Trick or treat! My normal high speed ferry in to work this morning had mechanical issues, so it was replaced by the Marin. The Marin, one of the older (and slower) Spaulding ferries, but the Marin is special: it underwent a multimillion dollar renovation to take this 1970's relic to a state of the art ship. Primarily, it was renovated to accommodate the tourist traffic on the San Francisco to Sausalito run, but, on occasion, it is pressed into service for Larkspur.
- The staff is completely bewildered. Although the Marin was specifically renovated to handle over 70 bikes (as are common in the Sausalito run) with dedicated bike racks belowdecks, the staff directed commuters with bikes to the aft, outside (with no racks) "to spare you from having to carry the bike downstairs."
- The seating configurations are fascinating. The bow seats, both belowdecks and on the main deck, have La-Z-Boy seats with combination armrests and trays. Nice touch!
- One of the more charming parts of the Spauldings are the seating configurations in the main aft deck. They have preserved this club-like feel with two L shaped couches, facing each other, which invariably inspires conversation and merriment within.
- The majority of seats are odd: 3's instead of 2's. This mimics the Del Norte with its uncomfortable benches and booths, but looks odd with the Mendocino's Italian seats instead.
- Upper deck is vastly improved, with the Spaulding's classic mix of covered and uncovered seating, finally complimented by the mesh seats of the Mendocino. Heaters seem to have been sacrificed, however; on a chilly foggy am, that's no fun. And more of those 3's again!
- A Disney-esque travel warning and welcome message, pumped through Bose speakers placed every 20 feet.
- Special attention is paid to lighting. From the colored halogen fixtures at the bar, to rope lighting and pinpoint spots on the upper deck, the entire ship feels more dramatic.
Yes, it's still slower. Yes, it has no business on the Larkspur run (less seats, poor staff, ill equipped). But as a Halloween surprise, it was a fun one!