A Left Coast Reunion

By C. W. "Bill" Bailey (aka The Old Sea Dog)



Note From Jack:  Captain Bill Bailey was the last Skipper of the Ice Breaker Eastwind, decommissioned these many years ago. Officers and crewmen have held many reunions since then but this was the first one held on the West Coast. I asked Captain Bailey to give me a rundown on the reunion and he kindly sent me this email:




It was dark and gloomy way down in the tropical garden when the clock struck 6 bells of the mid-watch. The curled  up lump of living flesh in t he warm bunk reached out to shut the damn thing OFF for ten minutes more of snooze.


At 0310  beep, beep, beep  again, and this time the lump bestirred himself realizing that if he missed the early morning flight, there was no later one that would fit his schedule.


Being probably the ONLY non-coffee drinker in the entire history of the Coast Guard, he  poured a heaping portion of orange juice (have to help the Florida groves owners make their mega-bucks even though they are trying to cut down all the privately-owned  fruit trees) .  After a quick bowl of oatmeal and a piece of toast,  he  dragged the heavy suitcase loaded with copies of his biography and videos (to sell at Reunion)  to the door for the taxi driver.

For once he got an honest man who did not take a roundabout route to the airport so they arrived on time to make the mandatory two-hour advance arrival. However all this effort was negated by the fact that there were no wheel chair pushers around and our traveler sat for 35 minutes getting more worried by the minute that he might have to "appear at Mast for missing movement."  Finally the squeaking wheel got the attention of management and a porter appeared, just before the traveler was seriously thinking about giving up and dragging himself down to the line for security inspection. However he was sure glad that he had NOT when he saw the serpentine line of bedraggled travelers that looked like a "Woodstock Rock Concert Crowd".  The porter, intent on getting rid of one patron so he could earn the fee for another,  paid no attention to the crowd, and bypassed them all en route the inspection.


The traveler used his USCG I D card and got an inspector who had also been a Serviceman, so  our inpatient voyager got passed thru rapidly and reached the gate just on time to board. THEN sat on the ground for 45 minutes with the plane captain passing encouraging reports on the repairs every ten minutes. Finally in the air the trip became routine and we arrived in Dallas many minutes late  on the schedule. 

Fortunately the wheel chair was waiting at the gate, and because I had insisted on a seat near the  front of the plane and by literally fighting the crowd of animals in the aisle trying to get their bags down and be first off, I reached the porter and since he was a stout feller,  got him to almost run with me to the next gate for Vegas. We made it in the absolutely last possible moment and they closed the door behind me. Naturally my suitcase did NOT make the flight.


Again a reasonably two and a half hours of seeing nothing but clouds at 33,000 feet we arrived in Vegas right on time, and in fact a few minutes early. 

I had set up my schedule so as to meet a shipmate who was coming in from New Hampshire on a different air line at about the same time as I did. Vegas has a mammoth terminal where every air line has  its own baggage carousel in a different location. Fortunately I had an accommodating porter who stayed with me as we searched for my shipmate. I was going to have to wait a couple of hours for the next flight from Dallas with my bag. Finally we met our fellow Re-unioner and while he went off to get a rental car I positioned myself at my baggage carousel. Somehow this area became a central point for other East Wind travelers and there was soon a group clustered around me. My son who was coming from New York was not due until much later so I went with my shipmate on the 94 mile drive to Laughlin, Nevada, the Reunion  site.

There was nothing  attractive  about the scenery, just mounts of dirt and scrawny sagebrush.

The hotel refused to furnish a wheel chair for more than just a few hours at a time  so fortunately the Eastwind host had brought one for me. The room was comfortable and located close to the elevator BUT was miles away from the Eastwind Hospitality Room. 

The 1700 slot machines were NOT generous. I never saw anyone win a jackpot in the four days of the Reunion.

Our host. Louie outdid himself in planning and executing the reunion and I must admit that it was the BEST organized meeting of shipmates I have ever experienced. There were the usual cocktail parties held outside in  the Garden and the festivities were livened up by many door prizes. These articles were well chosen and had been on display on tables along the wall of the Hospitality Room. One night the cocktail party was displaced by a catered barbecue, delicious food but skimpy in quantity. Seating was a problem because so many attended. Wednesday night we had a nice dinner on the river.

The Thursday banquet was tops, good food and well served. Many awards were presented,  and yours truly received recognition as "The Capitano  Ultima"  with a discourse concerning the many commands  afloat in my life.

There was a skit performed in which I had to hold "Mast" on an unremorseful, wayward seaman.

A thoroughly jolly banquet well received by all.   


The next morning we were up at reveille to watch the three pole flags being raised to the tune of "Colors" piped and bugled. This was followed at a formal breakfast with an address by Captain Dinsmore and then we had to bid out Host farewell till next year.

Due to the driving time to return to Vegas and the fact that for East Coast people we had to have early post noon departure to make the last flight of the day arriving about midnight. Again we had the usual problem with wheel chair pushers and I sat and sat and waited till the "squeaky wheel of complaint" finally got some grease. This time , however, the connections arrived on time and I got my baggage home.

In summary, I had a damn good time, met a lot of new shipmates, and felt that this was the best Reunion of them all.
O'l Sea Dogl