Monday, November 5, 2007

What I did this year - 2007

This past year has been exciting, humbling, ever-changing, you name it, it's happened.

If you don’t like reading the stories, just check out the pictures, they are pretty good… (Click on them for the large size image)..

In December of last year I drove from New Hampshire to California.

Leaving Adam and Lauren in North Hampton, NH

The reason that I drove was to give my jeep to Liz and Joon because I didn’t need it any more… My dinghy was my car while living on the boat….

I was fortunate to be able to spend the Christmas holidays 2006 with my grandchildren in Oakland (and of course their parents). Liz and Joon have done such a fine job creating a warm and loving environment in which to raise their family. It is truly special to be able to share a slice of their life.

Santa's Helpers (Grandpa and Marley)

The Christmas Loot

Grandpa, Maddox and Lucile

Liz (Kate to all you Californians) and her Children

Joon and Maddox

Kathryn (Kate) Elizabeth (Liz) Coates Kim - The joy of my life, my daughter....

We had a chance to go to Marley's most favorite restaurant, the Rainforest Cafe. Here is the Kim family - posing....

I then headed back to my boat, IRREGARDLESS, in Charleston, SC.


I have many knot tying and boating friends in Charleston so I spent a month or so there, fixing and fitting and messin' around with IRREGARDLESS and tying knots before heading back down “the Ditch”, the intra-coastal waterway, on my way to Jacksonville, FL.

You can see why they call it "The Ditch"

Pulling into Jacksonville at first light

Britt, Drake and Steve

It was a cold trip up the St John's.... What, This is Florida..??

I spent 6 weeks on the St. Johns River enjoying the area around Green Cove Springs. While there, I spent a lot of time with Clarke (Drake) – my brother-in-law and Britt, his lady, on the homestead “Serenity”. Much of the time was spent sailing, splitting wood, enjoying bonfires and feeding the animals – “Serenity” is like Dr. Dolittle’s house with deer, dogs, an aviary filled with parrots, wild gopher tortoises, rattlesnakes, not so wild "Docs" – Drake's horse, and many other creatures of the wild and not so wild.

A good friend of mine from the Novel days, Larry Polner, lived in St. Augustine so I was able to visit with him and his family… They treated me to a for-real block party in their neighborhood… We also spent a wonderful day sailing on the St. Johns river (which incidentally is the only river in the US that flows South to North)…..

IRREGARDLESS under full sail (canvas to you nautical buffs).

Once Drake's vacation time came up, he and I headed down the coast of Florida towards Biscayne Bay. We spent a glorious week sailing, fishing and exploring. Part of the time was spent off the coast and the other time was spent on the intra-coastal. We ended up at No-name Harbor on Key Biscayne and he headed back to Jacksonville, Britt and work. It was great to be able to have another adventure with him… It brought back so many memories of our times exploring and adventuring in our youth… The only thing missing was my boyhood best friend (and Drake's cousin) David - I do miss him...

Cigars, did I mention cigars, lots of cigars.......

Drake was always Fishin' and he kept trying to get me to feel the zen of fishing..... It never caught on..!!

And once in a while in the midst of fishing, he actually caught something.... Imagine that..!!

We spent a lot of time waiting for bridges to open on the ICW

Here I am trying to figure out how in the hell we are going to get into Miami harbor..!! For all you eagle eyes, check out the larger image and note the bat... No wonder I couldn't figure it out..LOL...

In March, I was joined by my son. Adam had just left St. Lucia after bringing a sailboat up from Venezuela (My stepfather’s boat – a Whidby 42) and decided to join me for the entirety of my Bahamian Adventure. He had his sea legs and was now a SEAsoned veteran of deep water crossings..!! As it turned out, I needed his skills on all of the deep water crossings…. The weather gods did NOT smile upon us… He and I provisioned the boat in Key Biscayne and prepared to head to the Islands….

Here I am at No Name Harbor with IRREGARDLESS over my left shoulder

My birthday (March 15th) found me up to my elbows in sh*t as I was once again forced to clean/rebuild my head/holding tank (This is the third time so far since launching IRREGARDLESS, not a pretty task..!!)

The next day we left the States and headed to the Islands...

The Gulf Stream crossing – This was accomplished in 15knot winds but only 8 foot seas….. Wind was just off the bow, so we had to tack a few times, but made it into North Bimini Harbour just after 2 in the afternoon... We threw out the hooks (anchors, ground tackle). Due to the fact that the tidal current changes direction every 6 hours, anchoring with 2 anchors is very common in the Bahamas… I took the dinghy in to shore and met with Customs, who took umbrage with the fact that I had left the boat at anchor and not docked it…. “What if we wanted to board your vessel, Mr. Coates?”… Well, crap, should I go and move it, I asked. No, was their reply and that was that, whew..!! They were more than happy to relieve me of $300 for my Cruising and Fishing Permit (no more conch harvesting for non-Bahamians, a disappointment)… After dealing with Immigration, we spent the night in the harbor. Finally in the Bahamas after 5 months of trials, tribulations, gales, broken systems, and on and on….. I slept well..!!!!

