Monday, July 19, 2010

Pirates overun the harbor

Saturday and Sunday were supposed to be really hot. We wanted to go somewhere cool to beat the heat, but we wanted to beat the crowds as well.

We know how crowded our L.A. County beaches can get - but what about going north?

The little beach town of Port Hueneme is one of the West Coast's busy deep water ports, receiving shipments of cars, fruit, and other Asian imports every day. If you eat a banana today, it probably came through the harbor at Port Hueneme. It is also home to a Naval Base that is the home of the famous Naval Construction Battalion, or "Seabees."

The port in the harbor was built by local farmers, so they could ship their crops to market. Later on, federal money helped develop the port. We drove off the 101 freeway through the broad, flat fields of strawberries and other crops to the beach and marina. The air was pleasantly cool, and the breeze off the water stirred the air.

The Ventura County Maritime Museum is a charming collection of historical artifacts and maritime lore, housed in a weathered frame building facing a marina. There is a display that recounts the history of the Port, but there's also a trove of information about sea-faring around the world. Models of sailing ships and paintings of battleships at sea are fascinating, whether you're a student of maritime lore or just amazed by the craftsmanship of creating these tiny replicas.

There's a collection of scrimshaw, including this whale tooth carved in 1815, showing a pair of quite attractive mermaids guarding an image of a sailing ship.

We wove our way up the coast, along the shore at Oxnard, past a huge puffing smokestack from a power plant, and finally reached the harbor at Ventura. Here a large modern complex of restaurants and shops ranged alongside the marina, overlooking sail boats, yachts, catamarans, paddle-boats for rent, awning-shaded tour boats, and a few fishing boats, looking bulky and out of place next to the pleasure craft. There was even a replica of a Chinese junk!

Banners and signs proclaimed this weekend a Pirate Festival - boats sported the Jolly Roger flag, and a pirate hoard - costumed and bewhiskered and brandishing cutlasses - roamed the docks and ice-cream stands of the harbor.

We had lunch on the balcony of a seafood restaurant, overlooking the crowds. There were dogs dressed as pirates. Pirate kayakers. Pirate mommies pushing strollers.

Roaming bands of pirates took photos of other roaming bands of pirates. Pirates sat at outdoor cafes, and let their children play on a giant inflatable slide shaped like a sinking Titanic, sliding down the steep deck to land on bouncy icebergs - the perfect amusement activity for a festival promoting piracy, simulated death at sea for the kids!

This dog is returning from a tour of the harbor on an inflatable boat.

I'm not sure what this pirate lass is wearing on her back - is it a teddy bear pirate? A backpack?

Not to worry - the breeze was cool, the beer was cold, and the crowds were happy. It was a good way to beat the heat by the water.


Sue said...

Oh what I wouldn't give for a cool breeze right now...even with pirates! This looks like a great way to spend the day:)

Anonymous said...

I was all set to comment on the beauty of that particular scrimshaw, but now I am shaking my head and grinning over pirates roaming about the ice cream stands and your description of the inflatable slide.

You really do take some wonderful excursions. Thanks for bringing us along for the ride! :)

Big Bad Bald Bastard said...

What a gorgeous blue sky- simply magnificent!

I have a good friend who does a singing pirate gig around Halloween.

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

Effing Pirates! So that's how they work!

SUEB0B said...

Next time you come up to the county, give me a holler. I'd love to have a drink with you.