Recently, I read a compelling article in the past issue of Coast Magazine. The article, which was written by Sarah Mosqueda, described Balboa ferry captain Ray DeCeco’s typical workday. If you missed it, I have it below in it’s entirety.
Driving the same stretch of water nearly 100 times a day might seem tedious, but Balboa Ferry Captain Ray DeCeco is more than just a boat captain. He’s a tour guide, food critic and information desk. “This is the kind of job where you get to wear a lot of different hats,” he says. Eight years ago, DeCeco left the corporate world and put his captain’s license to use. He’s been driving the Balboa Ferry ever since.
Coast found out what a typical day at sea is like.
During the summer season, the ferry runs from 6:30 a.m. to 2 a.m., seven days a week. You can find DeCeco on the opening shift Monday through Friday. “My shift starts six o’clock in the morning and the first half hour is taken up with getting the first ferry running,” he says. All the mechanics of the boat are inspected to make sure everything is in proper working order. The ferry runs three boats during the summer season named Admiral, Captain and Commodore.
After the boat is all checked out, they’re open for business. “I have a lot of regulars,” he says. Usually it’s locals waiting to be picked up for work. There is also the occasional car waiting to make a 6 a.m. fishing trip, often a little confused as to how their GPS expects them to make it across the water. “It’s kind of funny, most people have GPS in their cars and they’ll program in the address over here for the sport fishing. And of course the GPS is going to make it the shortest distance,” DeCeco explains. “The shortest distance is to come to the ferry,” he says.
The deckhand arrives. “Until 10, I run the boat alone. I’m responsible for driving it, I’m responsible for landing it, I’m responsible for collecting and loading and unloading the cars.”
The lunch crowd starts. The ferry’s traffic peaks around this time. “I meet a lot of really interesting people,” says DeCeco. He particularly enjoys picking up tourists. “That’s when the fun really starts. It’s like you stop being a ferry driver and now you’re going to be a tour guide.” He points out the former site of John Wayne’s place, Nicolas Cage’s house, dolphins, and sea lions. He also gets asked about good places for seafood, things to do on the island and a favorite: “‘Where’s the wedge?’ I get that one a lot.”
After lunch, DeCeco returns to shuttling people back and forth. “Every now and then we get a celebrity on the boat,” he says. “Gary Busey, Leonard Nimoy…Ellen DeGeneres shot a commercial on the boat. I tell you, we had a blast. She was hilarious!” Huell Howser also shot on the ferry, “Oh my gosh!” DeCeco says, doing his best impression of the enthusiastic Howser. “You know how he gets,” he says. “It was fun having him on board.”
DeCeco’s shift is almost over and as an opener he doesn’t have much to break down or clean up. The boats continue to run until 2 a.m., when they’re shut down. The boats have diesel engines and only need gas twice a week.
DeCeco is done for the day. “People say to me, ‘Gosh, you’ve got the best job in the world,’ and coming from the corporate world, I probably do,” he says. “I’m outside all day and it’s a lot of fun.”
Take a ride: Experience the Balboa Island Ferry for yourself this summer. Adult fare: $1; children: 50 cents; car and driver: $2; motorcycles: $1.50; bikes: $1.25; and children’s bikes: 75 cents. (949) 673-1070 | BalboaIslandFerry.com
This entire article is by Sarah Mosqueda, from Coast Magazine. August 2011 issue.
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