacquainted with the bearings necessary to make the entrance of that port,
have mistaken Manzana for Cardon, and Aserradores for Castanon, and
the passage mentioned for the entrance to Realejo; so that great caution
is necessary when sailing along this coast not to be deceived in the
appearance of the land. In fact, good charts and sailing directions are
much wanted for this part of the coast.
To the N.W. of Manzana are some rocks extending out some miles,
and upon which the sea breaks violently. They extend along the coast
as far as the parallel of the Mesa de Rodlan, a small mountain close to the
beach, with a flat top. These reefs border the coast, are separated by
channels, and have between them and the shore smooth water. From
hence to Point Conseguina, at the entrance to the Gulf of Fonseca, the
coast has a north-westerly direction.
GULF OF FONESCA, or Conchagua.—The Gulf of Fonseca is a
large inlet or bay extending about 30 miles into the coast. The point on
the eastern side, called Conseguina, is high, and has a reef extending off
it nearly half a mile ; from hence the coast runs six miles towards the
N. by E., and is high and cliffy, having, about half-way, some rocks
extending a short distance from the land. Hence the coast bends round to
the eastward for about a mile, and then runs 5| miles in a N. $ E. direction to Moneypenny Point, which is low and swampy. On the eastern
side, of Moneypenny Point is a small river Or lagoon.
From Moneypenny Point the coast takes a turn to the south-eastward,
for 14 miles, to the mouth of the River Real, and is low all the way, but
rises inland to high mountain land. The River Real is said to be
navigable 60 miles from its mouth, and Sir E. Belcher was enabled to get
his vessel, the Starling, up a distance of 30 miles, and could easily have
gone further, had the wind permitted, but the prevailing strong winds
rendered the toil of towing too heavy.*
* Captain Sir E. Belcher makes the following remarks on this stream; he says,
"I am satisfied that the stream could have been followed many miles higher; and
have-not the slightest doubt that it is fed very near to the Lake of Managua. I saw
the mountains beyond the lake on its eastern side, and no land higher than the inter- 30
About eight miles within Conseguina Point is the volcano of that
name, notorious for its frequent emissions of dust, ashes, and water. Its
summit is about 8,800 feet above the level of the sea, and can be seen at
the distance of nearly 70 miles in clear weather. The verge of the crater
is half a mile in diameter. The interior walls fall perpendicularly to a
depth of about 200 feet, when the bottom of the crater becomes flattish,
with a small transparent lake in the centre. The last grand eruption of
this volcano occurred on the 20th of January, 1835, and was attended
with the most disastrous effects*
From the River Real the coast bends round to the N.N.W., about 30
miles, to the head of the gulf, and has soundings of 1 -.',- to 3 A fathoms, at
four miles from the shore, with some dry patches at 6 miles, JE. by N.,
from Moneypenny Point.
The western side of the gulf, Point Amapala or Candadillo, is of
moderate height, and bordered by a reef of rocks and sand extending
about a mile into the sea, and causing heavy breakers; thus enabling it
to be easily avoided. Outside the point, at a short distance, are six to
eight fathoms.
From Point Amapala the shore bends in to the north-westward to the
outlet of a small river, and then turns to the north-eastward, nine miles,
to Cbicarene Point, round the north side of which is Port la Union,
extending eight or nine miles inland. The upper and north shores of
the port are low, and have extensive oyster beds running off them, by
which the dimensions of the port are very much contracted. Off the
entrance of the port are several islands. The channel-way to Conchagua,
or San Carlos de la Union, is between these islands and Cbicarene or
Chiriguin Point, and is less than half a mile wide, with a depth of 12 to
14 fathoms in it.
vening trees occurred. This, therefore, would be the most advantageous line for a
canal, which, by entire lake-navigation, might be connected with the interior of the
states of San Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and extended to the Atlantic. Thirty
navigable miles, for vessels drawing 10 feet, we can vouch for ; and the natives and
residents assert GO more ; but steamers will be absolutely necessary to tow aguinst the
nrpvflilintr )»rpp?P«-"
prevailing breezes THE  WEST  COAST OP  NORTH  AMERICA.
Conchagua, or San Carlos de la Union, is but a small place, although
the principal port of San Miguel, 40 miles to the westward, in the interior.
The port is entirely land-locked, in fact, a complete basin, and has a depth
of four to five fathoms on the south side, over against the town; but on the
north side are extensive flats, which dry when the tide is down. The landing is at all times difficult, and at low water nearly impossible, and during
Strong northerly winds the communication is frequently cut off for days.
It is not considered to be safe to lay-to close to the town; for, in summer,
it blows hard from the northward, and if your anchor came home, you
might be ashore before you could let go a second. The holding-ground
is not considered to be very good.
At the head of the gulf are the Tiger and Conchagua Islands, of which
the southernmost of the group is called Manguera. They are all more
or less situated on a three-fathom flat.
On the eastern side of the gulf, and just within the entrance, is a
dangerous reef of rocks, some above and some below the water, named
the Farallones. They lie with Moneypenny Point bearing East, distant
five and a half miles, and have eight to ten fathoms close-to all
From the Gulf of Fonseca the coast runs to the north-westward, about
50 miles, to the parallel of Vincente volcano, and is said to be dangerous
all the way. In this space several rivers fall into the se„a, the principal
of which are the Rio Grande de San Miguel and the Lempa; having, at
their entrance, numerous sand-banks, but imperfectly known. Outside
these sand-banks there are 10 and 12 fathoms, sandy bottom. There are
said to be very heavy rollers in this part, the sea breaking furiously even
at the distance of six and seven miles from the land.
In reference to these shoals, opinions differ as to their position ; some
navigators stating that they have safely sailed along the coast at the
distance of two or three miles ; whilst others assert, that in sailing at the
distance of nine miles from the land, they were close upon the southern
edge of the reef. It is, therefore, most prudent not to keep too close
in-shore, until San Vincente is brought to bear about N.N.E., when you
may haul up in sight of the breakers of the coast, where there is no
About half-way between the Gulf of Fonseca and San Vincente
volcano, is the Port Triunfo de los Libres, or Giquilisco, which is but a
small place, having at its entrance two or three small islands, and much
obstructed by sand-banks, upon which the sea breaks heavily. Its
position has been determined to be nearly as follows:—lat. 13° 22' N.,
and long. 88° 12' W.
PORT LIBERTAD.—Whilst in sight of San Vincente, you will see
the volcano of San Salvador, the summit of which is flat, and not unlike a
tortoise, and appears from the. eastward to end in a peak.   From the^
meridian of San Miguel the coast is low, sandy, and covered with trees,
but becomes rocky near Port Liber tad.    All this part of the coast to
Point Remedios, in long. 89°-42' 55", is named Costa del Bahama, from
its yielding, in great profusion, the article termed Balm of Peru.
A good mark to make Libertad is the mountain San Salvador, bearing
N. by E. or N. It is but a small village of about twelve huts, (1837)
and a family of about six in each. There is also a government building,
employed for the stowage of the tackle used in landing cargoes; and
having at one end a cabin for the commandant, serving as parlour,
bedroom, kitchen, &c. Captain Sir E. Belcher has made the following
observations on the port:—
" One would naturally expect from the title, ' Port of Libertad,*
something pretending to a bay, or a deep indentation; but a straight
sandy beach between two slightly projecting ledges of rock, about one
mile asunder, forms the play a of Libertad; it is law and interest only
that have made it a port.
At times the bay is smooth, but the substratum at the beach being of
large smooth boulders of compact basalt, the instant the surf rises, they
are freed from their sandy covering, and a dangerous moving stony bottom
left, on which our boat grounded. We were informed that it is generally
violent for three or four days at full and change, which corresponded
with our visits.
The rollers which set in on this beach curl and break at times in four
or five fathoms, at least a quarter of a mile off. Those within, which are
the most dangerous, are caused by the offset, or efflux.
The sand beach is composed chiefly of magnetic iron sand, the dried
superstratum, about one inch in thickness, caking in flakes free from
The anchorage is uneasy, and, I should think, unsafe, and should be
avoided near the full. moon. Sudden rollers come in, which are apt to
snap chain-cables, unless with a long range.
Poultry, bullocks, &c, are to be obtained, but, compared with those
of San Salvador or Realejo, the prices are exorbitant. Bullocks can only
be embarked in one of their bongos."
SONSONATE ROAD.—From Port Libertad the coast runs about
30 miles to the westward, to Point Remedios, round to the northward of
which is Sonsonate or Acajutla Road, where ships can lie in nine to
eleven fathoms, bottom of sand, mud, and gravel, partly sheltered from
winds off the land, but exposed to all that blow from the southward and
westward. Point Remedios is of moderate height, and can be seen at a
considerable distance, and has a reef of rocks off it, some above and some
under water, extending about three miles out to sea.    This reef affords THE  WEST  COAST  OP  NORTH  AMERICA.
great protection to the anchorage, as it breaks the force of the swell; it
is steep-to on all sides, and must be carefully avoided. A good, mark
for Sonsonate Road is the volcano of Isalco, about 18 miles to the northeastward, which cannot be mistaken as it almost constantly smokes. Here
it is high water on the days of full and change at 2h. 25m. p.m., with a
rise of tide of nine feet.
M. Marie says of this port:—I If you bring Isalco to bear N.E. J N.,
and steer in that direction, you will make this port. The custom-house,
magazines, and the huts of the village are situated on a height that overlooks the plain, but are not distinctly visible, being surrounded by trees;
yet, at the distance of four miles, the harbour flag-staff and a shed with a
tiled roofing on the sea-beach, can be distinctly seen. The port is also
recognised by being situated at the termination of a range of rocks, and
where the beach is sandy. The following are good marks for anchoring
in summer, in eight fathoms, mud:—
Point Remedios S.E.
The flag-staff on with the inner angle of the custom-house store.-
Mount Isalco N.E. J N.
and in winter, in 12 to 14 fathoms, mud :— >
Mount Isalco N.E. £ N.
Point Remedios S.E.  £ E.
The flag-staff in one with the west wall of the custom-house store.
Landing in this place is difficult, and it is even imprudent to attempt
to pass the breakers in a small boat. You ought to have a good whale
boat; and, in order to prevent accidents, it should be manned by a
competent crew; and not attempt a landing when the sea is rough.
Merchant-vessels load and discharge their cargoes by means of
bongos, or large craft, in the shape of whale boats, which get on and off
the beach in the following manner:—They let go a heavy kedge at about
150 fathoms from the beach, with a good warp attached to a well-
secured tackle on shore, which ought to be kept well taut, and in a
line perpendicular with the direction of the surf. To this a large buoy
is attached, at about 20 fathoms from the anchor, for which you steer on
leaving the ship. On reaching the buoy, take care to get hold of the
warp, and lay it over the stem and stern of the boat; by means of which
you will haul the boat or shallop close to the breakers, and watch a
smooth, availing yourself of it to haul the boat quickly on the beach,
where, if kept end on, you may load or discharge in safety.
There is a place at Acajutla, called Muelle, where landing, at high
water, is comparatively easy. You keep you boat on her oars, until a
smooth and favourable moment offers for landing. It is a good mile to
the village, and is rather fatiguing in summer."
'iff i
ijjljj 34
From Sonsonate Road the coast'runs to the nortil-westward, about 56
miles, to Port 1stapa, or Ystapa, which is an open roadstead similar to
Sonsonate. In clear weather the mountains of Guatemala are visible at
a considerable distance, and help much in making the land. When
leaving Sonsonate, keep along the coast at a moderate distance, until you
bring the volcano " Single-Peak " of Guatemala to bear N. by W. J W.,
in which direction Istapa bears from the anchorage. The anchorage is
abreast the -magazine,' in eight to ten fathoms water in summer, but in
• IS*'to 18* fathoms in-winter. It1 is high water on the days of full and
•change at 2h., with a rise of tide of 10 feet.
The entrance of the river is about three miles westward from the
' anchorage; and, in consequence of the difficulty and danger met with
in passing the bar, the landing of goods is effected on the open beach,
near-the lagoon, which forms the old entrance. It used to be customary
to hoist a flag, coloured blue, white, and blue, horizontally, when a vessel
made her appearance, and to fire a gun; perhaps the custom may be still
observed. The position of the port is lat. 13°*56M 30" N., and long.
90° 3T 30" W. Variation of the compass 8° 40* W. At l\ mile from
the coast the depth of water is 15 fathoms.
GUATEMALA VOLCANOES, Point A, ttstant 70 miles, D. SO mi Vs.
'from hence the coast trends round to the north-westward to the Gulf
of Tehuantepee, and is but little known. There are many rivers which
have their outlet to the Pacific in this quarter, and there may be a few
secure harbours, but of these we have no description, except the following by Captain P. Masters, of Liverpool, which is taken from the
Nautical Magazine, 1839, p. 805. It will be observed that Captain
Masters is sailing from west to east.*
" On entering the Gulf of Tehuantepec, near the shore, we found the
current setting to the W.S.W., 1} mile per hour. As the wind was
easterly and light, we made a stretch to the southward, and in lat. 15° N.
and long. 95° 3C W., I had the boat lowered and tried the current, and
* It is right to mention, that these observations do not ngrre with the charts, •
proof of their incorrectness.    The whole const is now under examination. THE  WEST  COAST  OF  NORTH  AMERICA.
found it setting S.S.E., one mile per hour. There had been a fresh
breeze from the eastward the day previously. The following afternoon
we were close in-shore, and found, as we approached the land, that the
current had gradually altered, and was setting to the W.S. W. We came
to an anchor the same evening in the Bay of Bamba, which is to the
south-west of Morro de Zipegua, the current setting to the W.S.W.,
nearly two miles per hour. After a fresh S.W. or southerly sea breeze,
the current close in-shore has run to the S.E., but this is not general, and
does not last a long time.
Whilst we were getting to the eastward in the Gulf of Tehuantepec,
we experienced a slight norther; as we stretched off-shore it hauled into
the N.E.; a disagreeable short sea arose, the wind blowing in gusts, and
the weather hazy.
Santa Cruz, port of Aguatulco, in lat. 15° 51' N. and long. 96° 17'
W.,* is very difficult to make. It is situated in a small bay, about half
a mile wide at its entrance, and runs in to the northward upwards of li
mile. At the bottom of the bay is a sandy beach, and on its eastern side
are two huts which cannot be seen unless close in-shore. About three-
quartersof a mile, E.S.E., from the eastern point of the bay is the Piedra
Blanca, a reef of rocks extending east and west about a quarter of a mile.
The western part of the reef is about 40 feet high, and for about one-third
of its length it is of the same elevation, but the remaining two-thirds
to the eastward is low; and in places level with the water. When
abreast of it, and off shore a few miles, it appears to be a part of the
coast. Although it is called Piedra Blanca, it is a dark irregularly-shaped
reef of rocks*
The.anchorage in Santa Cruz is said to be good. It is well sheltered
from all winds except between East and S.E. by S.; but, as the strongest
winds blow from the northward, except in the rainy season, it may be
considered a very safe port. It is the only place that can be considered
a harbour, to the eastward of Acapulco; and even in the rainy season, I
was informed, a vessel might lay there in perfect security. The depth
of water in the bay is from seven to nine fathoms, with a clear bottom.
About three miles E.N.E. from Santa Cruz, is the island Tango-
latangola, separatedfrom the main by a channel a quarter of a mile wide.
This makes from the westward as a part of the main land; the outer part
of it is quite bluff, or rather a cliff of a brownish stone, the strata of which
are horizontal, and have the same geological appearance as the land on the
main nearest it towards the N.E., and of the same height, namely, about
150 feet.   Within the island, and round the western side, is the entrance
* In the Admiralty Chart is a plan of the Port of Guatnlco, which we presume is
the same, but its position is lat 15° 44' 25" N. and long. 96° 8' W., according to the
observations of Commander Sir £. Belcher, H.N.
r> 36
of the Bay of Tangolatangola; it runs in about N.E., 2 miles. At the
bottom of the bay is a fine sandy beach. The anchorage is said to be
very good in it, but not equal to Santa Cruz. Its entrance is nearly a
mile across,, and continues nearly the same to the bottom.
To the westward, half-a-mile from the head, which forms the western
part of the bay or harbour of Santa Cruz, is a bluff point or head, under
which is a good leading-mark for knowing the harbour. There is a cave
in one of the rocks, level with the .water, and close in-shore, and every
swell that heaves in throws a quantity of water into it, and as the cave
has a small aperture in the upper part of it, the water flies up resembling
the spout of a large whale. It has often been taken for one by strangers;
and deceived us by its appearance. In the night time, or foggy weather,
when it is calm, or blowing a light breeze, the sound can be heard at
some distance, like a whale blowing. This place is called the Bufadero.
. When about five miles off the shore from the Bufadero, the western
extreme point of land has a broken rocky appearance, and is not so high
as the land adjoining. When about two leagues off-shore from the
Bufadero, another cape, farther to the westward, can be seen. Its extreme point is rather low, but rises gradually inland to a moderate
To the westward of Santa Cruz are two bluff heads, which, when
abreast of, might be taken for islands. The first is about three miles
from the port; the other is two miles further to the westward, and has a
white sandy beach on its western side. On the eastern side of the eastern
head there is also a small sandy beach, from which to the Bufadero the
coast is rocky. The land which crowns this part of the coast is covered
with stunted trees and brushwood. About four or five leagues N. 8° 30'
W. is the Cerro Zadan, having a bell-shaped top, and a ridge on the
north-east side connecting it with the higher range of the Cordilleras.
The Cerro Zadan is elevated above the sea rather more than 6,000 feet*
The mountains further inland, a few leagues, cannot be much short of
10,000 feet high, as they can be seen over the Cerro Zadan.
The Port of Aguatulco is sp bad to make, that vessels have been
upwards of a fortnight in searching for it; and it was by the greatest
chance possible that we had not passed it, although we were not 1J mile
from the shore. The two huts, which were on the beach, can scarcely be
distinguished from the trees near which they are built
From Morro de Ystapa the coast runs about E.N.E. to Punta de
Zipegua, in lat. 16° 1' N. and long. 95° 28' 30" W.; variation of the
compass 8J° E. Between these points are several bluff headlands,
which do not project far out from the general line of the coast, and afford
no shelter. Punta de Zipegua forms the eastern part of what is called
the Bay of Bamba, and is a very remarkable headland.   From the west- THE  WEST  COAST  OF  NORTH  AMERICA.
ward, it shows itself with a bold dark cliff to the sea, about 400 feet high.
It projects out from the western line of coast nearly a mile, and forms a
kind of double head. A short distance within the outer bluff is a peaked
hill, with the appearance of a light-coloured sandstone, and quite bare of
Vegetation. Further inland, between one and two miles, the ground
rises higher, in small hummocks, a few of which are quite bare, and
others have a small quantity of stunted trees and bushes scattered over
The head, forming the western side of the Bay of Bamba, is not so
high, nor does it rise so suddenly from the sea as Punta de Zipegua. It
is also covered with bushes. The eastern side of Punta de Zipegua is
covered with bushes and trees, the sand only showing through the soil in
very few places. When abreast of it, and off the shore from two to
eight miles, the current was running to windward W.S.W., from two and
a half to three miles an hour. About N.E. from Punta de Zipegua, four
or five miles, is a high reef of rocks called Piedra de Zipegua, or Macha-
guista, in the chart Island of Eschevan. Its greatest elevation is from
60 to 70 feet; and its length is about one-third of a mile in an E.S.E.,
and W.N. W. direction. It is said that there are no dangers near it but
what can be seen. Between it and the main,, from which it is about four
miles distant, in a N.W. direction, is good anchorage ; the best anchorage
is close to the reef. The pearl oysters are plentiful near this reef; they
are caught by the divers in the rainy season. The general line of coast,
from Punta de Zipegua towards Tehuantepec, runs about N.E. by N.,
As I had now passed to the northward and eastward of the position
where, by my instructions, I was led to believe our cargo was, we hauled
to the wind, with a fresh breeze from the southward, and made a tack or
two to fetch the Bay of Bamba.    At 4h. p.m. we came to anchor abreast
the western part of the beach, in nine fathoms, sandy bottom, off-shore
one and a half mile. As soon as we anchored, I went on shore to ascertain
where the wood was cut for our cargo, and, with difficulty, got to speak
with an Indian, who was greatly alarmed at seeing such a large canoe (as
he called the brig), and thought we were come to plunder the coast. His
companion ran off to the woods, and he appeared likely to follow; but,
when I got within speaking distance, regained his confidence, and replied
in answer to my enquiry—* What made them afraid ?  My companion,
who is gone, is afraid ; I am a valiant fellow !' He certainly appeared to have
the valour of a goose ; his heart was beating against his sides, as if they
would burst.    We had not been many minutes together when he wanted
to go aboard, and engage himself as my servant, that he might see the
World; but then, said he, ' I am in debt to my master, so I can't go.'   It
is a common practice with the landholders of Mexico to get their work- 38
men in debt, particularly if he is a good man; which secures their services
equally, or probably more than if they were slaves, as they are compelled, if they have no cash, to work it out.
Shortly after I landed, the proprietor came down on horseback, and
stated that he believed there was some Brazil wood at a place called
Rosario, (in my instructions it was called St. Francis de Aguatulco), and
that Bosario was several leagues nearer Aguatulco. He said that ours
was the only vessel larger than a canoe, that had been on this part of the
coast for a great number of years. No vessel had ever loaded hereabouts.
The beach, or Playa de Bamba, is about five miles long, and must be very
bad to land on, with a fresh sea breeze. There was more surf on it when
we landed than was quite agreeable; and the boat was half-filled, although
the wind was blowing along the coast. We remained at anchor until the
morning, and got under weigh with the land breeze, keeping at about half-
a-mile from the shore, excepting when abreast of the headlands. In the
evening we came again to an anchor, in nine fathoms, sandy bottom,
opposite a small sandy beach, one and a half mile from the shore; having
seen nothing during the day like wood piled up, or anything in the shape
of a signal. In the morning we again got under weigh, and stood to the
westward; and at lOh. a.m. were off the Port of Aguatulco. I sent the
boat on shore to enquire for the place where our cargo was lying; an
Indian got into the boat, as they were shoving off, with the intention of
seeing the vessel; from him I learned that we had passed it, and, as he
knew the place, I kept him on board, and made all sail, with the wind
S.W., for the place, and at 6h. p.m. came to an anchor in the Bay of
Bosario. The consignees came on board before we were at anchor, and,
by their talk, I expected to get loaded in a week; instead of which we lay
there three weeks before the canoes arrived, or before they were prepared
for shipping the wood off.
The Town of Aguatulco is eight leagues from the port, and this is the
only port in the state of Oajaca, where goods can be imported. Its commerce can be easily imagined, when the person who is administrador of
the customs, is also captain of the port, Sec.; indeed he is the only
individual, both in the marine and custom-house departments, with the ~
exception of an old man, who lives at the port, and sends him information when there is any arrival. Mexican vessels can load on the coast,
by having an order from any custom-house in the Republic, where they
may have touched at; but foreign vessels are compelled to touch at Santa
Crux to pass the custom-house visit.
From the Island Tangolatangola to the Bay of Rosario there are
several small headlands, which do not project much beyond the general
line of coast, with the exception of Morro de las Salinas de Bosario.
Most of them have a steep cliff facing the sea, with fine sandy beaches THE  WEST  @@AST  OF   NORTH  AMERICA.
between them, at the back of which are scattered a few small trees and
bushes ; the land rising in very irregular-shaped hills towards the Cordilleras. Abreast of the beaches, between the heads, I found the anchorage
quite clear; and when in nine to twelve fathoms water, the distance offshore is about a mile, with sandy bottom.
The west side of the Bay of Rosario is formed by the Morro de las
Salinas de Rosario, and is in lat. 15° 59 25" N. and long. 96° 2' W. It
projects about a mile beyond the line of coast. On its western side is a
beach four or five miles, in length to the next head. When abreast of
Morro de las Salinas, it appears like an island with two large rocks
abreast of it's eastern and western part, but the whole is connected^ with
•the main. What appears to be the eastern rock, is a broken rocky head,
about 160 feet high. The western is about half that elevation. Both
these heads terminate with a broken cliff; the tops of them are bare and
of a greyish colour, but the lower part is quite black, caused by the sea
breaking against them. Between these.heads is a small sandy bay, which
is at the foot of the Morro, and rises gradually from the beach to the top
of the hill, which is about 180 to 200 feet high, and presents a very barren
appearance, having but a few straggling bushes on it. The beach of
Rosario is 10 miles long, from Morro de las Salinas to Morro -de la Laguna
Grande, which is its eastern extremity. About half the distance between
the Morros, is a rock on the beach, about 40 feet high, and nearly the
same diameter at spring tides.    The water flows round it.
