Senior Captain Michael Kellick has been a familiar face on Lady Washington and Hawaiian Chieftain for going on 20 years. He is a veteran of many remarkable journeys (including the Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl voyage in 2002), a master of performance and theatrics, and an invaluable resource to the crew and staff of Grays Harbor Historical Seaport. Michael is also a native of Ventura County, and still calls Southern California his home.
We sat down with Captain Kellick as the tall ships prepared for their visits to Oxnard and Ventura to discuss what it means as a hometown boy to see the tall ships come to town.
Do you have any memories of seeing tall ships or other large vessels passing through Ventura County?
Unfortunately not, but the world’s largest great white shark washed up on the beach where my mom used to take us. Thanks, mom.
What first introduced you to maritime and the world of tall ships?
My life at sea began with an English class I took at Moorpark College. Professor John Hanft assigned us short stories to read and then write about. One of these tales was Joseph Conrad’s “Youth”, a story about a young sea officer roughly the same age I was at the time and his life affirming adventure on an ill-fated voyage. This story had a profound impact on me, encouraging me to then read “Moby Dick” after finishing UCLA a few years later. You know the rest. Thank you, Prof. Hanft, for this tremendous gift.
What is this region’s maritime history?
Piracy and squid fishing mostly, I believe. Smugglers were known to hide behind the Channel Islands to avoid U.S. authorities back when the 3-mile limit was in effect.
Tell us what “homecoming” feels like for you, as someone who has known Ventura County as both a local resident and a tall ship Captain.
One surprise I got years ago was to meet students who went to the same elementary school that I did in Simi. They had a super teacher who prepped them well before their visit but they were kind of shocked to know that I had sat in their classroom forty years ahead of them.
What are your favorite things about sailing here?
This stretch of the coast is the last piece of open coastline in southern California so it’s always a treat when approaching from sea to look landward and see the rolling hills and farms rather than hotels and airports. Santa Ana winds make for tricky dockings but often give us clear skies and billowing sails, too.
Besides visiting the tall ships, do you have any must-sees for folks coming to Oxnard and Ventura?
Yes, I love the old downtown Ventura area with the San Buenaventura Mission, and the Channel Islands Maritime Museum has breathtaking nautical paintings on par with the finest you can find in North America.
You can bring your Ventura County moments to life by visiting the tall ships in Ventura County!
Oxnard: Feb. 7th – 12th
Ventura: Feb. 14th – March 4th
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