"The Team" City Seahorse
I've been privileged to meet and work with a number of highly skilled and personable people during my years in Raja Ampat. Unlike most trip organizers who simply charter a ship or book spots at a resort and use the crew or staff, I bring additional experienced people "The Team" to ensure guests on my trips will have excellent care from knowledgeable people. I rely on these people and work together with them every year. We are a sort of family after spending so many months together every year.
I also have guests who have repeated the trips many times. We've also spent many months together on the ship diving, chatting and pondering the joys and problems of life. They are also like family. Perhaps I should include them here as well.
The oldest in age and duration, team member, Mikel!
I met Mikel on my very first trip to Raja Ampat in 1999. We didn't know how to spell it back then (it was advertised as Irian Jaya diving) and very little was known about the diving, the dive sites, or how to dive them.
During the first 2 weeks of diving in 1999 with the dive operator, we thought the area was just OK. Then, due to problems with the dive boat, Tony and I were sent out to dive off Mikel's longboat during the last week. No dive guide, no common language! No ladder!!! He took us to Sardine Reef and using skills learned by fishing the area with his father, dropped us straight into the best dives of my life! He knew exactly how to find the masses of fish, and he could read the water like a book, always putting us in the best spot where we would not be swept away by the current.
Mikel and his children live on Doom Island, just off Sorong. He has joined me on almost, maybe every, trip I've made to Raja Ampat. If he had not taken us out in his long boat in 1999, I doubt I would ever have returned to dive Raja Ampat, promoted the area at DEMA, in magazines, etc., or brought over 35 groups to dive the area since.
D.M Ethel (left) & C.D. Norberto (right)
To steal the American Express tag line, "Don't leave home without him!"
Norberto terrified me! In 2006 I arrived in Sorong for my semi-annual charters to discover my cruise director was a young, inexperienced dive instructor from the Canary Islands named Norberto Rodríguez Sánchez! He barely spoke English and had made only 1 trip in the area. It was a good thing I had several years experience there myself and Mikel to help!
Within a few days it was obvious that this young man was someone special. He quickly understood how I wanted my groups to dive. His English improved very quickly (he's good with languages) although we had some laughs on the dive deck about beards (birds) and boomee's (bommies). The guests and the crew love Norb (also called Nobbie & Roberto).
Norberto arrives early for the City Seahorse trips to check that everything is ready and to instruct the crew in how to run "Deb Fugitt trips". By the time I arrive the crew is terrified! ;>)
He works tirelessly, together with the ship's crew, me and the rest of the team to please the guests and is a wonderful negotiator with airline, repair and shop personnel. He's also a great critter spotter and underwater model!
Norberto and wife Melysa (from Kendari, Sulawesi), run a thriving travel agency in Bali along with young daughter Daniella.
I first met Aan as a crew member of the SMY Ondina liveaboard in 2006. He previously worked as a divemaster in Bali, mostly with beginning divers and had only a little experience with underwater photographers.
Aan caught on rapidly to the needs of underwater photographers, helping them set up shots, watching that their strobes were not being blocked, helping to anchor them in place in current swept locations, etc. He was and still is a remarkable critter spotter! Aan is a true professional.
When Aan left the ship for the birth of his first child in 2008, I recommended him to Annabel, owner of AquaMarine Diving in Bali, who is always looking for excellent Indonesian divemasters to add to her wonderful staff. Aan is still working for AquaMarine and as my "finders fee" is given leave to come work my trips each year.
Aan is Norb's "right hand man" capable, intelligent and always willing to go the extra mile (km) for a guest. He is savvy with things electronic or electric, always a big plus on a ship!
Aan is from Java, but works in Bali where he lives with his wife Yanti and two children.
I, Deb Fugitt, started organizing exotic trips for myself and others back in the 70's going places few people had ever visited. Until 1994 the others were local friends or family. That year I got fed up with the arbitrary restrictions placed on our very small groups of 2-4 divers (underwater photographers) and began organizing groups just large enough to get an entire dive boat, or resort.
At the time I was publishing articles in several dive magazines including Discover Diving, Scuba Times, American Way and Sportdiving plus contributing photos and articles for books and other magazines. I had worked for many years as a systems analyst supporting research teams in the R&D arm of several different companies.
In 1996, the "paying job" became City Seahorse, full time Internet marketing work for resorts, liveaboards, dive operators, specialty travel agencies and photographers. Meanwhile I continued setting up small group dive trips to adventurous destinations.
My "blog" (1996-2000) Waterlogged @ SeahorseTales (see Archives), is now obsolete and predated the term "blog". I carried a film scanner on my dive trips, shot one roll of 36 frame print film to develop, scanned the negatives and produced a "SeahorseTale" while in the Solomon Islands, Fiji, Tonga, Philippines and Indonesia. I worked a few years promoting Underwater Photography Magazine, and contributed articles & photos to dive magazines and books in the UK, Europe, Asia & Australia.
In 1999 I went to Raja Ampat, then almost completely unknown, to build a website for a client. I introduced Raja Ampat at DEMA in January 2000 and wrote some of the first articles and web pages published on the area, as well as advising other professional photographers on where and what to shoot. I've now spent well over a year with 2000+ dives in the R. A. area.
The last few years my emphasis shifted almost completely away from my own photography and toward detailed organization and support to ensure you, as our guest, get the best diving and photo/video opportunities I can provide at a reasonable price. I rarely work through an agent, preferring lower costs and personal contact with the divers who join the trips.
Tony Matheis is logistics support. Tony will be manning the office in Texas to work with 2015 trip bookings and support for the 2014 and 2015 dive trips.
I met Tony online when he found a new dive website for the St. Vincent dive shop in early 1996. Later that year, Tony crashed a City Seahorse group trip in St. Vincent. I had the entire dive shop fully booked for my underwater photography group. The owner forgot to tell him so he arrived for his dive trip without the possibility to dive!
Tony later joined trips as a guest in St. Vincent and the Philippines. He was one of 4 to make the maiden journey to Raja Ampat in 1999 and has assisted me with all but two trips there since.
Added to the team as Office Assistant in 2012. Çesme survived his treatment for heartworm and is now thriving as the office stress-relief manager.
Little is known about Çesme's previous work experience. We only know that someone dropped him at Arf House Animal Refuge without even providing his name or age. His mug shot appeared on the Petfinder pet adoption website and within a few days he had taken up his position in the office with 30-40 carefully arranged babies (soft furry dog toys), an inheritance from his predecessor, Keeper.
Çesme provides comic relief and exercise (dog walks) for City Seahorse office staff and officials.
Translation by Google
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