During the time of our lying in the Bay of Rosario, which was from
the 12th of February to the 1st of April, we had three smart northers,
which came on at the full and change of the moon. At this time the surf
runs very heavy on the beach. Our boat was capsized several times
while we lay here, in landing and coming off. At times the sea broke very
heavily in all parts of the bay, that is, on the beach. I was caught on
shore, a few days after, arriving here, during the first norther, which came
on suddenly, with a parching hot wind. A cross confused sea hove in
from the south and north-east. The wind must have blown strongly
out in the gulf, from the same direction; and, though it blew heavily for
three days, with the wind at times to the westward of North, the sea kept
up until some time after the norther had ceased blowing. This is not
generally the case, for a strong norther (and particularly if it veers round
to N.N.W.,) beats the sea down; at which time the landing is attended
with little or no risk, which was the case when we had the last two
northers. I was informed (and, judging from appearances, I think
correctly,) that very often when the wind is in N. or N.N.W., close
inrshore, it is N.E. in the offing, which makes it impossible to land on
the coast. I remarked, whilst lying here, at the full and change of the
moon, and when no norther was blowing, that, although the surf-ran so
11 40
high that no boat could land, the vessel lay without any motion. We
were moored at less than 300 fathoms from the shore. The surf appeared
not to be caused by a swell rolling in and agitating the sea at the surface,
but to rise from below, and without any apparent cause, as we had light
winds and fine weather the most of the time we lay here. On another
occasion, I was caught on shore with a boat's crew for three days. In
attempting to get off to the ship, the boat was capsized and stove. It
was then, and had been for a week previous, nearly a calm. The heavy
ground-swell invariably hove in from the S.S.W. We fortunately escaped
from this beach without losing any of our people, which was more than I
expected, having had three laid up at different times, who were saved
from being drowned by a mere chance.
In addition to what has been said about this part of the coast, it can
be known by the low land at the back of the beach of Rosario, which
runs in from one to two and a half leagues before there is much rise in it,
and is thickly covered with trees. From north to north-west of Morro
de las Salinas, nearly two leagues from shore, the rising ground is formed
by a number of small barren hillocks. From our anchorage, at the place
where we loaded, the following bearings were taken, lying in 9§ fathoms,
sandy bottom. There are two large patches of a whitish appearance,
the farthest range of the Cordilleras; the eastern is the lowest, and
bore N. 59%° W. The appearance cannot be seen, unless from a little to
westward of Morro de las Salinas. This has every appearance of being a
waterfall, and rises from the other patch in a N.W. direction, at about
an angle of 45°. It issues from a small valley in the Cerro del Chonga.
The highest point of this range has but a small elevation above it, and is
covered with trees. The waterfall inclines towards the south, and can be
seen for several hundred feet descending, before it is lost sight of amidst
the forest below. Cerro de Zadan bore N. 89° W.; the extreme
bluff of Morro de las Salinas, S. 36° W., three and a half miles ; the
eastern point well within the bearings, and Punta de la Laguna Grande,
N. 71° E., six to seven miles; the rock on the beach, mentioned as
being 40 feet high, N. 65° E.; and the galena or shed, under which the'
cargo was piled, N. 26° W., half-a-mile.
At the Western part of the bay are four palm-trees, close to the
beach. The distance from the Morro de las Salinas is about half-a-mile,
and between these trees and the Morro is a larger cluster of palms.
Between these two clusters-is, at all times, the best place to land ; as a
boat can beach here with comparative safety ; when, at every other part
of the bay, the sea runs very heavy. At the neaps we found the place
quite smooth, with the exception of a sea heaving in about every 10 or
15 minutes; but it causes no risk to a boat, provided she is kept
At the south-western part of the beach, and where a small pathway
leads to cross the Morro de las Salinas, close to the sea-side, in the cliff of
a rock is a small spring of excellent water. We always found it clear and
cool, even at noon; my consignee said we could fill the ship's stock of
water from it with dispatch, but I soon found out that he knew nothing
about it. The quantity that could be filled in a day did not exceed 30
gallons ; and, after having landed all our water-casks, we had to re-ship
them, through a great deal of surf, and land them at the galena, abreast
of the ship. We filled our water at a well about a mile from the beach,
but the supply was very limited, it being the only well that had water
in it up to the day of our sailing.    We did not complete our stock.
A captain of a ship should trust to no promises when he comes here,
either with regard to supplies or anything else, no matter by whom made ;
and, as water and fuel are indispensable articles, the filling the one and
cutting the other, should be commenced immediately on arrival, by some
of the crew. It is useless to employ Indians to work for the ship (that
is, on shore), as the greatest part of them will neither be led or driven. On
board they answer better (that is, a few of them), to haul the wood about
in the hold. I found the promises of Indians, and, as they call themselves,
' Gente decente y civilazado,' on a par.
Near the Morro de la Laguna is a large lake, from which the headland
takes its name. A few miles farther, to the eastward, is the Morco de
Santiago de Ystapa (in the chart it is called Morro de Ayuta), near
which is the entrance of the small river Ayuta, the stream that runs by
Huamilulu and Ystapa. There is a bar across the entrance. The canoes
land on the beach in preference to going over it, as it is attended with
ACAPULCO is considered to be the finest harbour in Central America •
and, for its size, one of the most complete in the world. It affords sheltered and land-locked anchorage of 16 fathoms, and under, in a surface of
one mile square; which, allowing for moorings, would, at half-a-cable
range, or one cable asunder, accommodate 100 sail of vessels, even of the
line. The bottom is sandy at its surface, but clayey beneath, and holds
All round the harbour, on every side, are high mountains, which, on
the north and east sides, range from 2,000 to 2,700 feet in height, and on
the west side from 300 to 500 feet. They afford considerable shelter to
the harbour, and may be seen at a great distance off at sea.
On the eastern side of the entrance of the port, just round Point
Diamond, off which a reef extends a short distance, the land bends
inwards about one and a half mile, and forms a small and secure harbour,
but open to all winds coming from the westward, called Port Marquis ;
in which are 13 to 19 fathoms, mud, sand, and rock.   At the entrance of 42
the bay, on the north side, and at a short distance from the shore, is a
small island or rock, and at the head of the bay is a rock, having from
six to ten fathoms close to it; these can be easily avoided.
On the western side of the Harbour of Acapulco, and without the
entrance, is an island about three-quarters of a mile long, called GrifBn
Island, having, off its eastern and western extremities, reefs extending
to a short distance, and which, in parts, are above the water ; in other
respects the island is clear. About a quarter of a mile from the island,
there is a small islet or rock, called Le Morro, above the .water, and
having outside it a depth of 20 fathoms. The passage between Griffin
Island and the shore is about two cables' length wide, in its narrowest
part, and has a depth of 16 to 20 fathoms. It is called the Little Channel;
while the channel between the east and west points of the harbour is
named the Great Channel.
The Town of Acapulco is on the west side of the port, and has long,
been in a state of decline, owing to the bad custom-house regulations,
which cripple the energies of its merchants. Its market is but indifferently supplied; but fowls, and excellent fruit and vegetables, are
readily obtained. Its position, from observations taken at the fort by
Captain Beechey, is lat. 16° 5<Y 32" N. and long. 99° 50' 44" W.
In the north part of the bay are some rocks, called the San Lorenzo
Rocks, at a short distance from the shore, having between them and the
town the watering-place, where good water can always be obtained.
About half-a-mile to the eastward of the San Lorenzo Rocks is another,
called the Obispo, of a white colour, and about 60 feet high. Outside
these rocks are seven to ten fathoms.
In approaching the harbour, there are some hills to the north-westward,
named the Paps of Coyuca, which are considered to be good marks for it.
Captain Sir E. Belcher, R.N., has observed:—" I cannot persuade myself
that these Paps are useful for making the harbour, although in the offing
they may be if not obscured.
Acapulco may be approached from the southward or westward, by
keeping the western cone open of the land, which will lead up to the
Boca Chica entrance, or until Acapulco port is so close under the lee,
that no further marks are necessary. There is not any hidden danger
in the entrance to Acapulco. Keep a moderate distance from either
shore ; five fathoms will be found alongside all the rocks, and 25 to 30
in mid-channel. Round Point Griffin sharply, rather than stand over to
San Lorenzo, as the wind, generally westerly, heads on that shore. If
working, tack when the rocks on the south point of Town Bay show in
the gap.
The two best berths are off the rocks alluded to; that outside is preferable, but in either case let the outer rock bear W.S. W. or W.N.W., THE  WEST  COAST  OF  NORTH  AMERICA.
so that a hawser fast to the rock may keep your broadside to land or sea
breezes, and prevent a foul anchor.
It would naturally be inferred that, as the harbour is surrounded on
every side by high mountains, the breeze would scarcely be felt and the
heat be intolerable. This is confined to the town limits ; at our observatory, and at the port, San Carlos, we enjoyed a constant breeze.
In all harbours there may be objectionable berths, but in that of
Acapulco, if care be taken to keep in the line of what I have designated
the ' West Gap,' or neck of the peninsula, open of the south point of the
town-bay, both land and sea breezes will be felt in their full strength,
and free from causes which would heat them before entering the port,
the neck being but a few feet above the sea-level.
Water of good quality was found at several points between the fort
and Obispo Rock; but the two best streams are between the fort and
San Lorenzo."
The following remarks from the French chart of the harbour, the
proceeds of the survey made in 1838, by M. de Petit-Thouars, Commander of the ' La Venus,' will be of interest:—
" The currents are not felt in the road, but, without they run to the
S.E. with a strength varying from a-half to two miles. This current is
more rapid during the ebb.
In the fine season, that is to say, from December to May, the land
and sea breezes are regular enough. They are feeble during the night,
coming from N. to N.E. and E.; and from S.W. to W.S.W. and to
N.W. in the day. In the other months of the year this coast is dangerous, and but little frequented.
The usual anchorage is to the south of the fort, and before the town,.
in 11 to 13 fathoms, muddy bottom; it is perfectly safe. In case of
necessity, anchorage can also be obtained in the Great Channel.
When a ship is in sight at night, a light is shown near the signal-
staff. The navigation is attended with so little danger, that there is no
From hence the coast trends a little inwards, about 80 miles, to the
W. by N. | N., to Point Tequepa, on the eastern side of which is the
River Coyuquilla. We have no information of this part of the coast
until we get to Morro Petatlan, 20 miles further to the north-westward,
off which there are some rocks named the White Friars, from their supposed resemblance to a cross. They have been described by Lord
Anson, in the following manner :—
| The hill of Petatlan may be at first mistaken for an island, although
it is in reality a peninsula, joined to the continent by a low and narrow
isthmus, covered with shrubs and small trees. The bay of Sihuatanejo,
extends from this hill a great distance to the westward, and has, at its
iii A A.
entrance, just off the hill of Petatlan, an assemblage of roeks, white
with the. dung of boobies and other tropical birds. Four of these rocks
are high and large, and, together with several smaller ones, are, by the
aid of a little imagination, made to resemble the form of a cross, and
hence are called the White Friars."
SIHUATANEJO, or Chequetan, is about seven miles to the westward of Petatlan. It is a small but excellent harbour, of about a mile
in extent, and open to all winds coming from the south-west. At its
entrance are 10 fathoms, decreasing gradually towards the head of the
bay, where there are two and a-half to one and a quarter fathoms. It
has been lately surveyed by Captain Kellett, R.N., who places it in lat.
17° 38' 3" N., and long. 101° 30' 52" W. Lord Anson has described it
in the following terms :—
% It is about 30 leagues to the westward of Acapulco, and may easily
be found by keeping well in with the land, especially if sailing down
the coast from Acapulco. There is.a beach of sand extending 18 leagues
from Acapulco to the westward, against which the sea breaks so
violently that we found it impossible to land with our boats; but yet
the ground is so clean, that, during the fair season, ships may anchor in
great safety, at the distance of a mile or two from the shore. The land
adjacent to this beach is generally low, full of villages, and planted with
a great number of trees. On the tops of some small eminences there are
several look-out towers, so that, altogether, the face of the country presents a very agreeable aspect; for the cultivated part, which is the part
here described, extends some leagues back from the shore, where it
seems to be bounded by a chain of mountains, which extends a consider-
ble distance on either side of Acapulco.
The beach described above is the surest guide to those seeking
Sihuatanejo; for five miles to the westward of the extremity of the
beach there is a hummock, which at first makes like an island, and is in
shape not much unlike the hill of Petatlan, though much smaller. Three
miles to the westward of this hummock, is a white rock near the shore,
which cannot easily be passed by unobserved. It is about two cables'
length from the shore, and lies in a large bay about nine leagues over,
the west point of which is the hill of Petatlan.
The harbour of Sihuatanejo is easily distinguished by a large rock,
one and a-half mile, S. £ W., from the middle of the entrance. I may
add that this coast is no ways to be dreaded between the middle of
October and the beginning of May, nor is there any danger from the
winds. In the remaining part of the year, there are frequent and
violent tornadoes, heavy rains, and severe gales, in all directions of the
These are the marks by which the harbour may be known by those THE   WEST  COAST   OP  NORTH   AMERICA.
who keep well in with the land; but there is no mark for those who
keep at a considerable distance at sea, who must, consequently, make it
by the latitude; for there are so many ranges of mountains rising one
upon another inland, that no drawings of the appearance of the coast
can be at all depended on, every little change of distance or position
bringing new mountains into view, and producing an infinity of different
prospects, which render all attempts at delineating the appearance of
the land impossible.
The entrance of the harbour is but half-a-mile broad; the points
which form it, and which are faced with rocks almost perpendicular,
bearing from each other S.E. and N.W. The harbour is surrounded on
every side, excepting to the westward, with high mountains covered with
trees. The passage in is very safe, on either side of the rock that lies
off the entrance, though we, both in going in and out, left it to the
eastward. The ground without the harbour is gravel mixed with stones,
but within is soft mud. It is necessary, when coming to an anchor, to
make a good allowance for a great swell, which frequently causes a great
send of the sea; as, likewise, for the ebbing and flowing of the tide,
which we .observed to be about five feet, and to set nearly east and
The watering-place is at the head of the bay. During our stay it had
the appearance of a large standing lake, without any visible outlet into
the sea, from which it is separated by the strand. The origin of this
lake is a spring, which bubbles out of the ground nearly half-a-mile
inland. We found the water a little brackish, but more considerably
so towards the sea-side; for the nearer we advanced towards the spring-,
head, the softer and fresher it proved. This laid us under the necessity
of filling our casks from the farthest part of the lake, and occasioned us
some trouble; and would have proved still more difficult, had it not
been for our particular management, which, on account of its convenience,
deserves to be recommended to all watering at this place. Our method
consisted in making use of canoes drawing but little water; for, on
loading them with a number of small casks, they easily got up the lake
to the spring-head, and the small casks being there filled, were in the
same manner transported back to the beach, where were some of the
hands to put them into casks of a larger size.
Though this lake, during our visit, appeared to have no outlet to the
sea, yet there is reason to suppose that in the rainy reason it overflows
the strand and communicates with the sea, for Dampier speaks of it as a
large river. Indeed it is necessary that a vast body of water should be
amassed before it can rise high enough to overflow the strand, since the
neighbouring lands are so low that a great part of them must be covered
with water before it can run out over the beach."
rppli 46
In lat. 18? 15' N. and long. 103° 30' W. is Point and River Tejopan,
at the back of which the land rises to a great height, and forms two
peaks called the Paps. From hence the coast runs to the northwestward nearly 80 miles to Manzanilkv Bay, which is small but safe,
and affords good anohorage, well protected against the southerly winds
prevalent during the rainy season. In the summer-time it is rendered
very unhealthy by a large lake of stagnant water in its immediate neighbourhood. This, together with myriads of musquitoes and sand-flies,
renders it scarcely habitable. There are no houses, men and families
Jiving, exposed under the trees.
Manzanilla Port is the main sea communication with the city of
Colima, 30 leagues inland, and which is said to contain about 30,000
inhabitants. It has been opened to foreign commerce for several years,
but has not been able to make much progress.
Inland, at the back of Manzanilla, is a very lofty mountain, called the
volcano of Colima, which is 12,003 feet high, and can be seen a great
distance at sea. Its position, determined by Captain Beechey, R.N., is
lat. 19° 24' 4%' N. and long. 103°S3' 1" W. The following rough sketch
of the volcano will give some idea of its form and appearance.
COLIMA VOLCANO, bearing: N. 57° E., distant 35 li-ngncs.
From Port Manzanilla the coast continues in the same direction, 40
miles, to Point Farallones, from whence it runs to the N.W. by N., 75
miles, to Cape Corrientes, in lat. about 20° 2ff N. and long. 105° SW 13*
W., which rises high in the interior.
CAPE CORRIENTES, I caring S. 3l» E., 10 ienjpicn.
From Cape Corrientes the coast runs N.E. by E. .1 !•]., a distance of ill
•28 miles; thereafter it runs northerly a distance of eight miles; and
next to the west, a distance of 16 miles, to Punta Mita. Between Cape
Corrientes and Punta Mita, bearing about N. by E. § E. and S. by W.
§ W. from each other, is formed a deep bay, named Valle de Banderas
Bay. Off Punta Mita there are numerous rocky heads, to the eastward of
which, in the northern part of the bay, anchorage may be got, in from
six to eight fathoms. In the eastern part of the bay is the mouth of the
River Piginto; and in the western portion, at the distance of four miles,
S.S.W., from Punta Mita, are two small islets, called the Marieta Islands,
surrounded by numerous rocky heads; and to the westward of these, at
the distance of six miles, is a small island, rocky on the western side.
All this coast is but little known.
Care should be taken in the night-time to keep clear of a small cluster
of low rocks, which lie 22 miles to the N.N.W. of Cape Corrientes. Of
these Captain B. Hall says : — " We made them in lat. 20° 43' N., and
long. 105° 51' 4" W. Vancouver places them in lat. 20° 45' N., long.
105° 46' 55" W.; an agreement sufficiently near." Vancouver describes
them as follows:—" Much to our surprise, in the afternoon we approached a small black rugged rock, or, more properly speaking, a
closely connected cluster of small rocks, which, though deserving of
attention, from their situation, and the safety of the navigation between
Cape Corrientes, St. Bias, and the Marias, yet they are not inserted in
either of the Spanish charts, nor do they appear to have been noticed by
any former visitor, with whose observations I have become acquainted.
The space they occupy does not appear to exceed the dimensions of a
large ship's hull, nor are they much higher. They are at a great distance from any land, and, so far as we could perceive in passing them,
at the distanee of about half-a-league, the water near them appeared to
be deep in every direction. We could not gain soundings close round
them with the hand-line, nor did this small rocky group seem to be
supported by any bed of rock or shallow bank. The shores of the main
land, to the eastward of them, at the distance of about eight leagues,
appeared to be broken, and about ten miles within them are two
small islets. These rocks, according to our observations, lie from the
southernmost of the Marias, S. 36° E., at the distance of 12 or 13
From Punta Mita the coast appears to run westerly, a distance of six
miles, and thereafter 34 miles, N. \ E., to the mouth of the Rio Custodios,
in which latter space lies Taltemba Bay, containing numerous rocky heads
in its northern part, and round the N.W. point to about the mouth of the
River Chila, eleven miles distant from the mouth of the Rio Custodios.
The land to the northward of this latter river runs out westerly, about
a mile, to a point, from which to Santa Cruz Point, the southern point 48
of the roadstead of San Bias, the bearing and distance are NN.E. \ E.
seven miles.
. LAS TRES MARIAS.—These islands lie before the port of San
Bias, and are four in number, if the Isle San Juanito (low and tabling)
is included, whichjs not more than six miles distant from the northernmost. There are many small rocks around them, whose heads just rise
above the water.    These islands lie between 21° 16' and 21° 46' N.
The Western Point of the Northern Island, bearing N. 50° E., three leagues.
The northernmost is the largest of the group, and is thirteen miles
long, and nine miles broad. It lies in a S.E. by E. and N.W. by W.
direction ; which is also nearly the line in which these islands lie from
each other. It is but moderately elevated, yet, notwithstanding, it may be
discerned at the distance of near 18 leagues. Its highest part is towards
the south, from whence it gradually descends and terminates in a long
low point at its north-west extremity. A small low detached islet, and
a remarkable steep, white, cliffy rock, lie off this point of the island,
whose shores are also composed, but particularly so on its south-west side,
of steep, white, rocky cliffs. Its south-eastern extremity, which likewise
descends gradually from the summit of the island, terminates also in a
low projecting point, with some rocks lying off from it. On either side
is a small bay ; that on the eastern side is bounded by a beach, alternately
composed of rocks and sand, and very probably good anchorage may be
obtained in it, if the bottom should be good, as it is protected against the
general prevailing winds. Between this island and Prince George's
Island, the next to the southward, is a passage about six miles wide,
with soundings from 20 to 40 fathoms, sandy bottom, and appears to be
free from danger or interruption.
Prince George's Island is about 24 miles in circuit, and is bounded on
its south-west side by detached rocks, lying at a small distance from its
shores. The shores, in general, but more so on its northern and eastern
sides, descend gradually from the centre of the island (whose summit is
nearly as high as that of the northernmost island), and terminate at the
water-side in a fine sandy beach. This island is more verdant than the
other, as its vegetable productions extend from the more elevated parts THE  WEST  COAST  OF  NORTH  AMERICA.
to the wash of the sea, and grow with some luxuriance, although its soil
is principally of a sandy nature. The chief valuable production is
lignum vitae ; besides which is an almost impenetrable thicket of small
trees and bushes of a thorny nature, together with the prickly pear,
and some plants of the orange and lemon tribe ; the whole growing as
close to the water-side as the wash of the surf would permit. A variety
of fish, common to the tropical regions, abound about the shores.
The south-easternmost island is about nine miles round.
In navigating round these islands, some detached islets and rocks are
visible about the shores, but all are sufficiently conspicuous to be
avoided; and there is every reason to believe, from the regularity of the
soundings, that secure anchorage may be obtained against the prevailing
winds, at a commodious distance from the shore.
Of these islands, Captain Beechey says :—
" The Tres Marias, situated 1° 15' west of San Bias, consist of three
large islands, steep and rocky to the westward, and sloping to the eastward, with long sandy spits. Off the S.E. extremity of Prince George's
Island (the centre of the group), we found that the soundings decreased
rapidly from 75 fathoms to 17; and that, after that depth they were
more regular. Two miles from the shore we found 10 and 12 fathoms,
bad holding-ground. There is nothing to make it desirable for a vessel
to anchor at these islands. Upon Prince George's Island there is said
to be water of a bad description ; but the landing is in general very
There are passages between each of these islands. The northern
channel requires no particular directions; that to the southward of
Prince George's Island is the widest and best; but care must be taken
of a reef lying one-third of a mile of its S.W. point, and of a shoal
extending one and a half mile off its south-eastern extremity. I did not
stand close to the south Maria, but could perceive that there were
breakers extending full three-quarters of a mile off its S.E. extremity;
and I was informed at San Bias, that some reefs also extended from two
to four miles off its south-western point. There is an islet off the northwest part of this island, apparently bold on all sides: but I cannot say
how closely it may be approached."
If the Tres Marias Islands be passed to the south-eastward, at the
distance of eight or ten leagues, and a N.N.E. course steered, Piedro de
Mer, off San Bias, will be readily got sight of. The Piedro de Mer is a
white rock, about 130 feet high, and 140 yards in length, with 12
fathoms all round it; and bears from Mount San Juan, to the eastward of
San Bias, N. 77° W., 30 miles. This rock is situated in lat. 21° 34' 45" N.
and long. 105° 28' 13" W., and, from its height, forms an excellent
HI 50
Having made Piedro de Mer, pass closely to the southward of it, and,
unless the weather is thick, you will see a similarly-shaped rock, named
Piedro de Tierra, for which you should steer, taking care not to go to
the northward of a line of bearing between the two, as there is a shoal
which stretches to the southward from the main land. This course will
be S. 79p E. true, and the distance between the two rocks is very nearly
10 miles.
SAN BLAS.—To bring up in the road of San Bias, round the Piedro
de Tierra, at a cable's length distance, and anchor in five fathoms, with
the low, rocky point of the harbour bearing N. \ E., and the two
Piedros in one. This road is very much exposed to winds from S.S.W.
to N.N.W., and ships should always be prepared for sea, unless it be in
the months in which the northerly winds are settled. Should the wind
veer to the westward, and a gale from that quarter be apprehended, no
time should be lost in slipping and endeavouring to get an offing, as a
vessel at anchor is deeply embayed, and the holding-ground is very bad.
In case of necessity, a vessel may cast to the westward, and stand between
the Piedro de Tierra and the Fort Bluff, in order to make a tack to the
westward of the rock; after which, it will not be necessary again to
stand to the northward of a line connecting the two Piedros.
