330. McAbee Beach

McAbee Beach Its official name is Arena Gorda (or fat sand), but most people know it as McAbee Beach. It is named for John McAbee, a Canadian who built a small village of brightly colored tent-cabins for visitors right on the beach in the 1890s. During the summer months, people living in California's hot Central Valley came to Monterey to cool off. They'd rent one of McAbee's tents and enjoy a few days of sunbathing and enjoying the views. Visitors could even rent a small sailboat from McAbee's fleet and take a pleasure cruise on Monterey Bay. At the time it was believed that sleeping in the fog was good for your health. Earlier in the 19th century locals referred to the beach as La Playa de los Insurgentes, or "Beach of the Insurgents." In 1818 French-born Argentine privateer Hippolyte Bouchard invaded Monterey in a quest to liberate California from Spanish control. Some believed Bouchard landed his force of 400 men on this very beach. In the 1860s shore whalers from the Portuguese Azores launched their boats and operated an early whaling station here. It was also here that whalers stripped and cooked the blubber from humpback whales. For almost 40 years the popular little steamship Gypsy sailed the coast from San Diego to Puget Sound with a stop at Monterey. On a fateful night in 1905 she wrecked at McAbee Beach. The captain steamed toward a lantern he thought was guiding him to the end of the city wharf. It was actually the night torch at a construction site, shining from a bluff overlooking Monterey Bay. The Gypsy ran aground and wrecked. In the next few days many onlookers visited the site to watch as the ship sank and debris washed ashore. In 1906, McAbee leased his tent-cabins to a group of Chinese fishermen and their families, thus establishing the fourth Chinese village on the Monterey Peninsula. They soon built a fishing village complete with temple. Besides fishing squid, the villagers began collecting the waste products from the sardine canneries, turning them into fertilizer and chicken feed. Soon the canneries took notice, launching a new source of revenue for the canners of Cannery Row.