Harbor of Spies

By Lynda Millner   |   May 16, 2019
Executive director of SBMM Greg Gorga with Elaine Ibarra and Claire Garvais

The Santa Barbara Maritime Museum (SBMM) recently had author Robin Lloyd for an evening to tell us what Havana, Cuba was like in the mid-1800s. That would be in our Civil War era. This is chronicled in Lloyd’s book, Harbor of Spies: A Novel of Historic Havana.

This historical novel is set at the height of the American Civil War. Havana was one of the most important foreign ports for the Confederacy because it was filled with blockade-runners, spies, and slave traders that supplied the South. The lead character gets involved in the murder of George Backhouse, which happened in 1855 and was real though never solved.

Robin’s talk was illustrated with period paintings, lithographs, and photographs that show old Havana. I’ve been to Cuba twice and its still beautiful but hard to see what’s happened to all the beautiful villas and clubs since the Castro regime. The photos showed the ships that formed the Naval blockade in the Gulf of Mexico and those that dared to try to pass through.

SBMM board president Wilson Quarre, lecture and series sponsor Marie Morrisroe, and board member Leslie Power

Robin Lloyd has worked in television journalism for over 40 years. He was a former foreign correspondent for NBC News and reported from conflict zones in Latin America, Africa, and the Middle East. He won an Overseas Press Award for his coverage of wars in Central America and four regional Emmys for documentary work as an independent news producer. He reminds us that colonial Havana was flush with sugar wealth. And still was when I lived in Louisiana at the time, Castro came into power. We knew sugar baron families who had to leave everything and come to the United States.

Lloyd even had a seafaring ancestor, Captain Elisha Ely Morgan, who spent 30 years at sea with more than 100 voyages across the Atlantic. Robin and his wife live in Maryland, but she is from Santa Barbara so they’d like to return here.

Board president Wilson Quarre reminded us that the SBMM has been named one of the top ten maritime museums in the United States. Go have a look at 113 Harbor Way, Suite 190 by Chuck’s Waterfront Grill restaurant.


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