VIP Spotlight – Patrick Raetzman

Setareh Nouriboshehri, Community Volunteer Ambassador (CVA)

It’s VIP Spotlight time, again! I don’t know about you, but this is how I keep track of my Mondays during the quarantine. This week, we get to hear from VIP Patrick*. Patrick is part of the Tidepool Protection, Education, & Restoration Program (TPERP), and I think it’s safe to say the tidepools are his favorite place to be.

Setareh: Hey Patrick! Tell us how you ended up finding Cabrillo National Monument.
• Patrick: Well, my first visit to Cabrillo was in 1963.

Setareh: Wow!
• Patrick: Yes ma’am! I was a young guy in the Navy. I was on my first ship—a submarine. My first submarine was stationed right here in San Diego down at what they call Ballast Point. There used to be thirty submarines down there. Now there’s only about six, I think. One of the guys onboard (we were leaving in the afternoon) said “Oh hey! It’s low tide. Let’s go down to the tidepools!” Of course, I didn’t have a clue what he was talking about, but he said, “follow me!” So, we jumped in our cars and we drove up the road and down the tidepools—no gates and no entrance station or anything.

S: So that was also your first experience with tidepools?
• P: Yeah! What I remember is parking to the side and going through the brush. I know how it’s regulated now; I don’t dare do that down there now.

S: I bet a lot of things have changed since the sixties. What are some of the biggest changes you’ve seen over the years?
• P: Oh, the park has grown up—definitely changes with the entrance station. There was nobody down at the tidepools when we were there. But I can’t remember the next time I visited. In the Navy, you don’t get much free time. We were going back and forth, getting ready to deploy to the Pacific. So, I didn’t get another chance another chance to get down there until three to four years later. But definitely the entrance station and all of the amenities that have been added over the years.

S: Is that when you started volunteering?
• P: No, I didn’t start volunteering until ten years ago. So, about fifty years after those first visits! I spent twenty years in the Navy. And the Navy, in all of its infinite wisdoms, transfers people every two to three years at different ships. So, I went back east to Charleston, South Carolina and spent three years there. Then I came back to the West Coast…. I retired from the Navy in 1981 and worked here in San Diego for several different companies that built underwater equipment systems—lights, cameras, things like that. When I retired from my last job there, I looked around for something to do. I had been a member of the [Cabrillo National Monument] Foundation for a long, long, long time. They said they were looking for volunteers and I thought, “Well, that sounds like fun, and I can keep my feet wet!” I loved the ocean environment. So, they gave me a name and a number—some girl name Bonnie Phillips…

S: That name sounds vaguely familiar!
• P: I called Bonnie, she told me about the [tidepool] training, and etcetera, etcetera. It just grew from there! My first training was also the first training session Bonnie held. She had just come aboard [the staff], and she was the new kid on the block.

S: So, it’s always mostly been the tidepools for you, then.
• P: That’s always been my thing. I really enjoy it, so I stuck with it. I also help out with the Fourth of July events and the 5K Sunrise and Sunset events.

S: I think I also saw you during the tidepool cleanup this last year!
• P: Oh yeah! Several years ago, we started coming in [to the park] very early and doing a cleanup. We’ll come in at six o’clock/seven o’clock in the morning and do a real good cleanup and get rid of a lot of junk that have washed in.

S: What’s been the strangest thing you’ve found during the cleanups?
• P: Well, do you want a critter or piece of junk?

S: You know, both would be great!
• P: A partial, plastic skeleton. Bottom half, from the pelvis down. I walked it right up to the admin offices, and [Ranger] Amanda grabbed it and put a jacket and a hat on it.

S: I really hope there’s a picture of that somewhere…. What about critter-wise?
• P: Maybe not strange, but definitely fun? Moray eel. I’ve had a lot of luck finding those in the past. And they’re difficult to find, because they like to hide. But the most fun? A social octopus! If you take a piece of kelp and run it around the base of a rock that’s partially submerged, an octopus will stick one of its tentacles out and try to grab it. The best if there’s also a big group of people around—especially kids—that has never seen the ocean before. It’s a real interpretive moment.

S: I’m starting to pick up a theme here, but I’ll go ahead and ask: do you have a personal favorite spot at the park?
• P: The tidepools! My favorite spot within the tidepools? Garibaldi Rock. Do you know what a garibaldi is?