The road of San Bias should not be frequented between the months of
May and December, as, during that period, the coast is visited by storms
from the southward and westward, attended by heavy rains, and thunder
and lightning. It is, besides, the sickly season, and the inhabitants
having all migrated to Tepic, no business' whatever is transacted at the
It is high water at San Bias at 9h. 41m., full and change; rise between
six and seven feet, spring tide.
Captain Masters says:—" In the rainy season, when the wind blows
strongly from the southward, a heavy swell sets in at San Bias; and, as
there is nothing to protect the anchorage, it must be felt very severely;
but I never heard of any damage having .been done to the shipping in
There are some advantage in a vessel lying outside in the roads during
. the rainy season, for there the crews have purer air to breathe ; and,
probably, it might be   more   healthy than that of the port, besides
being partially clear of mosquitoes, and other tormentors of the same
cast, which are very numerous.
There are 13 feet water on the bar of San Bias, in the shallowest part
of the entrance, and very seldom less even in the neaps. By giving the
point which forms the harbour a berth of 15 or 20 fathoms, you will
avoid a large stone, which is awash at low water, and is about eight
fathoms from the dry part of the rocks or breakwater.   As soon as you THE  WEST  COAST OF  NORTH  AMERICA.
are so far in, that the innermost or eastern part of the breakwater is in a
line with the other part of it inside, which runs to the N.N.E., it maybe
approached to within 10 or 15 fathoms, and by keeping well off from
the low sandy point, which is on the starboard hand as you warp up the
harbour, you will have the deepest water. But, as the sea sometimes in
the rainy season (although but seldom) breaks over the breakwater
which forms the harbour, it would be best to moor close under the high
part of the land on which the old ruin of a fort stand, with the ship's
head up the river, and a bower laid off to the eastward, and an anchor
from the starboard quarter, making fast on the port side to the shore,
either by taking an anchor out or making fast to the rocks. It would
be next to impossible that any accident could happen to the ship."
The following notes, made on a passage to the port of San Bias, are
by Lieut. Sherard Osborn, R.N.:—
" Supposing a vessel, bound to the western coast of Mexico, safely
r,ound Cape Horn, and running before the southerly gale which almost
constantly blows along the shores of South America, she ought to shape
a course so as to cross the equator in about 98° or 99° W. long., so that
when she gets the N.E. trade she will be at least 6° or 7° to the eastward of her port,—San Bias or Mazatlan; and have at the same time a
sufficient offing from the Galapagos Islands to avoid their currents and
variable winds.
We crossed in 105° W. long., having been recommended to do so by
some old merchants at Valparaiso, and were consequently, although a
remarkably fast-sailing ship, a lamentably long time making the distance.
Several days' log of the ship show as follow:—
March 24th
San Bias
672 miles distant
„     25th
„     26th
Our track led us to be exactly in the same longitude as our port, when
we got the trade, and it hanging well to the northward, we were constantly increasing our distance, until in the latitude of San Bias, when
an in shore tack, of course, shortened it. But, by the course I have
recommended, the first of the N.E. trade will drive the vessel into the
meridian of her port, and she will thus daily decrease her distance.
Care must be taken in standing in for the land not to go to leeward
of San Bias, as there is a strong southerly current along the coast,
especially off Cape Corrientes. If possible keep San Bias on an E.N.E.
bearing. The Tres Marias Islands, off the port of San Bias, are convenient points for making; and here a master could leave his vessel in
perfect safety to water, while he communicated with his consignees, or
got his overland letters from his owners at home.    There is a safe mid-
il 52
channel course between the middle and southern islands: we brought a
saddle-shaped hill on the main, a little south, of San Bias, one point
open of the south island, and steered by compass N.E. by E.
The Two Piedro Brancos, that of de Mer and de Tierra, are excellent marks for the roadstead, which, by Beechey, is in lat. 21° 32'
20" N., long. 105° 157 15" W. A good anchorage for vessels awaiting
orders (for which purpose San Bias is now almost alone visited, except
by English men-of-war, and Yankee clippers for smuggling purposes),
will be found with Piedro Branco de Mer, N. 70° W.; de Tierra, N.
43° W.; and village in the Estero, N. 26° W.
Since the days of Hall and Beechey, the town of San Bias has very
much changed. Its population of 20,000 have dwindled to 3,000
residents, and their unwholesome appearance, fully accounts for the
decrease of residents ; and nearly all its trade has been transferred to its
The large town of Tepic, in the interior, with a small factory, owned
by an English merchant, causes a small demand for European luxuries,
and a cargo or two of cotton ; which petty trade is carried on during the
six healthy months in the year. A great deal of smuggling is carried
on from the neighbourhood of this port, the extensive bay, to the southward, affording great facilities to the men-of-war's boats in that
The town is built on the landward slope of a steep hill, almost perpendicular to seaward, and its crest crowned by the ruins of a customhouse ; but this being about three-quarters of a mile distant from the
beach, a large assemblage of huts has been formed at the landing-place,
in the Estero del Arsenal, for the convenience of supplying the shipping;
the occupants being, for the most part, grog-venders, fishermen, and an
agent to the harbour-master.
In the Estero del Arsenal, small craft, of less than 10 feet draught,
will find convenient anchorage, means of heaving down, &c. The
watering-place is, at least, three miles distant from the above anchorage ;
and to assist the boats in this heavy work, it would always be advisable
to shift the vessel into such a position that they might make a fair wind
off and on whilst the daily sea-breeze blows.
The watering-place is at the northern extremity of a large open bay,
south of San Bias ; the beach is shoal, and the casks have to be rolled three
or four hundred yards through the jungle to a stream of water* This
stream, during the spring tides, is liable to be found brackish; but even
then we succeeded in obtaining supplies, by immersing the empty cask
with the bung in such a position that only the fresh water (which, of
course, would be on the surface), could enter.
By rigging triangles with spars in such a position that the boats
could go under them to load, we succeeded in embarking daily 32 tons
of water.
Many useful and ornamental woods are to be procured on shore, for
the mere trouble of cutting, especially lignum vitse. Fresh beef we
found good in quality. Game moderately plentiful; oysters good and
plentiful; vegetables scarce and expensive. The climate may be summed
up by the word execrable.
On the 1st of November, the dry season commences; the temperature
rises steadily, and the land yields all its moisture, until, by the month of
May, the heat of the atmosphere resembles that of an oven, and the air
swarms with musquitoes and sandflies. The sky cloudless, the land and
sea-breeze regular, but not refreshing.
Early in June, heavy banks of dark, lowering clouds, charged with
electricity, collect on the high lands in the interior, lowering masses of
clouds hang to seaward. The change is fast approaching, and before the
16th of June the rains commence and deluge the land, accompanied by
heavy squalls and a tumbling swell from seaward. All vessels now leave
the coast unless able to take shelter in the Estero ; though of late, men-
of-war, in eager search for freight, have held on, and found that the gales
do not, in the winter, \ blow home.' At this season all the inhabitants,
whose means afford it, quit the coast for the interior.
For the first month, or six weeks, the parched land absorbs the rain ;
but, by the middle of August, it becomes moist and swamp; the haunts
of alligators and aquatic birds. In September the action of the sun on
water-soddened land, generates fever of the most violent nature, and it
behoves those who arrive early in the dry season to be careful of exposure
to the malaria."
General Remarks on the Coast.—Captain Basil Hall, R.N., makes
the following observations on the winds and weather, and navigation of
the south-west coast of Mexico :—
I On the south-west coast of Mexico, the fair season, or what is called
the summer, though the latitude be north, is from December to May
inclusive. During this interval alone it is advisable to navigate the
coast; for, in the winter, from June to November inclusive, every part
of it is liable to hard gales, tornadoes, or heavy squalls, to calms, to
constant deluges of rain, and the most dangerous lightning; added to
which, almost all parts of the coast are, at this time, so unhealthy as to
be abandoned by the inhabitants. At the eastern end of this range of
coast, about Panama, the winter sets in earlier than at San Bias, which
lies at the western end. Rains and sickness are looked for early in
March at Panama; but at San Bias rain seldom falls before the 15th of
June; sometimes, however, it begins on the 1st of June, as we experienced.    Of the  intermediate coast I have no  exact information,
si 54
except that December, January, and February are fine months everywhere; and that, with respect to the range between Acapulco and
Panama, the months of March, April, and half of May, are also fine; at
other times the coast navigation may be generally described as dangerous,
and on every account to be avoided.
From December to May inclusive, the prevalent winds between
Panama and Cape Blanco de Nicoya are N.W. and northerly. From
thence to Realejo and Sonsonate, N.E. and easterly. At this season,
off the Gulfs of Papagayo and Tehuantepec there blow hard gales, the
first being generally N.E., and the latter N. These, if not too strong,
as they sometimes are, greatly accelerate the passages to the westward ;
they last for several days together, with a clear sky overhead, and a
dense red haze near the horizon. We experienced both in the Conway
in February, 1822. The first, which was off Papagayo on the 12th,
carried us 230 miles to the W.N.W.; but the gale we met in crossing
the Gulf of Tehuantepec on the 24th, 25th, and 26th, was so hard that
we could show no sail, and were drifted off to the S.S.W. more that 100
'miles. A ship ought to be well prepared on these occasions, for the
gale is not only severe, but the sea, which rises quickly, is uncommonly
high and short, so as to strain a ship exceedingly.
From Acapulco to San Bias, what are called land and sea breezes
blow; but, as far as my experience goes, during the whole of March,
they scarcely deserve that name. They are described as blowing from
N.W. and W. during the day, and from N.E. at night; whence it might
be inferred, that a shift of wind, amounting to eight points, takes place
between the day and night breezes. But, during the whole distance
between Acapulco and San Bias, together with about 100 miles east of
Acapulco, which we worked'along, hank for hank, we never found, or
very rarely, that a greater shift could be reckoned on than four points.
With this, however, and the greatest diligence, a daily progress of from
30 to 50 miles may be made.
Such being the general state of the winds on this coast, it is necessary
to attend to the following directions for making a passage from the
On leaving Panama for Realejo or Sonsonate, come out direct to the
north-westward of the Isla del Rey; keep from 20 to 30 leagues off the
shore as far as Cape Blanco de Nicoya ; and on this passage advantae-e
must be taken of every shift of wind to get to the north-westward.
From Cape Blanco hug the shore, in order to take advantage of the
north-easterly winds which prevail close-in, If a papagayo (as the
strong breeze out of that gulf is called) be met with, the passage to
Sonsonate becomes very short.
From Sonsonate to Acapulco, keep at the distance of 20, or, at most THE  WEST  COAST   OF  NORTH   AMERICA.
30 leagues from the coast. We met with very strong currents running
to the eastward at this part of the passage ; but whether by keeping
farther in, or farther out, we should have avoided them, I am unable to
say. The above direction is that usually held to be the best by the old
If, when off the Gulf of Tehuantepec, any of the hard breezes, which
go by that name, should come off, it is advisable, if sail can be carried,
to ease the sheets off, and run well to the westward, without seeking to
make northing ; westing being, at all stages of that passage, by far the
most difficult to accomplish. On approaching-Acapulco, the shore
should be got hold of, and the land and sea breezes turned to account.
This passage in summer is. to be made by taking advantage of the
difference in direction between the winds in the night and the winds in
the day.    During some months, the land winds, it is said, come more off
the land than at others, and that the sea breezes blow more directly on
shore; but in March we seldom found a greater difference than four
points; and, to profit essentially by this small change, constant vigilance
and activity are indispensable.    The sea breeze sets in, with very little
variation as to time, about noon, or a little before, and blows with more
or less strength, till the evening.   It was usually freshest at two o'clock ;
gradually fell after four; and died away as the sun went down.    The
land breeze was by no means so regular as to its periods or its force.
Sometimes it came off in the first watch, but rarely before midnight,
and often not till the morning, and was then generally light and uncertain.    The principal point to be attended to in this navigatien is, to have
the ship so placed at the setting in of the sea breeze, that she shall be
able to make use of the whole of it  on the port tack, before closing
too much with the land.    If this be accomplished, which a little experience of the periods renders easy, the ship will be near the shore just
as the sea breeze has ended, and there she will remain in the best situation to profit by the land wind when it comes ; for it not only comes off
earlier to a ship near the coast, but is stronger, and may always be taken
advantage of to carry the ship off to the sea breeze station before noon
of the next day.
These are the best? directions for navigating on this coast which I have
been able to procure : they are drawn from various sources, and, whenever it was possible, modified by personal experience. I am chiefly
indebted to Don Manuel Luzurragui, master attendant of Guayaquil,
for the information they contain. In his opinion, were it required to
make a passage from Panama to San Bias, without touching at any
intermediate port, the best way would be to stretch well out, pass to the
southward of Cocos Island, and then run with the southerly winds as
far west as 96° before hauling up for San Bias, so as to make a fair wind II
of the westerly breezes which belong to the coast. An experienced old
pilot, however, whom I met at Panama, disapproved of this, and said,
the best distance was 15 or 20 leagues all the way. In the winter
months these passages are very unpleasant, and it is indispensable that
the whole navigation be much further off shore, excepting only between
Acapulco and San Bias, when a distance of 10 to 12 leagues will be
The return passages from the west are always much easier. In the
period called here the summer, from December to May, a distance of
30 to 50 leagues ensures a fair wind all the way. In winter, it is
advisable to keep still further off, say 100 leagues, to avoid the calms,
and the incessant rains, squalls, and lightnings, which everywhere prevail
on the coast at this season. Don Manuel Luzurragui advises, during
winter, that all ports on this coast should be made to the southward
and eastward, as the currents in this time of the year set from that
If it were required to return direct from San Bias to Lima, a course
must be shaped so as to pass between the Island of Cocos and the
Galapagos, and to the south-eastward, till the land be made a little to
the southward of the equator, between Cape Lorenzo and Cape St.
Helena. From thence work along-shore as far as Point Aguja, in
lat. 6° S., after which work due S., on the meridian of that point, as far
11|°S., and then stretch in-shore. If the outer passage were to be
attempted from San Bias, it would be necessary to run to 25° or 30° S.
across the trade, which would be a needless waste of distance and
Such general observations as the foregoing, on a navigation still imperfectly known, are perhaps better calculated to be useful to a stranger
than detailed accounts of passages made at particular seasons. For,
although the success of a passage will principally depend on the navigator's own vigilance in watching for exceptions to the common rules
and on his skill and activity in profiting by them, yet he must always be
materially aided by a knowledge of the prevalent winds and weather.
As many persons, however, attach a certain degree of Value to actual
observations made on coasts little frequented, although the period in
which they may have been made be limited; I have given im the two
following notices, a brief abstract of the Conway's passages from Panama
to Acapulco, and from Acapulco to San Bias. The original notes from
whence they are taken are too minute to interest any person not actually
proceeding to that quarter of the world.
Panama to Acapulco.—5th of February to 1th of March, 1822 (30
days).—We sailed from Panama on the 4th of February, and anchored
on that afternoon at the Island of Taboga, where we filled up our water. THE  WEST  COAST  OF  NORTH  AMERICA.
Next evening, the 5th, we ran out of the bay with a fresh N.N.W. wind,
and, at half-past two in the morning of the 6th, rounded Point Mala,
and hauled to the westward. As the day advanced,- the breeze slackened,
and drew to the southward. In 24 hours, however, we had run 140
miles, and were entirely clear of the bight of Panama. It cost us nearly
six days more before we came abreast of Cape Blanco de Nicoya; at
first we had light winds from S.S.W., then a moderate breeze from
N.N.W., which backed round to the eastward, and was followed by a
calm: during each day we had the wind from almost every point of the
compass, but light and uncertain. Between the 11th and 12th, we
passed Cape Blanco de Nicoya, with afresh breeze from S.S.E. and then
S.S.W., which shifted suddenly to the northward, afterwards to the
N.N.E., where it blew fresh for upwards of 24 hours, and enabled us to
run more than 230 miles to the W.N.W. in one day. This breeze,
which is known by the name of papagayo, failed us after passing the
gulf of the same name, and we then came within the influence of adverse
currents. On reaching the longitude of 92° W., on the 16th, we were
set S. 16°. W., 77 miles; on the 17th, N. 16 miles; on the 18th, E. 51
miles; on the 19th, S. 78°. E., 63 miles; on the 20th, S. 62°. E., 45
miles; on the 21st, S. 87°. E., 17| miles ; all of which we experienced
between 91° and 93° W., at the distance of 20 or 30 leagues from the
shore; meanwhile we had N.N.E. and northerly winds, and calms.
After these currents slackened, We made westing as far as 93^°, by
help of N.N.E. and easterly winds. On the 22nd, 23rd, and 24th, we
were struggling against north-westerly winds off Guatemala, between
14° and 15|° north latitude. This brought us up to the top of the bay
of Tehuantepec at sunset of the 24th; we then tacked and stood to the
westward. The weather at this time looked threatening; the sky was
clear overhead, but all round the horizon there hung a fiery and portentous haze, and the sun set in great splendour; presently the breeze
freshened, and came to north by west, and before midnight it blew a
hard gale of wind from north. This lasted, with little intermission, till
six in the morning of the 26th, or about 30 hours. There was, during
all the time, an uncommonly high short sea, which made the ship extremely uneasy. The barometer fell from 29*94 to 29*81, between noon
and four o'clock, p.m., but rose again as the gale freshened; the
sympiesometer fell twelve-hundredths. This gale drove us to the S.W.
by S., about 140 miles. A fine fresh breeze succeeded from N.N.E.,
which carried us 120 miles towards Acapulco, and left us in longitude
97|° W. and latitude 15° N., on the 27th. This was the last fair wind
we had on the coast, all the rest of our passage, as far as San Bias, being
made by dead beating. The distance from Acapulco was now less than
180 miles, but it cost us eight days' hard work to reach it, principally r
owing to a steady drain of lee-current running E. by S., at the following
daily rates, viz., 13, 16, 27, 37, 25, 10, 9, 7, and 9 miles. The winds
were, meanwhile, from N.W. to N.N.W., with an occasional spurt from
S.E. and S., and several calms. We had not yet learned the most
effectual method of taking advantage of the small variation between the
day and night winds.
Acapulco to San Blas.—I2th to 28th of March, 1822 (16 days).—
This passage was considered good for the month of March, but in the
latter days of December, and first of January, an English merchant made
it in 10 days, having a fair wind offshore nearly all the day. A merchant brig, which passed Acapulco on the 6th of February, at the*
distance of 150 miles, was a fortnight in reaching Cape Corrientes, and
nearly three weeks afterwards getting from thence to San Bias, a distance
of only 70 miles. There is, however, reason to believe that the vessel
was badly handled.
It would be useless to give any more detailed account of this passage
than there will be seen in the preceding remarks. We generally got the
sea breeze about noon, with which we laid up for a short time W.N. W.,
and then broke off to N.W., and so to the northward, towards the end
of the breeze, as we approached the coast. We generally stood in within
a couple of miles, and sometimes nearer, and sounded in from 15 to 25
fathoms. If the breeze continued after sunset, we made short tacks, in
order to preserve our vicinity to the land, to be ready for the night wind.
With this we generally lay off S.W., sometimes W.S.W. and W., but
only for a short time. After passing latitude 18°, the coast trended
more to the northward, and a much larger leg was made on the port
tack, before we were obliged to go about. As we approached Cape
Corrientes, in latitude 20°, the land winds became more northerly, and
the sea breezes more westerly ; so that, as the coast also trended off the
northward, a more rapid advance was made.
On passing Cape Corrientes, the Tres Marias Islands came in sight;
and, if they be passed to the south-eastward, at the distance of eight or
ten leagues, and a N.N.E. course steered, Piedro Branco de Mer, off San
Bias, will be readily got sight of. This is a round, bold, white rock, in
lat. 21° 34|' N. and long. 105° 32f W., and being 130 feet high, forms
an excellent land-mark. It lies exactly llf of a mile nearly due west
from the harbour of San Bias, which is pointed out by another white
rock, bearing S. *83° E. from the former. Close round this last rock,
called Piedro de Tierra, on the eastern side, lies the anchorage. The
coast between Cape Corrientes and San Bias is full of deep and dangerous rocky bights. It is little known, and ought not to be approached.
Care should also be taken, in the night-time, to keep clear of a small
cluster of low rocks,^which lie 22 miles to the N.N.W. of Cape Cor- THE  WEST  COAST  OF   NORTH   AMERICA.
rientes. We made them in lat. 20° 43' N. and long. 105° 51'4" W.
Vancouver places them in lat. 20° 45' N., long. 105° 46'55" W.; an
agreement sufficiently near. Our difference of longitude was ascertained
by chronometers next day from San Bias, where the longitude was afterwards determined by the occultation of a fixed star.
During our stay at San Bias, from the 28th of March to the 15th of
June, we had light land-winds every night, and a moderately fresh breeze
from west every day, with the thermometer always above 80°.
Towards the end of the period, the sky, which had been heretofore
clear, became overcast; the weather lost its former serene character,
becoming dark and unsettled; and, on the 1st of June, the periodical
rains set in with great violence, accompanied by thunder and lightning,
and fresh winds from due south. This was nearly a fortnight earlier
than the average period. The heat and closeness of the weather increased
greatly after the rains set in; but although our men were much exposed,
no sickness ensued, excepting a few cases of highly inflammatory fever.
The town was almost completely deserted when we came away; the
inhabitants having, as usual, fled to Tepic and other inland towns, to
avoid the discomfort and sickness which accompany the rains.
As soon as the rains subside, in the latter end of October, or beginning
of November, the people return, although that is the period described as
being most unhealthy, when the ground is still moist, and the heat of the
sun not materially abated.
The coast from San Bias runs N.W. § N. a distance of about 120
miles. From San Bias to Mazatlan the coast is low (excepting near the
entrance of Tecapan) and covered with trees, and is clear of all danger.
About a mile from the shore, between Tecapan and Mazatlan, the
soundings vary from 9 to 12 fathoms, fine sand. On the bar of Tecapan
the water is very shallow, and in general breaks. The soundings increase
gradually between San Bias and Mazatlan to 30 fathoms at 20 miles
from the coast.
There is no danger whatever on the coast between Piedro de Mer and
Mazatlan ; the lead is a sure guide. The Island of Isabella in lat. 21°
51' 15" N. and long. 105° 52'3" W., is high and steep, and has no danger
at the distance of a quarter of a mile. It is a small island, about a mile
in length, with two remarkable needle rocks lying near the shore to the
eastward of it.
Beating up along the coast of Sonora, some low hills, of which two or
three are shaped like cones, will be seen upon the sea-shore.    The first of
•these is about nine leagues south of Mazatlan, and within view of the
island of El Creston, which forms the port of Mazatlan. A current sets to
the southward along this coast, at the rate of 18 or 20 miles a day.
MAZATLAN.—Mazatlan is a port very easily made.    It is formed
by a cluster of islands, to the southward of which is a long line of beach,
with low land thickly covered with trees, running several miles in before
it reaches the foot of the mountains, and continues the same as far to the
southward as the north side of the bar of Tecapan, where the land is
high.    Its position is lat. 23° 1V 40" N., and long. 106 22' 24" W.
The port of Mazatlan at its entrance, is formed by the island of
El Creston on its western, and the island of Vienado on the southern
side. From the sea the former has nearly a regular ascent, the length of
the island lying from east to west, where it terminates in an abrupt
precipice, and is covered with small trees. It has from 8 to 10 fathoms
water to within a few fathoms of it. The island of El Vienado has a
very similar appearance, and is about half the height of El Creston Island,
being partially covered with trees. These islands can be seen several
miles before the land, at the back of the town, makes its appearance. The
outer rock is situated well outside the roadstead, and forms nearly an
equilateral triangle with the islands of El Creston and Vienado ; it is
about eight feet high, and nearly the same breadth, and from seven to
eight fathoms long from north to south; there are five fathoms water
close to it.*
Within'the port is a long sand, which extends out from the bottom of
it, a great part of which is dry at low water, and is shoal for some distance
to the south-east, extending nearly as far as the island El Vienado, with
a boat channel between it and the island. The inner anchorage is to the
westward of this sand. It is said that the bank is increasing, and that
the port has filled very much within a few years past.
North of the island El Creston, and between it and the main land, is
the Island of Gomer, which is low, and is separated from El Creston by a
narrow boat-channel. From about the middle of Gomez a bar extends to
the eastward across the port to the sand-bank already mentioned, on
which there are said to be several patches of shoal water when the water
was low, not having more than six feet on them. Inside the bar the
water deepens, and close up to the town, there are said to be from two and
a half to three fathoms, with a sandy bottom.
When  the  wind blows strong from  the N.W.,  a short chop of a
sea heaves in between the   Island of   Gomez   and  Point   Calandare,
• although the distance they are apart is short, but by anchoring, as already
mentioned, opposite Creston, most of it is avoided.
