Monday, October 8, 2007

Two Months & Counting

Sometimes you just have stop and say Hmmmmm.

Today I sat down to put together a little summary of the Marianas Dive group. A few deadlines set by the group are coming up. By the 15th we want to have most of the content included on the sidebar links of the website ready to go. That includes my assignment- filling in the blanks for "Who We Are" and "Our Goals" among a few others. Anyway, I've been writing and speaking a lot about this group in various places and know putting this together really means organizing everything into one summary. I started by looking back at exactly when this group first got together. I knew it was almost two months ago but I didn't remember the exact date. We'll it turns out- two months exactly today.

Our first meeting was on August 8th. This makes me go double hmmmm because my little girl just turned another month older yesterday, the 7th. I've always been the worst when it comes to remembering birthdays but I'll never forget the 7th. So because of this I'm probably much more likely to remember the "birth date" of this “dive organization with a mission”.

It's been an interesting two months to say the least. I'll admit at times it feels like its been a whole lot longer but at the same time I think "two months- that's it, we've done all this in two months". I even took a week vacation on Guam in there!

The second meeting I was elected President of the group and quickly found folks referring to me as the PM (Prime Minister). Can’t say I object since any reminder of Canada without the wet and cold is just fine with me. The first task given to the executive branch (Harry got the nod as VP and Katrina as secretary) was to establish our mission statement.

Basically our goals are to create awareness for what lies beneath the Marianas waves not only locally but also internationally. We also want to promote conservation as a way of thinking and to help preserve what we have for generations to come while improving everyone’s diving experience. By doing this and assisting with specific destination enhancements we also believe expectations of what the Marianas has to offer and the actual experience delivered can be elevated to that of other, well known, world class dive destinations.

In order to do any of this or to accomplish anything meaningful over the long term we also know the community must come together and rally around something specific. From the first conversations Harry and I had we knew this rallying point had to be everyone’s passion for diving and their fascination with what lies beneath. Thus, the concept of an all-inclusive group, made up of individuals from various ethnic and cultural backgrounds, each with unique talents and levels of experience, was formed. The common denominator- the love of diving. Specifically a Marianas dive.

Taking shape.
Identified as a priority during the first meeting was the need for development of a one-stop-shop or central web portal relating to everything diving in the Marianas as well as general travel and information about Saipan, Tinian and Rota. Immediately a few of the computer savvy folks started work on the main page And the concept and user experience has begun to take shape. Thanks Jon, Mark and Walt! With user added content from the discussion board and contests intended to promote it’s use the site promises to be a valuable dynamic resource for those wishing to travel and dive here as well as for those who dive here every day.

In addition the word IS getting out. The topic of Diving seems to be entering the conversation and the media has been picking up on it. Among other stories Marianas Dive has been mentioned in Island Locator, introduced in Beach Road Magazine and has been reported on in the Tribune here and here. We’ve had television coverage with the KSPN 2 including an interview I did here (9/17/07) and a story following the DFW presentation on the rules and regulations governing our waters. Thanks to Harry there have also been a couple of radio shows and a feature article in the Stars and Stripes newspaper. I feel like I’m forgetting something, perhaps its all the blog stories by the local bloging community! We also can’t forget that MP magazine also featured a dive story in their second issue, not a Marianas Dive story but a dive story nonetheless. Bottom line, the word is getting out and folks are coming up to wish us luck and thank us for making the effort to use our natural resources as a focal point for improving the islands economy.

Perhaps the biggest indication of this so far as well as the impression that each of the agencies with a vested interest in our marine resources is willing to be a part of this group was the very successful Division of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) presentation at Porky's 3 weeks ago. Although there were a couple of technical difficulties with the visuals and the sound nearly 70 people attended and based on the questions and the comments following the presentation most everyone got something out of the evening. With folks from NMDOA, DEQ, CRM, DFW, NOAA, the legislature, the media and concerned citizens in attendance the goal of creating an organization that includes everyone and helps facilitate improvement in our dive industry was clearly evident.

