Catalina from A to Z: Glorious glass-bottom boats

Hello, and welcome to the Blogging A to Z Challenge! This year my theme is Catalina from A to Z, featuring posts about the Southern California island of Catalina. With a focus on the island’s romantic side, I’ll be sharing info about where to go, what to see and do, plus a few sneak peeks from my novel in progress, Wife For A Weekend, which is set on the island!

Have you ever set sail on a glass-bottom boat? Then you’ve enjoyed an invention first used off the shores of Catalina Island!

Florida may claim to have the oldest operational glass-bottom boat, but the idea of taking tourists on a boat where they could easily observe marine life was pioneered in Catalina. According to the book Catalina A to Z: “In 1890, abalone harvester Charley Feige used a box with a glass pane in the bottom that he held over the side of his boat to better see beneath the surface of Avalon Bay. He then installed a glass pane in the bottom of one of his rowboats. Tourism soon became a larger business for him than abalone. Captain J. E ‘Pard’ Mathewson arrived in Avalon in 1892, noticed Feige’s enterprise and created bigger boats with bigger panes of heavy-glass in the bottom. In 1902, Mathewson debuted a thirty-eight-foot, gas-powered side-wheeler, the Mon Ami, a glass-bottomed boat that could carry fifteen passengers. Glass-bottom boat tours became de rigueur for Catalina tourists in the twentieth century. Hollywood got into the act when Doris Day and Rod Taylor starred in the Avalon-set The Glass Bottom Boat (1966).” (p. 83-85)

Poster for The Glass Bottom Boat featuring Doris Day and Rod Taylor

As for Doris Day, her turn in The Glass Bottom Boat as a NASA employee accused of being a spy is quite humorous, although tragically the appearance of both the glass-bottomed boat and Catalina Island are far too brief! After Rod Taylor accidentally hooks her mermaid costume while she’s diving in the bay to entertain her father’s boat passengers, there’s not much more of the island in the film, but it’s still worth a watch for the enemies-to-lovers workplace romance that blooms between the two government employees.

Eager to learn more about Catalina?

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