In the rainy season it is very unsafe to lay inside, as gales come on
from the southward, which bring in a heavy sea.    Vessels of all sizes
* It is right to mention that the above directions of Captain Masters do not
correspond in many important particulars with the recent survey of Captain Beechey
B.N.   The chart ought to be referred to as it will be found an invaluable assistance
to those visiting the port. THB  WEST  COAST  OF  NORTH  AMERICA.
anchor in this season in the outer roads between the islands and the outer
roads from which they can be got under weigh, and stand clear of the
To the northward of the present port of Mazatlan, about five miles, is
the N.W. port of Mazatlan, a fine bay, well sheltered from N.W. winds
by the Pajaros or Bird Islands. It was in the southern part of this bay
that vessels formerly discharged their cargoes, but the present port being
more secure, was established in its stead about thirty years since.
The river is said to extend about 30 miles from the port, and passes
within a few miles of the town of Mazatlan, where the custom-house
formerly was, but was removed to the present port a short time since,
and as all business is transacted at the town of Ragosa (commonly called
Mazatlan), the old town is fast falling to decay.
The   watering-place for shipping is a small distance up a creek,
on the east side of the river.    Wood for fuel can be had in abundance.
Captain Beechey says:—
" The anchorage at Mazatlan, at the mouth of the Gulf of California, in
the event of a gale from the south-westward, is more unsafe than that at
San Bias, as it is necessary to anchor so close to the shore, that there
is not room to cast and make a tack. Merchant-vessels moor here with
the determination of riding out the weather, and for this purpose go well
into the bay. Very few accidents, however, have occurred, either here
or at San Bias, as it scarcely ever blows from the quarter to which these
roads are open between May and December.
Having approached the coast about the latitude of 23° 11' N., Creston
and some other steep rocky islands will be seen. Creston is the highest
of these, and may be further known by two small islands to the
northward of it, having a white chalky appearance. Steer for Creston,
and pass between it and a small rock to the southward, and when
inside the bluff, luff up, and anchor immediately in about seven and
a half fathoms, the small rock about S. 17° E., and the bluff W. by
S. Both this bluff and the rock may be passed within a quarter of a
cable's length; the rock has from 12 to 15 fathoms within 30 yards of it
in every direction. It is, however, advisable to keep at a little distance
from the bluff, to escape the eddy winds. After having passed it, be
careful not to shoot much to the northward of the before-mentioned
bearing (W. by S.), as the water shoals suddenly, or to reach
so far to the eastward as to open the west tangent of the peninsula
with the eastern point of a low rocky island S.W. of it, as that
will be near a dangerous rock, nearly in the centre of the anchorage,
with only 11 feet water on it at low spring-tides, and with deep water
all round it. I moored a buoy upon it, but should this be washed away,
its situation may be known by the eastern extreme of  the before-
i    B 62
mentioned lo w rocky island, between which and Battery Peak, there
a channel for small vessels, being in one with a wedge-shaped protuberance on the western hillock of the northern island (about three miles
north of Creston), and the N. W. extremity of the high rocky island to
the eastward of the anchorage being a little open with a rock off the
mouth of the river in the N.E. The south tangent of this island will
also be open a little (4°), with a dark tabled hill on the second range
of mountains in the east. These directions will, I think, be quite
intelligible on the spot.
The winds at Mazatlan generally blow fresh from the N.W. in the
evening; the sea-breeze springs up about ten in the forenoon, and lasts
until two o'clock in the morning.
It is high water at this place at 9h. 5 a.m., full and change, rise seven
feet spring tide.
GUAYMAS.—From Mazatlan the coast runs to the north-westward to
27° 53' 50'', the latitude of Port Guaymas, forming the eastern side of
the Gulf of California, and is almost entirely unknown. The Port of
Guaymas, in Lower California, was surveyed in 1840 by M. Fisquet, of
the French Navy, a copy of which is on our chart of the coast. It is
a small port about three miles in extent, and has numerous islands in
it, affording good shelter to vessels drawing from 12 to 15 feet watec
It is considered to be one of the best harbours in the gulf. The longitude
is 110° 49' 13" W., and variation 12° 4' E. The rise of tide is three and
a half feet at ordinary tides, but is dependent upon the winds, which,
when blowing strongly from the S.W., raise it to 10 and 11 feet.
This harbour was visited in 1826, by Lieut. Hardy, R.N., who says,
" The harbour is, beyond all question, the best in the Mexican dominions;
it is surrounded by land on all sides, and protected from the winds by
high hills. It is not very extensive, nor is the water above five fathoms
deep abreast of the pier; but there are deeper soundings further off.
It would shelter a large number of vessels. The entrance is defended
by the Island of Pajaros, on which, at the proper season of the year, is
found a prodigious quantity of eggs, deposited by gulls, so that
its surface becomes completely whitened by the vestiges which they
leave behind them.
During the dry season, the hills which surround the harbour present
a sterile appearance, truly unpleasing to the eye, and give but a bad idea
of the prosperity of the town; while the size of the houses, the number
of its inhabitants, or the want of cattle in its neighbourhood, do not tend
to remove that impression.
The town is but a miserable place, that is, as far as regards the houses,
which are built of mud, having flat roofs, covered with mould, so that,
during a hard rain, the inmates may take a shower-bath without going THE  WEST  COAST   OF   NORTH  AMERICA.
out of doors. The rafters are whole palm-trees; and there is a large
kind of humble-bee which perforates them with the greatest ease, so that,
by degrees, these great bores, which serve the insect for a nest, so weaken
the rafters, that the lodger may sometimes find a grave without going to
the churchyard, the roof falling for want of due support, which has since
happened to the very house wherein we then resided."
The following notes made on a passage from San Bias to Mazatlan, are
by Lieut. Sherard Osborn, R.N.:—"Leave San Bias with the first of the
land breeze, and after passing Piedro de Mer, endeavour to steer such a
course as to be enabled to make a good in-shore tack with the sea-breeze
on the morrow, taking care not to stand closer to the shore than eight
fathoms in a large vessel, or five fathoms in a smaller one; or, should the
sea breeze be found to have much northing, stand well off, when a continued wind instead of the land and sea breezes will be obtained, and the
strong southerly set in-shore be avoided. The Collingwood made the inshore passage in April, 1846, and had ligh£ airs with frequent calms, being
generally too far off shore at night to benefit by the land breeze; she
consequently was five days going 120 miles, whilst the Spy did it in two
and a half days by going well to seaward.
The misnamed port of Mazatlan is easily recognised by the two bluff
headlands which form the entrance to the river, the northern and more
conspicuous of the two, Creston, being an island, and affording a little
shelter from the northerly breezes which prevail from January to May.
To the westerly and southern breezes it is perfectly open, and has the
only recommendation of being good holding-ground. The coasters run
up the river off the new town of Mazatlan, which has risen to considerable
importance within a very recent period, notwithstanding the advantages
it labours under from the paucity of supplies, both animal and vegetable;
and from water being both bad and scarce.
Mazatlan is now the outlet for the products of the valuable mining
district of San Sebastian, and imports directly and indirectly large
cargoes of English goods. The general healthiness of the climate, as
compared with its more ancient neighbour San Bias, has materially
tended to an increase of its population. The town, from being built on
the crest of some heights, clear of mangrove and swamp, had an air of
cleanliness and pure ventilation rare in Spanish America.
Vessels must invariably moor in the roadstead, open hawse to the
W.S.W., and too close a berth to Creston Island is not advisable, as the
squalls sweep over it with great strength. The Collingwood drove,
though she had 50 fathoms on each cable.
Watering is attended with great risk at all times in this place, especially
at full and change, the boats having to cross the heavy surf of the bar,
formed between a long spit which runs down the centre of the river, and
1 64.
a bank joining it from the south shore. Several boats and lives are
annually lost here. In pulling in care should be taken to cross the surf
pretty close to the middle ground; and when through the first rollers, to
pull over to the south shore, and keep it on board up to the watering-
place. In coming out, no casks ought to be allowed in the head sheets,
every thing depending upon the buoyancy of the boat; inattention to this
point, caused the loss of two lives, to my own knowledge.
The water is procured from a number of wells dug by seamen, on a
low alluvial island, formed on a quicksand in the bed of the river; none
of them are consequently more than ten feet deep. The water is by no
means sweet, being merely sea water, which undergoes a partial purification in filtering through the soil.
Supplies of all sort come from the neighbourhood of San Bias; and
as the bullocks are driven that long distance, and on arrival they are
instantly killed, from the want of grass, the beef is necessarily lean and
bad. Pork, fish, and oysters, are however plentiful; vegetables are
scarce. The river abounds in turtle of excellent quality; wood of
various descriptions, principally hard, was plentiful, and at a short
distance oak and cedar might be obtained.
Old Mazatlan, which lies about 20 miles up the river, was well known
to ancient navigators, as far back as 1587. "Master Thomas Cavendish
in the talle shippe Desire, 120 tons, refreshed his gallant company before
cruising off Cape Lucas, for a Spanish galleon; and Don Sebastian
Vizcaino, in an expedition to convert the Californians to the Catholic
faith, recruited his squadron in the Bahia de Mazatlan." THE  WEST   COAST   OF   NORTH  AMERICA.
California was formerly subject to Spain, and afterwards to Mexico; but
in 1848, the northern part of it, called Alta California, was annexed, by
treaty with Mexico, to the territories of the United States of North
America. The country is naturally divided into two parts, the Old
or Lower, and the New or Upper. Old California comprehends the long
peninsula, between the Gulf and the Pacific Ocean, and extends* about
700 miles in length, with a breadth varying from 30 to 100, comprising
an area of about 38,000 square miles. A chain of rocky mountains, not
exceeding 5,000 feet in height, runs through it from south to north; and
the surface of the country consists of groups of bare rocks, broken by
ravines and hills, interspersed with barren sandy tracts, forming altogether
one of the most barren and unattractive regions within the temperate
zone. The climate is excessively dry and hot, and violent hurricanes are
frequent; timber is very scarce, and the greater part of the country is
incapable of producing a single blade of corn. Some sheltered valleys
only produce maize, and a variety of fruits, as dates, figs, &c, which are
preserved and exported; wine is also made, and a kind of spirit is distilled from the must. Cattle are somewhat numerous; wolves, foxes,
deer, goats, snakes, lizards, and scorpions, are among the wild animals.
The pearl fishery in the gulf has been famed from its first discovery; at
present, it produces annually pearls to the value of from 500 to 1000
dollars. Pearls, tortoise-shell, hides, dried beef, dried fruits, cheese, and
soap, constitute all the exports, which are mostly sent to Mazatlan and
San Bias in small coasting-vessels. The people are a feeble and indolent
set of Indians, whom the Jesuits have partially converted to Christianity;
but they are little advanced beyond the rudest stage of savage life, and
depend for their subsistence on hunting and fishing, with the spontaneous
produce of the soil.
Upper or New California extends from the Pacific Ocean to the Rocky
mountains; but the only tract inhabited by European settlers is the
narrow strip of land along the coast of the Pacific, which is bounded inward by the maritine range of hills, at the distance of about 40 miles from
the sea.    The surface of this region is very diversified, and consists of
I 66
hills and plains of considerable extent; along the coast there are several
good harbours, of which San Francisco, in lat. 38°, is one of the largest
and best on the west coast of America. The rainy season is in winter,
from November till February. During the rest of the year there is no
rain, but a few showers fall in some places. In summer the heat is very
great. The country offers, nevertheless, a striking contrast to the peninsula. There is a profusion of forest trees on the western side of the
mountains along the coast; and many fine fruits are easily cultivated,
though few are indigenous* Among these is a species of vine, which produces grapes of considerable size, and so plentiful, that considerable quantities of brandy are distilled from them. Among the wild animals are
reckoned the American lion and tiger, buffaloes, stags, roes, elks, bears,
wolves, jackals, wild cattle, foxes, polecats, otters, beavers, hares, rabbits,
&c. Birds of various kinds are exceedingly abundant. But the great
and most important article of produce is black cattle, the multiplication
of which has been really prodigious. In 70 years the number had
increased from 23 to 210,000 branded cattle, and probably 100,000 un-
branded; and it is found necessary to slaughter 60,000 annually to keep
down the stock. Sheep have increased with nearly the same rapidity,
but are at present of little importance to the trade of the country.
Between the maritime chain and the rocky mountains is a dry or sandy
plain or desert, 700 miles in length, by 100 in breadth at its south end,
and 200 at the north, which is traversed by the Rivers Colorado and Gila,
and forms the eastern limit of the inhabited, and indeed only habitable
part of the country. The natives were a poor, filthy, pusillanimous set
of Indians, in the most primitive state of barbarism, except those who
have been converted nominally to Christianity, and who have been taught
a few of the simpler arts and practices of civilized life. These resided in
missions, where the men were employed in agriculture, or in the warehouses or workshops of the mission, while the women were occupied in
spinning, grinding com, and other domestic duties. They were in fact
slaves to the monks who possessed the missions; and the greatest part of
the land, and especially that to the south of Monterey, was in the hands
of the missionaries. Since the annexation to the United States, a most
extraordinary productive gold region has been discovered in the northern
part of Upper California, commencing near the mouth of the Sacramento
River, in 39° N. lat, about 100 miles N.E. of the Bay of San Francisco,
and extending up the main valley northwards, and into several side valleys
eastwards. Almost the whole population has taken to the "diggings,**
and the news of the discovery has attracted crowds of immigrants from
both America and Europe.
The earliest accounts we have met with of the discovery of gold in
California, are preserved in " Burney's Collection of Voyages in the THE  WEST   COAST  OF.^NORTH   AMERICA.
•Pacific." It has been asserted that the discovery was made in the middle
of the last century; and, Capt. Shelvocke is also stated to have first
found it a century and a quarter ago. Burney has, however, preserved
an account, which we quote here of the discovery of it, by the early
Spaniards, in 1539, just 20 years after Cortez landed at Vera Cruz.
That the existence of the rich district was known, is, therefore, evident,
although its exact locality remained locked in secrecy, limited no doubt,
but not to those who had contemplated the Mexican war, and its intended
results. Burney has preserved the history of the journey of Friar Marcos
de Niza, containing the account to which we allude.
" From Petatlan, Friar Marcos de Niza, with his followers, travelled
along the coast, where people came to him from islands; and, he saw
some that came from the land where the Marquis Cortez had been. At
the end of a desert of four days journey, he found Indians who had
not knowledge of the Christians, the desert obstructing communication
between them and the countries to the south.
" These people," says the friar, "entertained me exceeding courteously,
gave me great store of yictuals, and sought to touch my garments, and
called me Hayota, which, in their language, signified 'a man come from
Heaven.'"—The principal motive of this undertaking, however, was not
one of a pious or spiritual nature. It was to spy out the land, whether it
was good or bad, and to bring of the fruit, that his countrymen might
know if they should go up and possess it.
" These Indians," says the friar, " I advertised by my interpreter, according to my instructions, in the knowledge of our Lord God in Heaven,
and of the Emperor. I sought information of other countries, and they
told me that four or five days journey within the country, at the foot of
the mountain, there was a large plain, wherein were many great towns,
and people clad in cotton. I shewed to them metals which I carried with
me, to learn by them what rich metals were in the land. They took the
mineral of gold and told me that thereof were vessels among the people of
that plain; that they had thin plates of gold, wherewith they scraped
off their sweat; that the walls of their temples were covered therewith,
and that they used gold in all their household vessels.
" I sent Estevanico another way, and commanded him to go directly
northward, to see if he could learn of any notable thing which we sought
to discover; and I agreed with him, that if he found knowledge of any
people, and rich country, which were of great importance, he should go
no further; but should return in person, or send me tokens: to wit, if
it were a mean thing, he should send me a white cross, one handful long;
if it were a great matter, he should send me a great cross, &c."
Estevanico, in his new route, very soon received information concerning
V', I 68
the seven cities, and that the nearest was Cevola, which was said to
be distant thirty days' journey.* Towards Cevola, Estevanico directed
his steps, sending messengers to the father; who, the fourth day after
their separation, received from him "a great cross, as high as a man."
At the sight of this token, and on hearing the reports of the messengers,
Friar Marcos set forward, following the steps of his intelligencer. The
friar relates that, in this journey, by a small deviation from a direct route,
he came in sight of the sea coast, in 35° north, which he saw stretched
from thence to the west. Giving him credit for speaking to the best of
his knowledge, it cannot be supposed that he had other means of estimating his latitude than by guess, or that he saw any sea coast beyond the
Gulf of California.—Nautical Magazine, Feb. 1849.
On the western side of the Gulf of California is the bay of La Paz,
having the Espiritu Santu Islands at the entrance, which afford good protection from the swell of the sea. Here is the harbour of Pichilingue,
in which small vessels only can winter, the water being shallow. In this
harbour, it is said, there are some excellent pearl beds. There is a considerable quantity of land in its neighbourhood, which produces fruit and
vegetables of an excellent quality. Both native and mine gold is brought
from the Real of San Antonio, about four leagues to the W.N.W.; the
metal, however, is not very abundant, nor is its quality very good. The
inhabitants are chiefly the descendants of foreign seaman who have intermarried with the native women. For remarks on this bay, see the
remarks by Lieut. Sherard Osborn, in the Appendix.
Between La Paz and the island Del Carmen is San Pedro and other
islets, upon which garnets are said to be found.
To the northward of La Paz is the mission of Loretto, formerly a place
of considerable trade, but now suffered to go to decay. It was once the
capital of Lower California, and was founded in the year 1698, by Don
Juan Caballero y Osis, who wrote a long account of it, and considered its
locality as one of great importance. The anchorage is open to winds
from North, N.W. and S.E., and when these prevail, the heavy sea
renders it by no means safe for a vessel to attempt riding them out.
Carmen Island affords shelter from the eastward, and the mainland from
the westward. The following description of Loretto was written in 1826
by Lieut. Hardy, R.N.
" Loretto stands in a valley of about two or three thousand feet wide,
surrounded by wild and sterile mountains, of which that called "La
* Herrera mentions the same distance.   H<
1. 7. c. 7.     Ortelius, in his chart, No. 6.
Cevola in 36° north latitude, and about 7° of longitude east, from the mouth of
the river Colorado,.   Theatrum Orbis Terrancm.    Edit. 1684.
writes the name Cibola,   Dee.  6,
Imrricee,  Sive Novi  Orbis,  places THE  WEST  COAST  OF  NORTH  AMERICA.
(aiganta" is the highest and least picturesque.* There are two gardens
in the place in which the vine, peach, fig, quince, and date, are cultivated.
A considerable quantity of wine is annually made, notwithstanding the
fruit is common property to all the inhabitants. Peaches and pears are
dried as well as figs; the dates are preserved; and these fruits are after-
terwards exchanged for wheat and Indian corn, brought to the mission in
small schooners from the port of Guaymas.
The situation of Loretto is in a valley of very limited extent, in
which there is space only for the town and two gardens; and there being-
in consequence no possibility of raising either wheat or maize, the inhabitants are obliged to depend upon Sonora, almost for existence. Another
circumstance renders the tenure upon which they exist very precarious. I
remarked that the hills which surrounded the town are chiefly composed
of primitive rock, granite, and hard sand-stone, all intermingled with
scarcely any appearance of soil upon them. They are thus capable of
absorbing but little moisture; and during the heavy rains, which happily
do not occur more frequently than once in five or six years, the rush
of water through every part of the town, as it comes down the ravine,
is so great, that instances have been known of some of the houses having
been actually carried away.
To prevent the recurrence of this danger, the former Franciscan friars,
many years ago, erected a stone wall, to break the force of the water,
and give it a new direction towards the sea. In successive years the rains
washed this barrier away; and another was built, which by the returning
floods was washed down also, and at present there is but a slight trace
of its ever having existed. No attempts have been made to restore it;
and on some future day it may be expected that the inhabitants will be
seen floating down the gulf! Although the natives are perfectly sensible
of their perilous situation, the love of their dwellings is so great as to
extinguish all fear for the future, and all desire to change their
The inhabitants of Loretto are of a dingy, opaque, olive-green, which
shows that there is no friendly mixture in the blood of the Spaniard and
the Indian; or it may be, that by degrees they are returning to the
colour of the aborigines. They appear to be the same squalid, flabby,
mixed race, which is observed in almost every part of the Mexican coasts.
I did not see a good-looking person among them, always excepting the
commandant and ci-devant deputy!"
At about 14 leagues to the southward of Loretto, between it and La
Paz, is a small bay, named La Bahia Escondida, in which vessels of a
moderate draught of water may anchor in perfect security.
* This mountain is estimated to be 4,560 feet high. It is of volcanic origin, as
is all the rest of the chain which runs through the Californian peninsula.
253= 70
The Placeres de Perla, or Pearl Beds, in the neighbourhood of Loretto,
are the following:—the south-west point of the Isla del Carmen, Puerto
Balandra, Puerto Escondido, Arroyo Hondo, La Isla Coronada, Tierra
Firino, San Bruno, La Piedra Negada, and San Marcus. The four first
are situated to the south, and the latter five to the northward of Loretto,
at which place, says Lieut. Hardy, in 1826, the Virgin and the customhouse receive their proportion of the pearl fishery, which for the last 30"
years has not exceeded, as I am informed, the value of 70 dollars
From Loretto to Moleje Bay, a distance of about 100 miles, there are
soundings near the land of 20 to 30 fathoms, and the coast offers several
good anchorages. At three leagues to the northward of Loretto is the
little Island of Coronados, under which there is shelter from the' N.E.
From hence, following the coast to the northward, there are several small
bays marked on the charts.
MOLEJE BAY.—This bay is of considerable extent, and the water in
it varies considerably in depth. There are numerous islands and small
harbours in it, and it is said that there are many shoals scattered over its
surface, and that in no part is there good holding-ground; yet, a small
vessel may be lashed alongside some of the islets with perfect safety. In
the bay, there is said to be an excellent pearl-bed, but its existence wants
On the western coast of the bay of Moleje, there is a well of fresh
water, remarkable for the water rising and falling with the tide, which is
here about 18 inches. It was examined by Lieut. Hardy, in 1826, who
ascertained that there was a communication between the mountain and
the well, which is merely a hole of 12 inches (?) diameter, and of the same
depth, situated.close to high water mark. It is naturally formed, and is
a great accommodation to travellers, being the only fresh water between
the missions of Loretto and Moleje; so tbat it serves as a sort of half-way-
house. Its rise and fall depend on the elevation of the sea, which, when
it ebbs, allows the fresh water (which is of excellent quality) to filter
through the porous sand-stone in which the well is formed.
A little to the north-westward of Moleje Bay, is the mission of Moleje,
which can only be discerned from the sea by a small hill on the coast,
named Sombrerito, from its resemblance to a hat. The entrance to the
harbour is very shallow, and will only admit the entrance of very small
vessels. The coast is whitened with surf, and the shallow water extends
about two miles from the shore. Lieut. Hardy says that " being abreast
of Sombrerito, with the wind easterly, we bore up, and stood directly for
the coast, with our head about a quarter of a point to the southward of
that hill, in order to avoid a reef of rocks that runs off from it for some
distance.   When within a hundred and fifty yards of the shore, Som- THE  WEST   COAST  OF   NORTH  AMERICA.
brerito then bearing off us N.N.W., and being in-shore of the reef, we
hauled up, and stood for the centre of the hill, till within 35 yards of it,
when we dropped our anchor, and ran out warps to the shore on both sides
of us, to prevent the vessel from either drifting or swinging, for which
there is no room.
The water on the bar is so shallow, that we touched twice in going
over it; but as it was composed of only soft sand, the vessel received no
injury, although it blew fresh from the eastward, with a heavy
swell on the shore. In the situation where we ultimately moored,
there are three fathoms close by the hill, and it is well sheltered from
wind and sea.
There is a small rivulet here, extending above the mission, which is
at the distance of two leagues from the coast. From the sea, the hill of
Sombrerito hides all appearance of the ravine; but from the shore, the
date, olive, and peach-trees, as well as plantations of vines and of maize,
present a cheerful show of verdure by no means common in Lower California. About the distance of a league from the mouth of the rivulet,
the water is fresh, and I took advantage of it to re-fill our empty
This mission of Santa Rosalia de Moleje was established in the year
1700 by the Marquis de Villa Puente, as it is supposed, and its distance
from Loretto is about 45 leagues. It produces wine, spirits, and soap,
which are exported chiefly from the capital; besides grapes, dates,
figs, and olives, all of good quality. These form the principal branches of
its commerce.
About six or eight leagues from Moleje, at some distance from the
shore side, is the mission of La Madalena, established about the same
period as the former; but bywhom is not known. Its productions are
the same as those of the Moleje; but the quality of the spirits which are
made from the mezcal, growing wild about the mountains in its neighbourhood, is said to be the best of any made in Lower California. Its
population is about equal to that of Loretto.
