By Sandy Zimmerman
(Photos by Sandy Zimmerman)
The moment we saw picturesque Dana Point Harbor, we understood why author/seaman Richard Henry Dana (1835) said, “It is the only romantic spot in California.” Named after Dana, he describes the charms of the Cliffed Cove in his seafaring novel “Two years before the Mast.” At 19, Dana became a sailor aboard the merchant brig, Pilgrim, sailing from Dana Point around Cape Horn, to Boston. El Embarcadero Cove was used by small, fast hide vessels (1830-1840) engaging in the smuggling trade. Hipolito Bouchard, an Argentine pirate, used this cove in 1818 while his sailors raided and set fire to the Mission San Juan Capistrano.
Everyone is watching as the ocean’s waves continue their dance-like movements around our boat. We dare not look away. Just a half hour from the harbor, the excitement is building within us. We must watch the churning sea. Suddenly the captain yells, “Whales at 6 o’clock,” and our wait is over. A whale lifts itself out of the water, sometimes just for a few minutes, and at other times we can see more of its body and tail. The biggest mammal on earth performs its ritual so very close to us. Then the whale dives down to swim under our boat. Every year thousands of Orcas, Humpback Whales, Blue and Gray Whales leave the arctic seas and follow the coastline to Southern California and Baja. This 5,000 mile migration takes these giant mammals past Dana Point, referred to as a landmark for the whales. Usually whale watching season runs from November-April, some Blue Whales seem to like it there and are still around in August. Dana Point Sports fishing and Whale Watching
Come aboard the replica of an old pirate ship, the Pilgrim is the Spirit of Dana Point. This square-rigged, 118 foot historic Tall Ship looks as though it just came out of a scene in a pirate’s film! You can tour this vessel and even go on one of their sailing cruises. The Ocean Institute, known for helping children experience the ocean environment, rums the Pilgrim and the R/V Sea Explorer. See the schedule of Tall Ship cruises, snorkeling trips, wildlife cruises, and programs in the Details Section.
View We took the Street of the Blue Lantern up the mountain from the Tall Ship, Pilgrim‘s dock, and stopped at the Spanish style gazebo for some of the most breathtaking views of the ocean, harbor and boats. When we looked up, Cannons Restaurant was above us. This is called the Samson Overview Gazebo.