The Explorers, 1492-1774

CHAPTER FIVE: Sebastián Vizcaíno

Preoccupied with consolidating her empire and extending her sway over the South Sea, and engaged in European wars financed with the wealth of the Americas, Spain for a time had little interest in further explorations along the upper Pacific Coast of North America. Interest was renewed after the appearance of English and Dutch pirates eager to pounce on Spanish treasure ships, and the resulting necessity of finding a port of refuge, as well as supply, for the fabulous Manila or China galleons, which were beginning their annual trips from Acapulco.

These events brought to the forefront one Sebastian Vizcaino, who was to give San Diego the name it bears today.

Back in 1529, Charles V of Spain had promised Portugal to keep away from the Moluccas and to respect a boundary line well to the east of them and the Philippines, a line which in effect barred Spain from the Orient. But distances were great and memories short. In 1542, the same year that Cabrillo came to California, Ruy Lopez de Villalobos crossed the Pacific to the Philippine Islands with part of the fleet built by Cabrillo in Guatemala, and with instructions to open a trade route to the riches of the East. He cruised among the Philippines and the Spice Islands, seeking information about their products, and finally lost his ships and men to mutiny and capture by the Portuguese. After two heartbreaking attempts to return to Mexico in a small ship, he died of malarial fever on Mindanao, frustrated and forgotten. Later, as a result of this incident, in part at least, Portugal and Spain agreed to a new boundary line which gave the Philippines to Spain, while Portugal retained the far richer Moluccas or Spice Islands to the south. Now it was possible for Spain to establish a trade route.

The first successful trip to Acapulco was made in 1559, on direct orders of Philip 11 of Spain. The outward-bound trip from Mexico was a relatively easy one; the galleons slipped a little south out of Acapulco and then, with the northeast trade winds filling the sails, slid across the South Pacific, passing the Marshall and Caroline Islands, avoiding the monsoons, and threading their way through the Philippines to Manila on the South China Sea. Coming back was a different matter and involved many more dangers. An expedition, of which Fr. Andrés de Urdañeta – a chaplain and an experienced navigator – was the most outstanding member, pioneered a practical route and crossed in 129 days, though at the cost of sixteen lives. This was a northern or “Great Circle” route, which was based in part on Cabrillo’s observations of the prevailing winds in the northern Pacific. But it wasn’t until after 1565 that Spanish galleons began regular annual sailings between Acapulco and Manila, maintaining a trade that lasted for 250 years.

Leaving Manila, the galleons had to clear the straits known as Paso de Acapulco, a difficult passage through the archipelago, and one which sometimes required a month of maneuvering before the open seas could be reached. There was always the threat of typhoons. The galleons picked up favorable winds to take them northeast toward Japan – which was to be avoided, as ships driven ashore were sure to be plundered – and then turned east along the 41st or 42nd parallel, and with the favorable westerlies made the long run across the Pacific. After a landfall in the vicinity of Cape Mendocino, they turned south along the California coast, and, with the wind at their stern, sailed downhill to Acapulco.

It was a grueling voyage, usually taking up to seven months as compared to three going out. By the time the galleons reached the California coast nearly all hands would be suffering from scurvy. A port for fresh supplies was considered vital if the crews, as well as the passengers, were to get to Acapulco alive.

The establishment of the easterly and more difficult route was the work of many navigators. In 1584, the Manila galleon commander, Francisco de Gali, made the voyage and left a record of his observations. He claimed to have seen signs of the Northwest Passage, and casually mentioned passing Cape Mendocino, the first mention of it by name, though it had in all probability been sighted and named previously. Gali was ordered to further reconnoiter the California coast on his next voyage, but he died first and the work was delegated to Pedro de Unamuno, who left Manila on July 21, 1587, in a small ship, the Portuguese having seized his two larger ones. Unamuno arrived in Acapulco on November 22, after a fast trip, and has left a record of his observations of California’s coast and natives.

In 1696 an Italian merchant named Gemelli made a trip in the Manila galleon and wrote about “the terrible tempests that happen there, one upon the back of another, and for the desperate diseases that seize people, in seven or eight months, lying at sea, sometimes near the Line, sometimes cold, sometimes temperate and sometimes hot, which is enough to destroy a man of steel, much more flesh and blood . . .”

