Catalina Island

This Month’s Retirement of the “Blanche W” Triggers Hernandez Family’s Memories of Trips to Seal Rocks and the Isthmus

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Ordie Hernandez, and her family, have many fond memories of trips down to Seal Rocks and the Isthmus aboard the 64-foot “Blanche W,” with her dad at the wheel, captain Sam Hernandez. And the family is planning one last ride on the “Blanche W” before she retires.

The  wooden sightseeing boat, the “Blanche W,” holds 98-passengers in open-air seating, was built in 1924 for the Flying Fish tour. This month, after 91 years of providing Flying Fish tours, cruises to the Isthmus/Two Harbors and Seal Rock trips  Avalon will be bidding her farewell. She will be retired soon, as, according the Santa Catalina Company (on the, “‘The Blanche,’ as we all call her, has grown old and beyond being able to repair and maintain her to the standards of the U.S. Coast Guard.”

Like the Hernandez family, many people in Avalon, and visitors alike, will have a tear in their eye as the “Blanche W” pulls away from the green Pleasure Pier for the very last time with a boat load of passengers excited to see the amazing flying fish along Catalina’s shores. She has created so many happy memories for generations of Catalina families and visitors.

Recently, Ordie found what captain Eddie Harrison wrote about her dad, Sam, and his brothers in 1981:

“The majority of Avalon residents knew captain Sam Hernandez and his warm friendly smile. Many of them, I am sure, knew him as the longtime skipper of the Blanche W. Probably most had ridden with him to the Isthmus or on the Flying Fish Trip.

“Not too many present Islanders, however, had known Sam since the days when we attended school at the top of Whittley Avenue.

“I am one of the dozen or so still here in Avalon who went to school with Sam and his older brother Marcelino, and his younger brother, Andy. They are gone now, and so is the youngest brother Manuel, who died just a few days before Sam. So all the brothers are gone now.

“At one time they all worked for the Santa Catalina Island Company’s sightseeing boats. In the 1930s, all of them were divers who put on the shows under the glass bottom boats before scuba was invented. Then when the Santa Catalina Island Company abandoned that kind of diving after World War II, three of the brothers stayed on as skippers for years: Manual chose to work as deckhand and commentator.

“It was my privilege to have worked with all the brothers over all those years. They were capable, conscientious and caring about the boats they worked on and concerned about the passengers who rode on them. To sum it up: they were good shipmates.

All of us who worked with the Hernandez brothers will always remember them with fondness and respect.”

Photo credit: the Hernandez Family