Jorge Loera

Steve Jobs once suggested that in life, you can only connect the dots looking backwards. That couldn't be more accurate for Jorge Loera.

Jorge Loera, a captain for Golden Gate Ferry, has a colorful life story, having been born in Mexico and coming to the United States at age 18. He then worked his way up the ladder in the maritime field.

BY MATT LARSON

 

Steve Jobs once suggested that in life, you can only connect the dots looking backwards. That couldn’t be more accurate for Jorge Loera. If you told him as a child in Aguascalientes, Mexico that today he’d be living in California working as a vessel master (in other words, a captain) for Golden Gate Ferry, and also as a captain of Hornblower’s San Francisco Belle, he would have laughed in your face.

 

Loera never planned on coming to America, but one little argument with his parents changed the course of his life forever. After declaring to the family he was leaving, an 18-year-old Loera went straight to the bus station and traveled as far as he could with the money he had. “I got on the bus and 63 hours later I was in San Francisco!” he laughed.

 

He made amends with the family very quickly, but decided to stay in the Bay. “I was curious about the lifestyle in the United States,” he said. He immediately began learning English and working on his skills any way he could; he was young, determined and driven for success, even though he got off to a pretty rocky start. “I lived on the streets for about nine months until I got a job at McDonald’s,” he said.

 

But Loera’s is a story of upward mobility, and before long, Loera was working as head waiter at the Cow Palace. A customer who liked his service there invited him to be a waiter on a boat in the Bay. When there was downtime as a waiter, he helped the captain with maintenance on the boat. That captain later went to work for Westar Marine Services and, when he did, he brought Loera with him—and Loera stayed there for 20 years. “When I started with Westar I was the guy cleaning the bathrooms,” he said. “Then I became a deckhand, then engineer, then got my first job driving the launches, then moved to the tugboats.”

 

Those dots kept connecting and today, Loera is captain of the finest vessels in the Bay. He’s at the helm of the San Francisco Belle, which is that huge, 2,000-passenger riverboat with the big paddle on the back that we’ve all seen floating around the Port of San Francisco—and you can more frequently find him as vessel master for Golden Gate Ferry on the beautiful Tiburon run.

 

If you think there is a difference between driving Hornblower’s San Francisco Belle and one of Golden Gate Ferry’s catamarans, you’d be correct. Loera was with Hornblower first, and the San Francisco Belle runs at about 1,500 horsepower. When compared to Golden Gate Ferry’s Del Norte, which is equipped with about 11,000 horsepower, they are a world apart.

 

“It’s like somebody’s giving you a Ferrari to go and ride in one of the most famous bays in the world,” he said. “The Del Norte is fast and maneuverable; it’s like cutting butter with a hot knife—the customers will never be late!” He laughs.

 

When he’s not coasting the waterways, he may be coasting the highways on his motorcycle, or skiing at Heavenly in Lake Tahoe with his brother. He currently lives in Richmond, and for a time he was considering moving back to Mexico—even after all he’s accomplished here in the States. He did go back for a couple years, but things just weren’t like how they used to be. “Things were different, of course,” he said. “The life that I left behind was not the life that I found when I went back 20-plus years later. I’ve become very accustomed to my new life, so now, I’m here to stay!”

       

He’s thrilled to be operating the Tiburon run for Golden Gate Ferry and suggests everyone should take advantage of it, as it’s a pretty relaxing way to start and end the day. “You don’t have to stress!” he said. “I get the stress, you get the scenery. Just enjoy the ride.”