Not to be forgotten is the social aspect of the group. From those first few meetings we identified the desire to plan and organize social events and group dives including clean ups as a means to facilitate the development of relationships and the growth of the organization. After all, all work and no play is not what divers are about!

On September 8th a group dive was done at Lau Lau Bay and I will soon post a video of the highlights but a fun day was had by all those who participated and was followed up a week later at the same place with a beach and underwater scavenger hunt (clean up) in conjunction with Angelo and Beautify CNMI. FAMB’s followed both dive days either at Porky ’s or in Mark and Tammy’s pool!

In addition to these group dives, through discussion board posts, many additional impromptu dive rendezvous have been arranged including boat dives, shore dives and dives assisting the training of our boating safety dive team from DPS. Exploratory dives have begun with boat operators using the board to get their information out and fill up their boats with paying customers.

As the group embarks on it’s third month in existence we’ve begun work on developing a logo and a contest to help involve the kids directly while continuing to educate local residents about the group and our marine environment. We will also be holding underwater clean ups on the third Sunday of every month with the next one scheduled for October 21st. The location is TBA at this point but we are hoping to clean the waters around Sugar Dock if assistance from the Division of Public Safety (DPS) can be arranged. The back up plan is Obyan Beach 8:30 AM.

Continuing with the social theme we also have plans to organize a dive weekend on Tinian with exploratory dives from both shore and boat in addition to underwater clean ups and a casino night at the Dynasty. Stay tuned.

Our paid membership continues to grow, as does the number of registered users of the forum and the mailing list. There is a long way to go for integration of each of the major language groups to occur but as more and more multilingual members join our ranks we will begin to break down the language and cultural barriers and get down to what counts, that passion for all things aquatic.

Paid membership includes the choice of a $20 or $50 fee. They both give voting rights as well as member discounts at various functions but only those paying $50 receive the coupon book currently in development. Adding value as well as a being a promotional tool for both our group and the local businesses supporting us, this package will be well worth the extra $30. Any businesses interested in contributing can post a comment or email me directly. Joining the mailing list or the online forum is free and easy to do from the home page.

Upcoming events and meetings.
Check out the calendar on the web site but here’s a look at what’s on the immediate timetable.

Content & Logo Meeting
October 15th 7PM
Chambre Bar in the Fiesta hotel
Anyone interested in helping develop content for the website and the logo are welcome.

Marianas Dive Meeting (Every 1st and 3rd Wednesday of the month)
October 17th 6:30 PM
Porky’s Beach Bar
General update with focus on website content (holes to fill), event planning, goal setting and membership growth. As always non-members are welcome to attend to share a dive tale or two.

I would also be remiss if I forgot to send a big thank you to Bruce Bateman the owner of Porky’s for not only warm hospitality and a comfortable smoke free location to have our meetings but also for the simple fact that every time we have a function at his establishment he donates 10% of sales to our cause! Thanks Bruce you’re going to have a tough time living up to the legend as the evil one!

Finally, a big thank you also has to go out to all those who have participated, from those paid members who have been at nearly every meeting and event to those un-paid members that have been to nearly every meeting and event (but keep forgetting your cash) and to all those down the line who have posted comments on the board or helped out by spreading the word- thanks for your participation and support!


Bruce A. Bateman said...

That is a nice, concise recap of all that has happened in the last two months. We have come a long way and I'm sure I speak for others too when I say that we made the right choice for PM. Your energy and focused purpose keep this thing going and growing, so thank you, Mike.

(Weekends I pull the heads off ants to keep my evil level up to par). (:-))

Bruce A. Bateman said...

I posted this over on the MD site but thought I would repeat it here.

The Halloween party is at PORKY'S. Oct 31st. First beer or drink is free, free chasers, 3 bands, come as you are or in costume if you want to enter the contest. Lots of prizes.

Plenty Fun.

See Bruce for tickets. All tickets sold to or by Marianas Dive members rebate 10% back to the group's treasury.