Wednesday, August 29, 2007

USS Ford Crew Tours

Meet OSSN Stephen Ware of the USS Ford. Stephen was on gate duty when I went to pick up Commander Taylor for his Sunday morning dive. I was chatting with Stephen since I showed up early and he mentioned that he'd love to go diving, so I offered to take him and a couple of his friends out Monday afternoon. He brought along HM3 Jacob Moody, and GSMFR Joshua Smith. This was each of their first dives ever, so I took them out one at a time and watched them like a hawk in the water. Afterwards each of them was going on and on about how cool they thought it was and what an awesome experience it was. I'm hoping that each of them caught the dive bug and will now pursue it and become dive bums as well. Stephen got to see this green sea turtle outside of the Grotto, how cool is that for your first dive? Turtles are just my all time favorite, and every time I see one I just become an official ocean critter myself. This is GSMFR Joshua Smith. He didn't get to see any turtles on his dive and the one we saw earlier wasn't considerate enough to stick around for us. I was able to show Joshua a Red Lionfish up close and personal though. It's not that common to see one this size at the Grotto, so it was a very good sighting. I always like to get very close when taking a picture of something like this so I can get good color and clarity, Joshua didn't seem to feel that same need. Lionfish don't ever seem to be in any hurry to get anywhere, they just kind of float on the currents and ride them back and forth, which usually makes for some very nice pictures.

Joshua was also the one who was down with me when I spotted the Japanese dive guide feeding the sharks once again. Fortunately he didn't really see what was going on, so he didn't know about it until after our dive. But he did get to see the sharks swimming around instead of just laying in their usual spot. And finally this is HM3 Jacob Moody. Jacob was the one who said he was the most nervous about being in deep water, but once he went under it was like he belonged down there. You would have never known he hadn't been diving for years and years. The rest of his family are all divers, and he is the only one who hadn't gotten into it yet. I think we can now consider him to have gotten his feet wet and caught the diving bug. While I was down with Jacob, I found a Halgerda guahan nudibranch that had just laid another egg ribbon, so I showed it to him and started taking a bunch of pictures of it. A few minutes later, Jacob motioned me over and showed me this. Jacob actually managed to find two of them mating! Again, just further proof that I somehow inspire these nudibranchs to multiply. But how cool was it than in just one short dive I had actually trained Jacob to be my seeing eye diver and spot nudibranchs for me! Then a few feet away on another rock, there were two more of them crawling around on the red algae. So it was a very cool dive for Jacob as well, who also got to see the Red Lionfish and a shark. Here are three sailors who all experienced their first dive ever in the Grotto. Definitely a day for them to remember hopefully! After that I took them to Bird Island, Suicide Cliff and Bonzai Cliff. Then Stephen wanted to thank me by buying me a drink and dinner, so we finished up our day at Oleai Beach Bar & Grill. Welcome to one of my every day's in paradise guys!

Axe Murderer Tours No More?

I had the distinct pleasure of taking Commander Mike Taylor of the USS Ford and one of his officers, Combat Systems Officer - Lieutenant James Carsner, out on a dive in the Grotto and little sight seeing tour of the north end of the island Sunday morning. I got a call Saturday night from Becky Castro who was part of the Saipan Chamber of Commerce greeting committee that greets the ships and the sailors when they come in. She said the captain would like to go for a dive and asked if I could take him out the next morning. I was already scheduled to do a boat dive to Tinian that afternoon, but that still left the morning wide open, so of course I said yes.

I told them I'd pick them up at the ship at 8 am the next morning. Of course I'm always early for everything, so I decided to take a picture of the ship as I was waiting for them. It was at that point that a guy with a gun told me that no pictures were allowed, you don't usually argue in those situations. I went up and talked to the guards, they said it was the captains orders that no pictures were to be taken of the ship, and that I would have to get his permission before taking any. I said that shouldn't be a problem since I was supposed to be taking him diving in a few minutes. Sure enough, Captain Mike Taylor was an awesome guy, and told me I was welcome to use my picture, that I could have a tour or anything else I wanted. I was happy just having my picture. So since I only had time to take the Commander and his officer on one dive, of course it had to be the Grotto. Unfortunately none of my pictures of them underwater really turned out that great, guess I was having an off day. But they both said they had a blast and loved diving the Grotto. As long as I can make someones day like that, I'm happy as a clam. They got to see sharks, and a few other cool fish and they both came back without any visible blood, so I considered the dive a success! Since of course I considered this an official Axe Murderer Tour, I had to take Mike & James to the scenic spots on the north end of Saipan. I get to call them Mike and James since I'm not military, and was really just their dive buddy, and of course I mean no disrespect to either of them by that. They were both awesome and we had a great time together. Our first stop was just down the road from the Grotto, the Bird Island lookout. I think they were both just a tad jealous that I live somewhere like this and get to see these things any old time I feel like it. Sorry guys, but you're always welcome to come back and join Axe Murderer Tours in your retirement if you'd like!

Next I took them up to Suicide Cliff, but I forgot to take any pictures of them up there. What do you expect, it's not like I'm a real tour guide! Now you see why I can't charge for my services. Oh well, they seemed to enjoy the view and read some of the inscriptions on the monuments. Here you see Commander Mike at the railing at Bonzai Cliff. Personally I think he'd make an awesome addition to Axe Murderer Tours, and he is starting to think about retirement. I didn't say he was going to retire, I just said he was thinking about it. And finally we stopped at the Last Command Post at Marpi. Here you see Captain Mike checking out all the old military hardware. I'm thinking he was feeling like a kid in a candy store. I think most of these guys have bullets and hydraulic fluid flowing through their veins, and I mean that in the most complimentary way. I am very thankful for our service men and women, and love having a chance to give back to them whenever the opportunity presents itself. See what I mean about a kid in a candy store? Something tells me that Commander Mike Taylor is a very cool guy, and one who I would love serving under if I was in the Navy. I hope he enjoyed his tour half as much as I enjoyed giving it to him. All good things must come to and end though, and this is where I left Mike & James.It's certainly one visit that I won't forget anytime soon, or ever for that matter, Captain Mike saw to that. He had a hat and a plaque delivered to me before they left for Guam, as a momento of their time with me. What a touching thing to do! I can honestly say that's the first time I've ever been given a plaque of appreciation for my efforts. Little do they know I'd be diving anyway, and I probably have more fun than they do, but still. The smile on my face when Becky Castro dropped these off to me had to be huge, I was blown away. And then I read the inscription on the plaque. How do you argue with a ships Commander? If he says the name of your tour company is now Hatchet Murder Tours Inc. instead of Axe Murderer Tours, and he actually puts it on a plaque, I think you have to just go with it. So now Commander Mike Taylor joins the official history and lore of Hatchet Murder Tours Inc. and gets credit with giving it it's new name. Therefore let it be known that from this point forward, my fictitious tour company shall be known as Hatchet Murder Tours Inc. as officially dubbed by Commander Mike Taylor of the USS Ford. I can't thank you enough Mike, and I will forever proudly display my plaque in my office to remind me of our very cool morning together.