Award winning U.S.C.G. Certified Captain Maggie McDonogh is the President, CEO and fourth generation Captain of the Angel Island – Tiburon Ferry Company, now celebrating over 55 years serving the community on San Francisco Bay.
Save The Bay last spoke with you about the return of the porpoises to the Bay. Do you still see porpoises on your daily trips across the Bay?
Yes we do. In fact I’ve been seeing quite a few calves, which is really quite wonderful.
You told me you saw a Mola Mola out in front of your boat in Tiburon the other day. How often do you see marine life during your daily trips across the Bay?
We see some sort of wildlife every day on every trip. Right now, we see a lot of jellyfish, baitfish, seals, harbor seals, sea lions, harbor porpoises, an occasional whale and many different kinds of sea birds. It’s fascinating when you see species that aren’t normally seen in the Bay.
The Angel Island-Tiburon Ferry Company is the last remaining family owned and operated ferry service in California. What was it like growing up out on the Bay?
It was wonderful. We saw all sorts of beautiful things regularly. My father, who grew up on the Bay himself, taught me how to handle all sorts of different situations and we met many fascinating people. The Bay is a beautiful place to be. I was very lucky to grow up with it being a central focus of our family’s lives.
What is it like to continue your family’s work and to see your children becoming involved as well?
Well that’s wonderful too. Not only do we have the privilege of operating the boats but we get to make people happy for a living. My dad taught us that not all returns on an investment are monetary. It’s a very enriching and a wonderful experience to continue doing ferry boats and to watch over people. To share what we get to do every single day with people who don’t get to do this every day, that’s a huge honor.
It’s amazing to watch our son Sam who is 20 getting his captain’s license. Teaching him to run the ferry boat is an experience. When he receives his documentation he will be the 5th generation of our family in Tiburon to be a captain. His grandfather would be very proud. Our daughter Becky is the next in line after Sam and our youngest Ben is all about learning how to tie the lines.
What I didn’t understand for a long time is that the highest form of compliment is imitation. When your children are imitating what you do and following you, that’s a huge compliment. They don’t need to do it. They certainly are welcome to explore other avenues, but it’s very nice to see them showing interest in what we do.
From hearing stories from your family and from your own experiences have you noticed any changes in terms of how people interact with the San Francisco Bay and how people talk and think about the Bay?
I see a lot more people interested in the Bay and its wellbeing. There’s a lot of discussion and concern about the funneling of the water from the Delta south because that’s going to have a tremendous impact on the health of the Bay. Then you get the people who don’t know anything about the Bay, so there is an opportunity to educate them. There are all of these different avenues for people who aren’t involved to see more and for people who don’t really understand to be educated. I hope that people who ride the boat and experience the Bay’s beauty will educate themselves and become involved since the Bay is an essential element in our greater community.
During the 2008 wildfire, you brought fire fighters to Angel Island via ferry, ensuring that the island and its historical buildings were protected. Can you tell me more about that experience and what role the AITF has played in saving the Bay?
That was a period where we had four or five days of North Easterly wind and we were called by the Head Ranger who said that there was a small fire but we didn’t need to worry. We came to the docks and at that point my phone was ringing like crazy and everyone was saying, “Hey Maggie your island is on fire.”
So William and I ran the boat with some other volunteers for hours, moving firefighters back and forth because you have to move quickly in situations like this. You know there’s concern for all the historic buildings and then there’s the concern about all of the people on the island. It was really intense and I have a lot of respect for the firefighting crews that were out there because they were very effective in dealing with a potentially horrific situation.
We were also involved with the 2007 oil spill that recently was on the Bay. We discussed with the cleanup crews the best placement of the oil absorbent pads because we are familiar with the currents around Angel Island and in the cove better than just about anyone else. We came and helped them move equipment back and forth to the island. We provided service off of our dock in Tiburon for them to use as a staging platform.
When you are not ferrying passengers across the Bay, what are some of your favorite things to do on the Bay?
We do lots of things on the Bay. I like to just take the boat out and relax. We go swimming, paddle boarding and kayaking. Since the Bay is never the same from hour to hour or day to day there is always something to see or do.
Learn more about Captain Maggie
A pillar in the San Francisco Bay Area community and beyond, Captain Maggie McDonogh is the recipient of many honors and awards including the Tiburon Peninsula Business Citizen of the Year Award, North Bay Business Journal Women in Business Award, and the American Red Cross Lifesaving Hero Organization Award, to name a few.
In addition to fun day-trips to Angel Island State Park year-round via Tiburon, California, the public is invited to join “Captain Maggie” and her expert crew on-board for seasonal Sunset Cruises, specialty cruises and private charters on San Francisco Bay.
For more information and to plan your next getaway on San Francisco Bay please visit: http://CaptainMaggie.com.