The next morning we had decided to head over to South Bimini and get a slip at the new marina there as we needed to wait out the weather before heading to Nassau. As the wind was now from the west, the long fetch of the sea (all the way from Miami) made for crazy rollers “blocking” the entrance to the marina. IRREGARDLESS is very “tail heavy” and as such, is easily influenced by following seas. In addition, she is a heavy boat and due to her full keel, is not very helm-responsive (To all the land-lubbers, this means she doesn’t steer worth a crap when being pushed from behind..!!!) As we got closer and closer to the entrance (a canal 30 feet wide and 50 yards long), IRREGARDLESS was being thrown left to right and back again. It was all I could do to keep her from washing up on the rocks that lined the canal. I hollered at Adam that if I have to force her through one more, I was going to lose the battle and the boat (like there was a lot that he could do about it). About then, all seas subsided and we entered a very peaceful and brand new marina….. Finally a little WiFi, send the emails, relax and enjoy the next couple of days…..

We left Bimini around noon a few days later, planning on overnighting as we sailed across the Bahama Banks then on to Nassau the next day. The weather report seemed (key word being “seemed”) to indicate 15 knot winds and seas in the 6 foot range… Not bad weather for crossing the Tongue of the Ocean (water deeper than a mile..!!!) between the Berry Islands and Nassau. Well, the night crossing went well (Adam lasted til 3am and then I woke up and took her from then on), but just as soon as we hit the Tongue, oh my gawd…. Not good weather…Seas were about 8-10feet, but they had a wicked fast period, less than 5 seconds…. And as soon as we cleared the protection of the Berry Islands the winds really began to blow and the seas began to build…. We decided that Nassau would have to wait for another day and headed BACK (and you all know how much guys hate heading BACK…!!!) towards Chub Cay. This in itself was no easy task, exposing ourselves to beamy seas, not large enough to broach, but damn uncomfortable none the less. Initially we anchored on the east end of Chub Cay, but as soon as the weather calmed down, we moved to the anchorage directly off Chub Cay Yacht Club (the west end).

We spent 4 days here waiting for a good weather window…The typical forecast: NE TO E WINDS 20 TO 25 KT. SEAS 6 TO 8 FT. NEAR SHORE….. This translated into 10-12 ft seas out in the DEEP…. So we waited and we waited….. One day we decided to circumnavigate Chub Cay with the dinghy (the water on the north side of the island/cay is only 2’ deep) in pretty bad weather and we demolished the transom in the dinghy (named Press On – seemed fitting you know, as in “Press On, Irregardless”)…. Other than that, we did a lot of exploring, diving, reading, etc…. Most days were nice, tho’ there were a few squalls that accompanied the constant 20-25 knot northeast wind that blew and blew and blew…. On the evening of the 23rd while listening to the weather, it was forecast that the winds would diminish to 15 knots and the seas would quiet down a bit, so it was decided that we would leave the following morning…. Well, we should have exercised a bit more patience…..

Crossing to Nassau – The first clue, should have been that the Bahamian fishing fleet didn’t appear to be getting ready to leave port this morning…. Adam and I had developed a routine, I would get up around 4 or 5 and start the engine… That would be his cue to get his ass up out of bed and raise the anchor…. At which point, he went back to bed…. So this morning as I headed out to sea at 4 am, I was alone with the weather, which was rough, but not too rough yet… If the wind died, the sea would flatten a bit and no big deal… But Mother Nature never does what we want or expect, so instead of dying down, the wind kept getting fresher… Yikes…. Started taking a lot of water over the bow and the seas got larger…. I had all the safety gear out, extra high lifelines, jack lines, harnesses, etc…. Around 10am, halfway to Nassau in about 6,000 feet of water, we found ourselves in 12-14 ft seas and gale force winds… You know that prayer “Oh Lord, thy sea is so great and my boat is so small”, well, I was living it…!!!! I thought to my self that having the engine running was keeping us from fishtailing down the back side of these rather steep waves and potentially broaching….. Well, that was when the engine decided that today would be a day off and it quit… It QUIT….. In the middle of all this weather…. Adam, looks at me and says, “Well, what now, Dad?”… I replied that I guess we would sail into Nassau Harbour amidst all the cruise ship traffic (it was a Saturday and the weekends are huge for the cruise business)…. Obviously, I couldn’t work on the engine in these seas, so we started to let out some sail (I have both a self-furling jib and mainsail), and “Pressed on, irregardless”… In the process of getting to Nassau, a loose seizing at the spreader boot began to wreak havoc on the jib. This was noticed by my son, but not mentioned during the height of our passage and height of the wind and waves (“Geez, Dad, I didn’t want to have you worrying about the jib, too..!!”)… Finally we sighted Atlantis on the horizon and began to get closer to the north entrance of Nassau Harbour. It soon became apparent that we were in a race with 2 huge cruise ships for the entrance…. The wind held and we won…. And we immediately began looking for a safe anchorage in the north end of the harbor…. We found some space just below a fleet of Haitian fishing boats…. Very interesting boats are the Haitian boats as well as the people……. Once the hook was set, I was able to relax a bit and try to figure out what had happened to the diesel…. That lasted for about 20 seconds, or just in the same amount of time it took me to remember that I didn’t know squat about diesel engines…. We took the dinghy to the south end of the harbor and attempted to figure out who to contact come Monday (there was a huge Perkins Diesel sign in front of a local marina which would be open Monday am), bought a battery charger to keep the house batteries up to snuff by using the generator – “no main engine, no battery charging”… At that point we decided to have a beer and some wings……

