Navy Warship Visits Malibu

Above, a lone paddleboarder is dwarfed by the towering silhouette of the Navy warship USS Lake Champlain in Malibu, near the pier. The ship was actually anchored in deep water, well away from Surfrider Beach, but it is was so large it still dominated the horizon and could be seen for miles along the coast. Photo by Suzanne Guldimann

The USS Lake Champlain, a Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruiser captained by U.S. Navy Captain Jen Ellinger, sailed into Malibu on February 22 for a four-day visit. Locals have become accustomed to seeing large ships sailing past.

The 505-foot-long missile destroyer, USS John Paul Jones, visited in 2011. Billionaire entrepreneur Larry Ellison’s 288-foot-long power yacht the Mushashi is sometimes spotted anchored along the same stretch of coast near the Malibu Pier, and the 390-foot-long Superyacht A, owned by an enigmatic Russian billionaire, has also occasionally turned up, but all three would be dwarfed by the 565-foot-long USS Lake Champlain. The ship is like a floating city. Crewed by 300 sailors with 30 officers, it comes equipped with two helicopters.

The warship’s crew came ashore for leave and to volunteer to help with Woolsey Fire cleanup at several sites in the Santa Monica Mountains, including the Salvation Army Camp in Malibu Canyon. Because the ship is stationed out of San Diego, many of the crew’s family members were able to  make the trip up the coast for the event, which was sponsored by the City of Malibu and the Malibu Navy League.

An assortment of dignitaries had an opportunity to tour the cruiser. For the public, the visit was notable for how the USS Lake Champlain dominated the bay. The Navy warship was visible from Pacific Coast Highway for miles and created an unusual backdrop for surfers at Surfrider Beach, and its presence generated a small tsunami of speculation and excitement on social media.


Suzanne Guldimann

Suzanne Guldimann is an author, artist, and musician who lives in Malibu and loves the Santa Monica Mountains. She has worked as a journalist reporting on local news and issues for more than a decade, and is the author of nine books of music for the harp. Suzanne's newest book, "Life in Malibu", explores local history and nature. She can be reached at

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