The galleons roughly followed the track of the sturdy junks of the Chinese, who surely knew of the winds and the currents and had been along the American coast upon occasion over the centuries, sometimes driven by storms and at other times for trade or exchange of native culture.

The situation in the Pacific was ready-made for pirates. The English and Dutch considered anything Spanish fair game, in view of Spain’s attempts to conquer Western Europe, and they early began plundering her ships in the Caribbean. There were two prizes in the Pacific: the silver ships from Peru carrying the treasures of the Incas north to the Isthmus for shipment to Spain, and the Manila galleons with the luxuries of the East for the new landed aristocracy of Mexico.

The Manila galleons were wonderful ships. They were loaded with all the riches collected throughout Indonesia, China, Japan, India and even the Middle East, and traded through Manila. They creaked and heaved under the weight of tons of ivory, Persian rugs, silks of all kinds, jade and jewels, spices and exotic foods, china and porcelain, camphor and sandlewood, cottons and women’s combs. The temptation offered by these lonely treasure ships of the Pacific was irresistible.

The first of the pirates to invade the South Sea was that dashing figure of romantic history, Sir Francis Drake – known to the Spanish as El Dragon, the dragon – who set out from England in 1577. He held religious services aboard the Golden Hind at noon, and harassed the Spanish by land and by sea along the South American and Mexican coasts. One Peruvian vessel, the Cacafuego, yielded more than eight million dollars in silver, gold and precious stones, as well as highly-prized Spanish charts of the Pacific. When his heavily laden ship, ballasted with silver bars, could take no more, Drake proceeded up into the Pacific, as far as or beyond the point reached by Ferrelo of the Cabrillo expedition, in his search for a short-cut passage back to the Atlantic and England, which, in common with all mariners of his day, he believed existed. But finding nothing but endless sea and running into storms, he turned back toward the California coast and on June 17, 1579, came to what he described as a “conveynient harborough,” which was Drake’s Bay, some thirty miles north of San Francisco. Here he built a fort to store his loot while the leaky Golden Hind was careened and repaired. The Indians were awed by the handsome and richly garbed Drake, eagerly proclaimed him a chief, and happily, though uncomprehendingly, looked on while he formally took possession of all of California for England in the name of Queen Elizabeth. He named it New Albion.

For the Spanish, when they learned about it, this was adding insult to injury, and, alarmed at last, they began to think they had better find that Northwest Passage before somebody else did, and perhaps establish some settlements and ports of refuge along the little known coastal frontier. Captains of the Manila galleons were under instructions to keep an eye out for the passage as adventurers seeking the fabulous pearls of La Paz were to need help and protection.

Then into the Pacific came the evil and ruthless pirate, Thomas Cavendish. He not only looted but pillaged and slaughtered his way through Spanish settlements in the New World, and then, hearing a report about a Manila galleon headed toward Baja California, lay in wait in Bernabe Bay, some 20 miles east of Cape San Lucas, for the unwary galleon then on its return trip from the Philippines. This bay was to become a regular lair for buccaneers and was known to them as Aguada Segura, safe watering place, or Puerto Seguro, safe port.

The galleon Santa Ana, which had the misfortune to cross his path, had considerable significance for the history of California, as aboard her was Sebastian Vizcaino, a Basque soldier of unusual talents. Vizcaino fought with the Spanish armies in Flanders and then showed up in Mexico, where he developed an eye for business as well as intrigue. He invested heavily in merchandise in Manila and was taking it back aboard the Santa Ana, expecting to reap a tremendous profit, when Cavendish’s pirate ships appeared from around the tip of Baja California, overhauled the Santa Ana, and shot her full of holes.

Vizcaino and the other passengers and crew were put ashore near San Jose del Cabo, well inside the tip of the peninsula, with provisions and wood for huts, and the Santa Ana was looted and set afire. The burning hulk drifted ashore in a storm, and Vizcaino was credited with organizing a boarding party which extinguished the flames and boarded up the leaky hull. After rigging up some kind of sails they managed to sail her across the Gulf to the mainland.

The pilot of the Santa Ana, who shared Vizcaino’s adventures, was one Sebastian Rodriguez Cermeno, who, after returning to service with the Manila galleons, may have been the second white man to see San Diego Bay. The following little-known incident took place in 1595. Cermeno’s galleon, the San Agustin, ran into storms in the north Pacific and he decided to take shelter in Drake’s Bay, which incidentally, he named San Francisco Bay. Here the San Agustin was wrecked in unexplained circumstances.