Sunday – Fired up the generator to run the battery charger for a few hours this morning and the diesel engine on the generator decided that it really wanted to do what it’s big brother just did and decided to stop running….. My God, things just kept getting better and better…. Now, we were rebuilding the transom of the dinghy (the one we had destroyed during our circumnavigation of Chub Cay). As we attempted this repair, all of a sudden we were approached by the very armed New Providence Defense Force in a RIB…. They boarded us, asked us a bunch of questions and proceeded on their way (they seemed more interested in us signing the form that stated that they had been courteous during boarding and had not damaged any property)…

At this point, Adam and I had had enough of the boat, the breakage, the bullshit and we decided, screw it, let’s go party…. Took the dinghy into Straw Market got our attitude adjusted, and headed to Atlantis by way of a rather unique water taxi complete with tour guide…. What a hoot….. Atlantis was certainly all it was cracked up to be…. Wow, really fancy yachts, upscale shops, etc… just like Vegas….

Adam with Atlantis in the background

Monday - How does that song go…. “Come Monday, it’ll be all right…” Well, I really didn’t think things could get much worse…. No engine, no generator (not to mention $$ broke, but my finances are worthy of another story, complete unto itself..!!)… Holy shit, what else could happen…. So Adam and I dingyied down once again to the south end of Nassau Harbour and headed to the marina that had the big sign “Perkins Diesel” on the wall. The mechanic on duty said that was left over from when they USED to work on Perkins, but now they recommend Marine Diesel of Nassau…. So we trudged up the hill and met with the owner of Marine Diesel. He was very sympathetic to my straits and said that he could get a mechanic down there this afternoon…. Great… I met with the mechanic and we agreed to meet at noon just off of Arawak Cay where I would pick him up with my dinghy….. That being settled, we headed back to IRREGARDLESS to clean her up. At the appropriate time, I lowered the transom ladder halfway (big mistake) to make boarding with tool boxes easier for the mechanics…. I headed off for Arawak Cay in the dinghy - island style (standing up with a tiller extension in one hand and the other holding on to the bow line)……. I didn’t see them there tho’ they claimed to be waving at me, but I still didn’t see them, and headed back to IRREGARDLESS….. Well, just about the time that I approached the stern of IRREGARDLESS, some one upstairs decided that I hadn’t been dealt quite a bad enough hand yet. As I motored the dinghy up to the transom of IRREGARDLESS, a wave took up the stern, its trough lowered the dinghy and the ladder came crashing down right on the bow of the dinghy, ripping an 18’ gash around the curved portion of the bow (“unrepairable”) and the dinghy began to sink….. Are we having fun yet…….

And here is "Press On" risen from the depths but not the dead...!!!

As Adam and I were rescuing the dinghy, the radio starts squawkin’ “IRREGARDLESS, IRREGARDLESS. This is JOLLY ROGER, over”… When I answered, they informed me that there were two Bahamians on shore, waving there arms frantically, stating that they needed to get to IRREGARDLESS, and did I know them..?? They were the mechanics I said, that were to fix my boat, but since my dinghy sunk, I was unable to go get them…!!! They offered a ride and lo and behold, 2-1/2 hours later, I had both the engine and the generator running…. I learned a lot about diesel fuel filters that day (but not enough as time will tell)…!!! We relaxed, shared a Red Stripe with our new found friends and began plotting our exit of Nassau Harbour on the morrow….

The next day would mark the day that I returned to the Exumas…. Up ‘til know, all I had were my memories (many from 1969) of the “gin clear water”, the white sand beaches and the “Island time” philosophy…. Now I would get to reacquaint myself with all of these… As my son and daughter had spent time more recently in the Exumas with their grandparents, Adam remembered things a bit differently than I did, but a good different….

