Angel Island Ferry
Business-of-the-Month, Angel Island-Tiburon Ferry
When Maggie McDonogh was a youngster, her dad, Milt, taught her some lessons to live by: “Don’t get all jazzed up about it, think before you do” and “Not all returns on investments are financial.” Captain Maggie, owner and operator of the Angel Island-Tiburon Ferry still lives by these beliefs.
This maritime family arrived in the Bay Area in the late 1800s when Maggie’s great grandfather, Sam McDonogh, settled in Tiburon. The Angel Island Ferry and McDonogh family have been community institutions that have been engrained in California’s history since the 1880s. The McDonoghs have operated boats throughout the Bay Area and Sacramento Delta. Having been on the bay for so many years, the McDonogh family has been foundational in helping shape the bay and delta as we know them today. They have been involved in projects as far ranging and varied as the construction of the levies in the delta and the Golden Gate Bridge.
In 1959, Milt created the Angel Island-Tiburon Ferry Company. Since then, the ferry has carried thousands of visitors and families to Angel Island State Park. Maggie McDonogh has continued to expand the business and provide her passengers with the opportunity to enjoy the beauty of the bay and Pacific Ocean.
Maggie earned her captain’s license at the age of 22 and is the fourth generation of her family to transport people around the bay. Her son, Sam – who is now the fifth generation McDonogh to be in the ferry business – has his 100-ton captain’s license. Sam captains the boats, leads the whale watching cruises and heads the mechanics. Maggie’s daughter Becky is an aspiring artist and is the greeter on the street, providing people with a wealth of local information.
However, the Angel Island-Tiburon Ferry family is broader than the three McDonoghs. Ashley, Gaby, Dylan and Tim have also become part of the family. On stormy days, the crew opts for engine room work because nothing is warmer than an engine room after a day of service!
It is such a young-looking group that they often get comments from customers. In one instance, a gentleman riding the boat made a comment that made the crew laugh: “I am pretty sure that the cumulative age of the captain and crew is younger than me!”
“Don’t let my crew’s youthful appearance fool you,” Maggie says. “They are all multitalented, vivacious and have a can-do attitude.”
When the pandemic hit, Maggie halted service. When she was able to resume service to Angel Island, she approached operating it as she always has, with the safety of both her crew and passengers as a top priority. It took her an entire month to meticulously plan and implement necessary changes and procedures to continue operating during the pandemic. One major change was to reduce the iconic “Angel Island” vessel capacity from 400 to 100 passengers.
To better ensure her passengers’ safety, Maggie installed barriers between the booths on the ferry’s main level and implemented strict cleaning procedures to sanitize the boat after each run. Specific rules are followed to the letter: Everyone coming on board must wear a mask and maintain social distancing at all times. Additionally, there is no eating or drinking on the dock in Tiburon or onboard the boat.
There is one way on and one way off the Tiburon dock, and hand sanitizer is offered to everyone. Each time passengers disembark, the crew wipes down all surfaces and, at the end of each day, the entire interior is fogged with a disinfectant solution and thoroughly cleaned.
Numerous passengers have congratulated Maggie and her crew on the great job they’re doing to keep everyone on board safe and healthy.
As an optimist, Maggie sees the silver lining during the current turbulent era. “During a time when we all need to be kinder to each other, it has been our pleasure to help people discover or rediscover Tiburon and Angel Island, both of which are treasures,” she says.
During this past year, visitors have told the crew what a pleasure it was to come to Tiburon and take the ferry to Angel Island. It has been a growth year.
“Being able to provide any sort of relief to the stresses of daily life while supporting our business community and our company has been something we are proud and happy to do,” Maggie says.
The Angel Island-Tiburon Ferry brings anywhere between 80,000-100,000 people to the town of Tiburon in non-pandemic years. As the president of a woman owned and family operated business, Maggie understands the diligent work needed to expand a business and promote a community.
“When passengers come on board and ask what there is to do in Tiburon, the crew has ready answers to promote town businesses,” Maggie says. “We believe that if businesses all support each other, it can lead to a thriving local economy. After all, small businesses are the threads that hold communities together.”
If you are interested in booking a trip to Angel Island or learning more about our specialty cruises, visit the website: angelislandferry.com
or call us at 415-435-2131