Leslie Propheter

For the past 10 years at least, if you've been an avid ferry rider, you may have gotten to know Leslie Propheter.

When not working as a deckhand, Leslie Propheter enjoys being an artist. She has even designed some protest posters on behalf of the IBU.

BY MATT LARSON

 

For the past 10 years at least, if you’ve been an avid ferry rider, you may have gotten to know Leslie Propheter. She has been a deckhand on Bay Area ferry boats for over a decade, but actually started out her maritime career in 1984 as a gourmet chef.

 

“My first ship was a cruise ship in Tahiti; I was fresh out of the California Culinary Academy on Fremont Street in San Francisco,” she said. The ship was part of American Hawaiian Cruise Lines, and she ended up in Hawaii on the Constitution and the Independence cruise ships. “Then I graduated to chief steward on government ships and tankers, eventually cooking on tug boats in Alaska.”  

 

Working as a deckhand is a bit different than working as a chef. “The difference from cooking to being a deckhand is amazing,” Propheter said. “There’s very little comparison to be had.” The absolute best part of being a deckhand, for her, is just being out there on the water, enjoying the scenery. “You never get tired of the view,” she said. “This is a beautiful area, even when you’re not on the water!”

 

When we met Propheter, she was working onboard the Vallejo ferry. That day the boat just happened to have an all-female crew. “It’s a new thing! It’s awesome,” she said. “There’s very few women out here now, and there were even fewer when I started.” She encourages other women to consider this line of work, as it might not be an occupation that comes to mind for most.

 

“I think women just don’t really think about this kind of work as something women do,” said Propheter. “Don’t be afraid. You can get a really good job, and you don’t have to have any experience as you get training when you come in.” Propheter also mentioned the union that represents many ferry workers. “If I had anything important to convey, it would be to promote the very real chance of future jobs that are available with the Inland Boatman’s Union (IBU)—sign up at 450 Harrison Street, San Francisco!”

 

Propheter also spoke about how WETA ferry service is expanding into more areas on the Bay, and that the union is in need of workers. “The pay is great, as well as the benefits,” she said. “With a little investment in the proper Coast Guard paperwork (approximately $350) a person can work full or part time, especially in the summer months with Giants baseball.”

 

Raised in California, Propheter currently resides in Sonoma. When she’s not assisting passengers on their daily commute, she’s an artist in her free time, specializing in ballpoint pen drawings. “I’d love to be in an art studio, with lots of people around doing the same thing. That would be very inspiring,” she said. Her work has been on display in galleries over the years. She describes her style as “cartoony” and “bizarre,” and loves making caricatures of people. She even designed some protest posters on behalf of the IBU, and shared some of her work with us for this article.

 

After more than a decade working on the ferries in the San Francisco Bay, the biggest draw to using them, in Propheter’s opinion, is the reliability. “It’s a lot safer, I believe,” she said. “The relaxing part is very important as well. You can have a drink and relax; commuters are quiet so you can do work on your computer, or just stare out the window and enjoy the view.”

 

Propheter said that while she’s working as a deckhand, the atmosphere of being on the ferry is even relaxing for her as a crew member, just as it is for the passengers. Also, if you want to take Propheter’s advice and get into maritime work, you can visit www.ibu.org for more information. If you or someone you know might be interested—spread the word.