Well, we first had to leave Nassau Harbour and with my luck, it had to be an adventure (“mishap”) as well. We needed to buy a new dinghy, pay Marine Diesel for a job well done, provision, do laundry, fuel up, gas up and ice up…… We stopped at local gas dock and needed to tie up for a few hours to take care of the chores…. The attendant directed me to a slip that Adam warned me against. But I headed in anyway – did I mention that I am stubborn - WITH the wind and tidal current, real dumb as my son pointed out earlier. After that disaster, $75 in “repair” expenses - really a pay-off to the attendant to keep his mouth shut about the hole that I just put in another boat with my bow anchor, we headed to Highborne Cay at the north end of the Exumas…..

We arrived in the midst of 100’plus mega-yachts. High end boating is certainly in the Exumas…!!!! Wonderful to be here again after 38 years…..

Spent the next few days heading down the Exumas to our final destination in Great Exuma: Georgetown, Stocking Island and Elizabeth Harbor. We stopped for a couple of days at Staniel Cay (tho’ did not dive Thunderball Grotto – we saved it for the way back) to clean the boat up a bit. Adam’s lady, Lauren, was to join us for 3-1/2 weeks and we needed to get things - Shipshape and “in order” and all that kinda stuff…..

Finally, Elizabeth Harbour…. After arriving in following seas (remember what I said about IRREGARDLESS and following seas) we finally made it to Paradise…. As my mother would always say when asked what the day was like, she would reply that it was another PDP – “Perfect Day in Paradise”… And truly she was right…. Lo of 70, Hi of 80, sunny every day, low humidity…. Perfect weather. About this time I noticed a bit of smell, obviously the dreaded “head odors”… I cleaned up around the pump and head with bleach and noticed a small leak, but very small and not a big deal (I should of checked for other leaks, but I am very stubborn and I learn my lessons very hard), so I thought that I had taken care of the problem and the smell…..Back to the initial anchorage…. As Adam and I sailed into the harbor in fairly rough seas (every single crossing has been hard won…. I could never get a break coming down all the way from Connecticut… I guess that I had to “earn” Paradise), he remarked at how the harbor looked like the cheese plate at an upscale buffet – all the toothpicks were represented by sailboat masts…!!!! Tho’ there were only 200 +/- or boats at anchor in the harbor, it looked like a lot to us… As we chose our first anchorage a large sea turtle popped his head off the port bow as if to say “Relax, you made it..!!” I looked at Adam and said that I wasn’t gonna move for a month….. (We had 4 different airport dates in April here at Georgetown)…. Lauren was due to arrive the next day, so we really did a big clean up.

Went into town and did laundry, scoped out the sites and in general, got a “lay of the land’….. very colorful… Adam headed to the airport via local taxi (very expensive $35 for a 2 mile ride, everyone tries to share) to meet Lauren…..

The next day we head to town to get Lauren some dive gear (I had nothing that would fit)…. Got some local knowledge of good dive sites…. Got some local knowledge of all things relevant…. Everyone stopped Adam and Lauren, especially Lauren, to admire their body art…!!! We always had friends…..

The month of April was spent swimming on the ocean side of Stocking Island, diving, drinking coldies at the Chat ‘n’ Chill, munching at the Peace & Plenty, day after day after day…. Long spells of reading…Nursing sundowners in the evening…. Blowing the conch horn at sunset…. Grilling off the deck….. Ice cold Kalik Gold…. Did I mention that we did this day after day after perfect day…. It is no wonder that so many people keep comin’ back…

Adam and Lauren on Stocking Island

Sunset in the Islands


Adam Relaxin

Steve and Adam on Stocking Island

At the beach

More beach

Lauren Relaxin

A typical scene on a typical day - "Press On" waiting for her passengers..!!

During our stay here, two of Adam & Lauren’s friends, Ian and Gemma, joined us for a week. They got to enjoy the island lifestyle as well…

It was during their stay here that the odors of the boat began to get out of control…. I mean the inside of the boat began to smell like a Porta-Potty. One afternoon, I had had enough and decided to tackle my old nemesis, Poo Corner…. It was not a place that I went to “feel happy” as Pooh Corner is…. My visits there are a constant battle, with oftentimes me winding up on the shitty end of the stick (hehehe). So, once again, I prepared to wage war….. Armed with rubber gloves, mountains of paper towels, a face mask and other implements of destruction, I found a rather large leak midway up the holding tank (technical reason: the inspection port o-ring was not sealed properly, due to insufficient pressure of the port). It had leaked that wonderful goo that only honey dippers truly know, into the bilge of the boat…… Clean and rinse, clean and rinse… Can’t use bleach because it will kill the fish, gotta rely on vinegar….. Well, my apologies went out to Ian and Gemma for the nasty odors (Lauren had just gotten used to all of this by now, she was unflappable….)

The Out Island boats racing - very exciting..!!

