Back aboard Island Star, we’re all giddy from our wildlife encounter. Wendy tells us one dolphin nosed right up to her eleven-year-old daughter, close enough for Tessa to touch it. (She didn’t.)
We practice swan dives from the bow and snorkel for a bit, working up a fierce hunger. Luckily, Tim’s got us covered. We find an impressive spread of ‘ahi steaks, burgers, pasta, and Caesar salad waiting in the galley.
Over lunch, Mark tells us that actor George Hamilton chartered Island Star for a week. His family sailed from island to island, anchoring in private bays at night. Island Star Excursions has permits to dock at any harbor in Hawai‘i, a boon few other companies can boast of.
“We’re able to do whatever the client desires,” says Mark. Oprah, Brittany Spears, Neil Armstrong, and the Princess of Monaco number among the many celebrities Island Star has entertained.
Built in 1969, the trim yacht has an extra-thick fiberglass hull. She’s sturdier than a racing yacht, made for ocean crossings. Her crew is also built for adventure–Mark and Tim describe dozens of rescues they’ve participated in during Kona storms.
One infamous storm barreled through Lahaina Harbor at seventy knots, tearing boats free of their moorings and sending scores towards the reef. The Island Star crew helped corral the boats in distress. “We still have reunions from that storm,” says Mark.
As the sun wanes, the winds begin to rise—fortune is with us! Mark returns to his raft, and Island Star weighs anchor. Captain Bob orders the sails set. Stephan and I help hoist the main.
Soon we’re heeled over in the wind, launching across the late-afternoon swells. Man O’ War appears portside, and Mark inquires whether Nina would like to photograph Island Star from the raft? Her eyes widen. Absolutely! “He always makes us do things like this!” groans Tim.
Nevertheless, Island Star’s skilled crew manages to make the transfer look effortless. To Nina’s delight, Mark repeatedly maneuvers the raft beneath Island Star’s bow, darting like a rodeo cowboy.
“It’s a good life,” says Mark, as we disembark back at the harbor. “I can’t think of much I’d rather do.” Amongst our group, the feeling is unanimous.
If this story has inspired your raw envy (as it did my editor’s), let this ease your jealousy: while snorkeling, I was peppered with small jellyfish stings. Days later, I’m itching the scabs fondly—a small price to pay for a dream come true.