NEW CAPTAINS IN TOWN
Santa Barbara’s 15-year-old tour and events company Captain Jack’s Tours just got new leadership, and now three captains are at the helm of the business.
Wife and husband Meredith and Billy Brace form two-thirds of this trio of owners.
The two met at the “Ice Patch,” an ice skating rink on the Mesa when they were barely teenagers. Romance, however, took a few years to begin. After graduating together from Santa Barbara High, the two began dating in their mid 20s. The partnership between the two has gone through the phases of friendship, marriage and now business.
The third owner, Mr. Brace’s sister Barbara Brace, lives in Los Angeles, where she works as a production manager with an IMDb page that boasts shows like ‘Gilmore Girls’ and ‘Nicky, Ricky, Dicky & Dawn.’
Billy and Meredith can also brag about their non-tourism careers.
Billy, for example, is vice president at Investec Management Corp., a real estate company where he has worked for about 25 years. Meredith has about 25 years experience as a librarian, but she quit last month to pursue her dream job of being a tour guide full time.
Meredith’s first taste at tour guiding came as she was showing a friend around Santa Barbara. After seeing the joy in Meredith’s eyes, the friend directed her to Canada-based ToursByLocals, where she got a summer gig as a local tour guide. She also landed a spot as a guide on the Captain Jack’s Tours team. And this time, her husband noticed the effect tour guiding had her.
“My husband said, ‘Every time you come home from doing one of these tours, you’re so happy. Let’s tell the owner when he’s ready to sell, we are interested,'” Meredith recalled.
She had thought at the time that Billy was joking, but he wasn’t.
The couple approached the owner, Mark Hicks, whose first reaction was “Oh no, I’m not ready to sell,” Meredith said.
Two months later, however, he changed his mind.
“He said to me, ‘Know what? I think I am ready to sell. Let’s sit down and talk,'” Meredith said.
Barbara was brought into the negotiations, and the trio bought the tour company after a thorough analysis of the business.
Billy and Barbara take care of the administrative portion of running Captain Jack’s Tours, while Meredith drives clients around the county for the tours in one of their six company vans.
The business offers tours of horseback riding, kayaking, and wine and beer tasting. For the $50-per-person harbor kayak tours, discounts are available for groups of 10 or more, whose members pay $35 each. Captain Jack’s also offers cruises and year-round whale watching.
While driving folks around for these various tours, Meredith was somehow able to find time to get another company off the ground: EmBrace Santa Barbara, which is supposed to serve as the umbrella company of Captain Jack’s Tours.
Meredith plans on making EmBrace higher scale with private, higher-quality and higher-priced tours.
Currently, Captain Jack’s has six part-time employees. Meredith and Billy operate their tour business out of their home. An array of their tours can be viewed at