The end of the month brought the Family Out Island Regatta and associated party…. Lauren headed back to the States, Adam and I watched a few races and spent some time at the local food shacks set up for the Regatta… It was time to head back to the States… We needed to be in Peoria, IL before Memorial Day for a great family gathering and celebration of 4 Coates graduates: Jenny, Ben, Amy and Tim…. You go guys..!!!

So many images from the time spent in the Exumas: beautiful turquoise water, white sand, miles of empty ocean beach, sharks, rays, conch, barracuda, puffer fish, dolphins, flying fish, wonderful food, Mom’s Bakery (complete with a free hug – with every purchase of course!!), Sand Dollar Beach, Stocking Island, rum and fruit juice (rum was $10 a liter, American beer was $50/case – you make the choice..!!!), anchoring off Red Shanks, Exuma Market, goin’ for water at the dinghy dock, ……

On our way back, we stopped at Staniel Cay. Adam had never dived at Thunderball Grotto near Staniel Cay. This was our only real priority on the return (I was broke as a joke and needed to get back to the States), so we managed to have a wonderful afternoon dive there. The fish were truly amazing…. A great spot to stop, dive and marvel at Mother Nature…. We passed through Nassau again and spent one afternoon there. The next day, we headed back to the States. We decided to go non-stop from Nassau to Miami…. It was 2am, the following morning, we had just cleared Bimini and were headed into the Gulf Stream about 60 miles from Miami. I was up with just the stars or so I thought…. Typically I would do a visual 360 every 10 minutes or so, and had not seen anything for the last hour…. Just me and the stars (and Adam sound asleep below..!)… My reverie was broken by a loud hail on my VHF from the US Coast Guard…. As I looked off the starboard bow, I noticed a fairly large destroyer…!!!! Where the hell had that come from..??? Go Homeland Security and the USCG…!!! It’s nice to know that they are on top of what is going on…. After 15 minutes of sharing information, me giving them documentation #’s, passport #’s, last port of call, etc, they gave us permission to proceed on to Miami…!!!

That morning we headed for No Name Harbor on Key Biscayne to decipher the Customs and Immigration Process (and to use the wonderful, free marine pump-out station… For the first time we had an empty sanitation system and no odors….).

The beginning of May found us at Key Biscayne (Again!!) – We headed to clear Immigration (which was Homeland Security based at the cruise ship terminal - an hour bus trip into Miami plus a transfer). While waiting at the Homeland Security office we noticed that even the secretaries were sportin’ Glocks (they gotta justify the budget..). Once cleared we headed back to IRREGARDLESS and left No Name Harbor to begin our adventure around Cape Florida…. As we were leaving the harbor, the diesel engine decides it needs another break from the work life and slowly quits…. Oh no, clogged fuel filters again (did I mention that I am stubborn and learn lessons hard..??)… Well, Adam and I had watched the previous mechanics bleed the system; we surely could do this…. NOT…. So we broke down, got the name of a good local diesel mechanic. After spending 2 hours with a him and learning more about my motor (“Perkins are really finicky engines”…”Never give up on a diesel”….and other assorted diesel platitudes), we were ready to head to the West Coast of Florida (only $160 this time – in Nassau it cost me $350 to learn that I needed to change fuel filters on a regular basis)…

Around Cape Florida – Probably the most exciting thing that happened during our rounding of Cape Florida (and around the Florida Everglades) was the ongoing war that IRREGARDLESS decided to have with crab pot buoys…. Prior to this time, through all of my cruising in New England (lobster pots) and the Chesapeake Bay (crab pots) due to IRREGARDLESS’s full keel and protected propeller, I had never even struck a buoy…. Well, after this passage it was IRREGARDLESS 4, Crab Pots ½ (they get ½ point due to a partial wrap on the prop which was overcome by reversing the engine – Adam dove in just to be sure, I’m the Captain, I couldn’t get wet..!!!)…. But we sure did destroy some pot markers….

Made it to Placida, FL in time to haul IRREGARDLESS and put her “on the hard”. The plans were for me to return to Florida the beginning of September and launch IRREGARDLESS November 1st. I had arranged a slip at Fisherman’s Village in Punta Gorda and was looking to spending the next few years headquartered out of southern Florida with occasional forays back to the islands.….

Total damage: engine has a major oil leak that requires pulling of the engine to fix ($12K+), generator engine runs but does not generate power (nothing, nada, zip) ($4K+), forward head needs to be rebuilt with all re-plumbing to be redone new ($1K+), dinghy outboard does not work (at all) ($500), fuel tank needs to be cleaned (there is over ½” of bio-sludge at the bottom of the tank) and the fuel needs to be polished ($2K+), etc., etc…. All in all, I need to pure $$$ and man-hours into her to go sailing again…. Needless to say, I will be busy fixing everything I broke whenever I get back aboard IRREGARDLESS (more on that later)…

So, it is now May, I have arrived back in the States busted (boat broke and money broke) and disgusted… Subcontract work had dried up (my sole means of support, which led to the financial disaster)…. Nonetheless, we were heading up to Peoria with Mom and Phil in their motor home to celebrate the graduations. As a side note, my good luck was passed on to Phil, whose motor-home broke down in Georgia, so Adam and I rented a car and drove to Peoria…. It just keeps getting’ better and better…….

