Golden Gate Ferry celebrates 40th anniversary

August 13, 2010 7:54:16 PM PDT
The Golden Gate Ferry system is coming up on its 40th anniversary and still a favorite for locals looking for another way to get across the bay.

The Golden Gate Ferry between Sausalito and San Francisco went into business on August 15, 1970. Jim Garrison was hired the week before and he is still on-deck today, 40 years later.

His title is deck-hand, but Garrison prefers bowswain. At age 79, he has no plans to retire.

"I like the organization and I've made a lot of friends here," he said.

The Nixons took a ride in 1972, but it is the loyal locals who have helped keep the ferries alive.

The Larkspur terminal was built in 1976. San Anselmo residents Elizabeth and Emile Heitner first got on board that same year and started bringing their kids soon after.

"We would go into the city a lot, cable car rides, Muni, free Muni passes, not free any more but that's OK," Elizabeth Heitner said.

Ferry service on the bay dates back to the 1850s, but after the Golden Gate Bridge opened in 1937, ferry ridership dwindled. The service finally shut down in 1941.

For 29 years, the bridge was the only direct route between San Francisco and Marin Counties, but eventually planners had to address increasing traffic congestion.

"There were a lot of different studies, add a second deck, build a second bridge," Golden Gate Bridge District spokesperson Mary Currie said.

The Legislature cleared the way for the bridge district to go into the transit business and the Golden Gate Ferry was born.

The most recent additions to the fleet include three high speed catamarans built around the time 13-year-old passenger Noah Wheeler was born. He is impressed with the ferries and Garrison's 40-year career.

Garrison will be honored at the bridge district board meeting next week.


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