Christian San Miguel

If you're boarding the ferry in Vallejo on any given afternoon, chances are you're a passenger aboard a boat captained by Christian San Miguel.

Christian San Miguel started with Blue & Gold Fleet in 1989 as a deckhand. Within five years, he earned his captainís license and took a seat in the wheelhouse. Photo by Joel Williams


Published: January, 2018


If you’re boarding the ferry in Vallejo on any given afternoon, chances are you’re a passenger aboard a boat captained by Christian San Miguel. He started with Blue & Gold Fleet in 1989 as a deckhand, but he had greater aspirations. He soon went into the engineering department, and within five years he earned his captain’s license and took a seat in the wheelhouse.


“When I started we only had three boats and a private yacht,” he said. Since then San Miguel has been with Blue & Gold throughout all of its biggest transitions, including the years during which the company operated the Alcatraz ferries. Today, almost 30 years after he started, he still enjoys coming in to work. “It’s a job I look forward to going to, which is nice,” he said. “Every day is different. I like the cruise, the boats, the passengers—it’s a win-win!”


Working at Blue & Gold Fleet is actually San Miguel’s first and only venture into the maritime field. Before this, he worked for Goodyear tires as a supervisor in a job he really didn’t enjoy. So he followed his heart, took a job on the water and has stuck with it ever since.


In the early days of his Blue & Gold career, he got to do a little bit of everything that’s involved with keeping these boats afloat. “Coming up as a deckhand to being in the engineering department, I got to know these boats from the bilge up.” Now, as a maritime professional, San Miguel even has his own personal vessel that he works on in his spare time.


He owns a 36-foot Columbia sailboat that he’s been fixing up for a little while now. “It needs a lot of work,” he said, as he’s yet to be able to take it out to sea. But thanks to his training at Blue & Gold he’s equipped with all the know-how he needs to get it running. The only thing he really needs is the free time to work on it.


San Miguel has kept his seaward expeditions pretty close to home since becoming a captain with Blue & Gold, but he has delivered a lot of their boats to shipyards in both Seattle and San Diego. “I really enjoyed that,” he said. “It’s challenging, usually it gets really rough. Plus there’s not too many ports that you can pull into if you have a problem, so you try to plan your weather.”


Taking the ferry is always such a calm and relaxing experience, it’s easy to forget that there’s a captain up top making sure we all get to our destination safely. “The Vallejo boats are high-speed cats, so things on the Bay can come up on you pretty quick,” said San Miguel. “There’s debris, and we’re often driving in fog with limited visibility, so while you enjoy your coffee and newspaper, in the wheelhouse there’s a lot of things going on.”


When he’s not captaining the ship or working on his own boat, San Miguel likes to visit his friends in the foothills, and he also spends time with his mother, Marga, who is 93 years old. San Miguel is actually a first-generation American on both sides of his family, as his mother is from Germany and his father, Jesus, was from Spain. The two met while attending law school in San Francisco, where San Miguel was born.


He grew up in Oakland and now resides in Pinole. As a Bay Area native, he offers some advice on what makes the ferry such a special opportunity. “If you really want to enjoy the Bay, you’ve got to see it from the water,” he said. He suggests hopping aboard as many different ferry routes as you can, such as Larkspur and South San Francisco. “You get a better perspective of the whole Bay Area seeing it from the water,” he said. “And for commuting, over BART, over the bus, I think the boats are the best in the Bay.”