Juan Manuel de Ayala was born in Osuna, Spain, on 28th December, 1745. He joined the Spanish navy on 19th September, 1760. Ayala, the captain of the San Carlos, was sent to New Spain, to take part in the exploration of the Californian coast.
Inspector General José de Gálvez was placed in charge of what became known as the "Sacred Expedition". It was decided that three ships, the San Carlos, the San Antonio, and the San José, should sail to San Diego Bay. It was also agreed to send two parties to make an overland journey from the Baja to Alta California.
The first ship, the San Carlos, sailed from La Paz on 10th January, 1769. The other two ships left on 15th February. The first overland party, led by Fernando Rivera Moncada, left from the Misión San Fernando Rey de España de Velicatá on 24th March. With him was Father Juan Crespi, who had been given the task of recording details of the trip. Also in the party were 25 soldiers, and 42 Baju Christian Indians. The second overland expedition, led by Gaspar de Portolà, included Junipero Serra, the man who had been put in charge of building missions in California.
Fernando Rivera Moncada and his party that included Juan Crespi reached San Diego on 14th May. He built a camp and waited for the others to arrive. The San Antonio, reached its destination in fifty-four days. The San Carlos took twice that time and the San José was lost with all aboard. The seaman on the ships suffered from scurvy and large numbers had died on the journey.
The overland party led by Gaspar de Portolà arrived on 28th June, 1769. Junipero Serra later recalled: "It was a day of great rejoicing and merriment for all, because although each one in his respective journey had undergone the same hardships, their meeting through their mutual alleviation from hardship now became the material for mutual accounts of their experiences. And although this sort of consolation appears to be the solace of the miserable, for us it was the source of happiness. Thus was our arrival in health and happiness and contentment at the famous and desired Port of San Diego."
Juan de Ayala spent the next few years using the San Carlos to bring supplies to the Spanish settlements in San Diego, Monterey and Carmel. He was also involved in providing the necessary help to the Franciscan missions at San Diego de Alcalá, San Gabriel Arcangel, San Luis Obispo de Tolosa and San Antonio de Padua.
Viceroy Antonio María de Bucareli decided to establish another Spanish settlement in San Francisco. An overland party, led by Juan Bautista de Anza left Tubac (present-day Tucson) with 240 soldiers and colonists, together with four civilian families, including women and children. They also took cattle and horses for breeding stock. The plan was that after crossing the deserts of Arizona and California, they would travel up the coast to San Francisco.
The viceroy also commissioned Juan de Ayala to explore the San Francisco area by sea. He took with him Vicente de Santa Maria, who was to be his diarist. The San Carlos left Monterey on 26th July, 1775. Rand Richards, the author of Historic San Francisco (1991) has pointed out that Ayala had a serious accident on the journey: "He was nursing what must have been a very painful wound, having accidently been shot in the foot several weeks into the voyage when a loaded pistol discharged as it was being packed away."
The San Carlos reached San Francisco Bay on 5th August. He therefore became the first European to sail through the Golden Gate. He anchored his vessel near present-day Fort Point. Ayala later reported: "From the shore's edge, some Indians begged us with the heartiest of shouts and gesticulations to come ashore. Accordingly I sent over to them in the longboat the reverend father chaplain (Vicente de Santa Maria), the first sailing master, and some men under arms, with positive orders not to offend the Indians but to please them, taking them a generous amount of earrings and glass beads. I charged our men to be discreetly on their guard, keeping the longboat ready to pull out if any quarrelling started, and I told the sailing master to leave four men in it under arms."
Vicente de Santa Mariarecorded in his journal: "Before the longboat had gone a quarter of a league it came across a rancheria of heathen who, seeing that our people were close by, left their huts and stood scattered at the shore's edge. They were not dumfounded (though naturally apprehensive at sight of people strange to them); rather, one of them, raising his voice, began with much gesticulation to make a long speech in his language, so outlandish that none of it could be understood. At the same time, they were making signs for the longboat to come near, giving assurance of peace by throwing their arrows to the ground and coming in front of them to show their innocence of treacherous dissimulation. But if danger showed not its face to the officer, he saw at least the shadow of risk to his men and did not wish to approach any nearer than was necessary for the discharge of his duty. The Indians, guessing that our men were somewhat suspicious, tried at once to make their intentions clear. They took a rod decorated with feathers and with it made signs to our men that they wished to make them a present of it; but since this met with no success they decided on a better plan, which was to draw back, all of them, and leave the gift stuck in the sand of the shore near its margin. The longboat turned back for the ship, leaving the gift untaken and reporting that the place was not as it had been thought."
