Home Truths catches up with Scott Cokeley who bought his first home in Montavilla last year.
Q: You have one of the more unusual jobs of anyone I know. What do you do and how did you get into this line of work?
It is definitely one of those jobs that you don’t often hear about, but is essential to the economic and the defensive well-being of the country. I am a merchant mariner. More specifically, I am a marine engineer on a government-owned vessel that has a contract with the Missile Defense Agency. The mission of the vessel, the SS Pacific Tracker, is to collect data from various types of tests conducted by the MDA along with other government assets. These tests are often performed in the middle of the Pacific Ocean thousands of miles off of the west coast, and range from a few weeks to a few months in length. My actual role on the vessel is to operate the steam propulsion plant, where speed maneuvers require constant attention, as well as performing maintenance on shipboard machinery.
As far as how I got involved in this career, I really sort of fell into it. During my senior year of high school while looking for colleges, I was focused on finding a university where I could continue playing football, a lifelong passion of mine. I ended up being recruited by a few small colleges, and one of them was the little heard of United States Merchant Marine Academy. I had no idea what the merchant marine was, but after learning about the career path and the opportunities ahead of me, I decided to take a leap of faith and go for it. The Merchant Marine Academy is one of the five federal academies in the United States, and just like the other academies, the education is free, but there is a service obligation to fulfill upon graduation. For me, the obligation is to sail in the merchant marine fleet for five years after graduation, as well as to serve in the United States Navy Reserve for eight years. After graduating from the academy I decided I wanted to live in the Pacific Northwest, and ended up finding out about the SS Pacific Tracker, the rest is history. Looking back at the decision I made as an 18 year old kid, I really couldn’t have imagined things working out as well as they have so far!
Q: What’s it like to be at sea that long? What does your day look like?
Being at sea has its ups and downs, much like the ocean itself. The hardest part is being away from loved ones and missing special moments such as holidays and birthdays. This past winter I shipped out during November and December, which was particularly tough. However, those close to me understand my career, and we make the most of what the circumstances are. For example, my girlfriend surprised me before heading out by giving me Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day all in one night. Special moments like those make leaving a whole lot easier. One thing that people rarely understand is that on the ship we don’t have WIFI. Basically we are totally isolated except for an archaic system onboard that allows for about one or two emails a day. However, with all of that, there is a certain solace and peacefulness that I feel when I go out to sea. I find that without all of the distractions that we have on land, I am able to really focus on my work as well as myself.
My typical day at sea is very regimented, as it is pretty much the same day in and day out. My day starts by standing watch in the engine room from midnight until four in the morning, then I usually take a small nap until six. I usually hit the shipboard gym, and then go to work again at eight until eleven thirty. I grab a bite to eat for lunch, and then stand my second watch of the day from noon until four in the afternoon. By this point in the day I am exhausted, and try to get as much sleep as possible before heading back to work at midnight. This is the schedule I follow seven days a week until the mission is complete and we are back in Portland. This routine is very easy to fall into, and time seems to pass by really quickly.
Q: You bought your first house just over a year ago in Montavilla. What’s your favorite part of your home?
Wow. This is a seriously difficult question to answer. As far as the physical aspects of the house it is really hard to choose just one thing, but I really love the open floor plan. In addition, the natural light that shines through makes the house feel airy and open. I love waking up on a Sunday and enjoying a cup of coffee in the morning sun. Outside of the physical aspects of the house, I can’t get over how great the location has been. Nothing beats being able to walk to your favorite restaurant or brewery, and at the same time being a 5 minute drive away from suburban amenities. I find that it is becoming harder and harder to go anywhere outside of the neighborhood. It is a perfect fit!
Q: The home has been nicely remodeled when you bought it. Have you done further work to it?
One of the biggest attractions of this home was the lack of work it needed. Actually, Myles saved me from diving head first into a fixer-upper type of home. Which now in retrospect, has been such a blessing. I mean, I barely have time to mow the lawn as it is, let alone remodel a bathroom or kitchen. My current work schedule just isn’t compatible with taking on massive construction projects. I have a few projects in the works, but currently the biggest one I have taken on was pouring new concrete and leveling the driveway. Prior to moving in, a standard sedan type vehicle would scrape going up the driveway. This summer my main focus is on landscaping the backyard, and I’ve started by putting in a new lawn in and planting a small garden.
Q: You are on land for a bit now before your next detail. What does downtime in Portland look like to you?
I am so thankful to have this time off and not have to leave during the beautiful Portland summer. It is actually going to be my first full summer in the great PNW since moving here in 2015. To me, this downtime is all about embracing the city and community I live in. Whether it is walking to “downtown Montavilla” and grabbing a beer and some grub from the food carts, or taking a weekend camping trip with my friends, I really just want to enjoy my home and spend time with those closest to me.