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The Log of the San Carlos

Alias Toison De Oro (Golden Fleece)

Under Command of

Lieutenant of Frigate of the Royal Navy Don Juan Manuel de Ayala

From the Port of San Blas to the Port of San Francisco


The First Ship to Enter the Port of San Francisco. Transcript of a Certified Copy of the Original, now in the Archives of the Indies, at Seville, Spain[42].


On the 19th of March, 1775, Lieutenant of Frigate, Don Juan Manuel de Ayala had the schooner under his command anchored near the white rock in the harbor of San Blas, waiting the sailing of the frigate Santiago to the west coast of California, when the commander of the expedition, Don Bruno de Ezeta, ordered him to deliver to Lieutenant of Frigate, Don Juan de la Bodega y Cuadra, the command of his schooner and take command of the packet boat, San Carlos, as her captain, Don Miguel Manríque, was sick and unable to make the voyage. Ayala obeyed the order and waited until the morning of the 21st, for the return of the launch which carried his predecessor to San Blas. He made everything ready on board to follow the frigate and schooner and he asked the commander of the expedition, Don Bruno de Ezeta, to take in his frigate some brown sugar and provisions which he could not accommodate in his boat except on deck where they were liable to be damaged.

At 3 p. m. of the 21st he sailed from the anchorage of San Blas with the wind east-northeast and on the following day came in sight of Isabela Island, lying about five miles to the west. On the 23rd he came in sight of the Maria Islands and saw the frigate and schooner going to the southeast of the islands, where he lost sight of them. Contrary winds and calm weather prevented the San Carlos from making any considerable progress. On the 26th, Ayala sent his pilot to see if he could obtain some water to replace that which had been consumed[43]. The pilot could not make a landing and consequently did not obtain any water. On April 2d, he saw Mazatlan and the packetboat Concepcion. The following day he came near the Concepcion, and the captain informed him that he had on board the governor of California[44]. From the Concepcion Ayala obtained six kegs of water. On the 4th of April a serious accident happened to the commander. When his predecessor was taken sick, he had a number of loaded pistols. Ayala ordered them placed where they could not injure anyone. In doing this, one fell and was discharged, the bullet entering the commander's foot between the second and third toes, coming out under the big toe. This accident caused him to keep his bed.

On the 7th of April, Cape San Lucas was seen to the north, distant about two leagues. On the 8th, Cape San Lucas was seen to the west, about twelve leagues distant. On account of contrary winds, the progress northward was very slow. On June 22d, while they were warming some pitch to calk the launch, it took fire, but was extinguished before great damage was done. On the same day indications of land were noted and some whales were seen, which the sailors say is the first sign of land. On the following day they saw some seals, which, according to the sailors, was the second sign of land. On the 24th, they saw some ducks, which, they say, is proof positive of land being near. On the same day land was sighted at 4 p. m.; the North Farallones of San Francisco were seen to the north and Point Año Nuevo to the southeast. At 7 p. m., the South Farallones were seen at a distance of about two leagues to the northeast. The variation of the needle was observed and found to be 13° E.

Next day, at 9 a. m., the fog having lifted, land was seen and Point Año Nuevo was recognized to the northwest about three leagues distant. At noon the sun's altitude was taken, and the latitude found to be 36° 58'. At 3 p. m. they took bearings to make Point Pinos, but this point could not be seen on account of the fog. At 4 p. m. the fog lifted, and at 5 p. m. they saw the point which protects the harbor of Monterey. The variation of the needle was observed and found to be 12° 58' E. They had some difficulty in finding good anchorage, but finally did so on a sandy bottom.

On the 26th of June, Commander Ayala sent his launch on shore with mail and documents, and on its return the vessel was made fast.

Ayala remained in the harbor of Monterey till July 26th, during which time he unloaded his cargo, took ballast, water, and fuel, mended sails and repaired the ship, which needed it badly, the sixth board under water at the poop having to be replaced for a length of one and one-half yards.

He got ready to start for the newly-discovered Port of San Francisco.


Starting from the shelter of Monterey, situated at latitude 36°° 33', longitude 16° 45' W. of San Blas to the newly-discovered Port of San Francisco, July 26, 1775.

That day it was impossible to sail on account of the wind coming from contrary direction.

