VENTURA : Tall Ship Pays Harbor Crowd a Jolly Visit


The tall ship Hawaiian Chieftain arrived in Ventura Harbor under motor rather than full sail Friday, with most of its canvas furled due to lack of wind.

It was hardly a dramatic entrance for the 1790s-style ketch, although Capt. Ian McIntyre and crew provided a touch of fantasy with T-shirts stamped with a skull and crossbones.

Still, hundreds of Venturans and visitors boarded the Chieftain during an open house Friday, and many more are likely to tour and sail on the vessel while it is here until Jan. 9.


Some will recognize the Chieftain from its last visit, for July’s pirate celebration at the harbor. There is no Jolly Roger this time around, just the Stars and Stripes, although McIntyre said he conducts pirate-themed charter trips out of his home port of Sausalito.

“A lot of people identify with the pirate vessel,” said McIntyre, who seemed more blarney than Blackbeard. “I think there’s a little larceny in everybody’s heart somewhere.”

In reality, the only booty the Chieftain’s crew has ever taken is from day-trippers willing to pay $20 to $35 for morning, afternoon and sunset sails. And it has never, ever, plied the Spanish Main, though it will sail to Mexico in mid-January.

Nevertheless, McIntyre said, people tend to associate his 103-foot, square-rigged replica merchant vessel with a pirate ship. The $1.2-million topsail ketch was launched in Honolulu in 1988 and bought by McIntyre and partners three years ago.

The ship will be available for free dockside tours from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on days when no cruises are planned. Otherwise, visitors may be able to catch a tour between sails.

McIntyre loves his ship, which is one of probably half a dozen square-rigged vessels on the West Coast. As the crew secured the vessel and swabbed its decks, McIntyre gave a tour and spoke, sometimes wistfully, of the sailor’s life.


At 34, the captain has sailed most of his life. His father was a shipwright and worked at a San Francisco maritime museum. The younger McIntyre crewed on boats in Hawaii and later sailed aboard a square-rigger in Australia, where he met his wife and shipmate, Alina Jacobson.

A current mate, Chris Welton, who occasionally captains his own square-rigger up north, said sea-going is a mixed bag. “Sometimes you’re biting your nails, other times it’s idyllic,” he said. Whether it’s idyllic nearly always depends on wind and weather conditions, he added.

In view of the cramped accommodations, it also helps to have congenial shipmates, McIntyre said. But despite the small quarters, he and some of his crew have brought along several surfboards and hope to catch a few waves between sails.