By Steefenie Wicks
Greg Baker has been part of the Sausalito waterfront since 1962. The City employees of Sausalito, along with the personnel from both the Fire and the Police departments, recognize his name, which for them stands for security. Because for many years Baker was part of the security force for the Sausalito waterfront that involved both the Marinship and the Schoonmaker area. He worked for Myron Spaulding at the location that we now call the Spaulding Marine Center, where he recalls that Spaulding was a meticulous man t known for saying, “You don’t use the vacuum until the big pieces have been picked up.”
Baker, who lived or worked on most if not all of the collection of old ferryboats purchased and brought to this area by Donlan Arques, recalls, “If it were not for Arques, the ferries would not have had a life after their death in service.” Baker also worked for Harold Sommers, of the schooner Wander Bird along with boat sitting the yacht Freda with then mate Bill Martinelli for Sommers when he went traveling in Germany with his wife Anna.
Baker was raised in the little costal town of Inverness, on Tomales Bay. He remembers that during the winter months the town’s census would go down to 40 residents, which left only 14 students to be taught in the old one room schoolhouse in the middle of town. He was given his first boat when he was around 10 years old -- a little row boat that he would paddle up and down the shore line with his mother, who did not swim but always watched for the bottom of the bay.
His father, along with most of the men in the town, worked for RCA; most were amateur radio operators. After his father got his first car, Greg would always ask him if they could go to Sausalito, to look at the boats. Even as a child, Sausalito was always the place he wanted to come to, to be part of. He remembers that after he got out of the Navy in 1962 he found himself working a job handling lights for a jazz club in Los Angeles. Later, that fall, he found himself back in Sausalito where -- by coincidence -- he ran into a friend from the jazz club. His friend was now working a local jazz venue, and he needed a man on the lights, so Baker took the job at the Yacht Dock, which was soon to become the Trident restaurant. “In those days, some of the real jazz greats came to play in San Francisco, then found their way to Sausalito,” he continued. “In Sausalito the jazz scene was quiet, almost low key compared to what the club would become once it became the Trident.” He recalled the time that comedian Bill Cosby took over the stage and entertained the audience until closing time.
Like others who arrived on the Sausalito waterfront, Baker lived in various locations, including aboard the Oakland, a 120-foot-long potato barge, which housed several apartments along with artist studios. He recalled that at one point the City had complained that it was sitting on City property, so the residents got together, floated that part of the barge that was in conflict, then moved it over so that it was now in the county not the city area. Baker recalls that those were the real days of freedom on the waterfront. He feels that today one of the best things taking place on the waterfront is the tall ship project; this is the type of restoration project that keeps the history of the waterfront alive. Whereas yesterday there were only 20 boats anchored in the Sausalito anchorage, today you have over 200. Today, instead of having someone doing waterfront security you have security cameras, which take away from the human contact which was part of the waterfront.
For many years not only did Baker do waterfront security but he was also known for his boat called the ‘Tug Kent’ which was a little 24-foot tug boat that he rigged for fire fighting duties. It was referred to by the Coast Guard and emergency services as the vessel that supplied “mutual aid” in urgent situations. He was written about in the Floating Times newspaper for an incident that took place on Strawberry Point before it was developed. A grass fire started near shore, inconveniently located for access by land -based fire-fighting crews. Baker arrived, successfully attacking the blaze from the water’s edge. Years later he would assist Marin fire personnel combating flames while providing water protection during a Strawberry house fire.
Baker no longer has the fireboat, nor is he employed by the waterfront to provide security. Now he lives anchored out on his 41 foot boat the Marcy, taking in the changes that are happening in the anchorage as well as in the town itself, knowing that he will always be a citizen of the waterfront, one who offers help and directions for others while still providing a secure environment for the many.