The resourceful Cermeno built a small boat which he named the Santa Buenaventura and turned her bow toward Navidad, Mexico, 2000 miles away. Ignoring the pleas of his weak and hungry men, who only wanted to go home, he painstakingly made surveys all the way down the coast, taking notes of points of prominence, eventually arriving at a bay where they spent some time resting and preparing for the run down the Baja California coast. He called it the Bay of Pescadores, which means Bay of Fishermen. It was either San Pedro or San Diego Bay.

When they got back to Navidad, Cermeno was censured for the loss of the valuable galleon and got little credit for his surveys, as some of those who accompanied him did not agree with all of his findings and observations. However, as a result of the seizure of the Santa Ana and of Cermeno’s experiences, a decision was reached in New Spain that an official expedition should be sent to look into the possibility of settling the northern coast.

At this point Vizcaino entered the history of California. His actions with the Santa Ana had brought praise from the king of Spain as well as from the viceroy of Mexico. The fable of California’s riches hadn’t died out, and Vizcaino obtained a license to fish for pearls off California, as well as authority for a private expedition to seize and settle lands to the north, at his own expense. At one point, Vizcaino offered to put his seven-year-old son in pawn for 2000 pesos, and said the boy’s mother would be willing to pay it off.

He had plenty of trouble getting under way, a change of viceroys complicating matters. And, as usual, Spain had a short memory. The new viceroy, Conde de Monterrey, didn’t look with much enthusiasm on the Basque merchant as the person to establish settlements and colonies for Spain, and reported in a letter to the king that it “seemed to me, with regard to the person, his quality and capital are not sufficient in connection with an enterprise which may come to be of such vast importance.” He felt that the king would be risking royal prestige if the expedition “were entrusted to a man as leader and chief whose position is obscure and who has not even in less degree, the resolution and capacity necessary for so great an enterprise.”

Monterrey finally and with great reluctance let the Vizcaino expedition proceed; events were to prove his fears somewhat justified.

“I have done all that lay in my power to show him honor while here and to clothe him with authority in view of the greater danger I foresee and fear on his account,” the viceroy wrote, complaining of the overbold bearing of the soldiers Vizcaino was taking with him and predicting that they would come to disobey orders, “all this giving rise to great disorder.”

Vizcaíno sailed in March of 1596, with three ships, four Franciscan fathers to convert the natives, and a force of soldiers with some wives and horses. Fifty men deserted in mainland ports before the expedition reached La Paz, where Vizcaino began setting up a colony on the same site abandoned so long before by Cortes Vizcaino gave it its present name of La Paz, because he had found the natives so peaceful, and then departed with two of the ships for explorations northward. Storms and troubles lay ahead. At one point, a soldier jabbed a native with his arquebus and started a fight in which a number of natives were killed, and Vizcaino and his men had to flee in small boats. An Indian arrow struck one of the men on the nose, in the excitement the boat overturned, and 19 men were drowned.

Back in La Paz, the natives were getting unruly, despite the efforts of the padres whom they respected and liked; the undisciplined soldiers were molesting their women. Storms prevented any real attempts at pearl fishing. With supplies running low, everybody became discouraged, and Vizcaino had to admit a temporary defeat. On October 28, two ships returned the would-be colonists to Mexico while Vizcaino made a final effort to explore the Gulf. Storms and a broken rudder forced his small ship back, and he also returned to Mexico, where he found himself in bad repute. But, undaunted, he regaled the country anew with the old stories of pearls as plentiful as fish, of rich salt deposits, of natives begging for Christianity, wearing gold and silver ornaments and clad in cotton cloaks of luxury. This propaganda was all calculated to give him another chance, and it worked.

The viceroy went along with the scheme, writing to the king that the new expedition should be “for the purpose merely of ascertaining definitely what there is there, in order that complete assurance be had concerning the value of pearl fishing, and that greater light may be thrown on what related to the defense and security of these realms and the ships which make the China voyage.”

