Friday, August 27, 2010
It's been a very busy year, I've certified over 150 divers in my first year and a half, and taken many divers out who were visiting Saipan. I've had people come to dive with me from Belgium, Germany, Japan, Australia, Thailand, Israel, London, Switzerland and the list goes on and on. I've taken out students from BYU in Honolulu to collect marine animals for their labs and classes, I've taken out dive professionals who came here to see Saipan, and I've taken hundreds of divers who just wanted to experience the Grotto. Yes, I'm still very glad I made the career switch and decided to make a business out of my passion. It's also been a year of monumental milestones. Kelli and I traveled to Florida in March to meet our first grandson - Adam. We spent a couple weeks visiting with Josh, Regis and Adam and it was amazing getting to hold my grandson. It was a feeling I doubt I will ever be able to adequately describe. I can't wait until I get to teach "the little pirate" to dive and join me on my underwater adventures. While we were in Florida, we took a one day trip down to the Florida Keys to meet with a dive resort owner and look into the possibility of moving there to be closer to our new grandson. We discovered that the economy there was even worse than it is in Saipan, and they pay their dive instructors very poorly there, so it really wasn't much of a temptation. I was also very disappointed in what the Keys have become. They have always been one of my favorite places, but no longer. They aren't what they once were, and if you're thinking of going on a dive vacation there, I'd think again and head somewhere with better visibility and diving.
On June 7th, Kelli and I celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary, quite a milestone these days. We had already spent enough on our trip to Florida, so we decided to stay on Saipan and just celebrate it quietly together. Our daughter Sarah and her husband Chris arranged for us to have a private dinner for 2 in the gazebo at the Hyatt. It was truly a magical setting and a great way to celebrate a lifetime together.
We also found out around the same time that Sarah is expecting our 2nd grandchild in January. It's amazing how our family has been growing lately and all the changes as a result. I still don't really feel old enough to be a grandfather yet, well unless I've done 4 Grotto dives in one day, and then I feel my age. I guess you never really expect to be the person that your own grandfather was, you somehow always see yourself as much younger. I am looking forward to being able to spoil my grandchildren though, and to try to instill my love of the ocean in them as well.
Kelli also finished her Divemaster course and is now an official Divemaster. Hard to believe that she has really come that far. And just in case you're thinking that I just gave it to her, that wasn't the case, she had to earn it the same as anyone else would. It took her over a year to get it all done, but she has become an amazing diver and Divemaster in that time. I'm proud to have her along on my dives with customers, and she can definitely pull her own weight.
Then in October, Kelli and I both turn 50, fortunately though, Kelli turns 50 first. Yup, quite the year and we're still going strong. I would rather just let the day quietly pass, but I think Kelli is determined to make a big deal about it, so we'll see.
If you're following my blog and want to see more dive pics and stories of the dives, let me know and I'll make an effort to tell you some of the stories and show you a bit of my life.
Thursday, February 4, 2010
As long as I'm bringing you up to date, I suppose that I should also tell you that Kelli and I are about to become grandparents, our son Josh and his wife Regis are expecting our first grandchild in the middle of March. So Kelli and I are taking a very rare vacation for 2 weeks and going to meet our new grandson, Adam Patrick Blalock from March 15th through April 1st. I know, it's very hard to believe that I'm actually going to be a grandpa, I'm simply not old enough! But in spite of specific instructions from me to both of my kids to wait until I was 50 to turn me into a grandfather, my son had to defy me and make me a grandfather when I was 49 and 5 months.
I've had an awful lot of people who come to Saipan and want me to take them on a couple Grotto dives. After having dove the Grotto well over 1,000 times, I'm probably one of the most experienced Grotto guides around. The top picture is some of the Gregorian fan coral that lines one of the swimthroughs outside of the Grotto. It is quite spectacular to swim up through the passageway and look up through the fan coral. In the picture directly above, a few sea whips are lit up by the flash and stand in contrast to the deep blue of the ocean out the other side of the cave. I know where the sharks and barracudas like to hang out, I know all the best places to find the nudibranchs, and most importantly, I know how to get you safely over to the rock in the Grotto and out of the water safely. Many people are under the mistaken impression that just because they are certified, they are qualified to dive the Grotto. If you don't have extensive experience in the Grotto, you need to go with someone who has or you can very easily get yourself into big trouble in a hurry. This big white tip reef shark was hanging out in the fan coral cave when I took some divers down last Saturday morning. I've seen him there several times before, but none when he was as friendly as this one. He just kept going out and coming back in putting on quite a show for us. All in a days work. That was a 4 Grotto dive day for me, and I have to admit that those days definitely take their toll on me, but again, it sure as heck beats sitting in a radio station talking about idiot politicians. Yup, the work is hard, the hours are long, and occasionally the students can be very challenging, but there is just no better job satisfaction than seeing someone's eyes light up when they see their first turtle on a dive. Absolutely priceless!
