19th annual Conservancy Ball will celebrate island’s rugged coast

The 19th annual Catalina Island Conservancy Ball celebrates an aspect of the isle’s rugged coastline familiar to many Islanders and boaters alike: the secluded inlets that ring the Island.

The 19th annual Catalina Island Conservancy Ball celebrates an aspect of the isle’s rugged coastline familiar to many Islanders and boaters alike: the secluded inlets that ring the Island.

“Catalina’s Coves: All Shore, Let’s Explore!” is the theme for Conservancy’s annual fundraising event from 6 to 11 p.m., Saturday, April 5, in the Avalon Casino Ballroom. Tickets and sponsorships are on sale now for this black-tie event, cosponsored by the Conservancy support group, the Marineros. Ticket sales close Friday, March 21. Ball auction items are welcomed. For tickets or more information, go to catalinaconservancy.org.

While stories of boating adventures will be part of Catalina’s Coves, each cove has many stories to tell as well. To bend a phrase, “If these rocks could talk …” Here is a bit of history and lore about some of them.

Avalon Bay – This horseshoe-shaped inlet was one of the most populous part of the Island when Spanish explorers arrived, led by Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo. Etta Marilla, sister-in-law of one-time Island owner George Shatto, is said to have come up with the name “Avalon.” Her inspiration was taken from Alfred Lord Tennyson’s poem “Idylls of the King.”

Catalina Harbor – The cut of this long inlet located on the southern side of the Island is a half a mile from Isthmus Cove by land and about 14 and a half miles by sea around the West End. A popular filming site for Hollywood through the years, “Cat” Harbor was the final resting place for the Ning Po. This was the 1753-vintage Chinese junk that survived rebellion and piracy through a long career, and had been anchored off Catalina since 1917. Long reputed to be the oldest ship afloat, it burned in Cat Harbor in a fire that destroyed other vessels, including the Lewellyn J. Morse.

Emerald Bay – Formerly known as Johnson’s Landing, this inlet’s crystal-clear waters reflect the colors of its namesake gemstone, caused by the relatively shallow sandy bottom. Catalina’s probable first resident of European heritage, Samuel Prentiss, sought the truth in Tongva stories of buried Spanish treasure on Catalina. He lived for three decades at Emerald Bay and died in 1854 at age 72, treasure unfound.

Empire Landing – This bay on the north coast, about two miles from Isthmus Cove, was believed to once be adjacent to the Tongva Native Americans’ temple on the hill above.

Fourth of July Cove – This home of the Fourth of July Yacht Club received its holiday moniker after the Banning family decided to picnic in the pleasant little cove just west of the Isthmus.

It was a lovely picnic spot and such a nice day, the story goes, that the midsummer holiday celebration became a Banning family tradition.

Isthmus Cove – This is the inlet on the northern side of the Island that, with Catalina Harbor on the southern side, nearly pinches the isle into two separate Islands.

During the Civil War, the Union Army built a barracks at the site. The very same building has served the Isthmus Yacht Club for more than a half-century.

Italian Gardens – Located on the northern coast around Long Point from Avalon, this favorite angling bay of Italian fishermen out of San Pedro was named for their fishing success there.

Little Harbor – This windward inlet shares its bay with Shark Harbor. The two are divided by a rock formation called the Whale’s Tail. This picturesque spot was once an ancient Native American town site, and the location of an inn built by Dr. O.T. Fellows in 1894 to serve the cross-Island stagecoach line.

Lovers Cove – The next cove to the east from Avalon Bay along Pebbly Beach Road is this popular cove for glass bottom boats and semi-submersibles.

The cove was the anchorage of the Chinese junk Ning Po when it operated as a Chinese restaurant around 1933 before sailing to Cat Harbor where it eventually met its demise.

Shark Harbor – Although there may be sharks in the water, the site was given its name for a rock formation offshore that, depending on the tide, looks like a shark fin (a guano covered shark fin) sticking out of the water.

White’s Landing – The widest sand beach on the Island is located at this arced northern-shore inlet. Thousands of years ago, it was a large Tongva village.

White’s Landing was also the home of Swayne Lawson, who came to Catalina in 1862.

He lived in a cave with only a few goats he tamed for companions.

It has been home to the Balboa Yacht Club since 1957, and the Catalina Experience, a youth and family camp.

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