Tourists shiver with cold as they huddle in line, waiting to be shepherded onto the boat and take their seats. They snap pictures of the Bay as the boat departs and SF State senior Josh Scerri steers them toward the infamous Alcatraz.
Scerri has worked with Alcatraz Cruises for the past five years in a job that is anything but ordinary. His duties include maintaining a boat, interacting with about 3,000 people a day and spending a good chunk of his time at the helm.
“I could totally write a thesis paper on things I’ve seen,” Scerri said.
Scerri, a 24-year-old business management major who is graduating this semester, landed a job as a deckhand in 2010 following his high school graduation. While job searching and spending time down around the wharf, he said he came across Alcatraz Cruises and thought he’d see if they had any openings.
“I applied, but didn’t really have a lot of experience as far as boating goes,” Scerri said. “But they took a chance on me – at 18 I was the youngest one.”
Scerri grew up in Pacifica and attended Serra High School in San Mateo. Scerri said he decided to attend SF State after Alcatraz Cruises hired him. He said he figured this was a job he would only do through college, but he developed a strong interest in boating and the marine industry.
Scerri has since been promoted to first officer, who serves as an assistant in navigation and managing the crew. The position also includes taking charge in case of emergency.
“It can be (a lot of pressure), but the emergencies don’t happen too often, and we try to prevent them whenever we can,” Scerri said. “The training and practicing helps (us) to stay calm and handle it.”
Scerri is currently in training to become a boat captain.
“Ultimately, the goal is to earn a position as an actual captain, get my own boat, manage my own crew, and gain experience that way,” Scerri said. “From there, the options are endless.”
Scerri said he hopes to not only be a captain but also aspires to enter the real estate industry with his best friend of 18 years, Johnny Fruehe.
“I would say we are pretty much like brothers,” Fruehe said. “I think we would make a solid one-two combo. Our strengths make up for each other’s weaknesses, which could be very beneficial in the business world.”
Scerri said throughout this experience he’s learned the significance of accountability.
“People say you gotta take responsibility for your actions, but when you’re responsible for hundreds of people at one time during certain situations, it’s heavy,” Scerri said.
Scerri’s co-worker and roommate, Will Barnes, is a captain at Alcatraz Cruises and has been working with Scerri for the last five years. Barnes said Scerri is impressive as an employee as he continues to move up in the ranks.
“He knows what it takes to get everything done because he has done it all,” Barnes said. “That is a rare and comforting quality to find in a crew member.”
Scerri said even with graduation approaching, he has no intention of leaving his job with Alcatraz Cruises.
“It’s been a joy meeting all these different people and experiencing all these different cultures,” Scerri said.