Why is Santa Barbara Harbor so great?

To start off…we probably visit the harbor several times a month and have done so ever since we built our first dory. For us it is a calm beautiful place to take the dory. No worries about the sea state or parking; simply back the boat down the ramp and go.

The harbor is always interesting and offers up surprises: from the sea slugs at the ramp to some of the prettiest well kept boats in Socal. Habor seals, pelicans, dolphins off shore, there is always some type of wildlife to see.

A typical summer outing for us involves rowing up to the restaurant area and having lunch at the Alley. Nothing better than a pulled pork sandwich and a Hoppy Poppy as the wind and fog blows off the ocean (bring your jacket). After lunch we head to the sand spit at the harbor entrance. This area offers tons of fun for the kids. Boogey boarding on the east side to perfect cannon ball episodes on the other. If the mood is right or the weather a bit chilly we head to the Maritime Museum. At this point both my boys are at least aware of what is a Fresnel lens and what saturation diving entails (maybe). Downwind from the museum toward the harbor entrance don’t miss a chance to coast underneath the Channel Cat!

Sterns Warf is also not to be missed, coasting under the pier and around the pilings can sharpen your rowing skills and if your lucky pull in a flounder or two.

Sailing..sailing what about the sailing. I have to admit this harbor has taught me the most about learning to sail the dory. Every afternoon the wind kicks up to 10-15 knots, usually from the west and boom you are off to the races. Take the boat out into the open ocean on a broad reach nothing finer! Bring her back up the main channel and most days its blood and tears to make that final tack by the bait pier. But triumph and joy when you can pull it off and ghost on to the dock in front of the revelers on the Double Dolphin.

Another wondrous outing is to go for a row or sail and then have dinner at Brophy Bros. Something very cool about hopping off the boat, maybe with wet shoes or shorts and having dinner while looking down on your boat. Of course, finish off the evening with a moonlit row back to the boat ramp.

What I have offered up in a few short words is a gem of a harbor right in our back yard. Full of all the adventure and finery as you are willing to discover. See you out there….

What is a dory, anyway?

Yes, Nemo’s endearing forgetful friend is Dory. But a dory is also a type of boat. The word dory seems like something from the distant past. We know the word, but can’t quite place the image or the idea of it.

John Wesley Powell was the first to run the Grand Canyon in a dory. One armed, strapped to a chair, charging the rapids of the almighty Colorado River. The Grand Banks fisherman of the North Atlantic used dories. Pull hard boys lest you not make it back to the mother ship..a blow is a coming. Local Carpinterians, Jeff White and Paul Hodges, rowed lifeguard dories, dominating the dory racing scene in the 1960s. Watch out for that Ventura Pier….Jeff!

A simple definition might be: a flat bottomed boat with side and bottom planking running length wise; and no keel structure. This dry definition, however, doesn’t strike at what is the heart of the term dory. A bit of history tells use what they were used for. But still; what is a dory?

A dory is a vessel, a magical carpet and a time machine. It is a lazy summer afternoon quietly floating among the kelp. It’s a bottle of Central Coast Syrah under a full moon with your companion. It’s an adrenaline charged rush through the surf break at Refugio. It’s a trip of a lifetime off some forgotten coast in Baja or Tomales Bay. And it is an eight year old daydreaming of undersea worlds while being rowed across Santa Barbara Harbor. …

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