SAN DIEGO—Much has been made about Juan Cabrillo’s arrival in San Diego, while aboard San Salvador, in 1542. He was not the only high-profile Spaniard sailor, however, to navigate into San Diego Bay. Father Juan Crespi, who explored the California coast between the U.S-Mexico border and the San Francisco Bay in the late 1760s and early 1770s, chronicled his observations about the various waterfronts he visited. These navigations along the California coast were made alongside Junipero Serra.
The book, “Fray Juan Crespi: Missionary Explorer on the Pacific Coast,” featured portions of Crespi’s diary. One of the entries featured Crespi’s observations of San Diego Bay in June 1769.
“This port is a large, level place in the midst of great meadows and plains, with very good pasturage for all kinds of cattle, and not a stone is found for variety,” Crespi reportedly wrote in his diary. “All the port is well populated with a large number of villages of Indians, too clever, wide awake and business-like for any Spaniard to get ahead of them. The men are naked and almost all are very much painted.
“They are well armed with bows and quivers of arrows,” Crespi continued. “We are camped near one of their villages. They received us in peace, thanks to the Lord, and so far, there has been no trouble, but strict care is necessary, since they are great thieves.”
Crespi’s diary would continue to chronicle the navigation north to San Francisco Bay. The diary made mention of a stop at Santa Barbara in August 1769.
“When we left this port of San Diego for Monterey we always kept close to the shore (and only near this port, so as to take a straight line, did we leave it for about six leagues) until, a month after setting out from here, that is, on the 14th of August, we entered the first regular town of the Channel of Santa Barbara, which was giving the name of Assumpta de Maria Santissima, since we both said Mass there,” Crespi wrote. “This place has a pretty river, land and numerous peaceful and friendly Indians.”
Many more harbors and bays were described by Crespi in his writings.