He also wisely recommended that there be more control over the expedition, that the members be carefully screened to avoid repetition of the Indian troubles, that it be at least partly financed by the Crown, and its scope widened. This plan was approved by the Council of the Indies, but the start was delayed by the appearance in the Pacific of the Dutch pirate Oliver Van Noort, who was reported lying in wait for the Manila galleon off Cape San Lucas. A Spanish force failed to run him down and the Vizcaino expedition, which was to mean so much to San Diego and California, finally got under way. Vizcaino had definite instructions as follows: he was to explore carefully from Cape San Lucas to Cape Mendocino, and could proceed as far north as Cape Blanco, but, if the coast line turned west, he was to proceed only 100 miles; he was not to survey large bays but merely to note their entrances and possibilities for shelter from storms; under no circumstances was he to change names of landmarks already on the maps; he was to establish no settlements; he was to keep out of trouble with the natives; and he was not to enter the Gulf going north, but perhaps could on the return trip.

He had four small ships: the flagship San Diego; the Santo Tomas; the launch Tres Reyes, and a small boat which apparently did not have a name. The San Diego was a ship of about 200 tons. There is no description of the Santo Tomas except that she was a Peruvian coasting vessel, old and unmaneuverable. The San Diego came from Guatemala and probably was of the caravel type, but by 1602 some or all of her masts could have been square-rigged. The Tres Reyes was a small frigate, built at Acapulco, with three masts and no deck – an open boat used for shallow waters but presumably very seaworthy. Aboard were a mapmaker, Geronimo Martinez de Palacios, and three Carmelite friars, one of whom was Fr. Antonio de la Ascension. Two reports were made on this expedition: the official journal, which bears the name of Vizcaino, but was written by a member of his party; and a summary which Fr. Ascension wrote in 1620 from the notes of his personal diary, and which contains graphic descriptions of the San Diego Bay area. As Vizcaino proceeded up the coast, he renamed everything in sight in defiance of his instructions, and his names have survived to this day. His excuse was that since the Cabrillo observations were so inaccurate that he could not find the localities Cabrillo had mentioned, he had had to start all over again. Vizcaino had an eye for history as well as for business.

Following the coast northward, the expedition noted the “many smokes,” or fires, in the interior, as had Cabrillo and his men, and commented that there were so many of them that at night from afar they looked like a procession and in daytime the sky was overcast. The Indians burned vast open lands to drive game into areas where it could be hunted down and killed.

Approaching San Diego, Fr. Ascension wrote that “they reached some four small islands, two shaped like sugar loafs and the other two somewhat larger. These were named the Cuatro Coronados.” Fr. Ascension’s report does not agree with Vizcaino’s, which records that they named them Islas de San Martin. Cabrillo called them the Desert Islands. But the name “Coronado” survives.

Vizcaino’s journal of the expedition reports on their arrival and stay in San Diego, in November, 1602, as follows:

“The next day, Sunday, the 10th of the month, we arrived at a port which must be the best to be found in all the South Sea, for, besides being protected on all sides and having good anchorage, it is in latitude 33½o. It has very good wood and water, many fish of all kinds, many of which we caught with seine and hooks. On the land there is much game, such as rabbits, hares, deer, very large quail, royal ducks, thrushes, and many other birds.

“On the 12th of the said month, which was the day of the glorious San Diego, the general, admiral, religious, captains, ensigns, and almost all the men went ashore. A hut was built and mass was said in celebration of the feast of Senor San Diego. When it was over the general called a council to consider what was to be done in this port, in order to get through quickly. It was decided that the admiral, with the chief pilot, the pilots, the masters, calkers, and seamen should scour the ships, giving them a good cleaning, which they greatly needed, and that Captain Peguero, Ensign Alarcon, and Ensign Martin de Aguilar should each attend to getting water for his ship, while Ensign Juan Francisco, and Sergeant Miguel de Lagar, with the carpenters, should provide wood.

“When this had all been agreed upon, a hundred Indians appeared on a hill with bows and arrows and with many feathers on their heads, yelling noisily at us. The general ordered Ensign Juan Francisco to go to them with four arquebusiers, Father Fray Antonio following him in order to win their friendship. The ensign was instructed that if the Indians fled he should let them go, but if they waited he should regale them. The Indians waited, albeit with some fear. The ensigns and soldiers returned, and the general, his son, and the admiral went toward the Indians. The Indians seeing this, two men and two women came down from a hill. They having reached the general, and the Indian women weeping, he cajoled and embraced them, giving them some things. Reassuring the others by signs, they descended peacefully, whereupon they were given presents. The net was cast and fish were given them. Whereupon the Indians became more confident and went to their rancherias and we to our ships to attend to our affairs.