Friday, April 24, 2009
MSNBC also had a story that Ian put together using some different clips. In this clip you will see a segment of a morning talk show they filmed with myself and Angelo Villagomez, and there is a segment where you see me diving. I'm the one in all black with the shaved head. This was truly great publicity for Saipan. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21134540/vp/30369070#30369070
Hopefully this won't be the last time that we are in the spotlight as a result of the recent marine monument designation by President Bush.
Monday, April 13, 2009
In addition to all the students, I seem to be getting more and more requests to just take people out diving that are just here visiting. Some of them come to me from recommendations, some find my blog or my Smugmug picture site, and some of them just heard me talking about diving on the radio. I've taken some Coast Guard personnel lately, some policemen and firemen here training our local police and firemen, and a reporter and his cameraman from NBC. Ian Williams was here to do a story on the Marianas Marine Monument and wanted to do some diving as a part of the story. Thanks to Angelo, another of my Advanced students lately, I was picked as the Divemaster for the day and the one who got to take Ian and Kyle to several of our dive sites. Mike Tripp, another dive buddy of mine was hired for the day to do some filming of the dives. We started out our day with an early morning Grotto dive, always a good way to start any day! There was a big brown stingray just sitting on the bottom outside of hole #1 that we got to get right up to, and hopefully Mike got some amazing video footage of. We also got to see a green sea turtle and the usual assortment of fish. The sun was shining brightly and lit up the water perfectly.
I never get tired of seeing the huge Gregorian fan coral that guards some of the caves outside the Grotto. I think Ian and Kyle were properly impressed with the grandeur of the Grotto, Ian kept saying how it was an intense experience. Next we went and got on the Aquajet boat and Scott Eck took us down to Naftan point for our second dive of the day. Before we even left on the boat, there was a group of about 15 spotted eagle rays that came right up to the boat sitting at the dock. We looked down and there they were as though to greet us and welcome us to an awesome day of diving. I was a bit surprised as we headed down to Naftan, that Kyle had the TV camera tightly focused on my face as we were headed out, and then Ian came over and did an impromptu interview me on the side of the boat. I didn't realize I was going to be interviewed as well, I thought I was just the dive guide for the day. After our dive at Naftan as we surfaced, Ian wanted to go over next to the boat and do an interview while we were still in the water with our gear still on. So Kyle was shooting looking down on us, it was all pretty strange for me being on the other side of an interview.
The next stop on our dive tour was Ice Cream, we were going to visit the spotted eagle rays. Visibility wasn't that great when I got in the water, but fortunately that didn't seem to matter to the spotted eagle rays. There were over a dozen of them swimming back and forth and doing acrobatics for us when we got there. I took Ian and Kyle to the top of Ice Cream to just watch them swim in front of us, but evidently Mike thought I was in his way for filming, so motioned for me to get out of his way twice. I decided I don't really like being in an underwater video, and having to worry about cameras and film angles. I'm more into taking divers to see spectacular sites and letting them just enjoy them. Oh well, live and learn.The spotted eagle rays put on quite a show for us that day and Kyle got in the water to enjoy them as well. Everything was coming together to give these guys a picture perfect day of diving and they said later that it ranked as one of their best days of diving ever.When we got to the shipwreck, the great diving luck continued as we had some of the best visibility I've ever seen there. Conditions were awesome and the shots were coming out crystal clear. Above is a picture of Ian just floating over the shipwreck. Kyle dove on the wreck with us again and seemed to really enjoy himself as well. For me the highlight of this dive was finding a Tiger Cowrie that had taken on the rust color of the wreck, giving it an amazing golden glow.I have only seen a couple other shells that took on a different color as a result of their surroundings like this, but none as remarkable or beautiful as this one. The shell was live and was happily nestled in the sand. I waved over John Starmer, a marine biologist who was with us on the dive to show him, and he seemed as impressed with it as I was. It was the perfect ending to a perfect day. We don't really know yet how much of the interviews or footage they will use in the finished story on NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams, but the story is supposed to air sometime during the week of April 20th. Needless to say, Axe Murderer Tours may be on the verge of a little bit of national publicity. Not too bad for a dive operation that started out as a joke.