Scott, Steve and Don

Brother Jon cookin...

Brother Bri cookin

The time spent in Peoria was grand… Family, old friends, a good time was had by all… Adam had driven up with us, Liz and Joon and their family drove out from Oakland, Lauren flew in from New Hampshire, Brian and Laura had not yet moved to Boulder so their family was there as well… Jon and Lisa’s became Grand Central Station and we just had a time…. Visited with old high school friends, Scott Hogan, Don Gries, Scott Turley, Joan Curry, and just spent a lot of time on the river….

After the celebrations in June, I rented a car and drove out to my 35th high school reunion at Tabor Academy… Another wonderful weekend visiting with a different group of old high school pals…. Reacquainting, reminiscing and the like……

Tabor Class of 1972

Tabor classmates figuring it out..???

Tabor is just south of Boston, so I headed up to Portsmouth to visit with everyone… I stayed with cousin Bertie and her husband Lincoln… Saw everyone at Novel and enjoyed Portsmouth… I am sure going to miss the Seacoast; after all, I raised my family there…

In July, my daughter was in Boulder staying at my brother’s new house with her Aunt Laura and my grand-daughter Lucile while attending some classes to enable her to open an infant center at the Montesorri School that she works at… Joon was out in Oakland with the two boys, Marley and Maddox, and he decided that it would be great if Grandpa came out and helped him…. Sooooo, I got on a plane and headed out to Oakland to start a “men’s club” with them…. Until the beginning of August it was Joon and I and the two buys…. Oh my goodness, we had a great time… Liz came back and found everyone well fed and in good health…. She did let us know that the cleaning could have been a notch or two higher on the scale, but all in all, we (most importantly, the boys) survived…!!!

Men's Club in Oakland.... Maddox sportin' some nice ink... Wouldn't be men's club without some tattoos....

Maddox with his conductor's hat.... He just loves to say "All aboard...!!"

We all had to get into the train act..

Liz looking fine in her role as conductor

And Joon gave it the big thumbs up..!!

Grandpa in Heaven

Joon and Liz gave me back my Jeep (a lot of “give and take” with the Jeep) and I drove back to what I thought was going to be a semi-permanent Florida residency. As I meandered back to Englewood, FL, I first stopped in Boulder, CO to check out my brothers new digs…. He and Laura have a beautiful home there… Laura is working as a structural engineer for a Boulder firm so her commute is very easy and brother Bri is “still looking” for something to keep him out of trouble…. My nephew Brian is at Colorado School of the Mines as a sophomore and my neice Jenny is a freshman at Colorado State. Amy is a freshman in high school and Kevin is in the local grade school… So Brian’s entire family is now in Colorado, something he has dreamed of for years. While in Colorado, we visited Dick and Brenda Dickison, who live in Ft. Collins, and were pleasantly surprised when Anne Dickison and Aunt Mem were there as well… We had a wonderful dinner catching up on old times…

I then traveled to Peoria and spent some more time with Jon and Lisa. Their oldest Ben, is a freshman at Northern Illinois and Tim is now a freshman at Metamora High School. Once again, they tolerated me as I stayed with them (they have put up with me so many times when I visit the Midwest)….. Bri had come back for a week or two to try and settle some issues with some of his property there, so as the 3 brothers were together again, what else to do but a huge steak feed with all the friends at Alexander’s Street Steakhouse, the ultimate beefer’s destination in Peoria, Illinois……

Steve Morris and Brother Jon

Sister Lisa, Brother Bri and Amy Gries

Don Gries, Rich Demanes and Brother Bri

The Three Musketeers - Tim Coates, Ben Coates and Skyler Groezinger

After Peoria, I headed to Portsmouth, NH by way of Antrim, NH to visit some good friend, Peter and Schatze Moore. They have a beautiful home in the mountains.

Peter's Adirondack up in the woods of New Hampshire

Then it was on to Portsmouth to get those things out of storage that I was going to need living down in Florida – mostly all my knot-tying stuff…. I stayed at Bertie and Linc’s once again, and prepared to head to Florida.

I still was not getting much work and the financial scene was getting bleaker and bleaker… I really wondered whether I was going to make this Paradise thing work, living on the boat, sailing in the Islands, etc…. In the back of my mind, I really did think I was too young to “get out of the business”, but the sailing life had its own pull for me….. Meanwhile, I was selling my soul to Visa and Mastercard…..