Nearly opposite the mission of Moleje is the Island of San Marcus,
which is small, and is said to have a pearl-fishery in its vicinity. Between
it and the mission is the small Islet of Santa Ines. Opposite San
Marcus, at the distance of two leagues from the coast, is the mission of
San Ignatio, established in the year 1725, which is a wretched place, and
the inhabitants of which are stated by a recent writer to have the appearance of belonging more to the next world than to this. At about 12
or 14 leagues to the north-westward of this mission there is said to be
an exhausted volcano, on one of the hills named Las Tres Virgines,
which, however, still produces sulphur. These three hills extend as far
as the Gulf of Moleje, where they end in a bluff point named after them. 72
The following, by Lieut. Hardy, will give an idea of the difficulty of
sailing out of the harbour of the mission of Moleje:—" Not having been
successful in my search for divers, I determined to proceed to sea. The
wind was still dead upon the shore; and as itjeas not possible to attempt
taking the vessel out through the channel, without her .being inevitably
driven on to the beach, I sent the boat ahead with a rope, and we succeeded in towing the Bruja through the midst of the rocks, which were
perfectly distinguishable at intervals by the heave and fall of the waves,
which enabled us to avoid them. Having got fairly outside of them, we
clapped on sail, shaped our course along shore, and in two hours time
went through the passage formed on the left by the low point of Santa
Ines, and on the right by the island named after the same saint, carrying
four and five fathoms' water. Having doubled the point, we came to.
anchor on the south-west side of the Island of San Marcus, round which
I had been given to understand pearls had been formerly fished. We
found, however, only a few unproductive shells. On this island there
are numbers of wild goats, and I sent the captain and a part of the crew
to hunt them."
On the Island of San Marcus there is abundance of talc, a soft marble,
and pumice-stone of excellent quality. There are two kinds of the latter,
white and yellow; but only the former is good. One of the hills is
almost entirely composed of talc. At the northern extremity of the island
there is good fresh water.
The coast of the main land, within.Marcus Island, is iron-bound, and
affords no shelter whatever. At about 40 miles from Moleje mission, is a
small bay, named Thomson's Bay, in which you may occasionally anchor,
but it is open to every wind except the south-east.
From Marcus Island the Gulf of California as far as its head, into
which falls the Rio Colorado, is but little known, being seldom visited.
A little to the northward of Thomson's Bay are some islands named Sal
si Puedes (Get bach if you can),ia the vicihity of which the current runs
strongly, sometimes to the south-eastward, and occasionally in the
opposite direction. The larger island is about seven miles in circumference, and very mountainous. The hills are chiefly composed of a red
stone, which has.very much the appearance of cinnabar. Near these
islands are some others, named Las Animas and San Lorenzo, by which
a very dangerous passage is formed.
In about lat. 29° the long and narrow island of Del Angele de la
Guardia,.forms in conjunction with the coast a channel in which numbers
of whales have been seen, and hence named the Canal de Ballenas.
Opposite to the island, and nine leagues inland, is the mission of San
Francisco de Borja.
RIO COLORADO.—This river falls into the northern extremity of THE  WEST  COAST  OF   NORTH   AMERICA.
the Gulf of California, after a course of 640 miles; but its sources have
not been explored. The depth at its mouth is not more than six feet, and
the breadth scarcely exceeds 200 yards. Sixty miles from the sea it is
joined by the Rio Gila, which rises from the Sierra Mongollon, in the
Rocky Mountains, about 34° 20' N. lat. The country through which
these rivers flow is a sandy desert, destitute of good water, and subject to
excessive heat.
The coast on the western side of the entrance to the river, for a very
considerable distance before reaching the river, appears to be composed
It ha
s, in consequence,
of a loose sandy soil, easily raised by the wind,
been named " Smoky Coast."
The three mouths of the Rio Colorado are formed by two islands, by
the coast of Sonora to the eastward, and by the coast of California to the
westward. The largest of the two islands has been named Montagu
Island, in compliment to Admiral Sir George Montagu, G.C.B. On the
western side of the river there are forests of the thorny shrub named
Mesquite, an inferior species of the Quebrahacha; and on the banks there
are a profusion of stems and large branches of the willow, poplar, and
acacia, which have been brought down by floods, and are now permanently
lodged in their present situations. On the eastern side of the river there
are also the remains of these trees, but there is no other vegetation
excepting a sort of dwarf reed. From the mast-head nothing on this
side is distinguishable, besides the waters of the Rio Colorado and Rio
Gila, but an interminable plain; and to the westward rises the Cordillera, which extends from Cape St. Lucas, the southern extremity of
Lower California. To the northward and eastward there is a long row of.
lofty trees which probably grow on the banks of the Rio Gila. The
point of land dividing the Rio Colorado from the Gila is named Arnold's
Point, and the one on the opposite side of the same beach is named
Newburgh's Point.
The Rio Colorado is of but little use to navigation, as although the tide
rises 20 to 24 feet, the currents are so strong that it is always attended with
danger to run in; the rate is said to be at times as much as 10 or 12 miles
an hour, and occasionally much more. The bed of the river is filled
with banks which are left dry at low water. When entering, the Cali-
fornian coast must be kept on board to find the passage, which is narrow,
and at low tide very shallow.
Currents.—It may be remarked that in the Gulf of California, to
the northward of Guaymas, during the prevalence of northerly winds,
which continue from the latter end of October till the month of May,
the currents set with the wind. The southerly winds commence in May,
and are accompanied with southerly currents. To the northward of
Guaymas there are regular tides.
* a
■ 74
Cape St. Lucas, in lat. about 22° 52' N., and long. 109° 53' W., is
of very moderate height, although a few leagues to the northward of it
the land rises so high as to be seen at the distance of 20 leagues. When
in this neighbourhood, it is recommended to keep the lead constantly
going, because that the low shore is occasionally hidden by the haze*
which frequently prevails even when the weather is clear out at sea. At
the distance of nine leagues from the shore, there is a depth of 70
CAPE ST. LUCAS, bearing S. 67°, E., four leagues.
From Cape St. Lucas the coast runs to the westward about eight
miles to Cape Falso, so named from being frequently mistaken for the
Cape St. Lucas is mentioned in the following terms by Captain
Colnett:—" Our cruising ground was between the latitudes 23° and 25°,
and longitudes 112° and 113°, off a remarkable mountain near Cape St.
Lazarus, to which I have given the same name. I make it to be in lat.
25° 15', and long. 11° 20/. To the southward of it is very low land, till
within a very few leagues of Cape St. Lucas, which is the south point of
California, when the land rises to such an eminence, as to be seen at the
distance of 20 leagues, but the cape itself is of very moderate height.
Though the weather was fair and pleasant, it was so hazy while we were
on this low and dangerous coast, as to require a continual employment
of the lead. We frequently got soundings with 70 fathoms of line at
the distance of nine leagues from the shore. I made the cape by the
means of a number of observations of sun, moon, and stars, to be in lat.
22° 45' N., and long. 110° W."
In the Bay of St. Lucas there is good anchorage, and shelter from
westerly winds, but it is exposed to a dangerous and very heavy sea from
the south-west. The soundings are very irregular, and the anchorage,
by reason of its great depth in the centre, is completely on a lee shore.
At the village a small quantity of provisions may be obtained.
Captain Sir E. Belcher has remarked " that they were nearly making
a sad mistake, after shortening sail, by finding after they cast in 10, they
had no bottom with 88 fathoms, just as they were about to let go the THE  WEST  COAST  OF  NORTH  AMERICA.
anchor.    This shows the necessity of keeping the lead on the bottom
before letting go an anchor.
This bay was first called Aguada Segura by the Spaniards, and afterwards altered by Vizcaino to that of San Barnabe, it being the festival of
that saint when this navigator entered it, in 1602. It is the same bay in
which Cavendish landed his prisoners, 190 in number, when he anchored
them with his prize, the Santa Ana, taken from the king of Spain, in.
1587. Some Americans and Californians now reside there, who supply
the whalers who annually resort there with water, wood, cattle, vegetables, and fruit. The country is mountainous and sterile about the
Cape, and the supplies are brought from the valley of San Jose, about 20
miles to the northward, which is well cultivated. The water, which is
procured from the wells, is sweet when drawn, and is very bright, but is
impregnated with muriate of soda and nitre, which pervade the soil. It
consequently soon putrifies on board.
It has been remarked in Captain Rogers's account of his voyage round
the world, in 1710 :—" This port is about a league to the eastward of a
round, sandy, bald headland, which some take to be Cape San Lucas, because it is the southernmost land. The entrance into the bay may be known
by four high rocks, which appear like the Needles at the Isle of Wight,
as you come from the westward. The two westernmost are in form of
sugar-loaves, and the innermost of them has an arch, through which the
sea makes its way. You must leave the outermost rock about a cable's
length on your port head, and steer into the deepest part of the bay,
being all bold, where you may anchor in from 10 to 25 fathoms depth.
Here you may ride land-locKed from all winds, save those between E. by
N. and S.E. by S. Yet it would be but an ordinary road if the wind
should come strong from the sea. The starboard side of the bay is the
best anchoring-ground, where you may ride on a bank that has from 10
to 15 fathoms depth. The rest of this bay is very deep; and near the
rocks on the port side going in there is no ground. This is not a good
recruiting place."
MAGDALEN A BAY, or rather GULF, is an extensive inland sea,
affording shelter; and probably water can be obtained in the winter season,
considered to be between May and October. It has lately been surveyed
by Captain Sir E. Belcher, R.N., and by Captain Du Petit Thouars,
in 1837.
The entrance is about 3j miles wide, with rocks lining the shore on
both sides, so that it is recommended to keep as near the middle as possible, where will be found from 12 to 18 fathoms, rocky bottom, with
shells. When within, there will be found a similar depth on a bottom
of sand and shells. At the head of the bay there are numerous sandbanks which have not yet been examined.     The back land is so very low 76
that it cannot be seen from the deck, when at the entrance.    Captain'
Du Petit Thouars says:—" The high land of Cape St. Lazarus affords'
an excellent mark for making the land, as it can be seen at the distance
of 10 or 12 leagues.
The entrance of the bay is three miles wide and very brief. It presents
no difficulty, care only being taken not to go too near the south point, on
account of a detached rock, on which the sea breaks, situated about half
a mile from the point. In tacking, when within the bay, care ought to
be taken to shun the Banc de la Venus, and you ought to hold
yourself sufficiently far from the low land to the East and N.E.
Anchorage can be obtained in the north-west part of the bay, or in the
south part of it, according to the prevailing winds. The holding-ground
is moderately good.
The bay offers no resources, as there are neither houses, woods, norwater.
Outside the bay, the current runs to the south, with a strength of-
about a third of a mile per hour.
The tides are regular, and occasion very strong currents at the entrance
of the bay. It is high water, on the days of full and change of the moon,
at 7h. 37m.    Variation of the compass 8° 15' E."
From the above mentioned survey (Captain Du Petit Thouars) it
would appear that the north extremity of Cape St. Lazarus is in lat.
■—'          SS=B=—
—   — ~
CAPE ST. LAZARUS, bearing about N.W. by N. distant, 162 miles.
24° 48' 20" N. and long. 112° 16' 28** W. It is very high land, and
makes, from a distance, like an island, the country at the back, and to
the northward and southward of it being very low.
Commander Sir E. Belcher surveyed this bay in 1839, and has made the
following remarks upon it:—"I was fully prepared to have found, as the
name imported, an extensive bay; but on entering the heads, which are
about two miles asunder, no land could be discerned from the deck, from
north-west to north-east or east; and even after entering, it was quite a
problem in this new sea where to seek for anchorage, our depths at
first, even" near the shore, ranged from 17 to 30 fathoms. However, as
the prevailing winds appeared to be westerly, I determined on beating
to windward, in which it eventually proved I was correct.   About 4 p.m. THE  WEST  COAST  OF  NORTH  AMERICA.
we reached a very convenient berth in 10 fathoms, with a very sheltered
position for our observatory. Preparations were immediately made for
the examination of this extensive sea, or what I shall in future term the
Gulf of Magdalena.
It is probable that this part of the coast formerly presented three
detached islands; viz. St. Lazarus range, Magdalena range, and Marga-
•rita range, with one unnamed sand island, and numerous sand islets.    It
.is not improbable that its estuaries meet those from La Paz, forming this
portion of southern California, into an immense archipelago.
The first part of our expedition led us up the northern branch of what
held out some prospect of a fresh water river, particularly as frequent
marks of cattle were noticed. In the prosecution of this part of our
survey we noticed that the St. Lazarus range is only connected by a very
narrow belt of sand between the two bays, and that the summits of some
sand-hills were covered, in a most extraordinary manner, by piles of
fragile shells, which resembled those found recent in the gulf. At elevations of 50 and 60 feet, these minute and fragile shells were found
. perfect f but on the beaches, either seaward or within, not a shell was
visible. This is the more extraordinary, as these sand wastes are constantly in motion, and drowning everything else, and yet these shells are
always exposed! On digging beneath them to erect marks, no beds of
shells occurred, nothing but plain sand. It was further remarkable that
they appeared to be collected in families, principally area, venus,
cardium, and murex. When ostrea appeared, they were by themselves.
The cliffs throughout the gulf abound in organic remains, and I cannot
.but believe that the same cause has produced the above unaccountable
phenomena, which I witnessed throughout a range of at least 30 miles.
Having explored the westernmost estuary, about 17 miles north of our
observatory, until no end appeared to its intricacies, I resolved on- attempting a second, which afforded a wider entrance, and offered deeper
water. This was examined about four miles beyond the last, and it still
offered ample scope for employment, the advance boat being at that
moment in four fathoms, and distant heads in view; but considering that
sufficient had been done to show that no hope offered of reaching fresh
water, and the still unexplored state of the gulf would engross all our
spare time, I determined on adhering to its main outlines, which
eventually offered so many intricacies as almost to baffle our patience.
One circumstance connected with the examination of the second
.estuary afforded very strong proof that no fresh-water streams were in
the vicinity. It was the fact of finding near our advanced position many
large specimens of the Astoria Medusa, or Euryale, an Asteria seldom
•le 78
found but in pure, and generally deep salt water.   At least twenty were
taken by the dredge.
By the 9th of November we had reached the eastern end of the first
gulf, when the ship was moved into the second, the channel or strait connecting them being not more than a quarter of a mile wide. I had been
very sanguine in my expectations that we should have discovered a safe
channel out by the eastern end of the Island of Margarita; but
until satisfied upon that point I took the Starling and boats to explore.
I found that our boats, and, upon emergency, the Starling, might
have passed out, but it was far too doubtful and intricate for the
During the time the boats were thus engaged, I overlooked them from
the summit of one of the highest peaks of Margarita, and plainly saw the
outlines of the shoals, and difficulty of the navigation, even for boats. I
had also a fine view, of the southern unnamed island, which terminated in
a crescent about ten miles to the S.E., with a passage very similar to
that immediately beneath.
We had frequently seen indistinctly the outlines of very high mountains
to the eastward, distant about 50 or 60 miles. But on this day I could
detect abrupt breaks, which indicated water-courses between them, and
could plainly follow out the yellow breaks of cliffs, as far as the eye
could trace inland.
I have not the slightest doubt that these estuaries flow past them, and
^probably to the very base of the most distant mountains, even into the
Gulf of California. As I am informed that there are no fresh streams in
the district of La Paz, and that several esreros ran westerly from that
neighbourhood, it is not improbable that they meet. Although the solution of this question may not be commercially important, it is one highly
interesting in a commercial point of view.
After all the time expended, independent of severe labour, on this immense sheet of water, it will naturally be enquired, what advantages does
the port offer ?   The reply is: at the present moment, shelter; and from
several water-courses nearly dry at the time of our visit, it is evident that
very powerful streams scour the valleys in the winter season, which in
this region is reckoned between May and October.
Fuel can be easily obtained in the esteros (mangrove).
As a port for refit after any disaster, it is also very convenient; and
for this purpose, either our northern or southern observatory bays may
be selected.    The latter would afford better shelter, but the former is
certainly more convenient, and less liable to difficulty of navigation, the
access to it being entirely free from shoals.
In^war it would be a most eligible rendezvous, particularly if watching THE  WEST  COAST  OF  NORTH  AMERICA.
the coasts of Mexico or California, as no one could prevent the formation
of an establishment, without adequate naval force; and the nature of the
country itself would not maintain an opposing party.
The Island of Margarita would afford an excellent site for a deposit
for naval stores. Martello towers on the heads of entrance would
completely command it, and, excepting on the inside, no force could
be landed.
Water would doubtless flow into wells, of which we had proof in spots
where the wild beasts had scraped holes; but from some (no doubt re-
moveable) causes, it was intensely bitter. There is nothing in the
geological constitution of the hills to render it so.
The ranges of hills composing the three suites of mountains, vary from
1500 to 2000 feet, and are composed principally of fragments of hornblende slate, serpentine, sandstone, and primitive limestone."
From the entrance of Magdalena Bay to Cape Corso, the north end of
the narrow but elevated neck of land separating the bay from the ocean,
the distance is about nine miles, and the coast then falls low, and bends
inwards about four or five miles from the general direction of the land,
and forms with Cape Lazarus the Bay of Santa Maria, which is entirely
open to the westward.
SAN BARTHOLOMEW* is about three miles in extent, with soundings over the surface of eight fathoms, gradually decreasing to four and
three at the head of the bay. . The western point is called Kelp Point, and
has some rocks off it: just round it to the northward is the landing-place.
The eastern point of the bay, called Cape Tortola, has a reef of rocks,
mostly above the water, extending from it nearly half-way across the bay,
thus affording good shelter to vessels lying within it; its outermost rock
is called the Sulphur Rock, and is 30 feet high.
The land round Port Bartholomew is high, and the soundings immediately outside it are deep, there being from 20 to 30 fathoms at two
miles off. Capt. Sir E. Belcher, R.N., Says that m the surrounding land
is high and mountainous, composed, as far as we had opportunity of
examining, of every rock occurring in trap formations, but reduced to
fragments, not exceeding four or five pounds weight. Marine shells,
similar to those found on the shores of the bay, were plentifully mixed
up with this general debris, and in the layers between some clay beds,
crystallized gypsum abounded.
The bay is formed by a high range of loose cliffs on the north, and
fine gravelly bay on the east, and a coarse sandy tongue connects a high
peninsula or island at high water in its centre, (forming a third southern
bay).   From this peninsula, rocks extend northerly, partly under water,
* Turtle Bay of the whalers.
Wmm 80
jutting into the heart of the bay, and forming a safe land-locked position,
having five fathoms within.
The place of observation on the northern head of the bay is situated in
lat. 27° 40' N., long. 114° 51' 20" W.    Var. 10° 46' E. (1839).
The anchorage we took up was in seven fathoms, sheltered from all
but S.W. winds, but bad holding-ground."
Cedros Island is represented in the Spanish charts to be about 10
leagues long, and before an extensive bay, that of San Sebastian Vizcaino.
The south-western point of this bay is named Morro Hermoso, and west
from it there is a smaller island, called Natividad. Captain Vancouver
has remarked:—" To these islands, as the day advanced, we drew somewhat
nearer, but the land was still too far off to admit of our forming any
correct judgment as to the productions of the country, or the shape of its
shores. Those of the Island of Cedros wore an uneven broken appearance, though on a nearer approach they seemed to be all connected. The
southern part, which is the highest, is occupied by the base of a very
remarkable and lofty peaked mountain, which descends in a very peculiar
rugged manner, and by projecting into the sea, forms the south-west end
of the island into a low, craggy, rocky, point; this as we passed it at the
distance of five or six leagues, seemed, like the other part of the island, to
be destitute of trees, and nearly so of all other vegetable productions.
Natividad appeared to be more moderately elevated* St. Benito Island
is small, with some islets and rocks about it."
Playa Maria Bay would appear from the survey of Captain Kellett,
R.N., to be an open roadstead of six to nine fathoms. On its eastern
side is a high mountain called the Nipple, 1132 feet high, from which
Cedros Island bears between the angles of S. 49° 40' W., and S. 38° W.,
true. The station for observations was on the western side of the bay,
in lat> 28° 55' 37* N. and long. 114° 31' 20" W. Variation of the
compass in 1847, 8° 44' E.
SAN QUENTIN has been lately surveyed by Captain Sir E. Belcher,
from whose plan it would appear that there is an extensive fiat of -'
and 1 \ fathoms stretching across the entrance of the port, but leaving a
narrow channel of 4 to 7 and 8 fathoms close to the western side. This
sandy flat has several dry patches on it. Sir E. Belcher has remarked
that "the sandy point on the left side of the entrance is situated in
lat. SCP 2 V 58* N., long. 115° 56' S3* W.   Var. 12° & E.   (1839.)
The whole coast is dreary, being either sand-hills or volcanic
mountains, five of which, very remarkably placed, caused one of the
early navigators to term it the Bay of Five Hills. It is the Bay of the
Virgins of former, and Port San Quentin of the later Spanish surveyors.
The island and paps of Las Virgines are situated to seaward, about
two miles from what has been termed Observatory Peak, in our plan." THE  WEST  COAST  OF  NORTH  AMERICA.
SAN DIEGO.—This is one of the most important harbours on the coast
of California, south of San Francisco, as it affords perfect shelter from
all winds, and has a considerable depth of water. That such a
large volume of water should have so small an outlet is somewhat
remarkable, as is also the very singular natural breakwater, Ballast Point.
The Port La Playa is situated on the western shore of the bay, about
If mile from the entrance. The anchorage is in between 9 and 10
fathoms. There is a custom-house and revenue establishment, and also
every convenience for the mail steamers which stop here. An excellent
road leads from La Playa to Old San Diego, which is a small town of a
few adobe houses, and unapproachable by water, even in boats.
New San Diego, now about two years old (1851),is situated on a plain
at the base of the hills on the east side of the bay. It consists of a few
American-built houses, and a large storehouse for the quartermaster's
department. The United States military depot is established there. A
channel runs in a curve from La Playa to New San Diego, and vessels
can carry from six to seven fathoms water. Both New San Diego and
La Playa are dependent upon the river at Old San Diego for their
water. Between the above-named channel and Old San Diego, are
large flats, mostly covered with grass, and partly bare at low tide.
The most important subject, however, connected with the bay, is the
effect of the debouchement of the San Diego River, bringing with it,
when high (in the rainy season), great quantities of sand directly into the
It is believed, and apparentiy with reason, that unless the course of the
river be changed, the channel will be ultimately filled, which will have
the effect of not only cutting off communication with New Town, but
also of destroying the bay entirely as a harbour—for it appears that
nothing keeps the bay open but the great amount of water flowing in
and out at the narrow entrance; and, when the channel is closed, the
greater part of the bay is cut off, leaving an insufficient amount to keep
the entrance clear. A bar would doubtless form across the mouth, and
the bay will gradually fill up.
That the river does bring sand into the bay is asserted by the deputy
collector of this place, and others who have the means of knowing;
and, farther, it is known that vessels at one time could anchor in False
Bay, but the river flowing into it destroyed it, by filling it with sand;
and it then turned its course into San Diego Bay.
If such be the facts, and there appears to be no reason to doubt
them, the only remedy for the evil is to turn the river into False Bay
again.    This is an excellent harbour, and its loss would be severely felt
The average rise of the tide is stated to be about six feet, but according
G # 82
to the evidence of the pilots, it would appear to vary-from nine feet, spring
tides, to three and a half feet, during the greater part of the year.
A shoal has been reported to exist about two-thirds of the distance
from the Playa to the end of Ballast Point, on which are only nine feet
at low tide. The following directions for San Diego are by Lieut.
Alden, U.S. Navy, and bear date Sept. 29th, 1851:—
" Vessels in sight of the coast, and approaching San Diego from the
north, will observe an opening in the hills, and the appearance of an
inland bav» This is the 'False Port,' and must be avoided. Im-
mediately north of ' False Port' commences a table land about 450 feet
high, and extending southwardly six or seven miles. The extremity of
this table land is called Point Loma, and forms the entrance to the
harbour of San Diego.
Those bound from the southward will first sight the group of high
rocky islets, called e Los Coronados.' From thence to Point Loma, the
course is N. k E., and the distance 15 nautical miles. On a clear day,
' Los Coronados' will serve as a land-mark and guide for vessels coming
from any direction.
Steer right through the kelp, giving Point Loma a berth of one-half
mile, and in a few minutes you will open Ballast Point, a low beach of
shingle stones, forming a natural breakwater. Then round up gradually
until you bring Ballast Point in range with the easternmost house on
the Playa, and be very careful not to open more of the village, otherwise
you will be too far to the East, and in danger of getting aground on
Zuningo Shoal. The breakers show its position. During the summer,
keep as close to the hills on the port side as your draft of water will
allow, as you will then be able to lay on the wind right up to Ballast
Point. You can carry four fathoms within a ship's length of the point
-Keep On the above range, and when up with Ballast Point, steer direct
-for the Playa, and anchor as you please.
