San Diego’s Shelter Island has an interesting history. Early nautical charts from the last century designated this area as a mud bank. During World War II there was a lot of dredging in San Diego Bay to accommodate all the navy traffic and this is where they dumped all the spoil. By the 1960s it was being touted as a “man-made wonderland of sub-tropical splendor.”
Now that is quite a bit of San Diego hyperbole but the island is truly a pretty cool place to hang out on a Sunday afternoon.
The Friendship Bell is a gift from San Diego’s sister city, Yokohama, Japan. The “island” which is actually connected to the mainland by a narrow causeway, stretches for about a mile and a half across from the Naval Air Station at North Island which is part of Coronado Island and that isn’t an island either since it’s connected to the mainland by the Silver Strand which stretches from the Hotel Del Coronado to Imperial Beach (almost Mexico). San Diego is hung up on islands. There’s a Fiesta Island in Mission Bay Park and that’s not an island either. And of course, there’s Harbor Island across from the airport and that’s not an island. It’s also man-made. Then there’s Island Avenue in downtown and it isn’t an island. The nearest real islands are in Mexico but you can see them on a clear day from San Diego. So, if there aren’t any real islands at least you can see some. Anyway, back to Shelter Island. Originally all the building were supposed to have a Tiki theme and many of the original hotels still have the Hawaii Tiki look. (Hawaii is an island…) The whole thing is owned by the Port of San Diego and businesses lease their properties. Along the waterfront is a narrow park that runs from the Friendship Bell, passes the memorial to the Tuna Fisherman, and on to the north end of the island mud bank sub-tropical paradise. Families come to barbecue, watch the water, play in the small beaches, and walk dogs. There’s a sailboat anchorage just off the island that has some interesting specimens, The boat below actually has a cannon on its fantail. Just want you need to repel boarders that might try to hop aboard. This couple is apparently living on their boat and were heading in to get supplies or more beer. Living on an anchored sailboat has to be a challenge. Like, it’s illegal as heck to dump sewage and garbage so what are you going to do? Row ashore every time you have to do your business? Jet skis have to be a lot more fun than living on a sailboat. Stars and Strips, the America Cup Sailboat, used to be the fastest in the world before the America’s Cup rules went haywire and they began accepting tricked out catamarans instead of mono-hulls. Now the boat once skippered by Dennis Conner takes tourists around the bay for $100 a pop. If cooking out on the beach, sailing on an America Cup racer, riding a jet ski, or living on a junky sailboat isn’t enough for you there’s always seine fishing for bait. These three girls waded into the water, spread out this big net and gradually brought it closed, and drug it ashore. It was filled, amazingly, with dozens of little fish that they tossed up on the bank for their “fishermen” to use as bait. Now this really surprised Kongo. He remembers fishing with Mrs, Kongo several decades ago at a lake in Minnesota on a fishing trip with a couple of other couples. The girls were in a little motorboat but didn’t want to touch the worms we gave them so they used pliers to cut them into little pieces. Amazingly, they too caught a boatload of fish while the “fishermen” with fancy fly rods and certified artificial bass killers not so much. Anyway, imagine this scenario:
“Hey, honey, I’m out of bait….could you get me some more? Maybe a fresh beer at the same time?”
“Why sure, Darlin’, let me get my sisters here and we’ll just wade out into the bay and net up a bunch of fresh bait for you.”
“Great, Toodles…you’re the best.”
I mean, that’s a stretch. Anyway it happened and the photo above is proof that strange things do happen on mud banks.