I stopped at Drake and Britt’s for a weekend before heading the rest of the way down Florida. I needed a home base to try to get stabilized and set myself up for work……

I finally made it to Mom’s condo in Englewood – 5,000 miles in 30 days, whew….

Once in Englewood, I really tried to solicit work from a lot of potential customers. Not to mention the politicking I had done in New England…. Nothing was breaking……. About this time I got a call from an old friend who said there was an exotic opportunity available and wondered if I wanted to pursue it…. Well, I was down to my last $40, the gas tank was on empty and I said, why not…!!!!

I had come to the realization that I really do miss the business. Naturally, I could do something normal and search out employment here in US, but nooooo….. Anyway, I believe in fate, so I spent some time “looking” at the opportunity and……

Well, it just wouldn’t be right if I didn’t do something wild and exotic every now and then, so I accepted their offer and I was off to Manila, Philippines for the long haul. I now had to get my boat unpacked, rent out another storage bin (now I have one in Portsmouth, NH and Englewood, FL and even have stuff at my daughters in Oakland, CA – talk about spread out..!!), and get to Oakland to fly out of SFO on the 21st of October for Manila by way of Taipei.

I emptied IRREGARDLESS, drove to Jacksonville, FL and gave my Jeep to Drake. I spent a wonderfull weekend in Jacksonville with Drake and Britt....

Hanging out with Docs

Bonfire at Serenity

Steve and Drake

Eating sushi with Drake and Britt - A good bye feast...

It just so happened that Adam and Lauren were going to be in Las Vegas at this time and one of Brian’s consulting jobs had a Las Vegas store that needed a couple days of work, so with minimal planning I flew out of Jacksonville and headed to Vegas, baby……. Brian and I stayed up at the Riveira and Adam and Lauren were celebrating her birthday at the Luxor… Once again they were joined by their friends Ian and Gemma so we had a grand time for 4 days having fun in Las Vegas….. It is very bittersweet that I remember this as Ian lost his life soon after in a tragic car accident…. I will always remember the great times we had in the islands and in Vegas with Ian and Gemma……

Lauren pullin' to win..!!

Adam and Lauren really wanted to win that Hummer

We all went our separate ways… Brian on to Salt Lake City for more consulting, Adam, Lauren, Ian and Gemma back to Portsmouth and work, and me – on to Oakland to celebrate my granddaughter’s first birthday…. I had made Marley’s and Maddox’s first birthday, so this was something that was very special and time-honored for me….. Mom was able to come out for the celebration of her first great-granddaughter’s (and namesake) birthday as well…… I was able to spend a week or so in Oakland just playing with the family

Hanging in Oakland

The Kim Family

Joon and I (and everyone else) seeing how much sushi we can eat..!!

Proud Parents

The Birthday Girl

Lucile and Lucile

Four Generations

And then Manila……...

Manila is very large - 11 million people… My office is in Ortigas Center in Pasig City, which is the second largest business center in Manila… I am on the 27th floor of one of the modern glass and steel high rises here.

Everyone here is very friendly... They all refer to me as sir (in almost every sentence) and in office memos I am referred to as "Sir Steve"...... It takes some getting used to.... I do have a bit of a hard time understanding the Philippine accent but my being half-deaf doesn't help..... Amongst themselves, Tagalog (or Filipino) is spoken, but the language of business is English...... And speaking of work....

This is part of the office (I'm in the office on the far right)

There are virtually no traffic signs (stop signs, traffic lights, etc.)..... It makes crossing the street very interesting... The cars and jeepneys
all have the right of way (from their perspective) and will honk like hell if you get in front of them..... Since labor is so inexpensive, most of the traffic control is handled by “traffic enforcers” who will appear at intersections during busy times… At least they drive on the right side of the street so I know which way to look….. When I was in Oz and New Zealand, I damned near got killed a couple of times looking the wrong way…!!! There is no need for me to ever have a car as traffic crawls during the day..... A ride into downtown Manila (which at 2am would take 20 minutes) takes an hour plus...... Generally if you need to go somewhere, you hire a car and driver or take a taxi…. If you want to go some distance, the private bus system is air conditioned and fairly comfortable…. Obviously, there are many ferries going between the 7000 islands (well, not all of them)……

I have taken an apartment a couple of blocks away from the office.... One bedroom, completely furnished (right down to forks and knives), is 28,000/month (which is roughly $650).... It is on the 5th floor which is nice because in the event of an earthquake, it will be an easy out.....

A picture from my apartment balcony looking over towards the office - a 3 block walk

One of the "national pastimes" is the mall crawl.... I mean it is packed.... Like malls in the States on Christmas, only everyday...... And the malls are HUGE...!!!! 6 levels and 3 wings..... Some of the malls are a kilometer long…. A great place for a shopper (which I am not).... At every aisle in every store there are one or two clerks wishing you a good day and offering their help….. So much different than the States where you look for a clerk endlessly…. Everything you need is located in the malls…. Grocery stores, drivers licensing, doctors, dentists, emergency rooms, church services, restaurants and of course shops, thousand of shops…..

