Dead Reckoning Updates: In the wake of such a catastrophe – the biggest disaster during the U.S. Maritime Peace Corps, in fact – few Americans know anything about Honda Point, where seven destroyers crashed off a rocky shore near Lompoc, killing 23 sailors in the fog of a September evening in 1923.
A proverb is forgotten by most of the residents of Santa Barbara County, although it was a major incident of health loss in the region until Montecito’s 1/9 Debris Flow killed 23 in 2018.
A new short novel wants to change that. Former journalists Therese Vannier and Michael Corbin Ray – both South California natives who met in the 1990s while working at the San Luis Obispo Telegram-Tribune – Dead Reckoning fictional the saga in a fast, 125-page-read (plus a few pages of historical notes), add things of love, military encounters, and a sense of pride to manage this issue.
I’ve always been fascinated by the local histories of the places I’ve lived in, and the Honda Point disaster has always been floating back here, explains Corbin Ray.
Most people have never heard of it, but from time to time you will encounter a picture or memories in a newspaper, or you will meet someone whose grandparents have told them the news of the descent to see the events as children.
Dead Reckoning Honda Point Disaster to Life
The authors, longtime residents of Santa Barbara now living in the Santa Ynez Valley, recently answered a few of my questions via email.
Therese Vannier: I’m smiling right now because I’m really pressured to write this story. It all started with a surf trip to Jalama Beach. Like many of us, Jalama Beach Store was my introduction to the Honda Point tragedy.
The owner of the place, Don Eittreim, has an important collection of newspaper descriptions and pictures that decorate the walls in the dining room (before the epidemic).
I read all the dang newspaper articles there when I ate the best burger in the world. (I’ve always been a big fan of “man and sea” legends so this story really impressed me.)
The Honda Point surrounded me and took me home to Morro Bay, where I was living at the time. I couldn’t stop thinking about all those fixed ships. I remember feeling anxious about the incident and wondering why I had not heard of the tragedy so far.
All available literature naturally focuses on the official and technical details of the disaster. We really wanted to tell a story from the point of view of registered sailors – people who were in charge, but who were very poor. Their stories had never really been told.
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