Monday, March 9, 2009
I know, it's a tough life I lead, but I was just trying to make my wife happy. I've got plenty of dive pics I'll start posting soon as well, and a new color correcting filter that makes a huge difference underwater. Here is an underwater pic of Jenn using the filter.
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
Speaking of Axe Murderer Tours, now that I'm an instructor and getting things going with instructing, I've decided to finally make my fictional tour company official and went in to get business licenses for Axe Murderer Tours both as a dive instruction company and a professional dive guide service as well. So Axe Murderer Tours is now in business and is ready to become a professional dive service on Saipan. Hopefully I'll stay pretty busy with military, Americans, English speakers or Japanese who want an interesting American dive guide. So it's probably time to look into getting a clothing line, and diving accessory line going with the Axe Murderer Tours logo on it that is affordable. Cafe Press is convenient and doesn't require an investment on my part, but it's not cheap. So I'll be checking into a few different options locally, and also seeing if I can get some good deals from companies abroad to supply me with scaps, mask headbands and rash guard dive shirts, and maybe even bikinis and board shorts.
There may be some pretty big developments in the coming months regarding diving on Saipan and my future, stay tuned and I'll keep you informed. But in the meantime if you want to get certified to dive by the old Axe Murderer himself, or you want a custom Axe Murderer Tour yourself, let me know. Axe Murderer Tours is open for business and is official, FINALLY!
Thursday, January 15, 2009
"An Australian state has launched a global search for candidates for "the best job in the world" -- earning a top salary for lazing around a beautiful tropical island for six months.
The job pays 150,000 Australian dollars (105,000 US dollars) and includes free airfares from the successful applicant's home country to Hamilton Island on the Great Barrier Reef, Queensland's state government announced on Tuesday.
In return, the "island caretaker" will be expected to stroll the white sands, soak up the sun, snorkel the reef, "maybe clean the pool" -- and report to a global audience via weekly blogs, photo diaries and video updates.
The winner, who will stay rent-free in a multi-million dollar three-bedroom beach home complete with plunge pool and golf buggy, must be an excellent communicator and be able to speak and write English.
"They'll also have to talk to media from time to time about what they're doing so they can't be too shy and they'll have to love the sea, the sun, the outdoors," said acting state Premier Paul Lucas.
"The fact that they will be paid to explore the islands of the Great Barrier Reef, swim, snorkel and generally live the Queensland lifestyle makes this undoubtedly the best job in the world."
Lucas said the campaign was part of a drive to protect the state's 18 billion Australian dollar a year tourism industry during the tough economic climate caused by the global financial meltdown.
While the campaign has elements of some reality television shows, a candidate's looks will not be a prime requirement, Tourism Queensland chief executive Anthony Hayes told AFP.
"No, I don't think beautiful is what we want, I think charismatic is what we want," he said. "The reality is we are looking for a fantastic communicator.
"What we want this person to do is travel throughout the Great Barrier Reef and just try every experience, every adventure they can find and report back via blogs and video to tell the world why Queensland is a great place to come for a holiday."
Tourism Minister Desley Boyle said some people might question whether it was risky to let an unknown person become an unofficial tourism spokesperson for the state. "I think the biggest risk will be that the successful candidate won't want to go home at the end of the six months," she said. "This is a legitimate job which is open to anyone and everyone."
Applications are open until February 22. Eleven shortlisted candidates will be flown to Hamilton Island in early May for the final selection process and the six month contract will commence on July 1."
So let me see if I got this straight, they are offering $105,000 US plus airfare and expenses to the winning candidate. They are looking for someone to stroll the white sands of the beach (I love wandering beaches), soak up the sun (I always soak up all the sun I can, and never use sunscreen, I think it's for tourists), snorkel the reef (not only will I snorkel it, but I'll dive it extensively, and I'll even certify anybody I run across who wants to learn to scuba dive), clean the pool (it will be sparkling when I'm done with it), and report to a global audience via weekly weekly blogs, photo diaries and video updates (seriously, I mean this is sooooooooooooooooo me it's scarey!).
They are looking for an excellent communicator who can speak and write English and has charisma. Seriously, after 28 years in radio, I don't think I could possibly be any more custom tailored for what they're looking for. And then they say a candidate's looks will not be a prime requirement, they are not going after beautiful, they are going after charismatic! Not that I haven't been told I'm beautiful by certain blind fans of mine in the past, (they were obviously big fans of the bald is beautiful movement), but it's awesome that they aren't looking for beautiful, again I am totally their guy! They are looking for a fantastic communicator who isn't shy and can effectively promote their islands and diving. I've been doing it for free for Saipan for the past 13 years, without so much as a thank you from MVA or any government entity, just think how much more effective I can be in a situation where they want to help me promote them!
