Clyde Ford is a black book-writing boater from Bellingham. In his debut mystery novel, "Red Herring," a black detective quite a bit like Clyde Ford solves...

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Clyde Ford is a black book-writing boater from Bellingham. In his debut mystery novel, “Red Herring,” a black detective quite a bit like Clyde Ford solves murders and woos lovelies in the San Juan Islands. The new “Precious Cargo” begins with a dead body on an anchor’s fluke. This past fall’s “The Long Mile” features a framed cop in Ford’s native New York. All this is yet another career for a 54-year-old former computer engineer, psychologist and chiropractor whose nonfiction book on racial harmony, “We CAN Get Along,” got him on “Oprah.” He lives with his partner, Chara, on the Lummi Indian Reservation and types away aboard his cozy 1977 Willard 30 trawler. His Web site is

Q: Who is Clyde Ford, anyway?

A: I’ve reinvented myself several times. A few years ago I had a literary sex-change operation and switched to fiction. Now I’m an African-American author on the water, which is pretty unusual. When I go up the Inside Passage, the number of African-American boaters could be counted on one hand. I think it’s important that people see African Americans doing different things.

Q: Why boating?

A: I grew up on an island — New York! I feel comfortable when I can look at a water horizon. And boating has helped me deal with fear. When you’re out on the water and something goes wrong, you can’t let fear paralyze you.

Hear him read

Clyde Ford will read from his new book, “Precious Cargo,” 6 p.m., March 16, at Third Place Books in Lake Forest Park

Q: How has the mostly white boating community received the idea of a black detective named Charlie Noble, slang for a boat’s stovepipe?

A: I sold out at the Seattle Boat Show. At one marina up in Canada, a reader spotted me and organized an impromptu author dock party.

Q: How did you get to Bellingham?

A: On vacation I spotted Bellingham from Mount Constitution and said, “Some day, I’d like to move there.” After a divorce, I came West.

Q: Quite a career mix.

A: I’ve enjoyed following my interests. I also developed a software program to predict tides and currents. I play classical guitar. I’ve written books and do a lot of speaking.

Q: Writing is a tough business, isn’t it?

A: I had one publisher tell me, ‘We tried a black author and it didn’t work.’ I don’t think they’d say, ‘We tried a white author and it didn’t work.’ But you know, every rejection is one step closer to acceptance.