In the spring of 1965, I stopped on my way home from work to visit with Bob Strathearn, a friend since childhood. He invited me fly with him to Bahia de Los Angeles. By this time L.A Bay had become quite a well-known fishing destination. Several of my friends in Simi Valley towed their boats to San Felipe once a year, then made a one or two day run to the Bay. Bobís father, Dave, and two others had already gone, with three boats, to the Bay. Each boat had at least one passenger, maybe two. Bob had arranged to meet them there.
Bob had a Cesna 170 or 180, Iím not sure which. We flew from their private landing field, high in the hills, in the middle of the Strathearn Ranch, north of Simi Valley. I remember bucking a strong headwind going through the San Gorgonio Pass towards Palm Springs. Before landing for fuel and Immigration clearance at Calexico and Mecicali, Bob mentioned that his generator was not working properly. That bothered me more than a little, but he said the plane would be fine, and not to worry. I had to take his word for that.
Bahia de Los Angeles, Angel de La Guarda in the background
I had talked to a number of people who had flown in and out of Bahia de Los Angeles, and without exception, they said that the only way to approach the landing strip was from the south, coming in as low as possible over the little ridge south of the Village. The reason, of course, was that the prevailing wind was from the north. Also, at that time, the south end of the runway was the main street of town. I assumed that Bob had been given this advice. As we flew low over the strip north to south, I looked down at the boats anchored in the Bay. They were all facing north, into the wind. As we circled back to the north, Bob throttled down a bit, and we started to lose elevation. When I asked him about it, he said he was not comfortable coming in at treetop level over the ridge, (well, make that brushtop!) The plan was to approach downwind, at a very low level, but over flat ground. Well, our little airship just seemed to float along on the wind, in no hurry to put her wheels on the ground. By the time she finally touched down, we had used at least half the runway, and the town was looking awfully close! Bob braked all that he dared to, then as it appeared that we would surely hit one of the buildings, he made a right turn onto a side-street, and came to a stop just short of another building! Well, thatís one way to attract attention! We took more than a little flack from all our friends, and some smirking from the locals.
North end of the Bay, and Smith Island
We got a room with a shower in the "Motel Diaz," ate breakfast and dinner in the restaurant, and got bag lunches to take with us while out on the boats. We were not exactly roughing it, as in olden days!
We spent several nice days exploring, fishing and relaxing in general. One day we made a run south as far as Bahia de Las Animas. That was a first for me.
John Cushman, admiring our catch for the day
When the day of departure came, all the boats were headed north at first light. Bob and I left after breakfast, flew over the boats, and had an uneventful trip home.
Dejavu all over again!
The locals were not going to let our catch go to waste!
The sad footnote to this trip is that two or three years later Dave Strathearn and two of his boys, Gordon and Lloyd, left the Bay in Lloyds two engine airplane about two hours after all the boats had left. They flew low over the boats, then the plane just seemed to roll over and plunge into the gulf. The bodies were never recovered. That was the last time that any of the boating group made that trip.
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