I need to put together a 60 second video telling them why I'm the perfect candidate for the best job in the world. I have so many ideas swirling around in my head it feels like it's ready to explode. Once I get my video posted on the site as an official applicant, I'll be asking for all of you to go there and give me a high rating on my video. Wish me luck, this could be a life changing job!
Tuesday, January 6, 2009
Monday, January 5, 2009
Scott is an F-18 pilot on the USS George Washington, and Lisa teaches English in Japan, so they were perfects candidates to be the next victims of Axe Murderer Tours. Kelli and I asked if they would like to join us at the Seaside Grill at Pacific Islands Club for Happy Hour drinks and appetizers. Since they really had no plans or agenda, other than getting Lisa certified, they seemed more than happy to join us. We met up with Randy and Dayl, who I had been taking diving earlier in the week. Randy is a Navy professional diver, and he wanted Dayl to have an awesome dive experience, so he asked if I could make that happen for them. Not a problem! So we all enjoyed the sunset, a few drinks and appetizers, and Randy dutifully told Scott and Lisa that I was a great dive instructor. You would have thought I had paid him for the commercial, but he was just being nice.
So the plan was to pick up Scott and Lisa for lunch Friday, and then head to Sugar Dock for her confined water training. I decided to stop by the Post Office before getting them, and sure enough, Kelli's and my new cameras were there!!! What great timing! Lisa was an awesome student and put up with way more harassment from Scott and I than anyone should have to endure. It was starting to get a little dark though before we finished, so we decided to finish up the final two confined water dives on Saturday morning, and then head off for an open water dive.
Here you see Scott and Lisa in the water at Lau Lau. Even though we were getting some very gusty trade winds, and high waves on the other side of the island, Lau Lau was calm and beautiful. The visibility was the best I've seen there in a very long time. Almost as if on cue, as soon as we came to the end of the rope going in at Lau Lau, we ran into this guy.
He was munching on seaweed and algae right next to the pipeline, and let us get right up to him for a good look. I can't think of a better way to get someone hooked on diving than spending some quality time with a green sea turtle on their very first open water dive. He was also very cooperative about posing for some pictures as well.
I know I've said it many times, but there is truly something magical about just swimming alongside of a turtle. You tend to forget about everything else and just exist in the moment with the turtle. It was an outstanding weekend all weekend for diving at Lau Lau and the turtles were everywhere.Here is Scott just watching as this turtle decides to go up for some air. It was a great weekend of diving, and Lisa is just one dive away from being certified now, which will be happening this afternoon. My next 2 months are going to be packed full of dive students and classes, but there is always room to fit in another if you're interested. I'll introduce you to my turtle buddies at Lau Lau.
Wednesday, December 31, 2008
I took Randy & Dayl Duncan out on the Sunrider dive boat to check out the spotted eagle rays at the Ice Cream coral formation. Randy is a U.S. Navy diver who is on the USS Safeguard which is currently docked on Saipan. They are getting ready to pull some of the big coralheads out of the shipping channel so that military vessels can come and go easier and hopefully bringing us more military ship visits in the next year. Dayl was his fiance until last Saturday, when they tied the knot on Saipan island-style. David Sablan brought Randy in to the station last Friday morning to join us on the talk show, knowing that I would love talking with another diver. I told him about our Christmas morning dive with the spotted eagle rays and showed him the video and some pictures. He said he really wanted to get Dayl out diving somewhere that she would have a great experience, and that looked like just the ticket. She has been certified and did a few dives, but never really had a great experience, we were looking to change that. The spotted eagle rays made their appearance and got fairly close as you can see from the video, maybe a little too close for Dayl's liking.Randy was quite excited to see this big piece of ammunitition from WWII still sitting down there on the bottom. We even saw a couple smaller bullets from a rifle just sitting down there amongst the coral. Dayl seemed quite relaxed and to really enjoy herself, and why wouldn't she, she was with Randy & I.I think they both enjoyed diving the Chin Sen Mauru the most though, that was the 2nd dive of our boat dive. The were enjoying looking through all the holes and at all the old pieces of equipment on the wreck. Of course all the fish that seem to be everywhere on the wreck help add to its charm as well.Not a bad way to spend a honeymoon, and hopefully these will be the first of many dives that they will do as a couple over the years. As always, I probably had more fun than they did, just because I'm really more than half fish, but they seemed to have a good time too. Two more happy victims of Axe Murderer Tours, who hopefully will still make a dive at Lau Lau to go see some turtles up close and personal. Congratulations on your recent wedding Randy & Dayl, and may you have many more happy dives together!