Live Aboard Captian in Paradise
By Jim Walker
You're licensed to thrill-not just the guests you bring to some of the best diving in the world, but yourself, as well, every day! Your captain's license is your ticket to a perfect world; one where you work very hard, to be very successful, at something you love, in a tropical paradise.
Stewart Esposito is the captain of the Truk Aggressor II. Piloting this full-service live-aboard to the best sites in fabulous Truk Lagoon, he also serves as an instructor, divemaster and much more. On the fun side, Stewart says, "I get to go diving and someone pays me to do it!" On the responsibility side, he says, "As a live-aboard captain, I am running a combination of boat, dive shop, hotel and restaurant, and managing eight to ten crew members." He puts in many long hours keeping everything operating, but he loves what he does. "If I didn't, I wouldn't be here. It's too much work!" he said.
Stewart followed a career path that was both lucky and logical, with maybe a touch of inevitable thrown in. Always comfortable in the water, and even swimming competitively up to the college level, he started diving while attending East Carolina University. He continued his training through advanced diver, rescue diver, assistant instructor and divemaster. As he graduated college, with a business management degree, he was already taking his scuba instructor training. "I had to take a day off from my ITC so I could attend my college graduation."
Later, as a graduate assistant at East Carolina University, Stewart taught the same scuba courses he had taken there. As it turned out, his boss, Ray Scharf, was an old friend of Aggressor Fleet's Wayne Hasson. When Stewart's graduate assistant year was over, Wayne interviewed him for the position of manager at Dive Inn on Grand Cayman-and he got the job.
Stewart managed Dive Inn for three years and learned a lot. He says "I wouldn't trade my time in Cayman for anything." But, when Wayne decided to sell the landbased operation on Cayman, Stewart knew it was time to join the fleet. He studied hard and passed his captain's license exam. Then Dan Ruth of Live/Dive Pacific offered him a position as Second Captain of the independently-owned Truk Aggressor II. A month later he was in Truk and, after only ten more months, he became First Captain of the live-aboard.
Stewart has been in Truk for two years now. He's still exploring new wrecks and finding amazing things to see on those he already knows well. "Just last month I was diving the Aikoku Maru and found a spot in the engine room that just blew me away! It was so incredible I went back on a second dive." Stewart knows he is very fortunate to be doing something he loves to do something that dovetails with his hobbies of photography and video, surfing, exploring and traveling. His enthusiasm for his job is carried over to his guests. He does all he can to make their vacations memorable and, at the same time, treats them like family. He and the other Aggressor crew members consider themselves participants in their guests' adventures and share the experiences with them.
Though he clearly took the right training and made the right decisions along the way, when he describes his career so far, Stewart feels there was a bit of luck involved: "Who I knew and what I knew came together, in the right place, at the right time, to offer me some remarkable opportunities."