The Volunteers of the San Salvador

by on April 13, 2015 · 2 comments

in California, History, Media, Ocean Beach, San Diego

San SalvaD jc Vince

Vince (all photos by Judi Curry)

Editor: The launch of the San Salvador, the replica of Cabrillo’s ship being built alongside Point Loma, – originally scheduled for mid-April – as been postponed. Here, our Judi Curry continues her focus on the many volunteers who helped to build the ship. Cabrillo himself and what he and the Missionaries wrought here in San Diego is still controversial and the subject of a debate on our website.

By Judi Curry

San SalvaD jc barb


Last year I did a story of the women volunteers working on the San Salvador. If you are not familiar with the San Salvador, it was the flagship of explorer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo in 1542 when he sailed into San Diego Bay.  Cabrillo, who sailed from Portugal, was the first European to explore San Diego Bay and the coast of California.

Construction of the 92-foot- long replica almost completed and can be seen driving down Harbor Blvd. on the south side of the street just east of the airport if you are coming from Pt. Loma.

There have been many volunteers that put in thousands of hours volunteering to complete this replica and it was announced at the pre-launch dinner that I attended on Sunday, April 12 that if all the volunteers had been paid the total salary would have been over $11.4 million.  It was also pointed out that the Sharp Family has contributed a great deal of monies to this project.

San SalvaD jc Lynne


When I heard about the pre-launch dinner, I asked if I could attend to write another article on the volunteers – both women and men – and my request was granted.

Before highlighting some of the volunteers – and there were many I did not speak to because it was impossible to talk to all 400+ of them – let me tell you about the wonderful spread of food that was a “thank you” to all of them.  There was an excellent paella from Emilios Paella; there were ribs provided by the OB BBQ; there were three kinds of salads; pies from the Julian pie company, and one of the biggest array of liquid beverages I have seen in a long run. Liquid Blue provided the musical entertainment.

I wrote about Irene Batch in my original article.  She is still volunteering at the San Salvador but also volunteers at the opera as an usher.  When the San Salvador moves to the water she will continue volunteering in spite of a $1.75 an hour parking fee – which is good only for 4 hours.

January is new since I did the original article. Not only does she do volunteer work for the San Salvador, she also volunteers for the “California”.  She is a member of the crew, which she will continue doing after the launch.

San SalvaD jc pirateI met “Pirate Al” – known as “swordfish” who almost makes you believe that he is a true pirate. He has one of the deepest voices I have ever heard, and he regales school-age children with stories about the Maritime Museum when they come to visit.  He will add to his repertoire when the San Salvador launches.  He has some corny jokes, but the fourth graders visiting the museum will love them.

Barbara was one of the original women I interviewed and at that time she was hoping that she would be able to pass the physical test to be a crew member when the San Salvador sails. She has passed the test and awaiting that time when she will be sailing the waters of San Diego.

She made an interesting comment that puts the building of the ship is a different perspective. She said:

“ . . it is like a caterpillar going to the butterfly stage.  It is a birth of something new; not the end of an experience.” 

There is no doubt that she will continue with her volunteer work. The interesting thing is that Barbara has two sisters also volunteering for the San Salvador – Brenna and Kathy.  They will continue with their volunteering after the launch also. They said it will be an experience that will last forever.

San SalvaD jc DonJackson

Don Jackson

Tony Hughes from Australia is also an interesting person. He goes back to Australia every three months, but continues to work on the San Salvador while here. And he has an angel in Ardyce who drives him and from the San Salvador daily.

Andy was an electrical engineer that began his volunteering in 2011.  He was originally called because there was a problem with a fork lift.  He fixed it and has been there ever since.

Don Jackson was an engineer before he retired. But the interesting thing about him is that he lives in Colorado half of the year and San Diego the other months.  He volunteers at the museum whenever he is in San Diego.

San SalvaD jc Izzy


I met Izzy when I did the original piece on the women.  She is a helpful, knowledgeable woman that is interesting to be around. She rides her own motorcycle all over the country. Of the many people I spoke to about their plans after the launch she is the only one that said she would be leaving.  And by leaving she will move to Kingman, AZ.  She loves the work she is doing; the camaraderie between the volunteers is second to none.

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Fred and Laura Lee

I even briefly talked to Victoria – one of the security guards who said she loves the assignment.

I talked to Fred and Laura Lee– a husband and wife team – that wrote the instruction booklet guide and information sheet for new volunteers.  They said that the amount of details involved is astronomical and Laura Lee said that Fred would write instructions and then bring them home to see if she could understand them.  Fred primarily works in the office.

San SalvaD jc Roger


Roger has volunteered thousands of hours and will move to the museum when the boat launches.

Michael has been with the building of the San Salvador since day one. There was just an empty lot when he began volunteering with them.  He is part of the sailing crew and, in fact, brings boats owned by others to their destination.  He is a surfer; lives in La Jolla, and will continue with the museum after the launch is complete.

San SalvaD jc Michael


Russ retired from General Dynamics and has been volunteering for the past three years. His wife, Mary Lee, is a former teacher and estimates that Russ has over 3000 hours in volunteer time.

Some people pick up affectionate nicknames.  Joe Rocca is called “Hopalong Cassidy” because he is everywhere.  They also call him “Mr. Tidy” because no matter what chore he is doing he never gets dirty.

San SalvaD jc Joe Rocco

Joe Rocca

I did a complete story on Vince last year.  He is one of most gracious individuals I have ever met. He will go on to the museum when this project is finished. I also met his wife and was told that not only does her restaurant in La Mesa serve the best sandwiches, her own special salad dressing is “to die for.”

Bob is one of the other volunteers that I spoke to towards the end of the evening.  He showed me the blocks that he (and others) made out of ash. They are absolutely beautiful.  He figures he has put in over 3000 hours of volunteer time.  Very interesting background and loves working on the San Salvador.

San SalvaD jc Ardyge


Eileen was one of the original women from my first article.  It took me almost two hours to catch up to her because she was busy the entire time.  She has over 500 volunteer hours in but is not sure what she will do when this mission is completed.

San SalvaD jc Eileen


Lynne was also one of the original women. She is very, very busy, what with volunteering with the Maritime Museum; on the sailing crew of the “Californian”; teaching part time at UCSD Extension.  She is also active in the yacht club where she is a member.  She said that she takes the trolley to the museum, so the change will not affect her much.

The last person I spoke to was manning the bar. (I think every kind of liquor or drink that you wanted was offered.)  Scotty Porter said that from the moment he stepped onto the grounds of the San Salvador he felt at peace.  He said this was a “once in a lifetime” experience.  It gave him the confidence to learn new things; and that he feels like he has accomplished a part of something small in a very big project.

San SalvaD jc bob


The date for the launch is still pending; everything must be 100% correct before they move this 92 foot long replica to the water. They’re still looking for volunteers for the San Salvador.  If you are interested in working with a group of enthusiastic individuals; interested in working in the outdoors, etc. give them a call and see what skill you have that they can use.

(And…when I asked one person what he does on the San Salvador he answered, “I sweep up the sawdust everyone else makes.”)

There is a place for you.  Bon Voyage!

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Joe April 13, 2015 at 7:39 pm

Nice to see you writing again. Enjoyed reading this.



judi April 13, 2015 at 7:52 pm

Thanks Joe. These volunteers are extraordinary.


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