Zabrina and her father Bill (now known as “Wolverine Willie”) share a special tradition. Every year, for the last twenty years, they pay a visit to Alcatraz in search of new findings and to just spend time together.

Recently, Alcatraz Cruises had the good fortune of following this endearing father/daughter tradition as they embarked on their annual journey, but this time we threw in a few extra perks to ensure they had some fresh experiences.

guests in wheelhouse driving ferry

Once we boarded the M/V Islander, Zabrina and Wolverine Willie were invited up to the pilot house to help navigate the ferry to Alcatraz Island. Upon disembarking, they were led on a private tour with historian John Martini who was able to impart his wisdom of the island, which goes well beyond the content found on the award-winning audio tour. This interaction alone not only provided Zabrina and Wolverine Willie with a new experience, but they were also able to enjoy individual attention and ask questions along the way. Zabrina pointed out, “Our tour guide, John Martini, was an astounding wealth of information. We could’ve listened to him for hours!”

guests with john in cellhouse

As an interesting side note, several of the other visitors to the Island that day thought Zabrina’s Dad, Bill, was one of the former prisoners or guards…many stopping him to take photos and hear his story. That’s when we decided Bill needed a prison name, thus “Wolverine Willie” was born.

The crescendo was an opportunity to tour the under belly, or secret side, of Alcatraz Island where we discovered military barracks, underground solitary confinement cells, tunnels, “graffiti” and hidden doorways. In addition to meeting the bookstore’s guest author and former Alcatraz Prison guard George DeVincenzi, we put the icing on the cake with a surprise appearance and private lunch with former Alcatraz prisoner Bill Baker.

guests meeting george in bookstore

According to Zabrina, “My dad and I want to thank you for a day that we will never forget! We are still in shock about how amazing it was and have been talking about every detail since we left you all after lunch. I know my Dad will be telling everyone back in Michigan about the most special day you planned for us.”

Since Father’s Day is coming soon, we’d love to hear about some of your favorite traditions. Please post photos and/or brief summaries of your most memorable Father’s Day journeys:

More on Zabrina and Wolverine Willie:

Every year, Zabrina and her Dad make it back to Alcatraz Island when he is visiting from his native Michigan. They always try to discover something new during each visit and this year exceeded their expectations.

When asked “why Alcatraz?”, retired pastor Wolverine Willie comments, “During my childhood, I was always interested in prisoners and playing cops + robbers with my buddies.” He continues, “We were all intrigued by the bad guys that were glamorized in the movies…even Zabrina has a fascination with the convicts of Alcatraz and what must’ve gone through their minds on this island prison.”  

You may ask, how were Zabrina and Wolverine Willie lucky enough to earn this privilege. Well, they filled out the Alcatraz Cruises’ survey and wrote a compelling account about their unique tradition and to give a shout out to their favorite employee, Edwin Sera!

guests with conservancy guide

In summary, here’s what Zabrina had to say about their unique experience, “It was so special to meet the guest author in the book store and especially exciting to meet Bill Baker. My Dad really enjoyed chatting with him about Alcatraz, his life and college sports.” She continues, “When they said goodbye, Bill Baker said, ‘I love ya,’ to my Dad and we both knew he meant it in a unique way…what a special time between two men in their 80s!”

Author’s side note: When I first met up with Wolverine Willie, he was most enthusiastic about former convict The Birdman of Alcatraz, but I think he has a new favorite in Bill Baker.