Dove occasionally made collages and assemblages while living on his boat, and twenty-five are known to have been created. In Huntington Harbor I he used a variety of materials, such as fabric, metal, and sandpaper. His clever, humorous technique reveals his awareness of the Dadaist collages being produced in Europe and his knowledge of the American folk art revival of the 1920s (folk artists often incorporated objects from their surroundings into their work). Dove's collages and assemblages constitute a charming combination of these divergent influences.
In Huntington Harbor I, Dove also employed materials directly related to the subject. However, instead of arranging the objects to obtain an abstracted image, he retained the traditional format of a seascape by representing a lone boat on the water. A piece of canvas bearing a crossbar drawn in black designates the sail; vertical wooden strips represent masts; and sandpaper signifies the shore.
Phillips acquired Huntington Harbor I readily, probably because of its understated presence and lyrical charm. He believed that it showed "extraordinary inspiration in the use of actual wood and cloth to add tactile value and rugged reality to a lyrical impression conveyed in a few exquisite colors." He had come to believe that Dove was unique in his ability to manipulate natural materials to create works, "far from the collage of the theoretical and sensation-seeking Parisians of the early cubist period.”