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Though HarborTown Histories share a common format, look, and scope, each book tells the tales of a unique town. The first, Catalina Island, was an easy choice. We fell in love with this magical island when we arrived on our honeymoon - in the middle of the night in winter on the first of our sailing adventures. After many sailing weekends there, we are still smitten. From its welcoming tropical harbor to its rich tribal heritage, brief era as a gold boom town, parade of owners, and the wonderful gift the Wrigleys gave, Catalina Island remains a place of joy for us, as for so many others.
As soon as we sailed up the coast to our new home in Santa Barbara, it was clear that I would soon be learning her history. So, living on our boat and immersing ourselves in her wonderful harbor community, I explored, always seeking to understand her story. And such tales they were! Rich with explorers, pirates, outlaws, and the wealthy and famous, Santa Barbara entranced me throughout our decade living there and continues to embrace us whenever we return.
En route to projects at Cuesta College, I got to know Cambria and was delighted by her marvelous Moonstone Beach, lovely gardens, and charming inns and restaurants. I was lucky enough to also learn some of her stories from wonderful Cambria characters like audacious rancher Dawn Dunlapp and ‘Mr. History” Wilfred Lyons. And, what a story it is, of boom town years, dashed hopes, a castle, and lots of butter and milk.
While moving from Colorado to California, we drove all night, arriving in Newport Beach just in time to watch the sun rise. That awe never faded, and as soon as we could rebuild our boat, we settled onto our new home, a mooring near the Fun Zone. What wonderful years they were, rich with a welcoming community of boaters, amazing storms, and energetic short-tack sails up the harbor. Needless to say, Newport Beach simply had to be our next HarborTown History. Weekends were spent researching in the library or writing in the cockpit, loving its tales of entrepreneurs, railroad battles, and a whole lot of dredging and mud.
I sometimes wonder why Point Reyes was selected next, for we never lived there and, given its long history of shipwrecks, were unlikey to sail there. I suspect it was because we were seeking a land-based home, anticipating the time when our cruising days would be over. Point Reyes offered the charm and isolation that hit a chord. Although we selected Salt Spring Island instead, when return to Point Reyes and the to-die-for bear claws at the Bovine Bakery, it feels very much like our Island home. Surprisingly, Point Reyes is my favorite. I loved learning about the troubled Shafter family and their dreams and disappointments. Their story, plus the mystery of Sir Francis Drake's visit and too many horrifying shipwrecks, make her story one of California's most interesting.
Denver, the first in the BoomTown History series, was the result living there and loving that gutsy town for over two decades, also teaching its story to hundreds of Arapahoe Community College students. Thirty years before, I had written her history, Trial and Triumph. And, for all those years, had wanted to do it one more time, this time a more complete telling of the story of great leadership, audacity, and simple blind luck.
Finally, retirement came and our dream of cruising arrived. We triumphantly left Santa Barbara, only to discover that we had months more to prepare the boat for her journey. While Howard struggled to find parts and magically put everything together, I wandered San Diego, falling in love with this stunningly beautiful city and her rich story of a mission, rancho days, visionaries, wondrous hotel, and wooing the military. When we sailed away the next year, bound for Mexican adventures, we knew we would return again and again to this fascinating city.
And next? Victoria. Come join us there next year!