SecondAct contributor David Ferrell is a former staff writer for the Los Angeles Times and the author of the comic baseball novel “Screwball”. This article originally appeared on SecondAct.com. Top photo by Veronica DeLuca
Pilot John Voishan devoted a long career to flying travelers across the globe. He loved to gaze down on mountains and rivers as he guided massive 747s to cities in Europe, Australia and throughout the Americas. His final assigned route – from Los Angeles to Sydney – took 14 1/2 hours and spanned 7,500 miles each way, with hundreds of people reading and napping in the cabin behind him.
Though retired now, at age 65, Voishan hasn’t quite given up the passengers. But he’s traded in jumbo jets for a slow, boxy, open-air vessel known as a shoreboat, a water taxi that serves Santa Catalina Island. The rugged fleet of shoreboats – each slightly smaller than a bus – is one of the distinctive features of the picturesque island 22 miles off the Southern California coast.
A Unique Taxi
Not to be confused with the large, powerful express boats that carry tourists to and from the mainland, Catalina’s water taxis only run in and around Avalon Harbor. A shoreboat is crassly functional; it has no driver’s seat and no windows. Voishan stands in the sun and wind, his white hair blowing, and gently works a small metal wheel to maneuver the puttering vessel among the dozens of yachts and sailboats tied up at rows of moorings, or anchored in the deeper waters beyond.
His task is to ferry people from their yachts and other pleasure boats to the Green Pier in Avalon, Catalina’s resort town. On a busy run, 30 or 40 riders may fill the bench seats lining the shoreboat’s interior. The passenger load dwindles at times to just a handful, but there is always someone needing a taxi to get ashore – morning, noon and night.