Hello Friends and Family,

Santa Cruz, Part 3

Link to this year's index by clicking here.

Back before most families owned automobiles, tourists visited Santa Cruz by train. That tradition is preserved by the Santa Cruz Big Trees & Pacific Railway, which operates passenger and freight services on one of the oldest and most historic lines in California. When the route opened in 1875 it carried lumber as well as picnickers and tourists to the Big Trees (giant redwoods) and to Santa Cruz. Current service is available starting in Felton (in the Santa Cruz Mountains) or here at the Santa Cruz Beach — one way or round trip.

Standing on the second floor of a new Maritime Museum, I was lucky to hear the train whistle and was able to rush outside to catch a nice photo of the train from a perfect vantage point.

It was only after I returned home and was processing my photos that I noticed the warning sign for bicyclists — cautioning about the recessed railroad tracks and the possibility of catching your bicycle wheel in the gap and being thrown from your bike. I realized that would not be a fun experience but somehow I was amused by the sign. Please forgive me.

From the wharf, one can see the Santa Cruz Lighthouse. A couple of my photos from last week showed the wharf from the lighthouse — this week, the view is reversed.

Then something caught my eye, a double-hulled canoe being paddled in the relatively calm waters between the wharf and the lighthouse. Looks like fun.

And here is the wharf from a closer vantage point, one which is wider to allow a better view. All along the wharf are restaurants, snack bars, ice cream dispensaries and the ever-present tourist gift shops.

Stagnaro Brothers Restaurant & Seafood is one of the older establishments on the wharf — it has been here longer than I've been on this Earth. I decided to have lunch here — ordering crab cakes and french fries. I was a bit disappointed in the crab cakes, they were more like crab balls that had been deep-fried. I prefer crab patties (à la hamburger patties) which are then pan-fried or broiled.

Note that they also have a seafood counter where you can purchase your fish or crab and take it home to prepare it the way you want it done. There are also free samples.

After lunch, I wandered around the wharf and met Mr. Seagull. I was surprised that he allowed me to approach so close and snap his photo. I guess that he is so used to humans here that he has lost that natural fear.

BTW, when I lived in Santa Cruz, I took some sailing lessons from an old salt of a sailor (it was a lot of fun). He did not like seagulls, calling them the "rats of the sea".

Anchored just off the beach was a yacht, the Lady Bahi. I found a listing online for the yacht — custom-built, 137 feet, four luxury cabins (plus six cabins for crew — "┬áto ensure a relaxed luxury yacht experience"). The yacht is powered by two Caterpillar (C-18) 575 hp diesel engines and propelled by her single screw propeller. She is capable of a top speed of 12 knots and comfortably cruises at 10 knots. With her 24,603 fuel tanks, she has a maximum range of 2,500 nautical miles at 10 knots. Her water tanks store around 7,570 of freshwater. The flag is Jamaican.

Standing on the wharf, one hears barking — not dogs but sea lions. It looks like nap time for most of them — probably fed all morning on fish and other seafood and are now resting to digest breakfast.

I did notice that the one sea lion in the middle front had a white patch on its rump. I zoomed in on the image and it appears to be a healed injury — maybe a close call with a shark or a bite from another sea lion. Life can be tough for wild animals.

Walking along Beach Street, I saw a familiar sight which I did not know anything about except that it was here when I lived in the area. A bit of research revealed that it is part of the decayed La Bahia Apartment Complex. I was able to find online information that after a long battle, the historic complex is going to be refurbished and transformed into a luxury hotel. It's a terrific spot, right across from the Santa Cruz Boardwalk thus one can expect that the room rates will be higher than I can afford.

And finally, we reach the beach, the first section is set up for volleyball. There are 16 courts available for rent, all with professional grade nets, set at different heights for men and women. Both professional and amateur tournaments are held here, including several national tournaments.

From the ocean side of the beach, one sees a magnificent view of the Santa Cruz Beach Casino Arcade. The development at this location began in 1865 when the first of several bathhouses were constructed and the railroad was convinced to deliver customers to this spot. In 1904, the magnificent Neptune Casino opened to the “blare of music, a blaze of rockets and the boom of bursting bombs.” Unfortunately, two years later, a fire leveled the casino. Within a year, a more refined and streamlined complex opened, along with a brand new natatorium (indoor swimming pool) and boardwalk.

Even though it is called a "casino", gambling has never been allowed publicly although boats would gladly take adults who wished to indulge out to gaming boats anchored just off the coast. The same was true during Prohibition for those who wished to indulge in adult beverages.

These days, the casino arcade is more targeted at youngsters who want to play all the latest video games. Wow, play video games until your thumbs fall off then head down the Boardwalk to enjoy the rides. What a great way to spend a day at the beach.

To be continued...

Life is good.

B. David

P. S., All photos and text © B. David Cathell Photography, Inc. — www.bdavidcathell.com