Jeff Ford and Billy Forbes are yacht captains. They run boats for wealthy owners, navigate between North and South America, and weather storms of every type. Dark-haired and skilled at math, they have a lot in common.
But Ford will not admit to drug smuggling, eluding a Honduran cartel or murder. That guy is Billy Forbes, the fictional hero in Ford’s first novel, “Loco: A story of love, loss and moral decay”.
Ford recently completed a U.S. east coast promotional book tour by way of a yacht job. He delivered a vintage 53-foot Hatteras from Port Canaveral, Fla., to Boston. From an outdoor table at Southport Raw Bar in Ft. Lauderdale, a spot frequented by both captains, Ford talked about how his job became part of his first novel.
A long time fan of fiction with historical, technical and scientific accuracy, Ford thought he could do the same with his boating knowledge.
“I was intrigued by Michael Crichton, the author of The Andromeda Strain and Jurassic Park, and how he used medical or scientific underpinnings,” Ford said. “His books reflect his medical training and science background.”
“They are so good, I was duped like everyone else when he uses fake Ph.D.s, experts, footnotes and graphs,” Ford said.
Before yachting, Ford worked as an environmental engineer in Boston and played percussion for local bands after hours. In 1994, the band he played with went for a sail with Capt. Scott Frischhertz.
“Jeff was an engineer with a big firm, but he fell in love with my lifestyle,” Frischhertz said.
While running his own business Ford helped Frischhertz with deliveries as first mate on M/Y Carib Queen, a 91-foot Broward.
In 1998, Frischhertz hired Ford as co-captain to deliver a new build, a 100-foot Inace also named M/Y Carib Queen. The experience included three weeks of prep and shake-down followed by a 3,500-mile trip from Brazil to Florida. By then, Ford earned enough sea time to quit his job and get his captain’s license.
Ford’s first-hand experiences from such trips supply the facts for his novel.
“He loves boats and has an engineer mind,” Frischhertz said. “When we had an issue he would tear into it in the engine room. He’s pretty hands-on.”
And that’s why fictional Forbes and real-life Ford are well-versed in radar, parallel battery switches, engine room fire suppression systems, cartography, dead reckoning and rough passages.
In 2008, the economy crashed and his life changed with the death of his parents. He was reminded of his mortality and priorities. He remembered his passions and how he felt when he saw the sunrise at sea during the delivery from Brazil.
“I got goose bumps,” Ford said. “I realized I don’t get shivers in my cubicle,”
So he promised himself to fulfill more of his dreams. He became a divemaster and decided to write a book. In 2010, he lived in Jupiter, Fla., was scuba diving, had streamlined his life and was supplementing his income with boat jobs. His experiences were becoming ideas for his novel.
His book is dedicated to those who chose morality over money. It is a topic people can relate to, Ford said. He uses the example that during the U.S. financial crisis the government provided bailouts for companies that had made bad business choices.
“I was livid as we bailed out AIG and the others, and that’s Billy’s justification for what he chooses to do,” Ford said. “The captain in the book has it all. He has love, health and a job, but chooses to risk it all for quick money.”
In the book, the characters stop in Jekyll Island, where Rockefeller and bankers met to create the Federal Reserve, Ford said.
“Billy stops there, half-way down, and he could have changed his mind,” Ford said. “Does the reader say that the powers-that-be are telling him to stop?”
It’s an action-packed adventure novel about the life of a captain, but the story can be read on three levels, Ford said.
“Sea level is the story, the plot line,” Ford said. “The next level is morality and our choices, which equate to the 2008 financial crash.”
The other level is Newton’s Law: for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.
“Billy can’t understand what can happen until he gets there,” he said. “This pertains to all of us, whether its called karma, spirituality or whatever. Readers can take the levels of this book as far as they need.”
To learn more, visit www.locoford.com.
Dorie Cox is associate editor of The Triton. Comments on this story are welcome at email@example.com.