On July 27th, the launch towed the San Carlos until she came to the range of a southwest wind and sailed in a northwest direction[45]. At noon Point Pinos was seen bearing south 13° distant five miles; at 3 p. m. it had disappeared from view. Very soon after, Point Año Nuevo came in sight and the land adjoining it, about four or five miles distant. From July 28th to August 3d, little progress was made on account of contrary winds from the northwest. On August 3d, at 1 p. m., land was seen to the east 1/4 northeast, distant about twelve leagues. It was found to be Point Año Nuevo. At 7 p. m. another point came into view bearing north 1/4 northeast, distant about twelve leagues, which was considered to be Point Reyes. At 10 p. m., the wind being northwest, the San Carlos steered west-southwest and continued in that course until 8 a. m. of the 4th, when the bearing was changed to the north-northeast. At noon the sun's altitude was taken and the latitude was found to be 37° 11', and longitude 17° 51' W. of San Blas. At 6 p. m., August 4th, the southernmost Farallon of the Port of San Francisco was seen to the northwest, distant about eight leagues. The land to the north was Point Reyes, bearing 4° W., distant about fourteen leagues. At half past eleven, considering the coast was near, the course was changed to the south-southwest, until 3 a. m. of August 5th, when it was changed again to the north-northeast 5° north to bring the ship at sunrise to the point it was at sunset of the day before. At 5 a. m. four of the Farallones of San Francisco were seen to the north-northwest, distant four leagues. Point Año Nuevo was southeast 1/4 east from twelve to fourteen leagues and Point Almejas northeast 4° east, distant three leagues. At 8 a. m., being near land, commander Ayala lowered the launch, and in it Pilot Cañizares was sent with ten men to search for an anchorage, while the San Carlos continued along the coast. At 9 a. m. a strong current was felt, which drove them to sea, but at eleven it was observed that the vessel was nearing the coast, which convinced the commander that it was due to the tide, and this was confirmed by the soundings; in entering the port, as on the first occasion, the tide was going out, and on the second one the tide was coming in. The altitude of the sun was taken at noon of that day, with the utmost care, and the latitude was found to be 37° 42' and the longitude 17° 14' W. of San Blas. At this time Point Año Nuevo was about fourteen leagues distant to the southeast south; the Farallones to the northwest, distant four leagues, and Point Reyes north 1/4 northeast, distant four leagues. The wind was from the west. At 4 p. m. the vessel was steered to the north-northeast, and half an hour later soundings were taken and bottom found at sixteen brazas[46] of mud and sand mixed, and distant from the mouth about two leagues. At 5 p. m. bottom was found at fifteen brazas, with the same kind of bottom material. Sounding was continued and the bottom was found to be as noted in the large map. The current was so great at the mouth of this port that at 8:30 p. m., with a strong wind from the west-southwest with full sails, the current allowed them to go not more than a mile and a half per hour, which shows that the current must go at least six miles at the middle of the channel. The swiftness of the current, the fact that the launch had not returned and that night was coming on, made it necessary to seek for an anchorage; this was done with great care and precaution; as the force of the wind made it necessary to have full sail, it was feared that some of the rigging might give way. For that reason, soundings were taken continually with a 20-lb. lead, and a line of sixty brazas could not reach bottom, either in the channel or near the point. This seemed very strange until it was realized that the current was carrying the lead and it did not strike bottom. They continued thus until they were one league inside the mouth of the bay and a quarter of a mile from the shore, when the wind suddenly stopped. Finding that the current was carrying the ship towards the mouth, an anchor was thrown overboard, after having made it fast to the big mast so that if it did not catch the bottom it would not be lost. It was found that the anchor held. Two more anchors were made ready to drop in case the big one should drag. When the wind stopped and the current ceased, the vessel was found to be in twenty-two brazas, with sandy bottom[47].

At 6 a. m. of August 6, the launch, which had not been seen since sunset the day before, came to the vessel. The pilot was asked why he had not come to meet the ship when he saw her sailing shoreward looking for the entrance of the bay, answered that at 6 p. m. he had seen a suitable harbor for the packet-boat to the east of the entrance, and when he attempted to go out the whirlpools and eddies caused by the current were such that it was impossible to make any progress, as the current carried him back towards the shore, so that he determined to stay in the harbor he had attempted to leave. This, and the fact that the men were fired out, made him wait until 4 a. m., when he again attempted to go out, with the same result as before. During his efforts to get out, he saw the packet-boat, and putting the bow towards her he had no difficulty in reaching her.