Inside of the breakwater, and about 250 yards true north of
its extremity, is a shoal spot, with twelve feet at low tide. The
shoals on the starboard hand are plain in sight, except at very high
Beyond the Playa, the shoals are easily distinguished. The channel,
however, is buoyed. From the Playa to New Town, four miles distant,
you can carry six fathoms of water. A mile or two beyond New Town,
the bay becomes shoal."
Commander Sir E. Belcher remarks that " this port, for shelter,
deserves all the commendation'that previous navigators have bestowed
on it, and, with good ground-tackle, a vessel may be perfectly land-locked.
The holding-ground is stubborn, but in heavy southerly gales I am in- THE  WEST  COAST  OF   NORTH   AMERICA.
formed that anchors t come home,' owing to the immense volume of kelp
driven into the harbour. It has been stated to me by an old sailor in
this region, that he has seen the whole bank of fucus giganteus (which
comprises a tongue of three miles in length by a quarter broad), forced
by a southerly gale into this port. This, coming across the bows, either
causes the cable to part, or brings the anchor home. No vessel, however, has suffered from this cause. The chief drawback is the want of
fresh Water, which, even at the presidio, three miles from the port, is very
The seine afforded a plentiful supply of excellent, fish, and we found
good sport in killing rabbits, hares, &c.
The eastern spit of entrance was found to be in lat 32° 41' N., long.
117° 11' W. The entrance is narrow, being only of a width suitable for
one vessel at a time.
The trade consists entirely of hides and tallow; but not, as formerly,
from the missions, for they have long been fleeced. It has now become
a complete speculation. It is necessary that one of the parties should
reside on the spot, probably marrying into some influential family (i.e.
in hides and tallow,) to secure a constant supply for the vessels when
they arrive. It is dangerous for them to quit their post, as some more
enterprising character might offer higher prices and carry off their
Commander Wilkes, U.S.N., has made the following observations on
Port San Diego : —" This port is of considerable extent, being, in fact,
an arm of the sea. It is 10 miles long, and 4 miles wide, and, from being
land-locked, is perfectly secure from all winds. The entrance is narrow
and easily defended, and has a sufficient depth of water, 20 feet at lowest
tide, for large vessels. The tide rises five feet. The tongue of kelp,
three miles long by a quarter of a mile broad, off the entrance of the
bay, must be avoided by large vessels, but small vessels may pass through
it with a strong breeze; the bank has three fathoms water on it. During
gales, this kelp is torn up and driven into the bay, where it becomes
troublesome to vessels . by the pressure it brings upon them, either
.causing them to drag their anchors or part their cables.
There are many drawbacks to this harbour; the want of water is one
of them, the river which furnishes the mission with water disappearing
in the dry season before reaching the bay, and the surrounding country
may be called a barren waste of sand-hills. The town of San Diego,
consisting of a few adobe houses, is situated on the north side of the bay,
on a sand flat two miles wide. The mission establishment is seven miles
from the town, up a valley to the north-east; and here, there is a good
.supply of water the year round. This river, in the rainy season, discharges a considerable quantity of water into the bay, bringing with it 84
much sand, which has already formed a bar across a part of False Bay,
rendering it useless, and well grounded fears may be entertained that it
will eventually destroy this harbour also: this occurrence, however, may
be prevented at slight cost
The whole country around San Diego is composed of volcanic sand
and mud, mixed with scoria: the land is unfit for cultivation, and covered
with cacti, one of the many evidences of the poorness of the soil; this
leaves the Port of San Diego little to recommend it but the uniform
climate, good anchorage, and security from all winds."
SAN JUAN is an open roadstead of 12 to 4£ fathoms. It has been
mentioned in the following terms by Sir E. Belcher:—"On the
evening of the 13th of October, 1839, we dropped anchor in the bay of
San Juan. Owing to the surf running at the time, and my objects
rendering me, without any assistant, a perfect slave to duty, I was
compelled to stick to a half-tide rock, to effect the security of this
position. The bay, or rather the outer rock, on which I observed, is
situated in lat. 33° 26' 56" N. and long. 117° 401 50" W. It has a high
cliffy head to the north-west, but terminates in low sandy beaches to
the southward. This bay was examined and surveyed. The anchorage
is foul under five fathoms, is unprotected, and the landing bad.
The mission is situated in a fruitful-looking sheltered valley, said
to abound in garden luxuries, country wines, and very pretty damsels,
whence the favourite appellation Juanitas. I suppose, therefore, that
they all assume this name. As many call here, apparently, to my view,
at risk of anchor and cable, I was induced to ask the master of a vessel
who called upon me, what brought him here. ' It is only visited for
stock, fruit, or vegetables,' was his dry reply."
Captain John Hall has observed, that in coming into this bay from
the north, care must be taken to give the bluff point a wide berth, as
some dangerous rocks lie off it, about a mile or more distant.
Commander Wilkes, U.S.N., says, " This bay is 45 miles north of
San Diego: at its head lies the fertile valley, in which is situated the
town and mission of San Juan. The bay is entirely unprotected} and
is a bad roadstead, the bottom being very foul inside of five fathoms,
and the landing at times impossible, on account of the surf. It can be
safely visited during the fine season, and provisions and water easily obtained, the latter from the mountain streams, which empty into the bay,
and also enable the inhabitants to irrigate their lands, by which mode of
cultivation they are made extremely productive. The shore here becomes
quite bold, making the communication very inconvenient to the northward by land.
From San Juan, the coast trends W.N.W., 37 miles, to San Pedro,
which is but an open bay, with scarcely any mure claims to be called a THE  WEST   COAST  OF   NORTH  AMERICA.
harbour than San Juan: it is equally exposed, except from the northwest winds; but from being near a part of the country which produced
an abundance of what was formerly the staple of the country, hides, it
was more frequently visited. The town of Nuestra Senora is 18 miles
from the bay, up the valley.
The cliffs along this part of the coast are steep, and composed of
clay and chert, throughout which are interspersed chalky lumps, which
contain organic remains. Water is not to be obtained here, and the
little that is required for the supply of a few inhabitants has to be
brought from a distance in the interior.
SANTA BARBARA lies 35 miles, E. by S., from Point Conception.
There is scarcely any protection, though somewhat sheltered from the
north-west swell by the Island of Santa Cruz; vessels, however, anchor
here, notwithstanding the south-east winds blow during the winter
months with great violence. At these times it is necessary for vessels to
put to sea, and this is usually done .when indications of these storms are
seen. There is anchorage within the line of kelp in five fathoms water,
but it is only resorted to by navigators who are very desirous of discharging or getting on board their cargoes.
The town is within a few hundred yards of the beach, from which the
valley rises in which the mission of Santa Barbara is situated. The
mission, with its white-washed walls, forms an excellent land-mark for
the anchorage, and all dangers may be avoided by keeping without the
line of kelp, which is found to grow on this coast, in from 5 to 7 fathoms
Santa Barbara has been the residence of the best families in California: it is larger than Monterey, and contains nearly 1000 inhabitants;
its position seems to be badly chosen, except as to climate, which combines all the good points of the other ports on the coast, being drier
than those towards the north, and cooler than those of the south. The
anchorage is bad holding-ground, being hard sand covered with seaweed.
Excellent water, and in plenty, is obtained from the rocky hills four
or five miles distant, which enables cultivation by irrigation to be
carried on, and by this means all kinds of fruit and grains are brought
to perfection, and some of the former made to produce throughout the
year; flowers common to our gardens also bloom in the winter months.
This fertile valley extends back 17 miles.
San Gabriel and the Pueblo de los Angelos, two of the principal
towns, lie in this part of California, deemed the most agreeable climate
in the country.
These towns have always been the centre of the Spanish population;
but, under the recent changes, they will lose their importance, yet con- 86
tinue, no doubt, to be occupied as heretofore, exclusively by Californians
and their descendants.
It has been remarked by Sir Edward Belcher:—" Off this part of
the coast we experienced a very strong sensation, as if the ship was on
fire, and after a very close investigation, attributed it to a scent from the
shore, it being" much more sensible on deck than below; and the land
breeze confirming this, it occurred to me that it might arise from the
naphtha on the surface.    Vancouver notices the same smell.
Atsunset, we were unable to discover the bay, and could barely distinguish a long, low, yellow line, spitting to the southward and terminating
abruptly. This eventually proved to be the high yellow cliffs of the
western head, at least fifty feet above the sea.
The customary guide, in approaching the coast, is the ' kelp line,*
which generally floats over five to seven fathoms. So long as a vessel
can keep on its verge, there is no danger. This is the general opinion
of those who have navigated this coast during their lives, and our observation has tended to confirm it. I know, however, that less than two
fathoms have been found within it, barely at its edge. It is the fucus
giganteus, and sufficiently strong to impede the steerage, if it takes the
The mission at Santa Barbara is situated on an elevation of about 200
feet, gradually ascending in about three miles from the sea. The town
is within a few hundred yards of the beach, on which the landing is at
all times doubtful. The bay is protected from northerly and westerly
winds, which prevail from November to March, and the swell is, in. some
measure, broken by the islands of Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, and San
Miguel, to the westward. In March, the south-westers blow with fury,
which is contrary to the seasons southward of Cape San Lucas. Even
during the fine weather months, vessels are always prepared to slip when
the wind veers to S.E., from which point it blows with great violence,
but soon expends itself.
We were fortunate in landing comfortably, and by four o'clock,
nothing of interest detaining us, we moved on towards San Pedro.
Vessels occasionally anchor here within the five fathoms', or kelp line,
but are always prepared to warp out. This is a kind of inner bar. The
kelp doubtless prevents much surf, and renders it more convenient to
vessels discharging; but during the heavy gales, the kelp is generally
washed up.
The Canal of Santa Barbara is the strait between the Island of Santa
Cruz and a chain of other islands and the main land. The mission of
San Buenaventura, S.E. from Santa Barbara, about 20 miles, is on the
main, about two miles from the shore. THE   WEST  COAST  OF  NORTH  AMERICA.
A short distance to the southward of Buenaventura, the coast spits
out in a low sandy point, off which the water shallows suddenly to seven
fathoms.    There is no danger if»the lead is kept going.
The Bay of San Pedro, which is situated in lat. 83° 43' N., and long.
118° 14' W., is open to the south-west, but tolerably sheltered from the
north-west. Inside of the small island in the bay is a very snug creek,
but only accessible to small craft, by reason of a rocky bar, having only,
at low water springs, five feet
The only house near the bay is supplied with water from some
miles inward; and I am informed, that at times the inhabitants are in
great distress. It is only maintained for the convenience of trading
with the vessels which touch here for the purchase of hides and tallow.
The cliffs of the western sides of the bay which form the beach line,
are very steep, about fifty feet perpendicular, descending from one
elevated range, about five hundred feet above the sea. They are composed of a loose, mud, mixed with lumps of a chalky substance,
enclosing organic remains, sometimes running into chert or chalcedony." ;
Captain John Hall has remarked of Santa Barbara that " this
bay is only sheltered from the N.W- winds, being exposed to the south
and S.W. The anchorage is not very good, being hard sand, and overgrown with sea-weed. We had such a quantity of this on our anchor
when we hove it up, that it entirely impeded the ship's progress until
we got it clear. We found no tide or currents, but there appeared to
be a rise and fall, in-shore, of about two feet. All kinds of provisions
are cheap here, as also fruits, viz : grapes, pears, apples, and plums, in
the season."
Captain Vancouver has remarked of Santa.Barbara, " To sail into the
bay requires but few directions, as it is open, and without any kind of
interruption whatever; the soundings on approaching it are regular,
from 15 to 3 fathoms; the former, from half a league to two miles, the
latter within a cable and a half of the shore. Weeds were seen growing
about the roadstead in many places; but, so far as we examined, which
was only in the vicinity of our anchorage, they did not appear to indicate
shallower water, or a bottom of a different nature. The shores of the
roadstead are for the most part low, and terminate in sandy beaches, to
which, however, its western point is rather an exception, being a steep
cliff, moderately elevated; to which point I gave the name of Point
Felipe, after the commandant of Santa Barbara."
Of the islands in the offing, the only one that has been examined is
the westernmost, St. Nicholas, which appears to be about seven miles
long and three broad.    It is high in the middle, and has breakers ex-
I! 88
tending off the eastern and western ends. At the distance of two and a
half miles to the northward of it are 40 fathoms water. The western
end of the island is in lat. 33° 22' N. and long. 119° 42' 3" W., according
to the observations of Captain Kellett, R.N., 1847. At the distance of
seven and a half miles, W.N.W., from St. Nicholas Island, is a rock,
called John Begg Rock, which is 30 or 40 feet above the water. Midway between the rock and the island are 40 to 45 fathoms, coral.
The southernmost of the islands is the Coronados, to the south-westward of the port of St. Diego, in lat. 32° 24' 55" N. and long. 117° 15' W.
They appear from the survey of Captain Kellett, to be four in number,
and to have from 12 to 15 fathoms immediately to the eastward of
They have been described by Vancouver in the following manner:—
" The Coronados consist of two islets and three rocks, situated in a south
direction, four or five leagues from Point Loma, occupying the space of
five miles, and lying N. 35° W. and S. 35° E. from each other. The
southernmost, which, in point of magnitude,-is equal to all the rest collectively taken, is about a mile broad and two miles long, and is a good
mark to point out the port of St. Diego, which, however, is otherwise
sufficiently conspicuous, not easily to be mistaken."
Of the Island St. Juan, to the northward of the Coronados, in lat.
32° 56' N., and marked on the chart of the coast, it appears that there
is some doubt of its existence, an American vessel being reported to
have lately sailed over it. It has been thought better to retain it on
the chart, as our knowledge of the coast is very imperfect*
POINT CONCEPTION is about 110 miles, W.N.W., from PointSan
Pedro, and is remarkable by its differing very much in form from the
headlands to the northward. It appears to stretch out from an extensive
tract of low land, and to terminate like a wedere, with its large end
falling perpendicularly into the sea, which breaks against it with great
violence. Off the point the current sets to the north in the early spring
months. There is generally hereabout a strong smell, resembling as-
phaltum, which, as it is mentioned by Vancouver, is probably of a
* This island is laid down on the authority of Vancouver,
distance of about eight leagues, somewhere about N. 66° W.
Point Loma, by a very uncertain estimation, is situated an isla
who says:—"At the
and N. 60° W. from
St Jo
between which and the coast we passed without seeing it, nor did we observe it
whilst we remained at anchor, excepting on one very clear evening, when it was
seen from the Presidio, at a time when I was unprovided with a compass, or smother means of ascertaining its direction, and was therefore only able to guess at
its situation. It appeared to be low and flat, is but seldom seen from the Presidio
of St. Diego, and was undiscovered until seen by Martinez, a few years before, in one
of his excursions alone this coast." THE  WEST   COAST  OF   NORTH  AMERICA.
permanent nature. As this part of the coast is frequently enveloped
in fog, this smell may be a good notification of the vicinity of the
The land from Point Conception trends to the northward, and it is a
singular circumstance that the climate seems to undergo as great a
change as the direction of the coast. To the northward of the cape,
fogs and mists prevail during the early part of the day for three-fourths
of the year.
Prom Point Conception the coast runs N. 51° W., 10 miles, to Point
Arguello, a steep rocky point rising abruptly in rugged, craggy cliffs,
near which are two or three detached rocks, lying close to the shore.
From hence it runs N. 4° W., 19 miles, to another high, steep, rocky,
cliff, called Point Sal, which projects from the low shore, similar to Point
Arguello. The intermediate land has the same appearance as that to the
northward, the whole is destitute of trees, and nearly so of all vegetable
productions, excepting near a stream about six miles from Point Arguello,
which has the largest flow of water of any river to the southward of the
Columbia River, but the breakers across its entrance will render it of but
little use to navigation.
From Point Sal to Point Esteros, the distance is about 38 miles, the
coast bending inwards, and forming two bays, those of St. Luis Obispo
and Esteros. Vancouver has observed:—" At the north point of this bay,
Esteros, the woodland country ceases to exist,* and the shores acquire
a quick ascent, with a very uneven surface, particularly in the neighbourhood of the bay. Some detached rocks are about its southern point,
which lies about 13 miles from the northern, and is formed by steep
cliffs, falling perpendicularly into the ocean. From the line of the two
outer points, the shores of the bay fell back about five miles, and appeared to be much exposed; and unless the conical rock is connected
with the shores, they did not seem to form any projecting point, but
Were composed of a sandy beach, that stretched from a margin of low
land, extending from the rugged mountains that form the more interior
country, from whence four small streams were seen from the mast-head
to flow into the bay.
This bay was the first indent in the shore to the southward of Car-
melo Bay, and, according to the Spanish charts, is called Los Esteros.
To the southward of it, the whole exterior country had a sterile, dreary,
unpleasant aspect. The south point of Esteros forms the north-west
extreme of a conspicuous promontory, which takes a rounding direction,
about eight miles, when the coast retires again to the eastward, and forms
the northern side of an extensive open bay.    This promontory is called
* It should be observed that Vancouver was sailing to the southward, along the coast. 90
the Mountain del Buchon, and is said to have off it an island, at the
distance of about eight leagues, although we saw nothing of it, probably
in consequence of a thick haze, sometimes approaching to a fog, which
totally prevented our seeing any object further than from two to four
leagues in any direction, insomuch that we stood into the bay to the
southward of the Mountain del Buchon, without knowing it to be such^
until the south point discovered itself through the haze, at the distance
of about three leagues.
This not being named on the charts, I have called it Point Sal, after
our friend the commandant at San Francisco. As the day was fast
declining, we hauled our wind to preserve our situation during the
night, with so strong a gale from the north-west as obliged us to close-
reef our top-sails. In the morning, the weather being more moderate
and the atmosphere more clear, we steered for Point Sal, and had a good
opportunity of seeing the northern shores of the bay, which, like those
of Esteros, seemed compact, without any projecting points that would
afford shelter or security for shipping.
The interior country consisted of lofty barren mountains, in double
and treble ridges, at some distance from the shore. The intermediate
land descended gradually from their base, interspersed with eminences
and vallies, and terminated on the coast in sandy beaches, or low white
From Point Esteros the distance to Carmel Point, the south side of
Carmel Bay, is about 80 miles. In lat. 35° 42' N. there is a low projecting point, off which are two or three rugged detached rocks. To
the eastward of this point, the mountains fall back from the water-side,
and the intermediate country appears to be a plain, or to rise with a
very gentle ascent, for the space of about four leagues along the coast.
This land appeared to Vancouver to be tolerably Well wooded, even
close to the shore, and, by the assistance of his glass, some of the trees
appeared to be very large, with spreading branches ; and being for the
greater part distributed in detached clumps, produced a very pleasing
effect. Hence, the country is mountainous, even close to the shore, the
mountains being called Na Sa de Sta. Lucia.
Commander Wilkes, U.S.N., has made the following remarks on this
coast:—" San Luis Obispo is 40 miles to the north of Point Conception : immediately in the rear are the Santa Lucia hills, a part of
the coast range, extending as far north as Punto Pinos, the southern
part of the Bay of Monterey. The plains and neighbouring mountains
are well covered with large timber, and here the olive and other fruits
of this region grow in perfection; on the hills the California cedar
(pale Colorado) is found of large size. A small stream, the Rio San
Felipe, empties into the sea at this point. THE  WEST   COAST   OF   NORTH   AMERICA.
On the opposite or eastern slope of the ridge is the valley of Salinas,
through which the Rio Buenaventura flows. The hills are rendered
much more fertile by their exposure to the fogs and mists of the coast,
which supply them plentifully with moisture, and this is seen running
in many rills down the hill-sides.
The valley of Salinas is 50 miles in length, and has an average
width of six or seven miles; the valley descends to the north-west, and
at its lower end is contracted by the hiDs through which the river
passes, a low and well-wooded bottom being formed on each side; the
whole of it is well drained, and admirably adapted for stock farms; it
may be called an open country, covered with grass; the tops of the hills
are covered with oaks, pines, and cedars.
The river having passed through a narrow range of hills, the valley
again opens, and now receives the name of La Soledad, which is 20
miles wide, and extends to the bay of Monterey. The land on either
side rises into undulating hills, and from these into mountains, some
2000 feet high. The valley of La Soledad is considered very fertile,
the plains affording large areas of arable land, while the hills are covered
with grass and groves of oak, and the mountains with trees of higher
CARMEL BAY is about six miles to the southward of Point Pinos,
the west side of Monterey Bay. Its north side, Fisherman's Point, has
some rocks off it, and there are also some rocks off the south point of the
bay, at about a quarter of a mile from the shore. Vancouver has remarked that " Carmel Bay is a small, open, and exposed situation, containing some detached rocks, and as it has a rocky bottom, it is a very
improper place to anchor in. Into this bay flows the River Carmel,
passing the mission of St. Carlos, which is said to abound in a.variety
of excellent fish.
From the north point of Carmel Bay, the coast takes a S. by E.
direction, about fom* leagues, to a small, high, rocky, clump of land, lying
about half a mile from the shore, which is nearly barren; indeed, the
trees from Point Pinos extend a little way only to the southward of
Carmel Bay, where the mountains rise rather abruptly from the sea, and
the naked shores, excepting one or two sandy beaches, are entirely composed of steep rocky cliffs. To the southward of the detached lump of
land, the coast is nearly straight and compact; the mountains form one
uninterrupted, though rather uneven, ridge, with chasms and gullies on
their sides; the whole, to all appearance, utterly destitute of vegetation."
MONTEREY BAY.—From Fisherman's Point, the north point of
Carmel Bay, the coast trends round to the northward, about five miles, to
Point Pinos, the west side of Monterey Bay.    The projecting points
.' a 92
have rocks off them to a short distance, rendering precaution necessary
when running along the coast.
Monterey Bay is situated between Point Pinos and Point Anno
Nuevo, which bear from each other about N. 12° W. and S. 72° E.,
distant 22 miles, and is formed by the coast falling back, nearly four
leagues, from the' line of the two points. The only part of it that is
eligible for anchoring is near its southern portion, about a league southeastward from Point Pinos, where the shores form a sort of cove,
which affords clear good riding, and tolerable shelter for a few vessels.
In order to be protected from the sea, it is necessary to lie at no great
distance from the south-west shore, where, either at night or in the
morning, the prevailing wind from the land will permit vessels to leave
the bay, which otherwise would be a tedious task, by the opposition of
the winds along the coast, whose general direction is between the N.W.
and N.N. W. To these points of the compass this anchorage is wholly
exposed, but as the swell of the sea is broken by the land of Point PinOs,
and as these winds, which prevail only in the day-time, seldom blow
stronger than a moderate gale, the anchorage is rendered tolerably safe
and convenient; and notwithstanding these north-westerly winds are
POINT PINOS bearing N. 33° E., distant four miles.
common throughout the greater part of the year, there is seldom an
instance of their being so violent as to affect the safety of vessels
tolerably well found in anchors and cables. The soundings are regular,
from 30 to 4 fathoms, with a bottom consisting of a mixture of sand and
mud; and the shores are sufficiently steep for all the1 purposes of navigation, without shoals or other impediments. Near Point Anno Nuevo
are some small rocks, at a short distance from the coast; the shores of
Point Pinos are also rocky, and have' some detached rocks lying at a
small distance from them, but which do not extend so far off as to be
dangerous. The rocky shores of Point Pinos terminate just to the
southward of the anchoring-place, and are succeeded by a fine sandy
beach, said to extend all round the bay. About four leagues from
Point Pinos is a small stream, called the River Monterey, but, like
Carmel River, it is nothing more than a very shallow brook of fresh
water, although dignified by the name of a river. Near Point Anno
Nuevo is another small stream.
The anchorage under Point Pinos is -the only situation in the bay THE   WEST  COAST  OF  NORTH   AMERICA.
where vessels can ride with any degree of safety or convenience. Near
it is the town, situated on low flat ground, but having in its vicinity
many delightful situations, and a soil fertile enough to repay the labour
of the cultivation. The climate of Monterey and the immediate neighbourhood is considered to be very healthy. Since coming into the possession of the Americans, the town has been much visited, as supplies can
be obtained in plenty.
It has been remarked by Captain Beechey, R.N., that " the anchorage
of Monterey is about two miles south-east of Point Pinos, in the south
angle of the great bay extending between Point Anno Nuevo and Point
Pinos. It is necessary to lie close to the shore, both on account of the
depth of water, and in order to receive the protection of Point Pinos,
without which vessels could not remain in the bay. It presents to the
eye a very exposed anchorage, but no accidents have ever occurred to
any vessel properly found in cables and anchors, in which respect it very
much resembles the bay of Valparaiso, nearly in the same parallel in the
southern hemisphere.
