Thursday, October 30, 2008

Me, Nervous?

I realize that to anyone who knows me very well, they would probably be shocked to learn that I'm a bit nervous about heading off to the PADI Instructor's course in Guam tomorrow. After all, I've been diving since 1970, I got certified through the YMCA in 1974, and I've logged in over 2,000 dives in the 12 1/2 years that I've been on Saipan. So most people would think I wouldn't even have to think twice about any of this, but the problem is, I'm a self admitted diving dinosaur. Soooooooooooooooooooo much has changed since I started diving. I've been learning all the new information and techniques and hopefully am up to speed on all of them. But I have always struggled with memorizing formulas and random figures, like the weight of one pound of water, or the various figures you need to remember to do the calculations to figure water displacement or pressure. I've been pounding them all into my head every single day for two months now, and yet I still break into a cold sweat when I think about taking the Instructor's Exam.

For most people who are just doing this as an enrichment sort of thing, I don't suppose they would be feeling as much pressure. But for me this is the beginning of a huge life change and career change. Everything is riding on this, and I really don't want to stumble right out of the gate. Part of the problem is probably that I'm extremely perfectionistic in some things, and yes, this would definitely be one of them. I've had many people ask if I'm excited to be heading over to Guam for the course, and the answer is no. I'll be excited when it's all over and I've got my PADI Instructor's card. Anyway, just over one day and I'll be heading over there. If you're the praying sort, I would certainly appreciate your prayers as I head over there that I don't freeze up and forget everything when it's time for the exam. I feel like I'm back in high school with a huge exam the next day, I didn't like that feeling back then, and I still don't! But then again, this too shall pass....

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Just Another Dive?

This is the latest group of victims of Axe Murderer Tours. I was contacted a couple weeks ago by e-mail asking if I would be willing to take some of the visiting White House dignitaries out diving while they were here. Of course the answer is always yes! Axe Murderer Tours is almost always available and always eager to please. I told them I would accomodate whatever would fit into their schedule, to just let me know when they were free. It was soon established that Tuesday morning, October 21st would work out best for them. I went to the meeting they attended at the Fiesta Resort the night before and met a couple of them and arranged to meet them at the dive shop at 8 am, as soon as I got done with the talk show. In the picture from left to right are: Sean Morton - Director of Coastal Policy for the Council on Environmental Quality, Tim Keeney - Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Department of Commerce/Oceans & Coast, Yours Truly - the old Axe Murderer himself, Allen Tom - Regional Director for Marine Protected Areas & Sanctuaries for the Pacific from the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration, Jim Connaughton - Chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, and Lyle Laverty - Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Interior/Fish & Wildlife. Yes, I was obviously way out of my league with these distinguished gentlemen, but they didn't act any different than anyone else I know. They were all down to earth, friendly and genuine, and truly seemed to enjoy the chance to go diving.

3 of them wanted to go scuba diving and the other 2 were going to snorkel. I had been watching the conditions on the reef line and thought it looked like a perfect opportunity to sneak in another Wing Beach dive, even though the season should have been over months ago. I told them not only was it my favorite dive, but it would also be the best place for the snorkelers to see some spectacular coral.

We had a plainclothes police escort along with us just to make sure there were no problems. I really appreciated having someone at Wing Beach to watch my truck as we were on the dive. When we went down to the beach to check the conditions, they were absolutely perfect, so the dive was on! I gave them a pre-dive briefing, telling them what we would be doing and what to expect, and then we walked out to the cut. The water felt awesome and refreshing after the walk out wearing the heavy equipment in the hot sun. It was a bright sunny day, so the coral was all lit up looking like a Christmas tree. Tim had a fin strap buckle break as he was putting on his fins, so I gave him mine and I used the ones with the broken buckle, just jamming it onto my foot. I led them all out to the crevasse, and we dropped down to check out two huge lionfish resting on the bottom. They all seemed very relaxed and like they were very experienced divers. The current was pushing us back as we worked our way along the wall, making for a very easy swim back. Jim Connaughton was taking pictures, and I hope he got a good sampling of our underwater beauty.

