The accommodating sailors let our group have the run of the ship. We climb up on the boom, take turns at the helm, and make ourselves at home in the amply appointed cabins below deck. Much of the yacht’s custom woodwork, such as the handy seven-drink cup holder at the helm, is Captain Bob’s handiwork. From the galley, Tim serves us crab bruschetta, shrimp cocktail, and a fruit plate overflowing with berries, kiwi, papaya, and pineapple. I experience déja-vu—am I daydreaming?
I dangle my feet over the bow as we cruise past Napili, mesmerized by the aquamarine sea coursing below. “That’s my favorite color,” I tell Nina Lee, our designated photographer. She nods. Everything is so beautiful, so brilliant, it’s hard to absorb it all at once.
As Kapalua’s jagged coastline comes into view, Tim tells us to watch for dolphins. No sooner have the words left his lips, than we spot two grey fins gliding through the water ahead of us. Soon, they’re racing off our bow.
“For every one you see at the surface,” says Tim, “there’s at least five below.” Tim tells us that Hawaiian spinner dolphins are nocturnal; they hunt at night and rest during the day. We’re witnessing a dolphin version of sleepwalking. The two at our bow are guards, tasked with patrolling the snoozing pod. Occasionally, one in the distance leaps from the water and spins—the acrobatic behavior for which the species is named. The dolphins swim off as Island Star enters Honolua Bay, one of Hawai‘i’s best snorkel sites. During northwest swells, it’s a celebrated surf spot.
Today, it’s invitingly serene. Huge coral colonies and silvery fish glitter just below the surface. The water is a transparent turquoise. “Now that’s really my favorite color,” I confess to Nina.
As Tim passes out masks and fins, Mark arrives in Man O’ War, a sturdy inflatable raft. “C’mon over,” he says, tossing his bowline up. “We’ll go back out to those dolphins. It’s a chance of a lifetime.”
We jump ship in a hurry. Aboard Man O’ War, we jet off for the mouth of the bay. Mark spots the guard dolphins and motors far out ahead of them. He cuts the engine, letting the dolphins approach us. “Slip quietly into the water, without making a splash,” he advises.
Andrea, who’s visiting from Canada, grins so wide she can hardly strap on her mask. This may be just another day at the office for the Island Star crew, but for us it’s a rare, heart-stopping opportunity.
Beneath the surface, the dolphins’ grey bodies undulate against an infinite blue backdrop. They pass below me in groups of six or twenty—too many to count. Youngsters are tucked in the center.
The dolphins swim in unison, periodically surfacing to breathe. Some rub their white bellies together—dolphin foreplay. I hear their soft, high-pitched notes.
Nina’s husband, Stephan, dons his extra-long free-diving fins, takes a deep breath, and descends. Swimming alongside the pod, he’s just another somnambulist dolphin. The pod continues its rhythmic journey, seeming unconcerned by our presence.