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!
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