The village and presidio of Monterey are situated upon a plain between the anchorage and a range of hills covered with woods of pine and
oak. At the distance of a league to the southward of the presidio lies
the mission of San Carlos, situated in a valley near the River Carmel; a
small stream emptying itself into a deep rocky bay. The shores of this
bay, and indeed of the whole of the coast near Point Pinos, are armed
with rocks of granite, upon which the sea breaks furiously; and, as there
is no anchorage near them on account of the great depth of water, it is
dangerous to approach the coast in light or variable winds. Fortunately
some immense beds of sea-weed* lie off the coast, and are so impenetrable, that they are said to have saved several vessels which were
driven into them by the swell, during calm and foggy weather.
Directions.—Ships should not enter this bay in light winds in any
other part than that used as an anchorage, as there is generally a heavy
swell from the westward, and deep water close to the shore.
It is impossible to mistake Point Pinos, if the weather be at all
clear, as its aspect is very different to that of any part of the bay to the
northward. It is a long, sloping, rocky, projection, surmounted by pine-
trees, from which its takes its name ; whereas the coast line of the bay
is all sandy beach. There is no danger in approaching Point Pinos,
except that which may ensue from a heavy swell almost always setting
upon the point, and from light winds near the shore, as the water is too
deep for anchorage. With a breeze from the southward, Point Pinos
should be passed as closely as possible; a quarter of a mile will not be
* Fucus Pyriformis.
m 94
too near; and that shore should be hugged in order to fetch the
anchorage. In case of having to make a tack, take care of a shoal at
the S.E. angle of the bay, which may be known by a great quantity of
sea-weed upon it: there is no other danger. This, shoal has 3\ and
4 fathoms upon its outer edge, and 7 fathoms near it. With a fair
wind steer boldly towards the sandy beach at the head of the bay, and
anchor about one-sixth of a mile off shore in 9 fathoms, the fort upon
the hill near the beach bearing W.S.W., and moor with the best bower
to the E.N.E.
This anchorage, although apparently unsafe, is said to be very
secure, and that the only danger is from violent gusts of wind from the
S.E. The north-westerly winds, though they prevail upon the coast,
and send a heavy swell into the bay, do not blow home upon the shore;
and when they are at all fresh they occasion a strong off-set in the bay.
This I believe is also the case at Callao and at Valparaiso to which, as
before mentioned, this anchorage bears, a great resemblance.
There is no good water to be had at Monterey, and ships in want of
that necessary supply must either proceed to San Francisco, or procure
a permit from the governor, and obtain it at Santa Cruz, or some of the
missions to the southward.
By the mean of many observations on the tides at this place,
it is
High water (full and change) at   9 h. 4*2 m.
Rise is about 6 ft. 0 in. at spring tide,
And 1 ft. 2 in. at the neaps.
There is very little current at the anchorage."
Captain Hall observes :—" As a harbour, Monterey is extremely
inferior to San Francisco ; however, it is quite protected from the South
and S. W. winds ; and, by anchoring well under the point, a vessel may
also be protected from the N. W., although the N.W. winds send in a
very heavy swell. Fish here, also, is plentiful, as are likewise provisions
generally, including good bread."
On the plan of the harbour, from the survey of M. de Tessan, are the
following remarks, drawn up by M. du Petit Thouars:—" In making
the bay, it will be known by a depression in the coast, while the land
rises to an elevation of more than 3000 feet at the northern and southern
extremities. When in the latitude of Pt. Pinos (36° 39' N.), and near
the shore, great white spots are seen to the westward of the point, which
render it sufficiently marked. To anchor, with a fair wind, you run in
to within two or three cables' length of the rocks seen from this low
point, and follow at the same distance the western coast of the bay, THE  WEST   COAST   OF   NORTH  AMERICA.
until Point Pinos is shut in by Point Venus. You are then in 15 or 16
fathoms water, on a bottom of sand and a little mud, with good holding-
ground : that is the anchorage for large vessels.
Small vessels run in nearer to the bottom of the bay, and anchor
very nearly in a range with the battery, in 9 or 10 fathoms water, on a
bottom of muddy sand, having Pt. Anno Nuevo (the northern extremity
of the bay) shut in by Pt. Venus. On account of the calms, which frequently oblige vessels to anchor, it is necessary to follow the western
shore of the bay, neither too far off nor too near. During adverse winds,
vessels may safely beat about in the bay of Monterey, as the two coasts
are safe, the only danger being in the bottom of the bay, in the southeast anchorage. This is a bank of rock, on which are from 4 to 10
fathoms of water; but it is betrayed by the leaves of the fucus giganteus
(kelp) which float on the surface. Fogs are very frequent, and sometimes render it difficult to make the land; and it often happens that it is
foggy in the offing but clear near the coast. During the rainy season
(from November to March,), the wind blows from S.E. to S.W.: S.E. is
the wind of bad weather.
During the dry season (March to November)^ the winds blow generally from N.W. to North. N.W. is the wind for good weather. The
N. wind causes a heavy swell in the bay, but it is frequently less severe
than in the offing. There is no sensible current in the bay. Without,
the currents are not strong, and appear to run in the North near the
coast, and in the South more in the offing.
The tides are regular. High water, full and change, 9h. 52m.; rise
3 feet.    Variation, 14° 30' E."
The remarks of Commander Wilkes, TLS.N., may also prove interesting^ they are as follow:—"The roadstead of Monterey is at the
south end of the bay, and is considered a safe anchorage, though but
partially protected from the westerly winds by Point Pinos. The points
of the coast which form the bay, and the land a short distance back, are
all elevated; but the beach is sandy, and has a continual surf beating upon
it, which may be heard for some distance. There are no hidden dangers
in the bay; those that exist are visible, or have kelp growing on them,
which points out their position, and lie near the shore. The bottom at
the anchorage is sand and stones, but in places, rocky; to the north the
water deepens, and the soundings are yellowish mud, mixed with sand.
The tides are regular, but not felt at the usual anchorage, the current
flowing inside and around the bay.
The ordinary winds at this place are from the S.W. and W.S.W. in
the morning; towards ten o'clock it veres to the W. and W.N. W., from
which quarter it freshens till three or four o'clock, afterwards decreasing,
and finally becomes calm, which lasts until midnight, when light airs 96
come off from the land, continuing until daylight. In November there
are frequent short gales from the S.E., which blow from off the
hierh land, rushing* down in violent squalls. The most dangerous gales
are from the north and west, on which side the bay is completely open;
the sea sets in very heavy, and is more to be apprehended than the wind.
Fogs generally prevail in the morning to seaward; these, however, do
not extend into the bay, and ) when the wind from the N.W. sets in, they
are generally dissipated."
To these remarks on Monterey Bay, may be added the following, by
La Perouse, which, although written as long back as 1786, may still be
valuable:—" In Monterey Bay the sea rolls to the foot of the sandy
downs which border the coast, and produces a noise, which we heard
when more than a league distant. The lands to the north and south of
this bay are elevated, and covered with trees. Vessels intending to stop
here must follow the southern shore, and when they have doubled Point
Pinos, which projects to the north, the presidency appears in view, and
they come to an anchor in 10 fathoms of water, within and rather near to
the Point, which shelters them from the winds of the sea. The Spanish
vessels which make a long stay at Monterey usually approach as near
the shore as the distance only of one or two cables* lengths, and moor in
six fathoms of water, by making fast to an anchor, which they bury in
the sand on the beach. They have then nothing to fear from the south
winds, which are sometimes strong, but not at all dangerous, as they blow
from the coast. We had soundings in every part of the bay, and anchored
at the distance of four leagues from the shore, in 60 fathoms, soft mud:
but as the sea is heavy, it is not possible to remain in this situation
longer than a few hours, while waiting for day, or the clearing up of the
fog. It is impossible to describe either the number of whales with
which we were surrounded, or their familiarity. They blowed everv
half minute within half a pistol-shot from our figures, and occasioned a
most annoying stench. We were unacquainted with this property in the
whale ; but the inhabitants informed us that the water thrown out by
them is impregnated with this offensive smell, which is perceived to a
considerable distance; and to the fishermen of Greenland or of Nantucket,
this would probably have been no new phenomenon.
Almost incessant fogs envelope the coasts of Monterey Bay, which
renders the approach somewhat difficult But for this circumstance there
would scarcely be a safer shore. No concealed rock extends further than
a cable's length; and if the fog be too thick, it is easy to anchor and
wait for its clearing up, when the Spanish settlement is seen in the angle
formed by the southern and eastern shores.
'1 he sea was covered with pelicans. It appears that these birds
never fly to a greater distance than 5 or C leagues from the land, and THE  WEST. COAST   OF   NORTH  AMERICA.
navigators who meet with them during a fog, may be certain of being
no further distant from it. We saw them for the first time in Monterey
Bay, and I have since been informed that they are common over the
whole coast of California.    The Spaniards call them alkatree."
SAN FRANCISCO.—From Point Anno Nuevo, the north point of
Monterey Bay, the coast runs to the N.N.W. about 53 miles, and is for
the whole distance uninviting in appearance. Along the coast are the
San Bruno Hills, which gradually deciease in altitude, and become sandy
and barren, without any appearance of cultivation. On the north side
of the bay is Table Hill, 2569 feet high, from whence the coast trends
W.N.W. to Punta de los Reyes.
Since coming into the possession of the Americans, this harbour has
become of great importance, on account of the great quantities of gold
that are found up the country, and now a great trade is carried on with
the Sandwich Islands and China. The principal town in the bay is San
Francisco, situated at Yerba Buena Cove, on the south side of the
entrance, which, although but recently built, boasts of several churches,
an exchange, a theatre, and some hotels of the largest size. Some of the
houses are built of stone, although many are only of wood and sun-burnt
clay; but these are rapidly giving place to more substantial structures.
The streets are said to be well laid out, but there is no drainage; the
hasty erection of the town precluding such an arrangement. The population is represented to amount to over 60,000.
In the north-east part of the Bay of San Pablo, is the city of Benicia,
situated on the north side of the Straits of Karquines, leading to the
Sacramento River. It is a rising place, and said to possess greater commercial advantages than San Francisco, as vessels of the largest size can
He close to the shore. Sacramento City is a considerable distance to the
north-east of Benicia; it is situated on the Sacramento River at the
junction of the American Fork, and on the first discovery of the gold
collected a large population. The houses were erected on piles, but at
the time of the floods in 1849, were almost entirely washed away, and we
believe have not been rebuilt.
The River Sacramento and country adjoining, have been described in
the following terms by Commander Sir E. Belcher:—" Throughout the
whole extent, from Elk station to the Sacramento mouth, the country is
one immense flat, bounded in the distance N.W. by Sierras Diavolo, W.
Sierras Bolbones, and E.N.E. to E.S.E. by the Sierras Nievadas, from
whence no doubt this river springs, and rises in proportion to the rains
and thaws. Our case lay between banks, varying from 20 to 30 feet
above the river-level, apparently, from its strata, of differently composed
clay and loose earth, produced by some great alluvial deposit. Sand did
occur at times, but not a rock or pebble varied the sameness of the banks.
H 98
These were, for the most part, belted with willow, ash, oak, or plane,
(platanus occidentalis,) which latter, ofimmense size, overhung the stream,
without apparently a sufficient hold in the soil to support them, so
much had the force of the stream denuded their roots.
Within, and at the verge of the banks, oaks of immense size were
plentiful. These appeared to form a -band on each side, about 300 yards
in depth, and within (on the immense park-like extent, which we generally
explored when landing for positions) they were to be seen disposed in
clumps, which served to relieve- the eye, wandering over what might
otherwise be.described as one level plain or sea of grass. Several of these
oaks were examined, and some of the smaller felled. The two most remarkable measured respectively 27 feet and 19 feet in circumference, at
3 feet above ground. The latter rose perpendicularly at a (computed)
height of 60 feet before expanding its branches, and was truly a noble
All the trees and roots on the banks afford unequivocal proofs of the
power of the flood-streams, the mud-line on a tree we measured exhibiting a rise of 10 feet above the present level, and that of recent
At the period of our examination, the river was probably at its lowest,
and much less than I had anticipated in regard to strength, being at times
almost still water; and yet up to our present position, the Sulphur might
have been warped or towed by a steamer. During the rainy season,
which commences about the middle of November, and terminates about
the end of February, the river is said to overflow its banks, when its im*
petuosity is such that navigation (for the craft of this country I suppose)
is then impossible. The annual rains do not, however, of necessity
inundate these low lands, but in severe seasons, after heavy falls of snow,
they produce an immense sea, leaving only the few scattered eminences, which art or nature have produced, as so many islets or spots
of refuge.
Upon these spots, the tribes who inhabit these lowlands, are frequently
compelled to seek shelter, principally, however, on those artificially constructed—as all were which we examined. They consist merely of a
rounded pile, raised about 15 feet at the apex above the surrounding-
level; the space from which the earth is removed, forming a ditch to
carry off the superfluous water.
Our pilot termed them Rancherias, (as they also do any place to which
the natives resort,) and assured us that each was the separate property of
a distinct tribe. None exceed one hundred yards in diameter, and confined within such a compass, it is fearful to contemplate the ravages.
which disease must make in an inclement season, or the misery which
the survivors must endure, thus pent up with the dead and dying. THE  WEST   COAST  OF   NORTH   AMERICA.
Lately, fever and ague carried off whole tribes; and the spots they had
thus so carefully reared, were but their own tombs ! On one of these I
had fixed a station, and on digging to insert the spot (?), the parts of a
skeleton, with hair perfect, mixed with ashes, were turned up. It is,
therefore, probable that they burn their dead, to destroy the animal
matter, and prevent contagion. This Rancheria was assigned by our
pilot (an Indian) to the Onee-shan-a-tee tribe; but as he appeared to
name every tribe below Point Victoria (where they are wallocks) by
the same appellation, I am induced to attach little importance to his
nomenclature, as I have been since informed that they keep to the
left bank.
At a position nearer Point Victoria, where no mound was apparent,
many entire skeletons were scattered about, above ground; which probably may have resulted from the mortality before alluded to (a few years
since) having cut them off before they could reach their Rancheria. My
first impression was, that some great battle had been fought, and that
their dead had been left. But this is not customary, and they would not
have been left so complete by birds or beasts of prey. As these skeletons
appeared less disturbed, it is probable that at these seasons of inundation,
birds and beasts retire to the mountains or wooded elevations."
On approaching the coast in the neighbourhood of San Francisco, the
country has by no means an inviting aspect. To the north, it rises in a
kjfty range, whose highest point is known as the Table Hill, and
forms an iron-bound coast from Punta de los Reyes to the mouth of
the harbour.
To the south, there is an extended sandy beach, behind which rise
the sand-hills of San Bruno, to a moderate height. There are no symptoms of cultivation, nor is the land on either side fit for it; for in the
former direction it is mountainous, in the latter sandy, and in both
barren. The entrance to the harbour is striking: bold and rocky shores
confine the rush of the tide, which, a recent writer observes, bore
us on and through a narrow passage into a large estuary; in this,
several islands and rocks lie scattered around: some of the islands are
clothed with vegetation to their very tops; others are barren and covered
with guano, having an. immense number of sea-fowls hovering over,
around, and alighting upon them. The distant shores of the bay
extend north and south, far beyond the visible horizon, exhibiting one
of the most spacious, and at the same time, safest ports in the world.
To the. east rises a lofty inland range, known by the name of La
Commander Wilkes mentions:—" At the time of our visit, the country
in the interior of the bay altogether presented rather a singular appearance,
h2 100
owing, as I afterwards observed, to the withered vegetation and the
ripened wild oats of the country. Instead of a lively green hue, it had
generally a tint of a light straw-colour, showing an extreme want of
moisture, The drought had continued for eleven months ; the cattle
were dying in the fields ; and the first view of California was not calcu*
lated to make a favourable impression either of its beauty or fertility."
The bar of San Fraicisco Bay, as it has been termed, lies about four
miles outside the entrance. The least depth of water is 4\ fathoms, but it
is at times very dangerous on account of the heavy breakers. It can be
avoided by keeping the southern shore aboard, where deeper water is
found. At the time of new and full moon, a swell sets in upon this
coast, and causes heavy and remarkable breakers. These were experienced by Commander Wilkes, in 1841, who says:—" While standing out
from San Francisco, the wind died away, and we were obliged to anchor
in 7 fathoms; but a few hours after this a heavy swell arose, apparently
without cause, and in a short time we were riding in the midst of breakers,
many of which broke over and swept our decks, rendering our situation
very precarious for several hours. Vessels, at these times, should avoid
leaving the bay of San Francisco without a sufficient breeze to carry them
to sea or beyond the influence of the breakers. If becalmed, vessels may
anchor in 12 fathoms water with perfect safety."
The entrance to the bay is very striking, bold, and rocky; a mile wide
and three miles in length, with deep water and no obstructions. It then
expands into an extensive bay, in which lie several islands ; that of San
Angelo is the largest and highest, and covered with vegetation to its very
top. The next in size are Yerba Buena and Alcantras. The smaller .
ones are covered with guano, over which an immense number of sea-fowl
are seen hovering. The shores of the bay extend north and south beyond
the visible horizon; to the east is the coast range, and beyond rise the
lofty Californian mountains, brilliant with all the beautiful tints that the
atmosphere in this climate gives.
The Ray of San Francisco is 36 miles in length by an average of 6 in
width; a large portion-of its southern, eastern, and northern shores are
bordered by extensive and wide mud-flats, preventing the landing, at low
water, of even a boat; so much so that the eastern shore may be said to
be inaccessible for a distance of 30 miles; and this impediment prevents
it from ever becoming useful, except by the construction of extensive
artificial works. On the north it is bounded by the Straits of San Pablo,
which divide it from the bay of that name.
The Bay of San Pablo is nearly circular, about ten miles in diameter,
the larger segment of which is a mud-flat, with but a few feet of water
over it; this renders its shore on the western side quite inaccessible.    On THE   WEST  COAST  OF   NORTH   AMERICA.
the east side is the channel, with a sufficient .depth of water for large
vessels, leading to the Straits of Karquines, at the mouth of the Sacramento River.
On the western side of the Bay of San Francisco, from the Straits of
San Pablo, for a distance of 15 miles, the country is broken and moun--
tainous, and the shores rocky and indented by small bays, which are
These obstructions reduce this extensive bay very much in size, and it
becomes still more so when the safety and convenience of vessels is taken
into consideration; indeed, with the deep water, cross tides, and exposed
situations, there are but two safe anchorages, viz:—Yerba Buena and
Yerba Buena lies on the south of the entrance, between the island and
town of the same name, and is but of small extent, with mud-flats, bare
at low water, to the channel; it is also very much exposed to the prevailing winds, which blow at times with great violence. It is the usual,
but by no means the best anchorage, and has but a scanty supply of water,
not sufficient for the population of the town, or the vessels that frequent
it; this, added to the rocky point on which the town is situated, will prevent it from ever becoming the seat of trade.
Sausalito or Whaler's Harbour is on the north side of the entrance,
under Table Hill, which protects vessels from the prevailing westerly
winds. This anchorage is the principal resort of whalers. Here they
can obtain wood and water, and refit. The Water in the summer is obtained from small springs. The extent of land around this bay is limited
to a few acres, the hills rising precipitately, and the high spurs cutting off
communication with the country adjoining it.
From Yerba Buena the distance to the mouth of the bay of San Pablo
is 10 miles, the course N. by W., passing to the right of San Angelos
Island, and to the left of Molate. The points San Pedro and San
Pablo, which form the mouth of the bay, are two miles asunder.
The channel to the Strait of Karquines is on the east side of the
bay of San Pablo. It has not less than 4£ fathoms water, and is a mile
The Strait of Karquines, through which the river Sacramento discharges its waters, runs nearly east and west for the distance of 8 miles,
and at its narrowest point is half a mile wide, with very deep water from
12 to 17 fathoms. The banks on both sides are high, and composed of
sandstone. The Napa Creek empties into the strait from the north,
about a mile from the bay of San Pablo.    It affords fresh water.
Passing through Karquines Strait, the Bay of Sooson is entered. It
extends eleven miles to the north-east, and is two miles wide. Sooson
Creek flows into it on the west, and on the east it receives the waters 102:
of the Sacramento and its tributaries. Sooson Bay is not deep, and
the greater part of it to the north-east has only sufficient water to float
The channels through the delta of the Sacramento are narrow, and
pass into each other, forming islands. These cover an area of 25 square
miles, which is entirely overgrown with Tula (Scirpus lacustris). The
true channel of the river lies through the south branch, its direction being
due east. It has sufficient water for vessels not drawing over 12 feet.
Eleven miles from Sooson Bay, the course of the river changes to the
north for two miles. At this point the left hand channel must be taken,
as it is the one leading to the Sacramento proper, the right one leading to
Marsh's Landing and the San Joachin. In proceeding up the Sacramento,
the river gradually changes its course to the north, with several considerable bends ; and at the low stage of water is navigable as far as
New Helvetia (Captain Suter's), at the mouth of the American Fork, a
distance of 50 miles above where its deltas discharge into Sooson Bay,
and, by the water communication, eighty miles from Yerba Buena.
Three and a half miles above the American Fork, sand-banks are encountered. These intercept the navigation during the dry season, and
are met with as far as the mouth of the Feather River, across which
there is a bar and ford, but it is partly quicksand. Above the Feather
River, the Sacramento changes its character, becoming very tortuous.
During the annual freshlets, these rivers would afford good opportunities
for the transportation of timber from the upper country, where it is found
of large dimensions, and in great abundance.
The branch leading to the mouth of the San Joachin is 10 miles long,
and is navigable for vessels to that place. The San Joachin can only be
ascended in boats, and with these but a few miles in the dry season; in
the season of the rains, the country for several miles around its mouth
is overflowed, and when not under water, is a large marsh.
Captain Wilkes says :—" The Bay of San Francisco is well adapted
for a naval depot, or a place for whalers to recruit at. There is no place
where a natural site for a town can be found throughout the whole bay;
and it appears extremely difficult to seleet one where the locality would
permit of extensive artificial improvements."
The following directions are by Captain Beechey, R.N., a copy of
whose survey of the harbour is on our chart ofthe coast, and to which we
would refer the reader :■—
" The harbour of San Francisco, for the perfect security it affords to
vessels of any burthen, and the supplies of fresh beef and vegetables,
wood, and fresh water, may vie with any port on the north-west coast of
America. It is not, however, without its disadvantages, of which the
difficulty of landing at low water, and the remoteness  of the water- THE  WEST   COAST   OF   NORTH  AMERICA.
ing-place from the only anchorage which I could recommend, are the
Ships bound to San Francisco from the northward and westward,
should endeavour to make Punta de los Reyes, a bold and conspicuous
headland, without any danger lying off it sufficiently far to endanger the
ship. In clear weather, when running for the land before the latitude is
known, or the Punta can be distinguished, its situation may be known by
a Table-Hill terminating the range that passes at the back of Bodega. This
hill in one with the Punta de los Reyes bears E. {mag.) If ships are not
too far off, they will see, at the same time, San Bruno, two hills to the
southward of San Francisco, having the appearance of islands; and from
the mast-head, if the weather be very clear, the South Farallon will, in
all probability, be seen. Punta de los Reyes, when viewed from the
W. or S.W., has also the appearance of an island, being connected by
low land to the two hills eastward. It is of moderate height, and, as it
stands at the angle formed by the coast-line, cannot be mistaken. Soundings may be had off this coast, in depths varying with the latitude. In
the parallel of the Farallones they extend a greater distance from the
main land, in consequence of these islands lying beyond the general
outline of the coast.
The Farallones are two clusters of rocks, which, in consequence of the
shoals about them, are extremely dangerous to vessels approaching San
Francisco in foggy weather. The southern cluster, of which in clear
weather one of the islands may be seen from the mast-head eight or nine
leagues, is the largest and highest, and lies exactly S. 3° E. true, 18
miles from Punta de los Reyes. The small cluster of rocks lies to the
N.W., and still further in that direction there are breakers; but I do
not know how far they extend from the rocks above water. In a thick
foggy night, we struck soundings in 25 fathoms, stiff clay, near them;
and on standing off, carried regular soundings to 32 fathoms, after which
they deepened rapidly.*
Coming from the southward, or when inside the Farallones, the position
of the entrance to San Francisco may be known by the land receding
considerably between the table-hill already mentioned, and San Bruno
* According to Vancouver tbere is also a cluster of rocks, scarcely above the
surface of tbe water, at tbe distance of 12£ miles S. 36° "W. from Punta de los Eeyes.
There may also be sunken rocks to the soutb-eastward of the Farallones, as the
following paragraph appeared in the New York Gazette, in August, 1850:—"The
brigantine Kalama struck upon a sunken rock on the 10th of April, off the harbour
of San Francisco, not laid down in any chart At the time, the south-east Farallon
bore N.W., distant about 12 miles. Hove about, sounded, and cruised about for two
hours, but could find no soundings. The Kalama drew 12 feet water at the time of
leaving San Francisco." 104
Hill, which, at a distance, appears to terminate the ridge extending from
Santa Cruz to the northward. The land to the northward or southward
of these two hills has nothing remarkable about it to a stranger ; it is,
generally speaking, sufficiently high to be seen 13 to 15 leagues, and
inland is covered with 'wood.
