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April 13, 1970: Gale winds and 10-foot swells hammer the cruise ship La Jenelle off Port Hueneme, reducing in 23 minutes a $1-million luxury liner into a salvage operation. A similar photo was front-page lead art in the April 14, 1970, Los Angeles Times.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Joe Kennedy / Los Angeles Times

April 14, 1970: Aerial photo of the cruise ship La Jenelle after being driven against the jetty just outside Port Hueneme harbor during a storm.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Art Rogers / Los Angeles Times

April 14, 1970: Aerial photo of La Jenelle after being driven against the jetty just outside Port Hueneme. This photo was published in the April 15, 1970, L.A. Times.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Art Rogers / Los Angeles Times

May 4, 1970: La Jenelle sits aground near the Navy Seabee base at Port Hueneme. After the grounding, the vessel caused an oil slick one mile long and 50 yards wide. This photo was published in the May 6, 1970, L.A. Times.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Bill Murphy / Los Angeles Times

Aug. 11, 1970: The wreckage of La Jenelle at Port Hueneme attracts sightseers including an excursion boat piloted by Capt. Harry Blosdale, left, and his first mate John Walters, 12. This photo was published in the Aug. 14, 1970, L.A. Times.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Jack Carrick / Los Angeles Times

Aug. 11, 1970: Larry Castruita, 18, and his girlfriend, Deanne Cronkright, 17, both of Sylmar, view the wreckage of La Jenelle from the breakwater at Port Hueneme. This image was published in the Aug. 14, 1970, L.A. Times.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Jack Carrick / Los Angeles Times

Nov. 22, 1971: Ventura County firemen drag equipment ashore after putting out a fire aboard La Jenelle. This photo was published in a late edition of the Nov. 22, 1971, L.A. Times.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Bruce Cox / Los Angeles Times

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The La Jenelle is driven ashore

April 13, 1970: Gale force winds and 10-foot swells hammer the cruise ship La Jenelle off Port Hueneme, reducing in 23 minutes a million-dollar luxury liner into a salvage operation.

La Jenelle sat on the Port Hueneme beach for several years, until it could be dismantled. In an Aug. 6, 1977 article Times writer David White reported:

On April 13, 1970, the faded old Caribbean cruise ship La Jenelle broke loose from her moorings offshore and was driven by wind and sea onto state tidelands near the Port Hueneme harbor mouth.

She had been taken to Ventura County waters as a possible floating restaurant or convention center after years on the glamorous Miami-Bahamas run.

The sight of the 467-foot vessel rolling helplessly on her port side in the surf erased any chance her new owners had foreseen for her when they brought her through the Panama Canal from Miami.

One possible buyer had been the Indonesian government, which planned to pay $1 million for the ship and assign her to inter-island service in that nation.

But La Jenelle hit the beach in the storm the day before the Indonesians were to make that deal final.

The 12,500-ton ship was built in 1929 as the Arosa Star for Mediterranean service. Moved to the Miami-Bahamas run, she became the Bahama Star. During World War II, she carried troops to Europe and the Pacific.

After the war, she was back in Miami, resuming her pleasure cruises. In 1965, she rescued 489 of the passengers and crew of the Yarmouth Castle when that ship caught fire on the same run.

After new maritime regulations outdated her wooden structure, Blue Star Lines sold her to Western Steamship Co., which changed her name to La Jenelle and decided to move her to the Pacific Coast.

After the storm drove her ashore, her new owners went into bankruptcy.

The ship was sold and resold six times after being washed ashore, but no salvager could clear her from the beach. Faced with a continuing nuisance and hazard, Ventura County officials sought $1.4 million in state funds to turn the wreckage into a recreation facility.

After approval by the Legislature in 1972, a contractor began cutting off the rusty superstructure to deck level and dumping the scrap metal into the ocean a mile and a half away as a fish habitat.

The remainder of the hull was filled with rock and sand. A jetty was built around it to turn it into a 500-foot-long “pier” for fishermen and sunbathers. It also prevents sand erosion, which formerly troubled the beach.

The state had to spend only about half the $1.4 million appropriation.

Today, there is nothing to be seen of La Jenelle.

She’s come a long way from the Miami-Bahamas run.


  1. August 27, 2012, 1:06 pm

    Wrong about nothing to be seen of La Jenelle. You can still walk up to the edge of Siver Strand Beach and look down at her remains. Stairway to nowhere and other interesting bits and pieces are left.

  2. September 12, 2017, 6:05 pm

    You should have been with myself and my cousin, creeping thru all the rooms we could get into. Spooky fun.

  3. April 29, 2014, 8:09 pm

    My dad was the owner of the La Jenelle. He named it after my mom. We cruised on that beautiful ship from FL to CA the summer I was 9. Just us and the crew. It was an amazing experience. I had no idea there were so many stories printed about the La Jenele. I just found these.

    By: carolyn conroy
  4. June 29, 2016, 10:06 am

    Hi Carolyn! I just recently saw this post. I am the curator of the Channel Islands Maritime Museum in Oxnard, CA. We are just finishing the installation of an exhibit on La Jenelle and its history. I invite you to come down and see it!

  5. February 8, 2016, 1:11 pm

    April 13 1970 was my 20th birthday, I saw the ship moving and rode my motorcycle to the south jetty of Silver Strand beach and watched it happen. I didn't find out for a couple of years that it used to be the Bahama Star, the ship that rescued most of the passangers from the Yarmouth Castle. Gordon Lightfoot wrote a song called the Ballad Of The Yarmouth Castle that is similer to The Wreck Of The Edmond Fitzgerald. Being a Lightfoot fan and attending a dozen of his concerts I finally got to meet him and I told him the story of the La Jenelle and what a perfect surf break it created………………Great Man!

  6. May 18, 2016, 11:40 am

    My dad worked security detail for the La jenelle back in the early seventies when I was 2 or 3 years old; first capsized ship I ever saw; images of that huge ship on its side in the water are etched in my mind forever. Awesome site!

    By: dc
  7. September 12, 2017, 6:04 pm

    I was one of two men that started building the road out to it, to begin salvage operations. I met and talked to your father several times. I cant remember his name though. That was early 70s. I operated a Cat dozer pushing rock to form the road to her, then surfed half the day. Great job.

  8. September 8, 2017, 3:33 am

    I used to skin and scuba dive around her, there are still pieces and bits to be seen underwater also.

    By: Brian Valentine

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