Filipino cooking is an acquired taste…. Until I “acquire it”, I have been losing all of the weight that I put on when I was back in the States….. Many of the vegetables and fruits are very foreign to me, but I am trying everything…. Well almost, one of the local delicacies, balut, is cooked duck embryo – complete with feathers….
It will take quite a few San Miguels (the local beer) before I have the courage to try that..!!! Cow intestine is a local delicacy that I have tried, but I probably won’t be a regular consumer of that particular dish….. Fried food is not very big here (tho’ it is up and coming with Western influence – there are Mickey D’s and the local fast food Jollibee)…. Many rice, vegetable and meat dishes, chicken and pork adobo, etc….. Very healthy so I hope to keep the weight off….. Lots of seafood, tuna sashimi is everywhere and very inexpensive…. Lots of squid dishes as well…..

I have tried some of the local cigars and they are different but good…. But they are generally the same price as a good cigar in the States….

Speaking of prices, many things here are much cheaper than in the States…. It appears that I will be spending about 60% of what I spent in the States to “stay alive”…. And at that, I get to live like a king…. My penchant for eating out will cost me a bit, but certainly not as much as in the States…..

Another of the pastimes that I have to experience is the cockfights…. There are two arenas very near here and I hear it is quite exciting… I’ll have to give that a whirl at some point….. They do have it on TV and it is kind of like Ultimate Fighter but with feathers…..

There is also a definite seedy part of the culture…. The disparity between the rich and poor is very great….. Violence is rampant… Military and police officers with guns on most corners in the business district…. You go thru metal detectors, get patted down and searched when entering malls, office buildings, etc…. The local newspapers are full of murders, etc. and they report them just like the National Enquirer…. Political violence is “the thing” here with politicians getting killed frequently. There are armed guards at the entrance to almost every store in the mall…. Inside the mall…. Loaded weapons…. Sawed of shotguns, automatic rifles….. Many carried by security guards with limited training…. It is no wonder more people don’t get killed…….

Christmas season has been intense since I got here the end of October…. Everyone is into this holiday here, must be the Roman Catholic influence…. If you thought Christmas was a big deal in the States, wow, it is maxed out here….. At work, we had 5 gift exchanges…. Over two weeks…..

Winter has settled in New Hampshire as my son has informed me.....

Adam enjoying winter surfing in Hampton

Adam in deep powder, boarding in the White Mountains

It is Christmas Eve as I finish this and I will go out tonight and listen to carols, outdoor church services and good fellowship….

Wishing you and yours prosperity, health, love and friendship in the new year……

To contact me (other than email, which if you got this, you know that part..!!):
I am in the office 7am-noon Monday thru Saturday
2pm-7pm Monday thru Friday
2pm-5pm Saturday
Other than that, try me at home…. I have skype both at home and at work……
To call me from the US: 011 + 63 + 2 + 706-2933 (home phone)
011 + 63 + 2 + 914-4819 (work phone)
Or Skype me (phone or IM) @ scoates_cs

Stephen Coates - My Work
Vice President Detailing
Crystal Steel Fabricators Phils., Inc.
Unit 2701/2702 - Union Bank Plaza
Meralco Avenue Corner Onyx St.
1605 Ortigas Center Pasig City
Skype id: scoates_cs
Phone 914-4819
Fax 914-4969

Steve Coates - My Home
Unit 501A - AIC Grand Tower
Garnet Road & Sapphire Road
1605 Ortigas Center Pasig City
Landline: 706-2933
Cell: 0917-865-4926

Steve Coates - Where my Heart is
Somewhere in the Sun
*Fancy Knot Tyer*
**Decorative and Practical Marlinespike Work**

Steve Coates - My Business
Seacoast Details, LLC
Detailers of Structural and Miscellaneous Steel,
Steel Bar Joists and Metal Decking

Steve Coates
~ /) ~


kmedcoates said...

Hey, what a chronicle of your life in a year. Many great memories created. It is nice to see the pictures and catch up on what everyone is doing. This gives Ed and I ideas as to what we can do when Ed retires. We are stepping out thou, we are going to Scotland in Sept. Who knows, this could be the start of something!!! Patrick will be in college, Andy will be working as is Lindsey. Our second leg of our journey will be beginning. Take care and we'll talk soon Much Love Kathy and Ed

brandi said...

Steve, although I had heard tidbits of your adventures from Kate, it was fun to see all the pictures and read all of the stories. Thanks for sharing that and see you again in Oakland eventually. Love and peace, Brandi

the mom said...

yay! glad you are on the blog bandwagon dad....keep 'em comin! xoxo