San Francisco tour and ferry operator Blue & Gold Fleet marked its 40 years in business May 23 with a celebration on the city waterfront at Pier 39.
The Blue & Gold Fleet was started as a local boat company by Bay Area natives Roger Murphy and Warren Simmons a few months after Pier 39’s opening day in 1979. Over the next 40 years, the company grew to carry more than four million passengers annually on its fleet of 23 vessels, the largest on the West Coast, to and from San Francisco on both boat tours and ferry services.
Murphy attended St. Mary’s College of California and Simmons was a proud University of California Berkeley alumnus – hence the color scheme and name of the fleet in honor of his alma mater. The first three boats were named Oski, Golden Bear and Old Blue, all references to UC Berkeley. All three are still in service on the bay today.
Blue & Gold has played a major role in the use of ferries for emergency response, which has grown to be a public policy for the entire Bay Area. The value of that sealift capability was evident after the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, and during the 2013 Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) strikes.
During the earthquake, the Bay Bridge experienced devastation that caused a section of the upper deck to fall onto the deck below. In response, Blue & Gold helped carry over 15,000 stranded passengers between Oakland and San Francisco. Over the weeks that followed, Blue & Gold continued expanding ferry service to Oakland and Alameda, as well as Berkeley, during the month-long bridge closure. Ultimately, this led to the revitalization of the Alameda and Oakland ferry service to San Francisco and the expansion of the Vallejo ferry service.
During the BART strike more than 400,000 commuters were affected by the traffic nightmares that ensued. Blue & Gold mobilized quickly and became part of the solution to transport commuters to work and school each morning and back home each evening. That proven e ability to move a large number of passengers safely is what helped create the upsurge of transportation on the Bay. Blue & Gold now operates all the Water Emergency Transportation Authority (WETA) vessels.
The core of the company has remained steady over four decades. Roger Murphy’s son, Patrick Murphy, is now president of Blue & Gold Fleet, where he started working at age 15 as a summer employee. Eventually earning his captain’s license, Patrick Murphy transitioned from the wheelhouse to operations and in 2017 was named president.
“In the beginning days, when my dad was at the helm, it was all hands-on deck for the Murphy family. My mom, brothers, sister and cousins all helped out,” said Murphy. “Forty years later, I feel there still is a family atmosphere at Blue & Gold, and I couldn’t be prouder of our incredible team.”