Project Engineer John Gray

There was a time when John Gray rode the Golden Gate Ferry as a means of getting into the city, not thinking twice about what went on behind the helm.

As a project engineer at Golden Gate Ferry, John Gray helps manage the boats when they are due for maintenance.

BY MATT LARSON

 

There was a time when John Gray rode the Golden Gate Ferry as a means of getting into the city, not thinking twice about what went on behind the helm. Now, as a project engineer of Golden Gate’s Ferry Division, he can tell you all about how your calm and collected commute to San Francisco is the result of a massive team effort.

 

“We work hard to get people to work,” he said. “There’s a huge amount of background work and a large pool of great people that make it all possible.” As a project engineer, Gray helps manage the boats when they’re due for maintenance. “Basically anything that involves one of our vessels coming out of the water, I’m likely to be involved in,” he said. This includes getting contracts in place, sending boats to the shipyard, interfacing with the shipyard, serving as a technical expert, performing quality control, and everything in between.

 

Originally from Santa Rosa, Gray discovered an early love for sailing when he was just a 14-year-old boy attending summer camp. It’s a hobby he maintains to this day, and a passion that led him to study mechanical engineering and marine engineering at Cal Maritime in Vallejo. “It’s a bit regimented, but you get a lot of great experiences there that you don’t find elsewhere,” he said of Cal Maritime. “Pretty much within a month of graduating I was working on a ship carrying military cargo.”

 

Before landing his current job with Golden Gate Ferry in December 2016, Gray’s maritime career took him to, among other places, the Gulf of Mexico and the Philippines. One of his most exciting adventures, however, was as part of Cal Maritime’s 2015 sailing team that won the 2015 Kennedy Cup, which is the Intercollegiate Sailing Association’s big boat national championship. The win allowed the team to represent the United States at the Student Yachting World Cup in France.

 

Today, Gray owns a Moore 24 and plans to take it out most Wednesday nights this summer with his sailing buddies and his wife, Crystal, for some casual racing events via the Richmond Yacht Club. “We do as many of those as we can, as well as the occasional weekend trip to Angel Island with friends or family to just go out and have a good time.” His favorite sailing location is Cascade Locks near the Hood River in Oregon. “You’re just sailing on fresh water, it’s warm and windy, really hard to have a bad time,” he said. “It’s a bit of a trip to get there, but it’s a beautiful spot.”

 

One of the best parts of the job so far for Gray is the multi-faceted environment, as projects come and go. “My job changes a little bit every few months,” he said. “There are a number of rotating responsibilities. It’s full of puzzles and everything’s always changing, so it’s really interesting.” One day he’ll be working with a designer trying to figure out all the little details of what to do on the boat. The next day he’ll be developing technical specifications and writing contract items, then later he’ll be out in the shipyard, getting dirty and witnessing the fruits of his labor. “So you get to follow projects from start to finish,” he said.

       

Taking out his Moore 24 and helping keep seven ferries in service takes up most of his time, but when he can, Gray and his wife also enjoy hiking in the Point Richmond area where they live, and they visit family in Santa Rosa when they can. If they ever travel to the city, you can bet they’re taking the ferry. “I like having the ability to just turn off, as opposed to sitting in my car and following the bumper in front of me,” he said. “You can have a conversation, you can work, you can do whatever you want!”