Bay Area/ San Francisco
Published on April 09, 2015
Secretly Awesome: The Bay's Tideline Water TaxiTideline Water Taxi's "Osprey" boat. Photos: Geri Koeppel/Hoodline

When she wants to visit Tiburon with friends, Katie Breen of Cow Hollow prefers to zip across the Bay on Tideline Water Taxi service. "You get a better experience," she said. "It feels like a private yacht."

Breen and her friend Kelly Lynch, also of Cow Hollow, along with Lynch's family visiting from New York last weekend, chose to pay the $25 for a water taxi loop instead of $22.50 round-trip for a ferry.

They had to make a quick stop in Sausalito for other passengers, but other than that, the ride was scenic and relatively smooth, even when the afternoon winds kicked up and whitecaps formed on the Bay.

Tideline passengers get great views of both bridges and the Bay.

The smaller, more personalized ride is a big draw for Tideline passengers doing the "Bay in a Day" loop, but the company has operated relatively under the radar for many intra-Bay commuters and visitors.

The company—Tideline Marine Group—has two boats, the six-passenger Kestrel and the 40-passenger Osprey. Right now, they run an all-day schedule on weekends from Tiburon to Sausalito to Hyde Street Pier at Fisherman's Wharf to Pier 1 1/2 on the Embarcadero near Washington Street.

Saturdays, the boats run from 11am until after midnight, and they'll run even later starting in May. On Sundays, the loop ends at 5:20pm. (Consult the weekly loop schedule, because it changes often.)

When the San Francisco Giants' season starts, Tideline will add a stop at Pier 40 for AT&T Park and sell multiple loop passes at a discount. Look for more stops to come, too, depending on where the hotspots are.

"We'll be running all the Giants games during the week," said Charlie Gondak, Tideline's director of operations. He said they'll also start going to Fort Mason on Fridays for Off the Grid.

"The loop service is designed to shift depending on what's going on in the city" and East Bay, said Capt. Taylor Lewis, founder of Tideline. "If there's something going on in Jack London Square, we'll run the loop to Jack London Square."

Skyline view from Tideline Water Taxi.

He added, "As the demand goes up, we'll add more boats." Tideline got a contract with the Port of San Francisco for the on-demand service in 2012, added the Osprey in October 2014 and launched the Bay in a Day loop in January. (Don't get Tideline confused with the smaller San Francisco Water Taxi, which is a separate business.)

Tideline asks that you reserve in advance (and the price of $25 is if you pay online using coupon code "AYSP2015"; it's $30 if you purchase over the phone). And it'll want to know where you plan to get on and off, so there's plenty of capacity for everyone.

Still, it's a pretty flexible system, and great news for anyone who's ever been stuck in Sausalito with a bike at the end of the line for a full ferry. Or anyone who wants to stay over at Sam's Anchor Cafe in Tiburon and say, have another adult beverage before heading back to the city. Or for your friends in Marin who want to meet you at the ballpark without fighting bridge traffic and missing the first four innings.

Sam's Anchor Cafe, Tiburon.

Though it's great for getting from point A to point B, some people don't even get off of the boat. Deck hand Real Lafond said that one day, the boat picked up customers who rode the loop for hours, only getting off to grab a bottle of wine. (Before joining Tideline, Lafond ran water taxis on the Kenai Peninsula in Alaska for 25 years.)

Speaking of wine, Tideline lets you bring food and drinks on the boat, but it's also scheduled to get its beer and wine license this week. Lewis said he plans to showcase smaller local wineries and brewers onboard.

Tideline also offers "on demand" taxi service to a wide range of destinations, from Angel Island to the East Bay to your roommate's rich uncle's private dock (if commercial vessels are allowed; call first to discuss it). The cost is $45 one-way or $80 round-trip, which Lewis says is competitive with cabs and car services, and it only takes about 15 minutes to get to Tiburon from Pier 1 1/2.

Bikes are $5 extra and dogs are $15, a price dog owners can probably get behind for a day on the water. Not to mention, the Osprey is tricked out with Wi-Fi and "cool lighting features" for night rides, Lewis said.

"It's going to be a cool summer," he added.

Call 415-339-0196 to reserve or book online.