At 7 a. m., the commander sent the pilot to examine a harbor which was to the west-northwest. He found it useless, because, though it had sufficient water, the bottom was sticky mud. As Ayala was not in need of shelter then, he did not enter that harbor, as he was afraid of losing his anchor in the mud, and also because it was open from the south to the east, although the wind came from the landward which was about two leagues from the harbor[48]. He called this harbor "Carmeita," because in it was a rock resembling a friar of that order. There was in its vicinity an Indian village, the inhabitants of which came out from their huts and cried out and made signs for the vessel to go near them. As the sailors were taking soundings and came near the shore, the Indians erected a pole, at the top of which was a large number of feathers. The sailors having no orders to answer them, remained at a distance from the shore. The Indians, thinking, no doubt, that the sailors were afraid of them, endeavored to assure them by dropping their bows to the ground, and after describing a circle in the air with the arrows stuck them in the sand. The launch came on board again, and soon after, the Indians, from a point of land near the vessel, talked to the sailors with loud cries, and although their voices were heard distinctly, they could not be understood for want of an interpreter. At 9 the launch was sent again to another harbor to the north, which seemed to be better sheltered and to have better anchorage[49]. It was so, and when the launch returned at 10, the pilot stated that he found bottom at eight to fourteen brazas, and the bottom was sticky with mud. At 3 p. m. the vessel sailed towards the place examined, but a strong current prevented her reaching it. It was then decided to anchor in fifteen brazas, sandy bottom, and they stayed there all night, during which time the vessel moved on account of the bad quality of the anchors.

On the 7th, at 9 a. m., the vessel was started towards a large and fine-looking harbor which seemed commodious. Soundings were taken, and the bottom was found at twelve to fourteen brazas. It had been decided to go to the end of it, but the tide was contrary and it was necessary to return to the vessel at 1 p. m. Indians from the shore were calling to the men with loud cries, and the commander decided to send the launch with the priest, the pilot, and armed men, with orders that they must not molest the Indians but treat them well and make them presents, for which purpose the commander gave the men beads and other trinkets and ordered them to observe good precaution, so that in case the Indians showed fight they could easily return to the launch, where four armed men must always remain to protect the retreat. It is true that from the day when intercourse was first had with the Indians, it was seen how affable and hospitable they were, showing the greatest desire for the Spaniards to go to their village, where, they said, they could eat and sleep. They had already prepared on shore a meal of pinole, bread from their corn, and tomales of the same. During the time the Spaniards were with the Indians, they found that the latter repeated the Spanish words with great facility, and by signs the Spaniards asked the Indians to go on board the packet boat, but the Indians, also by signs, signified that until the Spaniards should visit their village, they could not go on board. After a little while the Spaniards returned to the boat and the Indians disappeared.

On the 8th, the pilot, with men, was sent in the launch to explore the bay, and on the 9th returned and made his report.

On the 12th the launch was lowered to look for a better anchorage near Angel Island, which is the largest in this bay, and many good places were found. It was also thought a good idea to examine another island, which was found to be very steep and barren and would not afford shelter even for the launch. This island was called "Alcatraz"[50] on account of the abundance of those birds that were on it.

On the 13th the vessel moved to another anchorage with nine brazas of water at pistol shot of the land. On the 21st, the first pilot, Don José de Cañizares, returned from an expedition on which he had been sent a few days before and made his report. On the same day, the second pilot, Don Juan B. Aguirre, went, with fresh men, in the launch to try to find the party which the commander of the presidio had promised to send to San Francisco by land. The second pilot did not see the party, but explored an estero which enters the land about twelve leagues[51].

On the 23d fifteen Indians came on a raft and were taken on board, where they were entertained and given something to eat. They learned how to ask for bread in Spanish.

From this day to the 6th of September, the explorations of the Bay of San Francisco continued, and first pilot Don José de Cañizares was instructed to make his report and the map of the bay.

On September 7th an attempt was made to go to sea for the return voyage, but the rudder was injured by a submerged rock on which the current had carried the vessel.

From this day to September 18th, the time was passed in repairing the rudder and making preparations for the return voyage, which took place on that day, going to Monterey, where they arrived the following day.

In order to make the necessary repairs to the ship and pass the equinox in good shelter, the San Carlos remained in the harbor of Monterey till October 13, 1775, when she started for San Blas, where she arrived on November 6th of the same year.

[42] This is a summary of the document. A full translation would be too tedious for a work of this kind.

[43] On the Tres Marias Islands.

[44] Don Pedro Fages. Commandante of California, who had been recalled.

[45] Bancroft. Hist. of Cal., says Ayala sailed from Monterey, July 24th. That was to make the sailing fit the Bancroft theories.

[46] Braza - Fathom: Six feet.

[47] Ayala anchored inside Port Point - the Presidio anchorage.

[48] Richardson's Bay.

[49] Angel Island.

[50] Alcatraz - Pelican

[51] The Southern portion of the bay.

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