Forrest Fennell

Forrest Fennell is not your average vessel master (in other words, captain) for Golden Gate Ferry.

In addition to his duties as vessel master, Forrest Fennell is also the safety, security and training coordinator for Golden Gate Ferry.

By Matt Larson

Published: October, 2014

Forrest Fennell is not your average vessel master (in other words, captain) for Golden Gate Ferry. For the last year, he’s also been the safety, security and training coordinator for the Ferry Division at Golden Gate Bridge Highway & Transportation District. 

“I still drive the boat in the morning and afternoon, but I have these other collateral duties,” he said. “Instead of just the ferry and my crew, now I’m more in charge of the fleet, making sure we’re in compliance with the Coast Guard, paperwork, things like that.”

With a degree in business from the California Maritime Academy in Vallejo, Fennell is glad to be putting more of his skills to use. “I’m using more brainpower than I ever have,” he said. “Dealing with people and personnel issues, people skills I never knew I had, there’s a lot of time constraints—I’m just trying to make everybody happy, really.”

Before getting started with Golden Gate Ferry in 1999, he shipped out as an able-bodied seaman with Military Sealift Command, the transportation provider for the Department of Defense, right after graduating college. “I did a lot of cool things,” he said. “I worked on a few ammunition ships. Two ships would go alongside each other and we’d transfer bombs back and forth; we did all sorts of stuff with ships that you’re not really supposed to do when you’re in school. It was a lot of fun.”

He got the opportunity to travel the world, including visits to Japan, Panama, Thailand, Indonesia and more—yet the Bay Area still draws him back. “I’ve been all over the world and nothing compares to our San Francisco Bay,” he said. “It’s definitely one of the most beautiful places in the whole world. And as far as jobs go, I have the whole day to myself out there sometimes, so I do think I have one of the best jobs in the world.”

In Fennell’s free time, however, he tends to stay more inland. “Truth be told, when I have time off I try to steer away from the water because I do put so many hours on the Bay,” said Fennell. “I’m more into mountain biking, hiking and exploring Mount Tam.”

A Fairfax resident, finally returning to where he grew up after 30 years away, he recommends his fellow Marinites to hop aboard the Wave, a free public shuttle bus (compliments of Golden Gate Transit) to the Larkspur Ferry. “It’s a great way to just leave your car at home,” said Fennell, who takes it to work every chance he gets. “I’m actually able to ride the Wave with our passengers, wearing my captain uniform and everything.” (Note: The Wave is free for ferry customers only. For more information, visit

Fennell is proud to work for Golden Gate Ferry and is pleased with its contributions to a cleaner environment. “We remove 1,800 cars from the road every single day, Monday through Friday,” he said. “I think that’s a significant impact. We have a parking lot with 1,800 spots and it’s full every day, so I think we’re doing something good here.” Thanks to similar companies and increased overall awareness, he’s noticed some positive changes in the Bay over the years.

“I think the Bay is getting cleaner,” he said. “In the time that I’ve been going back and forth I’ve noticed that the harbor porpoises are coming back in bigger numbers. And I’ve seen places in the Bay where I couldn’t see the bottom before and now I can. I really do enjoy watching the change, ever so slowly, but I think it’s going in the right direction.”

Fennell recommends doing yourself and the environment a favor and taking public transit whenever you can. “Just try to get away from holding on to that steering wheel and dealing with all that stress,” said Fennell. “Why not take the Wave, take the ferry, bring a book, maybe get some work done and then avoid parking in San Francisco. Enjoy the ride; take it easy.”