Biographical Notes
Sebastian Rodriguez Cermeno

Phillip II occupied the Philippine Islands in 1565 with a view of participating in the profitable trade with China and the Spice Islands. The Spanish galleons that sailed between Manila and Acapulco carried valuable cargos that attracted foreign privateers and pirates. In addition, the long non-stop voyage from Manila to Acapulco was a difficult one for ships and crews. It was decided that California should be explored in an effort to find a safe port where the galleons could take refuge, refit, and restock prior to continuing on to Acapulco.

In 1595 Sebastian Rodriguez Cermeno, captain of the 200 ton galleon San Augustin, was ordered to explore the coast of California on his way to Acapulco in search of a safe harbor for the Manila Galleons. Caermeno left Manila on July 5 and first sighted land somewhere between Cape St. George and Cape Mendocino on November 4. He sailed down the coast looking without success for a port that he dared enter. A few days later he rounded a prominent point of land and anchored in a large bay. Heavy swells caused the ship to drag anchor and be pounded to pieces. Several of the crew were drowned but about seventy men made it to shore. Ceremeno claimed the land for Spain and named it the Bay of San Francisco. Ceremeno salvaged a small launch from the wreckage of the galleon and on December 8 sailed south arriving in New Spain early in 1596.

The point of land seen by Ceremeno is today known as Point Reyes and the bay Drake's Bay. Ceremeno's Bay of San Francisco made it into the Spanish maps of the the time and was to cause some confusion at the end of the eighteenth century when Gaspar de Portola discovered what became known as San Francisco Bay.