Richard Henry Dana, Dana Point’s namesake, was a Boston native who navigated from New England to Santa Barbara in the 1820s. The merchant sailor and maritime attorney described the region as a bay surrounded by crescent-shaped land.
Dana’s first impressions of Santa Barbara were captured in his memoirs, “Two Years Before The Mast,” which was published in 1840, the same year he was admitted into the Massachusetts State Bar. His description also referenced the nearby Channel Islands.
“Jan. 14th, 1835, we came to anchor in the spacious bay of Santa Barbara, after a voyage of one hundred and fifty days from Boston,” Dana wrote in his memoirs. “The bay, or, as it was commonly called, the canal of Santa Barbara, is very large, being formed by the main land on one side, (between Point Conception on the north and Point St. Buena Ventura on the south), which here bends in like a crescent, and three large islands opposite to it and at the distance of twenty miles.
“This is just sufficient to give it the name of a bay, while at the same time it is so large and so much exposed to the south-east and north-west winds, that it is little better than an open roadstead,” he continued.
At the time Santa Barbara was part of Alta California, a Mexican territory.
Source: “Two Years Before The Mast,” by Richard Henry Dana