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.