Captain Dave Noble

Its been a long time coming for Dave Noble to achieve the rank of captain with Golden Gate Ferry, and its been well worth the wait. Ive been trying to get out here for 30 years but it never worked out, he said. Im finally here, and Im staying until I retire or they kick me out.

By Matt Larson

Published: December, 2014

It’s been a long time coming for Dave Noble to achieve the rank of captain with Golden Gate Ferry, and it’s been well worth the wait. “I’ve been trying to get out here for 30 years but it never worked out,” he said. “I’m finally here, and I’m staying until I retire or they kick me out.”

Originally from Rhode Island, Noble moved to the Bay Area when he was five years old. “I’m not officially a native, but it sure feels like it,” he said. Noble has now been with Golden Gate Ferry for four years, and you can currently find him on the later afternoon commute from Larkspur to San Francisco and back.

Over the years, Noble has worked on charter boats, tug boats, yachts and more. Noble explained that the lifestyle of a ferry boat captain is quite a luxury compared to other maritime employment. “On tug boats you live on the boats; most of the boats you’re on there a week on and a week off, so you’re away from your family for six months out of the year,” he said. “I spent 23 years doing that. Now, this is a much nicer schedule.”

Aside from the schedule, Noble was quick to reply when asked about his favorite part of the job: “My office.” The captain’s wheelhouse affords some pretty amazing views that few passengers ever get to see. “A lot of the guys on the tugs ask me: ‘Don’t you get bored going back and forth and back and forth?’ Well, every single run is different,” he said. “It’s just beautiful out there. Especially the Christmas season. I love working at night and going into the City when it’s all lit up with all the Christmas lights.”

As much as he loves his current job, it’s still a close second to the best job of his life: “My wife and I worked on a yacht for 10 years together,” he said. “We hit Mexico, Hawaii, Alaska—always in the Pacific—for 10 years. I was the captain and she was the first mate on the yacht. That was the best job I’ve ever had. This is the second best.” He and his wife met right by the water at Eagle Cafe on Pier 39; he was teaching sailing at the time, she was into sailing as well, and the rest is history.

There are a couple of unique sights that Noble always appreciates when he’s captaining the ferry. “When we come into Larkspur I like to watch these night herons; they’re white, really goofy looking birds, usually right in front of the boat when we tie up at berth 2,” he said. “They’re all just a couple feet apart and if one of them moves, it causes a great sight that’s just so entertaining to watch.” And then coming back to San Francisco: “When you’re coming into the City at night it’s just … it’s magic,” he said.

Noble has also volunteered with the Farallon Patrol for Point Blue Conservation Science (formerly Point Reyes Bird Observatory) by running their personnel out to the Farallon Islands, which are 28 miles from San Francisco—not an easy commute. “You’ve got the bird nerds, spinach pickers and shark guys,” he said. “People that study the birds, people who go out and look at all the indigenous plant life, and people that study the great whites out there.”

Contributing to both science and community, Noble is proud to be working on the boats in the San Francisco Bay and invites everyone out to take a trip on the ferry. “I try to be as smooth as possible on every docking.” He’s had no complaints yet, but, he laughed, “There’s still time!”