Larry Lapating

Most ferry passengers would not recognize Larry Lapating if he were right in front of them, but the work he and his team perform on a daily basis is easily recognized and appreciated by the entire ferry community.

Larry Lapating (right) along with his mechanical team that keeps the Golden Gate ferries running.

BY MATT LARSON

 

Most ferry passengers would not recognize Larry Lapating if he were right in front of them, but the work he and his team perform on a daily basis is easily recognized and appreciated by the entire ferry community. He is a mechanics foreman for Golden Gate Ferry and he usually works at the agency’s Larkspur facility. When a ferry boat needs maintenance of any kind, Lapating and his fellow mechanics get to work on making these boats as good as new.

 

“I work with a bunch of great guys,” he said. “We do a lot more than just engines. I could be a plumber one moment and an electrician the next. We have to do it all.” It’s such a team effort that Lapating insisted we print a photo of not just him, but a group picture with members of his team. Included in the photo, from left to right, are machinists Danny Roque, Dave Powell, Danny Wahne and Larry himself.

 

Lapating’s maritime career began at age 18 when he joined the Navy. Shortly after joining, he was actually drafted by the Army while stationed on his first tour in Vietnam. “My chief said, ‘Well, you’ve had all the training, all you have to do now is change uniforms.’ But being a teenager I refused to leave the Navy.” Lapating served for six years and left as a second-class E-5 Electrician’s Mate.

 

His work in the maritime industry has continued to this day. When he left the Navy, he wanted to be more of a field engineer than someone sitting in an office behind a desk, so he charted his own career path. He started a business called L-Electric Marine Engineering Services, which is still functioning today—although his current involvement is mostly on the consulting side of things. But for years, his company allowed him to travel far and wide to work on his craft.

 

“I was contracting, flying around the world working for Military Sealift Command, MARAD, the Ready Reserve Force and some civilian companies,” he said. Some of the work included working on TLC Controls for boiler automation systems, working on switchboards and all sorts of different technology systems on a wide variety of vessels. One of the most famous vessels he worked on—which he can share as it’s now declassified—was the USNS Observation Island, which he describes as one of the U.S. government’s missile trackers. He’s also worked on vessels in Japan, Italy, Singapore, the Philippines and Mexico, to name a few places.

 

A contractor for 17 years, Lapating retired from the IBEW Local 6 (International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers) about nine years ago, and came out of retirement three years ago to work full time for Golden Gate. “Some good friends of mine convinced me, before I retire again, to come and be a full-time employee here,” he said. One of his favorite parts of working here is that he gets to share his experiences and pass on what he knows to his comrades. “We all exchange knowledge amongst ourselves, which is great.”

 

Born on a U.S. Navy base in the Philippines, as his father was stationed there during World War II, working on the water has been a part of his life from the beginning. He now lives in Lafayette, and is excited with what may come as traveling the Bay’s waterways grows more popular every day.

       

“WETA is building more boats to help alleviate the traffic in the Bay Area, which is a positive. I just hope that they open up more areas where they can put ferry boats and transport people into San Francisco.” Lapating is a fan of ferry travel, and highly recommends you take it every chance you get. “You can sit down, relax and enjoy the scenery,” he said. “It’s a peaceful commute from Larkspur to San Francisco.”