Alcatraz: Isle of the Pelicans


his morning I am pretending to be a tourist in my home town and I have booked a tour to Alcatraz Island. Of course, the only way to get there is by boat. I am taking the first ferry out in the morning to avoid many of "other tourists." I am certain I am going to be late because, despite leaving an hour before the departure time, I am stuck in very bad traffic. But I have two things that happen to aid in my timely arrival. One is that I take an Uber (so I save time not having to find parking ) and the second is that my driver takes the carpool lane...even though he is not supposed to (we are two in a car and across the Bay Bridge the law is three).

So the frenzied cab ride has me arriving early for my ferry and I head in to the café to grab a cappuccino and a croissant (no chocolate croissants unfortunately). Here I can settle down to answer a few emails before my journey. Soon, it is time to queue up to board.

Our ferry this morning is the Alactraz Flyer. Using a hybrid propulsion system of wind power, solar power, and diesel – it is one of the greenest diesel powered ferry boats in the bay. As the ferry silently backs away from the dock, I am given some beautiful views of the city, the Bay Bridge, and my destination.

Alcatraz is nicknamed “The Rock”…and with good reason. It is literally a big rock smack dab in the middle of the bay and, prior to human intervention, was completely devoid of life save birds (and bird guano). Its name actually means “island of the pelicans.”

San Francisco Bay Bridge

Alcatraz was the prison system’s prison…where those inmates that were deemed to be non-conforming, dangerous, or violent, or those that tried too many times to escape, were sent.

If you break society's rules, you are sent to prison. If you break prison's rules, you are sent to Alcatraz.

I can imagine how the prisoners felt as they were leaving freedom and slowly, irrevocably, making their way toward the inescapable prison. As the city of San Francisco slips farther away, my attention turns toward the foreboding object towards which the boat steadily moves.