About 8£ miles from the fort, at the entrance of San Francisco, there
is a bar of sand extending in a S. by E. direction across the mouth of
the harbour.    The soundings, on approaching it, gradually decrease to
4\ and 6 fathoms low water, spring tide, depending upon the situation oi
the ship; and as regularly increase on the opposite side to no bottom
with the hand-leads.    In crossing the bar, it is well to give the northern
shore a good berth, and bring the small white island, Alcatrasses, in one
with the fort or south bluff, if it can be conveniently done, as they may
then ensure six fathoms; but if ships get to the northward, so as to bring
the south bluff in one with the Island-of Yerba Buena, they will find but
4\; which is little enough with the heavy sea that sometimes rolls over
the bar j besides, the sea will sometimes break heavily in that depth, and
endanger small vessels: to the northward of this bearing the water is
more shallow.    Approaching the entrance, the Island of Alcatrasses may
be opened with the fort; and the best directions are to keep mid-channel,
or on the weather side. On the south shore the dangers are above water;
and it is only necessary to avoid being set into the bay, between the fort
and Point Lobos.    If necessary, ships may pass inside, or to the southward of the One Mile Rock; but it is advisable to avoid doing so, if
possible.    On approaching it, guard against the tide, which sets strong
from the outer point toward it, and in a line for the fort.    Off Punta
Bon eta there is a dangerous reef, on which the sea breaks very heavy: it
lies S.W. from the point, and no ship should approach it nearer than to
bring the fort in one with Yerba Buena Island.
In the entrance it is particularly necessary to attend to the sails, in
consequence of the eddy tides and the flaws of wind that come off the
land. The boats should also be ready for lowering down on the instant,
as the entrance is very narrow, and the tides, running strong and in eddies,
are apt to sweep a ship over upon one side or the other, and the water is
in general too deep for anchorage; besides, the wind may fail when most
required. The strongest tides and the deepest water lie over on the north
shore. Should a ship be swept into the sandy Day west of the fort, she
will find good anchorage on a sandy bottom in 10 and 15 fathoms out
of the tide; or in the event of meeting the ebb at the entrance, she
might haul in, and there await the change. There is no danger off the
fort at a greater distance than 100 yards.
As a ship passes the fort, she enters a large sheet of water in
which are  several islands,  two  rocks above water, and one   under, THE  WEST   COAST   OF   NORTH  AMERICA.
exceedingly dangerous to
shipping, of which
I shall speak hereafter.
One branch of the harbour extends in a S.E. by S. direction, exactly 30
miles, between two ridges of hills, one of which extends along the coast
towards the Bay of Monterey, and the other from San Pablo, close at the
back of San Jose to San Juan Baptista, where it unites with the former.
This arm terminates in several little winding creeks, leading up to the
missions of Santa Clara and San Jose. The other great branch takes a
northerly direction; passes the Puntas San Pablo and San Pedro, opens
out into a spacious basin, ten miles in width, and then converging to a
second strait, again expands, and is connected with three rivers, one of
which is said to take its rise in the rocky mountains near the source of
the Columbia.
As a general rule in San Francisco, the deepest water will be found
where the tide is the strongest; and out of the current there is always a
difficulty in landing at low water. All the bays, except such as are
swept by the tide, have a muddy flat extending nearly from point to
point, great part of which is dry at low water, and occasions the before-
mentioned difficulty of landing; and the north-eastern shore, from
Punta San Pablo to the Rio Calaveros, beyond San Jose, is so flat that
light boats only can approach it at high water. In low tides it dries
some hundred yards off shore, and has only one fathom water at an
average distance of 1\ mile. The northern side of the great basin beyond
San Pablo is of the same nature.
After passing the fort a ship may work up for the anchorage without
apprehension, attending to the lead and the tides. The only hidden
danger is a rock, with one fathom on it at low water, spring tides, which
lies between Alcatrasses and Yerba Buena Islands. It has seven fathoms
alongside it: the lead, therefore, gives no warning. The marks when on
it are, the north end of Yerba Buena Island in one with two trees
(nearly the last of the straggling ones) south of Palos Colorados, a wood
of pines situated on the top of the hill, over San Antonio, too conspicuous to be overlooked; the left hand or S.E. corner of the Presidio just
open with the first cape to the westward of it; Sausalito Point open \
point with the north end of Alcatrasses ; and the Island of Molate in one
with Punta de San Pedro. When to the eastward of Alcatrasses, and
working to the S.E., or, indeed, to the westward, it is better not to stand
towards this rock nearer than to bring the table-peak in one with the
north end of Alcatrasses Island, or to shut in Sausalito Point with the
south extreme of it The position of the rock may generally be known
by a ripple j but this is not always the case.
There are no other directions necessary in working for Yerba Buena
Cove, which I recommend as an anchorage to all vessels intending to
remain at San Francisco. I1
In the navigation of the harbour much advantage may be derived from
a knowledge of the tides. It must be remembered that there are two
separate extensive branches of water lying nearly at right angles with
each other. The ebbs from these unite in the centre of the bay, and
occasion ripplings and eddies, and other irregularities of the stream,
sometimes dangerous to boats. The anchorage at Yerba Buena Cove is
free from these annoyances, and the passage up to it is nearly so after
passing the Presidio. The ebb begins to make first from the Santa Clara
arm, and runs down the south shore a full hour before the flood has done
about Yerba Buena and Angel Island ; and the flood, in its return, makes
also first along the same shore, forcing the ebb over the Yerba Buena
side, where it unites with the ebb from the north arm.
The flood first strikes over the Lime Rock,* and passing the Island of
Alcatrasses, where it diverges, one part goes quietly to Santa Clara, the
other sweeping over the sunken rock, and round the east end of Angel
Island, unites with a rapid stream through the narrow channel formed by
Angel Island and the main, and both rush to the northward through the
Estrecho de San Pablo to restore the equilibrium of the basin beyond,
the small rocks of Pedro Blanco and the Alcatrasses Island lying in the
strength of the stream.
The mean of 80 observations gave
the time of high water (full and
change) at Yerba Buena anchorage    	
The tide at the springs rises    .    .
Average rate of ebb at spring tide
Flood    ....
Duration of Flood	
At Sausalito the mean of 17 observations gave the time of high
water, on the days of full and
change, as 9h.  51m.
Rise (fidl and change)     ....     6ft. Oin.
Neap 2ft. 6in.
Duration of Flood 4h. 43m.
10 in. sometimes 8ft. 3 in.
10 in.
Of.     at neap    Ik. Of.
Of.         „           Ok.  6f.
On quitting San Francisco, the direction of the wind in the offing
should be considered. If it blow from the S.W. there would be some
difficulty in getting out of the bay to the southward of Punta de los
Reyes. The residents assert that an easterly wind in the harbour does
not extend far beyond the entrance, and that a ship would, in consequence,
be becalmed on the bar and perhaps exposed to a heavy swell, or she
might be swept back again, and be obliged to anchor in an exposed
* See the plan in the Chart. THE   WEST   COAST  OF   NORTH  AMERICA.
situation. Northerly winds appear to be most generally approved, as
they are more steady and of longer duration than any others : they may,
indeed, be said to be the trade-wind on the coast. With them it is-
advisable to keep the north shore on board, as the strength of the ebb
takes that side, and as on the opposite shore, near the One Mile Rock,
the tide sets rather upon the land. In case of necessity, a ship can
anchor to the eastward of the One Mile Rock; but to the S.W. of the
rock the ground is very uneven. The wind generally fails in the entrance
or takes a direction in or out. From the fairway steer S.W. g W., and
you will carry seven fathoms over the bar, half ebb, spring tide. This I
judge to be a good course in and out with a fair wind. I would avoid,
by every endeavour, the chance of falling into the sandy bay to the
southward of Lobos Point, and also closing with the shore to the N.W.
of the Punta Boneta."
Captain Belcher has said :—" About lOh. we got sight of the land and
ran in, the breeze freshening, as it generally does on entering the heads.
This is a very common occurrence at this port, requiring small sail to
beat out, and suddenly losing the tide and breeze together. It is, therefore, advisable to- keep the fairway marks open until reaching the bar,
before hauling to the southward, by which more wind Will be procured
and unpleasant swells escaped.
Considering myself a fair pilot for this port, I would say to those
approaching it, after decreasing the depth from 30 to 15 fathoms, mud, if
the wind be light it is advisable, or preferable, to anchor and wait for
daylight, or fog clearing off, but be prepared to weigh and stand off
should the wind freshen ; but do not go beyond 30 fathoms. The breeze
always dispels the fog. Do not desert a safe harbour when an hour or
two will show the road in.
The fort in. one with Yerba Buena Island leads over the bar in four
fathoms, and no ship should cross farther north on account of the rolling
swell; but- the best course is to keep Las Alcatrasses touching the
To this may be added the remarks of Captain John Hall:—
" In entering this port, which is one of the best and most interesting,
from its security and magnitude, in the world, great attention must be
paid to the tides, which, during the full and change of the moon, run
very rapid, and, I should think, in mid-channel at the rate of six miles
per hour. A vessel going in would do well to keep in the middle of the
stream, as on both sides there are very strong eddies, in which you are
apt to lose the command of the helm, and consequently are obliged to
anchor. After getting within the heads, keep Fort Blanco about a point
on the starboard bow. Passing the fort, the anchorage is situated in a
small bay, immediately abreast of the presidio, where a vessel will find 108
good holding-ground in five fathoms, about a cable's length from the
beach. Provisions are cheap. The harbour also abounds with fish,
which can be procured with a net in great quantities."
The entrance of the bay has also been surveyed by M. de Tessan, of
the French navy, from whose chart we copy the following:—" The
currents of ebb and flood, being very strong in the channel (6 knots),
occasion, behind the points, very strong rollers, in which it is dangerous,
for a vessel to be placed. In consequence the channel is very narrow,
half a mile, and small vessels only can attempt to tack in it.
To enter the channel, it will be necessary to wait until the flood. You
can remain under sail when you anchor, should the breeze be slight, until
the ebb-tide."
The following remarks on entering the harbour of San Francisco will
be found useful to masters of ships bound to that place. They are
derived chiefly from Mr. Richardson, Captain of the port, and also an
experienced pilot for that harbour :—
" Ships coming in from the south Farallones should run in on a N.E,
by E. \ E. course, and bring Point Lobos on the same bearing, in order
to cross the bar in 6\ fathoms, and to keep as nearly mid-channel as
possible, there being a bank of four fathoms on the south shore, outside,
which has generally a heavy swell on it. There is a similar bank also on
the north shore, extending at least five miles out.
Between these two banks there is anchorage in 10, 12, and 15 fathoms,
as you draw in. After getting inside, and having passed the fort, you
can anchor any where in as far as the Alcatrasses, there being no hidden
In going for Sausalito, with a light wind and ebb tide, it will be very
advisable to steer directly for Angel Island, as the tide sets strong against
Sausalito Bay, and tends to heave the ship into deep water.
A ship leaving Sausalito, should avoid being set into Lime Rock Bay,
by standing over towards the fort point, and from the fort point stand
across to the northern shore to keep out of the eddy current in the S.E.
bay, outside the fort.
The ebb makes on each shore at least two hours before it sets out in
the stream, and, therefore, a ship should not leave the anchorage until
the tide had fallen a foot, by the shore. These remarks apply chiefly to
vessels leaving with a foul wind.
If the wind be fair, and of sufficient strength to render the ship perfectly under command, she can then start at the last of the flood.
The ebb tide makes from Yerba Buena Bay across towards Lime
Rock, thence into Mile Rock Bay (so that ships going out have not
unfrequently been set between Mile Rock and the main), and from tbat
bay it runs to the N.W. round Point Lobos. THE   WEST   COAST  OF  NORTH   AMERICA.
Outside the fort-point the ebb sets to the N.W. round Point Boneta,
and the flood runs to the S.E.
If the Farallones are not made, and the position of the harbour not
very certain, some difficulty may be experienced in discovering the
entrance, particularly from the northward. It may, however, be known
by a long sandy stripe of land just to the southward of the entrance,
which has much the appearance of a hay field ; and also not far from this
shore is a remarkable rock, having an arch in it.
To the northward of the entrance are three or four rocks close
in-shore, very white on their tops, and at nearly equal distances from
each other."
The bay is now being re-surveyed by order of the United States
Government, and the following buoys have been moored, under the
superintendence of Commander Cadwallader Ringgold, U.S.N.
Tonquin Point Shoal, making out from North Bay, has been surveyed, and a black spar-buoy moored on the N.W. end, in 15 feet at low
water. Vessels coming in from sea, are directed to pass the buoy on the
starboard bow, at the distance of two cables length.
Blossom Rock.—This rock has a large black buoy, terminating in a
cone of three feet, moored upon it, in 15 feet water. The point of the
rock lies 20 feet north-eastward from the buoy, and has only six feet
upon it at low water. The tide sweeps over and across this dangerous
rock with irregularity and great velocity. It must, therefore, be ap-r
proached with great caution, particularly with light winds.
Southampton Middle Grounds.—This extensive shoal, extending north
and south, lies to the eastward of Angel Island, and has on its south
extremity a black spar-buoy in 15 feet, at low water. On its centre there
is a red spar buoy, and on its north extremity there is also a black and
white spar-buoy, both of which are in a similar depth. The soundings
on the west side of this shoal, decrease abruptly from five fathoms blue
mud to hard sand, in three fathoms.
Invincible Rock is a dangerous shoal near the Straits of San Pablo,
and situated about 400 yards to the ■ southward of the Two Brothers.
It is marked by a black spar-buoy in 15 feet, at low water.
Kincom Point Rocks.—A ledge of rocks lying off this point, with a
channel inside, has a black spar buoy moored upon it, in six feet at low
Pilots are also stated to have been appointed, Dec 30th, 1850.-
On the l3t of November, 1851, the following notice was issued:—
" On and after this day, a lantern will be hoisted at dark, at the outer
Telegraph Station, showing a blue and yellow light seaward, at an elevation of 3000 feet (?) above tide water.    The position of this station is 110
such, that on the centre bar, in six fathoms water, it bears E.N.E. jj E.,
Alcatras and Fort Head being in one."
POINT DE LOS REYES.—From the entrance to San Francisco
the coast trends to the N. 62° W., a distance of nearly SO miles, to Point
de los Reyes.   For a distance of about 12 miles, it consists of abrupt
cliffs, with very unequal surfaces, and has a most dreary and barren
aspect; it then falls lower, and forms a low, sandy, projecting point.    A
few scattered trees grow on the more elevated land, and some patches of
dwarf shrubs in the vallies ; but the rest of the country consists of barren
rocks, or with a very slight covering of vegetation.    Off tbe low projecting point some breakers extend nearly two miles to the E.S. E.    To
the westward of this low projecting point, the coast bends a little inwards,
and forms with Point de los Reyes an open bay, named, by Vancouver,
Port Sir Francis Drake; because he supposed it to be the place in which
that navigator had anchored.    The eastern side of the bay is composed
of white cliffs, as is also the coast between it and Point de los Reyes,
though the latter is lower.    In consequence of the exposed state of the
anchorage, being open to the S. and S.E. quarters, it is unsafe to anchor
here when the wind blows from those directions.   It is said that you may
occasionally anchor here in May to October.
Vancouver remarked in November, 1792:—"According to the Spaniards,
this is the bay in which Sir Francis Drake anchored; but however safe
he might then have found it, in this season of the year it promised us
little shelter or security. The wind blowing fresh out of the bay from
N.N.W. I did not think it proper to lose the opportunity of proceeding
with all dispatch to San Francisco; where there was little doubt of our
obtaining a supply of those refreshments which were now much wanted
by the whole crew." Captain Beechey has also expressed an unfavourable
opinion of this anchorage:—" We passed Point de los Reyes, and awaited
the return of day off some white cliffs, which, from being situated so
near the parallel of lat 38° N., are, in all probability, those which
induced Sir Francis Drake to bestow upon this country the name of New
Albion. They appear on the eastern side of a bay too exposed to
authorise the conjecture of Vancouver, that it was the same in which Sir
Francis refitted his vessel."
Point de los Reyes, in lat. 38° 1" 30" N. and long. 123° 2'30" W., is
a high, bold, and very prominent headland, visible, in clear weather, 50
miles off. It is one of the most conspicuous promontories on the coast,
south of Cape Classet, at Fuca Strait, and cannot easily be mistaken, as
when seen from the north or south, at the distance of five or six leagues,
it appears insular, owing to its projecting into the sea, and the land
behind it  being less high than usual near the coast; but the interior THE  WEST   COAST  OF   NORTH  AMERICA.
country preserves a more lofty appearance, although these mountains
extend in a direction further from the shore than those along the coast
to the northward of the point. The point stretches like a peninsula into
the ocean, where its highest part terminates in steep cliffs, moderately
elevated, and nearly perpendicular to the sea, which beats against them
with great violence. Southward of the point the shore is composed of
low white cliffs, and forms Sir Francis Drake's Bay.
THE FARALLONES are a group of detached islets, or rather rocks
off the entrance to San Francisco. They lie in a N.W. and S.E. direction, and form two groups, the north-western and south-eastern; the
distance from the extremes of which is about 12 miles. They are
apparently of volcanic origin, as most of the rocks have evidently been
once in a state of fusion. It is said that there is no fresh water on them,
and that they are much resorted to by sea fowl. The south-eastern island
is considered a good mark for San Francisco, and it is probable, that
after the lapse of a few years, a lighthouse may be erected on it.
In the whole group of the Farallones, there are seven which appear
above the water. The south-east islet is the largest of the group, and is
distant from the fort, at the entrance of San Francisco, 28 miles in a
S. 68° W. (true) direction. This islet is about 150 or 200 feet high, and
on the south-east side, there is anchorage in 11 fathoms water, hard
(probably rocky) bottom, which is tolerably sheltered from the northwest wind and sea.
It is said, that the larger of the Farallones has the form of a saddle,
when viewed in certain directions, in consequence of each extremity
rising into a hill. In order to distinguish between the north-west and
south-east groups of these islets, it is only necessary to observe, that the
former group shows three rocks of nearly the same size, lying nearly east
and west of each other, nearly a mile apart, and sending off a reef to the
eastward, about a mile in extent.
About one-third the distance from the south-east Farallones to San
Francisco, there are 41 fathoms, sand and mud ; from whence the soundings gradually diminish until up with the bar, off the entrance to the
harbour. The bottom hi the vicinity of the Farallones, appears to be
of a very tenacious quality, as Captain Beechey says, "we stood to the
southward from Point de los Reyes, during the night, and about three
o'clock in the morning, unexpectedly struck soundings upon a clayey
bank, in 35 fathoms, very near the Farallones, a dangerous cluster of
rocks, which, until better known, ought to be avoided. The ship was
put about immediately ; but the next cast was 25 fathoms, in so stiff a
clay, that the line was broken. The weather was very misty, and a long
swell rolled towards the reefs, which, had there been less wind, would
have obliged us to anchor; but we increased our distance from them, 112
and deepened the water. This cluster of rocks is properly divided into
two parts, of which, the south-eastern is the largest and the highest, and
may be seen 9 or 10 leagues in clear weather. The most dangerous part
is apparently towards the north west."
BODEGA BAY is about 40 miles north of San Francisco, and is a
small and inconvenient port, inaccessible, except by vessels of a light
draught of water. The anchorage outside, is rocky and dangerous. Off
Cape Bodega, there is a small rocky islet, having a reef extending off it,
about three quarters of a mile to the south-eastward, close to which are
6 and 9 fathoms. It is high water on the days of full and change, at 1 lh.
30 m., with a rise of tide of 7 feet
This port has lately been surveyed by Commander Sir E. Belcher,
R.N., who-says of it:—" Bodega is an extensive bay, almost joining (by
a creek) the port of Sir Francis Drake, at its southern end, which is
very shallow. On the northern side of tbe bay, at a small creek or
estuary (nearly dry at low water springs) stand two Russian buildings;
one a store-house, the floor of which was filled with grain and a few
marine stores, and the other, the residence of those left in charge,
amounting perhaps to three men, their wives, and children.
The anchorage is within a rocky islet, with a reef and bank extending
about three-quarters of a mile, which is covered thickly by fucus gigan-
teus. The bottom is coarse sand, with some patches of clay, but bad
holding-ground. Here, however, it is customary for the Russians (who
have excellent ground tackle) to ride out the south-west gales, inasmuch
as the heavy swell which immediately tumbles in, or generally preceeds,
prevents any moderate sailing vessel from making any head, and the sea-
room is but scant I am informed that the Russians have experienced
several losses here, but no lives.
At the houses there is excellent water carefully conducted by spouts,
for the convenience of hose, which allow of filling without removing the
casks; and although we found the runs small, yet being steady and
continuous, they afforded employment for two boats. I am satisfied, also,
that it is as good, and more expeditiously obtained than at Sausalito,
San Francisco, where it is necessary to fill from wells, and injure the
boats embarking it."
This port has also been visited by Captain John Hall, who savs:—•" To
sail into this port, when the winds are from tbe N.W., and these are
the prevailing winds th rough out nearly the whole year, with the exception of the winter months), a vessel coming from the northward, should
pass between the point and the rock, as a dangerous shoal liesimmediately
off the south end of the rock. We anchored with the rock bearing
W. by S., distant three-fourths of a mile. The bottom is good holding-
ground all throughout, being a mixture of clay and sand.    In port, a THE   WEST   COAST   OF   NORTH   AMERICA.
vessel is sheltered from all winds but the South and S.W. The Watering-
place is situated in the small bay where the Russian storehouse stands,
and the water is good and easy of access."
In November, 1792, the Port of Bodega was visited by Vancouver, who
thus writes :—" Our attention was directed to the appearance of a port
to the eastward, for which we immediately steered. By sun-set, we
were close in with the shore, which extended from N.W. by W. to
S.S.E. J E., so that we were considerably embayed. We were now off
the northern point of an inner bay that seemed divided into two or
three arms, the soundings had been regular from 40 to 28 fathoms, the
bottom a bed of coral rock, sand, and shells. Being anxious not to
leave any opening on the coast unexamined, and as the evening was
serene and pleasant, I was induced to anchor, though on a rocky bottom,
off this point for the night, which bore by compass from us N.E. by E.,
two miles distant, that my design might early in the morning be carried
into execution. Our situation here was by no means pleasant; during
the night two deep sea lines were cut through by the rocks, and at
four in the morning the buoy was seen drifting past ship, and was
proved to have been severed in the same way. Lest the cable should
share the same fate, no time was lost in weighing the anchor; fortunately,
however, the cable had not received any injury. A light breeze from
the land permitted us to stand across the bay, which we soon discovered
to be Port Bodega; its north point is formed of low, steep, cliffs, and
when seen from the south, has the appearance of an island, but is firmly
connected with the main land. To the east the land retires and forms
a small inlet, apparently favourable to anchorage; it has a flat rock, on
which the water broke, in its entrance, and has not any other visible
danger excepting that of being much exposed to the South and S.E.
winds. Not being able to sail into the bay, we stood towards its south
point, which lies from the north point S. 30° E., at the distance of seven
miles. Within these limits appeared three small openings in the coast,
one already noticed to the eastward of the north point, the other two
immediately within the south point; across these a connected chain of
breakers seemed to extend, with three high white rocks, which nearly
blockaded the passage. Although very solicitous of gaining more intelligence, this was all the information I was able to procure of this place,
which required to be minutely surveyed by our boats before the vessel
should enter;. the state of the weather was ill-calculated for such
service ; it was very dark and gloomy, andjjithe depression of the mercury
in the barometer indicated an approaching storm. Our soundings, when
under 35 fathoms, were on a rocky bottom."
About 30 miles to the northward of the Port of Bodega, is the Russian
settlement of Ross, which, it is said, is now abandoned.    It is situated
i 114
on land elevated about 100 feet above the sea, the outline of which is
cliffy, with alternate rocky and gravelly margin, rendering landing, excepting in very fine weather, nearly impracticable. The anchorage off
is bad, by reason of beds of rock above and below water, and the constant
liability to fogs, rendering it unsafe to break ground, unless with a fair
wind. The hills above it, which command the presidio, are sparingly
clothed with fir-trees. The main government establishment, or fort, as
such enclosures are termed in these countries, consists of a large square,
fenced in with strong planks of 15 feet in height, and furnished with
block-houses or watch-towers at two angles; one commanding the sea,
and the other the land sides, or covering the east, south, and west
From Port Bodega to Cape Mendocino, the coast consists of high,
bold cliffs, with but few indentations; and what dangers there are, lie
close to the shore. The kelp will always indicate foul ground, and it is
recommended to avoid it. After running along the coast a distance of
40 miles, you will reach Punta Barra de Arena, in about lat