“Friday, the 15th of the month, the general went aboard the frigate, taking with him his son, Father Fray Antonio, the chief pilot, and fifteen arquebusiers, to go and take the soundings of a large bay which entered the land. He did not take the cosmographer with him, as he was ill and occupied with the papers of the voyage. That night, rowing with the flood tide, he got under way and at dawn he was six leagues within the bay, which he found to be the best, large enough for all kinds of vessels, more secure than at the -anchorage, and better for careening the ships, for they could be placed high and dry during the flood tide and taken down at ebb tide, even if they were of a thousand tons.

“I do not place in this report the sailing directions, descriptions of the land, or soundings, because the cosmographer and pilots are keeping an itinerary in conformity with the art of navigation.

“In this bay the general, with his men, went ashore. After they had gone more than three leagues along it a number of Indians appeared with their bows and arrows, and although signs of peace were made to them, they did not dare to approach, excepting a very old Indian woman who appeared to be more than one hundred and fifty years old and who approached weeping. The general cajoled her and gave her some beads and something to eat. This Indian woman, from extreme age, had wrinkles on her belly which looked like a blacksmith’s bellows, and the navel protruded bigger than a gourd. Seeing this kind treatment the Indians came peaceably and took us to their rancherias, where they were gathering their crops and where they made their paresos of seeds like flax. They had pots in which they cooked their food, and the women were dressed in skins of animals. The general would not allow any soldier to enter their rancherias; and, it being already late, he returned to the frigate, many Indians accompanying him to the beach. Saturday night he reached the captain’s ship, which was ready; wood, water, and fish were brought on board, and on Wednesday, the 20th of said month, we set sail. I do not state, lest I should be tiresome, how many times the Indians came to our camps with skins of martens and other things. Until the next day, when we set sail, they remained on the beach shouting. This port was given the name of San Diego.”

It seems certain that Vizcaino’s ships first were anchored in the lee of Point Loma, behind Ballast Point, which appears prominently on the expedition’s maps of the bay, but later were moved farther into the harbor for beaching and cleaning. Just where is not known. The narrative says they explored the bay for six leagues, or about 18 miles. Vizcaino’s latitude of 33o 30′ N. Latitude at San Diego was in error, as had been Cabrillo’s calculation of 34o 20′ N. Latitude.

The diary of Fr. Ascensión gives us some additional information. The morning after their arrival, Fr. Ascension and a party climbed to the crest of Point Loma, which they described as wooded, and to the north they saw “another good port.” This was Mission Bay.

Fresh water evidently was obtained from springs in the general area of North Island, springs that existed into modem times. Fr. Ascension reports:

“Water was taken on the large sand bar in the middle of the bay. This was all surrounded by sea so that it appears to be a sand island. Some large holes like graves were dug, and when the tide was high the water which trickled into them was sweet and good, and when the tide ebbed it was brackish and bad (a secret of nature and the work of the hand of God).

“The country surrounding the port was very fertile and near the beach there are very fine meadows. The general and Father Antonio with other soldiers made a turn around all the ensenada and looked over the country. They were pleased to see its fertility and good character, but what gives them the greatest pleasure was the extensiveness, capacity and security of the port, its good depth and its many fish.

Fr. Ascension reports finding a great quantity of sparkling golden pyrites: “I mean that they sparkle like spangles, a sure sign that there must be gold mines in the mountains.” He thought the Indians knew something about silver, though they didn’t have any. On the sand-bar where water was found he saw a reddish material which he thought might be amber.

But most fascinating to him were the Indians and the paint they used on their bodies.

“The black paint, or rather blue paint, appeared to be silvered, and on being asked by signs of what it was made, they displayed some stones of metal of London blue from which they made it. They explained by signs that it was made from those stones by people inland who were bearded and wore clothes and ornaments like the Spaniards, pointing out some ornamental braid such as some of the Spanish wore on their jackets, and saying they were like those. They also pointed out some mulberry-colored velvet breeches well adorned with fringes which the general was wearing, and said that those people wore ornaments and clothes like our Spaniards, and that they looked like them and treated them similarly.”

Fr. Ascension wanted to do something about this.

