Friday, August 27, 2010

Time for Another Update

I've had quite a few people ask me why I just abruptly stopped blogging once I started my dive business full time. It's a bit complicated, and yes, I have been extremely busy, but I guess a big part of it had to do with all the negative blogging controversy with some Saipan bloggers a couple years ago, and a few less than pleasant situations with some fellow dive instructors. But as far as I can tell, most of them are either gone now, or have just silenced themselves after accomplishing all the destruction they could manage. I do realize that many people followed by blog and lived vicariously through my dives and my pictures. So with this in mind, I'm going to make a concerted effort to try posting things on a regular basis again.

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

Still Alive & Kicking!

I realize I've just disappeared for the past 10 months, and many rumors have sprung up as to what happened to me. Every time I see someone in public and they say "hey weren't you Harry Blalock, that radio guy?", I say no, he's dead, I'm the dive guy. So I guess it should really come as no surprise that there are the perpetual rumors that I have actually died, but rumors of my demise are greatly exxagerated, trust me. A new owner took over the radio station that I was managing last May, and after determining he was a complete dweeb I thought it might be a good time to retire from radio and pursue my dream of having my own dive business, well full time I mean. I had a very busy first year as a dive instructor and dive guide on the island of Saipan. I certified over 75 new divers, which is quite a few when you realize that I do mostly all private lessons, no classes. I also became a Master Scuba Dive Trainer and have a whole slew of specialties that I teach now as well. I also became the primary Saipan dive guide that MDA, the big dive shop on Guam sends all their divers who want to dive Saipan to. That has also been a very nice cushion to my instruction business. And that's in addition to the military that have already heard about me through word of mouth and come looking to dive with me. Then I've also had quite a few couchsurfers come to stay with us and get certified while they were here as well. If you've never heard of couchsurfing, it's a very cool concept, check it out at I've certified couchsurfers from London, South Korea, Germany and I took a couch surfer from Israel out on a Discover Dive. It's been a lot of hard work, but I wouldn't trade it for my old life, not in a million years. So you can see why I've been a little busy and haven't had a lot of time to update my blog. But I've had several people tell me lately that they really miss my blog and that they think it brought a lot of business my way, so I promise to try to find time to update you more often.

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!