We got everyone back safe and sound without any incidents, and they all seemed to think it was just an awesome dive. When we got back to the dive shop, Jim presented me with a blue box with the Presidential seal on it. Inside was an official Presidential Seal pin, with the President's signature personally engraved on it. He told me it was from President Bush with his thanks. I was absolutely speechless. I've received some very cool momentos in the past, but this one would forever be the most impressive.
I don't care what your political affiliations are, you have to be absolutely humbled by something like that. Now I guess Axe Murderer Tours can claim to have had a connection with the President of the United States.
It just happened that the group from the White House was also going to Rotary for lunch that day, so I went to my office, threw on some dry clothes after the dive, and met them all at the Hyatt for Rotary. Sean Morton sat at my table with me and we talked quite a bit. He asked what my future plans were and I told him about getting my PADI Instructor's card and then moving to either south Florida or the Carribean early next year. He got this shocked look on his face and asked if I was serious. Then he told me that he might wind up in Florida next year as well. He told me to look him up as soon as I got down there and see what was available. Isn't it amazing how things work out sometimes? I don't know if anything like a job would ever come of it, but I do know that I've made a friend hopefully for life who I'll most likely be connecting with quite often for the next couple of years. All because I want to share my love of the ocean with everyone I can, and do it under the guise of a make believe dive company called Axe Murderer Tours. This is definitely a story for my book!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

An Update To The Plan

If you've been following my blogs at all over the last several months, you know that our lives are about to take a drastic change and head an all new direction. After over 26 years in radio, I've decided to hang up my microphone and pursue my passion. I'm going to Guam in about 3 weeks to attend the IDC to get my PADI Instructor's card, then I plan on becoming a full time, professional dive instructor. Where we'll wind up is still up in the air, I guess it all depends where we can find a spot that we can dive all year long and earn enough money to feed the two of us. There is the possibility that I'll have to be a full time Wal-Mart greeter, and a part time dive instructor to survive, but let's just say that's the back-up plan.

As I was finishing up my Dive Master course a couple weeks ago it suddenly dawned on me that if I put Kelli through the Rescue Diver and Dive Master courses, then we could bill ourselves as a team to resorts that we might like to work at. A Dive Instructor with his own built-in Dive Master would have to make each of more valuable. That way, they could house you both in the same housing, and cut down on their expenses, plus that would be one less position they would have to worry about filling. I talked it over with Kelli, and at first she said she didn't think there was any way she could do it. I assured her that I thought she could, we would just spend as much time going over the various skills and bookwork as she needed. I explained how I thought it would give us a real competitive edge for many positions though. So after much discussion, she agreed that if I was willing to teach her and put her through the courses, that she would be willing to do it. So that is the plan, as soon as I get back from the Instructor's course, we will begin putting Kelli through Rescue Diver and Dive Master, so that we're both ready to go once we move. And if you thought my 200 dives for the year was a milestone, Kelli has gotten 50 dives in for the year now. And if you know Kelli and know how hesitant she was to dive before this year, you will know what a monumental accomplishment that truly is. I'm really proud of her and know she is going to be an awesome Dive Master. That's her in the picture above posing with the friendly green sea turtle from this past weekend.

Monday, October 6, 2008

200 Dives For The Year!

My goal this year was to hit 200 dives for the year once again. Now I know that to most dive industry professionals, that's no big thing, many of them will hit 400, 500 or 600 dives a year. But I'm not a dive industry professional, well not yet anyway. I managed to get all those dives in by October 5th as just another weekend diver with a normal day job. Now you may not think that 200 dives in a year is a big deal, but when you realize how many dives that adds up to every weekend, it shows that you pretty much lived under water on the weekends. My new goal is to hit 250 for the year now, it will be the first time I've ever accomplished that, and I think the goal is fairly achievable. I had to get in 7 dives this last weekend, in order for #200 to be with my great friend Hozumi and her last dive on Saipan.

The picture above was of a green sea turtle we saw at Lau Lau Sunday morning. He was having breakfast and just didn't seem to care if we were there or not. He let us take all the pictures we wanted and posed graciously. After posing for that picture, I decided to borrow the camera from Kelli for a second and take a couple pictures of the turtle myself.
I always love gazing into a turtles eyes, they are just so soft and full of personality. This guy was very accommodating about having me that close to him, didn't seem to mind at all. So I snapped a few pictures and then let him get back to his breakfast. This was definitely one of the coolest turtle encounters I've had in a very long time though.Yup, these couple pictures convinced me that I really need to start saving up to replace my underwater camera though. I miss capturing these moments on the camera and then being able to share them. Kelli took a picture of Hozumi and I together on this my 200th dive of the year and her last dive on Saipan. It was a great dive, and Hozumi really seemed to enjoy herself and just soak everything in one last time. I will really miss taking her out diving occasionally and watching her face light up when she sees a turtle, or watching her recoil in horror as I hold a sea cucumber out to her. Thanks for sharing that dive with me Hozumi, you will be greatly missed!