“The people of whom the Indians told us might have been foreigners, Hollanders or English, who had made the voyage by the Strait of Anian and might be settled on the other coast of this island, facing the Mediterranean Sea of California. Since the realm is narrow, as has been said, it may be that the other sea is near that place; for the Indians offered to guide and take us to the place where they say the, people are settled. If this is so, it is probable that they have large interests and profits there, since their voyage is so long and difficult. Still, it is true that by passing through the Strait of Anian and reaching their land by that latitude, their voyage is only half as long as that from the Port San Juan de Ulúa (Veracruz) to Spain. This will be clearly seen from evidence furnished by the globe. In this case it will be to His Majesty’s interest to endeavor to assure himself of the fact: first, in order to know the route, and secondly, in order to expel from there such dangerous enemies, lest they contaminate the Indians with their sects and liberty of conscience, by which great harm to their souls will follow, whereby instructing them and leading them in the paths of the true law of God will be made very difficult.”

His concern, however, apparently failed to alert the king. Who were the bearded strangers? Perhaps they were only members of the Spanish Oñate expedition which secretly had entered New Mexico, but probably we shall never know for sure.

When the expedition put out to sea and again headed north, the general sent Ensign Sebastian Melendes ahead with a frigate, “to examine a bay (Mission Bay) which was to windward some four leagues, and directed the pilot should sound it, map it, and find out what was there. He did so, and the next day ordered the return to the captain’s ship. He reported to the general that he had entered the said bay, that it was a good port, although it had at its entrance a bar of little more than two fathoms depth, and that there was a very large grove at the estuary which extended into the land, and many Indians: and that he had not gone ashore. Thereupon we continued our voyage…” [for more, see “Diary of Sebastian Vizcaino” under Translations]

On Santa Catalina an Indian woman brought Vizcaino two pieces of figured China silk, in fragments, “telling him that they had got them from people like ourselves, who had Negroes; that they had come on a ship which was driven by a strong wind to the coast and wrecked, and that it was farther on.” Unfavorable winds prevented them from reaching the place on the island where the Indians reported that the ship had been wrecked, and the expedition continued its voyage. Vizcaino named Monterey Bay in honor of the viceroy and reported that it was a wonderful harbor of refuge, when actually it was only an open roadstead. This report was to cause a lot of trouble for later explorers who came by land and couldn’t find Monterey Bay.

After getting as far north as Cape Blanco, and finding the coast bearing westward, he turned for home, according to instructions, and arriving in Mexico was complimented for his surveys. The journey was considered a success, despite the loss of more than forty men by accident and sickness.

Preparations were begun to occupy Monterey, and Vizcaino was given command of a Manila galleon. But the arrival of a new viceroy again upset plans. The Marques de Montesclaros countermanded the order making Vizcaino a galleon commander and instead made him mayor of Tehuantepec. Later he accused Vizcaino of trying to bribe him, and hanged the cartographer Martinez on a similar charge.

The King of Spain was somewhat displeased with all this, and insisted that Vizcaino be given command of a galleon, that he resurvey Monterey on a return trip, and later establish a colony there. The viceroy, however, wasn’t going to lose the argument entirely. He intrigued the King with some tales of mysterious islands of solid gold and silver somewhere off Japan, and as a result the planned settlement of California was abandoned.

Vizcaino, however, bounced up as the viceroy’s ambassador to Japan, with authority to look for the islands of gold and silver, which of course were never found, and to survey the Japanese coast for possible harbors of refuge for the Spanish galleons. He spent three years in and out of Japan, until 1614, and accomplished little except to antagonize the Japanese by his contempt for their royalty and customs, and to arouse their suspicions as to Spain’s real intentions.

In those days Japan was a highly civilized, open country with large military forces and merchant fleets trading throughout the vast eastern Pacific. Dutch and Spanish traders and diplomats were followed by missionaries seeking to Christianize the Japanese. The activities of such men as Vizcaino, and in particular the increasing arrival of missionaries, were in large measure responsible for a sudden and drastic decision which shut Japan off from the modem world. It remained, withdrawn and sullen, behind its own bamboo curtain until the arrival of Commodore Perry in 1853.

Vizcaino died in Mexico in about 1628. The Manila galleon continued her lonely course across the Pacific, and, as it turned out, once in sight of the American mainland, all hands were too anxious to reach Acapulco and home to worry about stopping at Monterey or San Diego. So, as far as we know, no ship entered San Diego Bay for more than a century and a half. California, for all practical purposes, was all but forgotten, until the day came when Spain was confronted with a new threat – Russia.