In June of 1579 Sir Francis Drake was sailing his ship the Golden Hinde, as a privateer for Queen Elizabeth I. The ship was leaking badly, but having pillaged the Spanish settlements in South America and burned Panama City, Drake could not return to England the way he came. He had to sail on, around the world.

But first the ship needed repair. He didn't know what the problem could be; he could examine and repair the ship in dry dock, but the nearest was on the other side of the world.

So he looked for a quiet harbor where he could heave the ship over on its side and look at the bottom. But the west coast of North America was unexplored - he had to find his own harbor.

On June 17, 1579, he pulled around the hook of a point and found a "fair and good harbor". He paid it the ultimate compliment: he thought it looked like England, white cliffs and all.

Over a sand bar and up a channel, his crew found a small cove, protected from the prevailing westerly winds and the summer mist that Drake called "fogges" by a hook of a sand spit.

So 422 years ago, Drake ordered the vessel unloaded. The ballast was shifted and the crew careened the ship, counterbalancing possibly by a second ship, or lashing in place by lines connected to shore. The Golden Hinde keeled over on its side, exposing the hull.

The ship was repaired over the spring and summer. It was such a good job that Drake did indeed sail around the world and back to England.

All this repair work was done in the little cove shown on a map that Drake made with his own hand - Labled "Portus Novae Albionis".

The mystery began later, in 1956, when the small cove and sand spit were flooded with sand and debris, making the enterance to Drake's Estero (a small, shallow bay that opens onto the larger Drakes Bay) look completely different from the port shown on Sir Frances Drake's map.

Suddenly, towns in Oregon, Washington, British Columbia, and Alaska claimed that they were the true location where the Golden Hinde landed. Seventeen sites in all say they were Drake's port.

During an April storm in 2001, the spit and cove were uncovered - making the geography perfectly match the map once more.
I highly reccomend a trip to Drake's Beach, and the rest of the Point Reyes National Seashore in Marin County, California. Bring a picnic and enjoy the drive past the historic farms, the beach and Point Reyes Lighthouse.

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