S: Yes, it’s a fish?
• P: Big orange fish. Well, there’s a rock in the north end of Zone 2 [in the tidepools] right before you get to the flat area. It sticks out, and there’s a big pool of water underneath the rock. There’s a garibaldi that lives under there—one garibaldi. There’s a lot of other fish around that you can see. I’m not really a biologist but as I understand it, this must be a male garibaldi because he defends that area. Male garibaldis will try to entice females into its area and have her lay eggs on kelp. Then, he runs her off and guards the eggs until they hatch. He’s the keeper of the young ones, so I think that’s what he’s doing. He’s been there for the last four to five years. I always look for him every new season, and he seems to be there! I’ve also seen a big lobster under that rock, as well as an octopus. It’s a real neat area out there.

S: When the park opens, you’ll have to show me where Garibaldi Rock is!
• P: Oh sure!

S: Ok, hypothetical question. Let’s say the park opens tomorrow and you’re Superintendent of the day. What’s your first action item?
• I would take out the trailer down at the tidepools and put up a building—someplace to hold all the gear and where TPERP-ers can hang out. That trailer is about ready to go.

S: What if you could publish a book for Cabrillo? What would you write about?
• P: My ten years as a TPERP-er.

S: What’s the first chapter titled?
• P: Hmm. “Washed.”

S: I like it! Ok, gear change. What was your first memory in the outdoors?
• P: Well, I grew up in Chicago, and my grandfather had built a cottage way up north in Wisconsin. We used to go up there in summers, and the only early nature memory I can think of were the chipmunks! I was five, six years old and I would watch them running around. That was my first interest in nature.

S: I wish we had some chipmunks at the park! They’d definitely make things interesting. What is something most people don’t know about you that you wouldn’t mind sharing?
• P: I was in submarines, but I was also a deep submersible pilot. I used to drive mini-submarines around. That was a fun thing to do.

S: If you could be a pro or semi-pro at anything in the world, what would you pick?
• P: How about a guitar? I always liked guitars.

S: Any guitar? I can see you rocking an electric guitar. What were you like in high school?
• P: Probably a nerd.

S: Did you nerd out on anything in particular?
• P: Science.

S: Well, you’ve definitely found the right place at Cabrillo. What would you tell your high school self now?
• High school is just a stopping point on your lifelong path.

S: Alright, let’s say you’re in the park auditorium and everyone you know can magically fit into the room. What would you tell us?
• P: I would just talk about the park and how everything has matured in the time I’ve been there. There are so many improvements even going on right now. [Ranger] Elizabeth has been super, and there’s a new Chief of Natural Resources. And the outreach and trainings you guys are doing now, it’s fantastic! One day, I remember asking about a potential for a summer camp at the park. And well, look at what we’ve got going now!

S: The EcoLogik summer program, that’s right! And your granddaughter got to participate in that last year, too!
• P: Yeah! There’s momentum at the park. And the improvements over the last ten years have been fantastic. I hope they keep going.

S: Ok, lightning round. Tea or coffee?
• P: Tea. Green.

S: Cake or pie?
• P: Pie. Blueberry.

S: Favorite holiday?
• P: Memorial Day.

S: What’s your favorite city you’ve ever been to?
• P: Hmm. Hamburg, Germany. Neat and clean. Friendly people. Not too touristy.

S: Would you rather be able to speak every language in the world or be able to speak to animals?
• P: Languages, definitely.

S: Favorite book?
• P: Well, I’ve written books! Three family history books.

S: Least favorite flavor?
• P: I hate merlot wine.

S: This is hilarious. I don’t know what I was expecting, but I wasn’t expecting merlot.
• P: It just tastes like dirt.

S: Ok, last question. If you could live in any movie, what movie would you pick?
• P: Any that involves going into outer space!

-End of Interview-

Patrick and his tidepool cleanup buddy!

*some text has been altered during transcription.

Would you like to be interviewed for a VIP Spotlight, too? Let us know by emailing us at We’d love to hear from you!

3 thoughts on “VIP Spotlight – Patrick Raetzman

  1. Ah, terrific interview. Useful questions asked, Seterah. We learn good stuff from these interviews. Now I know who Patrick is. When we all work in different areas of the park, we miss knowing others. Happy days, everybody. Karen

  2. Great job in getting to know fellow volunteers. They all have such rich backgrounds, and I am so glad they are willing to share them with us. And thanks Setarah to you who are doing it for us.

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