The following day the longboat returned with their own gifts. Vicente de Santa Maria recorded in his journal: "Our captain, touched by this indication of regard, showed on receiving it with respect a just acknowledgement of its worth. Therefore it was decided that very early the next morning the longboat should return the basket in which the Indians had given us their pinole, and in it trinkets made with bits of glass, earrings, and glass beads, our captain having first directed the officer in charge of the longboat to replace the stake and return the basket to the same place as before, very quietly, and at once return to the ship. This was done as ordered, and although there were some heathen near by, our men pretended not to have taken notice of their presence. These Indians acted almost wonderstruck at so prompt and special a return of favours, marvelling at the sight of the things sent from the ship."
The longboat returned and this time it was the Native Americans (probably Costanoans) who ran away: "The armed Indians, on seeing our men close by, hid themselves (perhaps in fear) among what oak trees they could find that would give them cover... Having reached the shore, he came upon a collection of things which, though to our notion crude, was of high value to those unfortunates, for otherwise they would not have chosen it as the best offering of their friendly generosity. This was a basketful of pinole (who knows of what seed?), some bunches of strings of woven hair, some of flat strips of tule, rather like aprons, and a sort of hairnet for the head, made of their hair, in design and shape best described as like a horse's girth, though neater and decorated at intervals with very small white snailshells. All this was near a stake driven into the sand. Limited though it was, we did not hold this unexpected friendly gift of little value; nor would it have been seemly in us to be contemptuous of a present that showed the good will of those who humbly offered it."
Ayala spent most of the time in the bay anchored off Angel Island. He kept a detailed log of the party's activities and named two of its landmarks: Sausalito ("little thicket of willows") and Alcatraz ("island of pelicans"). Ayala was awaiting the arrival of Juan Bautista de Anza, but after 44 days in the bay he decided to return to Monterey.
Juan de Ayala reported back that he was impressed by San Francisco harbour: "This is certainly a fine harbour: it presents on sight a beautiful fitness, and it has no lack of good drinking water and plenty of firewood and ballast. Its climate, though cold, is altogether healthful and it is free from such troublesome daily fogs as there are at Monterey, since these scarcely come to its mouth and inside there are very clear days. To these many good things is added the best of all: the heathen all round this harbour are always so friendly and so docile that I had Indians aboard several times with great pleasure, and the crew as often visited them on land. In fact, from the first day to the last they were so constant in their behaviour that it behove me to make them presents of earrings, glass beads, and pilot bread, which last they learned to ask for in our language clearly."
Juan de Ayala, who retired on full-pay in 1785, died on 30th December, 1797.
There extended to the northeast of our ship a large cove that looked attractive and well adapted to our needs. At 9 o'clock I set out with the first sailing master to examine it, and, once there, began sounding and found fourteen to twelve fathoms depth. I intended to go to the end of it, but seeing that the tide was contrary I had to return aboard at 1 o'clock in the afternoon.
Just then, from the shore's edge, some Indians begged us with the heartiest of shouts and gesticulations to come ashore. Accordingly I sent over to them in the longboat the reverend father chaplain, the first sailing master, and some men under arms, with positive orders not to offend the Indians but to please them, taking them a generous amount of earrings and glass beads. I charged our men to be discreetly on their guard, keeping the longboat ready to pull out if any quarrelling started, and I told the sailing master to leave four men in it under arms.
From that day and our first contact with them the Indians certainly seemed friendly and wanting our men to visit their rancherias, urging them even to eat and sleep there, as they explained by signs; already they had set out at the shore a gift of pinole, bread made from their seed plants, and tamales of the same. The short time that our men were with them, it was noticed that the Indians repeated very readily all our Spanish words. I proposed to them by signs (with orders to the sailors to bring them accordingly) that they should come aboard; but by their own signs they made it clear that until our men were at their rancherias they could not come, and after our men had been with them for a while the longboat returned to the ship and the Indians disappeared.
I have carried out the orders under which I embarked in the supply ship San Carlos and have come in from my return voyage at this harbour of San Blas this 6th day of November after having been at the harbours of Monterey and San Francisco...
After a hundred and one days of sailing I reached the harbour of Monterey, where I was obliged to stay unloading cargo and having some maintenance work done on the ship until the 27th of July. I then hoisted sail to seek out the harbour of San Francisco, which I reached on the night of the 5th of August. I stayed there forty-four days, carrying out sometimes myself, sometimes in the person of the sailing master mentioned, as faithfully as possible, the exploration of as much as could be brought under the methodical and attentive inspection the enterprise required.
This is certainly a fine harbour: it presents on sight a beautiful fitness, and it has no lack of good drinking water and plenty of firewood and ballast. Its climate, though cold, is altogether healthful and it is free from such troublesome daily fogs as there are at Monterey, since these scarcely come to its mouth and inside there are very clear days. To these many good things is added the best of all: the heathen all round this harbour are always so friendly and so docile that I had Indians aboard several times with great pleasure, and the crew as often visited them on land. In fact, from the first day to the last they were so constant in their behaviour that it behove me to make them presents of earrings, glass beads, and pilot bread, which last they learned to ask for in our language clearly.