Jim and Betsy enjoyed a trip (without kids!) to Maui in 2000. Betsy was attending a Suburban Newspapers of America conference, and tacked a few days onto the trip so she and Jim could explore the island. The highlight of the trip was a chartered whale watch excursion with other friends from the SNA group. We were on the Ocean Explorer, a 50-foot catamaran with naturalists from the Pacific Whale Foundation. “We cannot get closer than 100 yards to a whale, the guide explained. “But they can – it’s called a mugging”.
We saw a whale coming right towards the catamaran, and he came right up to the boat. Then he swam under the boat and came up on the other side, as all of us excited spectators ran from one side of the boat to the other, tipping it closer to the water. The whale then swam back under, and we all ran back to the other side. The naturalists were very excited – in years of excursions, they had never experienced a whale coming right up to the boat. He then swam under our boat and gently tapped it, resulting in many of us grabbing for a handrail as the boat rocked. Then he came up and exhaled a shooting stream of water and mist through his blowhole – it smelled terrible! Our up close encounter went on for about 45 minutes. We could not leave as it is against the law to start the boat’s engine when a whale is within 100 yards. Many photographs later, he finally swam off, and we had to wait another ten minutes before starting the engines. At about nine minutes, we saw our friendly whale coming back…. with a friend! So we remained in our status of being “mugged” and enjoyed watching the two of them swim under us, first right-side-up, then belly-up on the way back.
After a spectaular show, they finally swam off into the sunset, as did we, to go back and sail back out for a sunset dinner cruise. Dennis Anderson, the Editor of the Antelope Valley Press joined us on this trip, and he memorialized this special whale encounter in a newspaper article.
We have many other great memories from this trip, including a visit to Haleakala Volcano, snorkeling and a luau, but none compared to the awesome connection we had with a whale and his friend on that beautiful Hawaiian day. Back home, we brought souvenirs for Kenny and Alex, and they had fun dressing up in their new Hawaiian outfits.