Among all the folks communing with the whales last Friday, we were the ones twisting and shouting all the way home.
It was Marty Dread's "Reggae with the Whales" cruise, the Pacific Whale Foundation's fun boat departing Maalaea every Friday at sunset time.
This was our second whale watch this season. Visits from family and friends from the Mainland provide the excuse to act like tourists - not that whale watches need an excuse.
The Maui News/ RICK CHATENEVER photo
Marty Dread sings and the passengers dance on Pacific Whale Foundation’s weekly “Reggae with the Whales” Cruise every Friday. He’ll also perform on land when PWF presents Whale Day Saturday in Kihei. You’ll find more information throughout this issue of Scene or at www.maui whalefestival.org.
They're like reunions with our distant cousins, from the very large side of the family. Whale watches are all things to all people which doesn't begin to address the question of what they are to the whales?
After all, who's watching whom here? In the days of film, I used to think our annual humpback visitors were on the Kodak payroll, getting thousands of tourists to snap hundreds of thousands of shots - all of which turned out to be big blue rectangles with little black smudges in the middle.
Now that we've gone digital, whale watches are cetaceans' version of stupid human tricks: Hey guys, watch me make all those silly people run from one side of the boat to the other!
The story you get on a whale watch depends on the gender of the naturalist on board. If the naturalist is male, you'll hear whale behavior - the breaches, flaps, slaps, air blows and red tails in the sunset - described in terms of rivalry among the male escorts to see who can win the attention of Big Mama.
If the naturalist is female, the focus is more on the nurturing behavior between mother and calf.
Which still leaves tons of questions unanswered. For all the research, the tail-ID photos, the recordings and analysis of the songs, no one has caught whales in the act of breeding. It seems like it would be hard to miss.
And breaching - what's up with that?
Having gone whale-watching with Jean-Michel Cousteau on several occasions, I asked him.
"I sink zay are having a helluva good time!" answered the French ocean explorer.
Professor Chatenever has his own theory. I think they are coming up to check things out. As fascinating as all that stuff underwater may be, it gets boring after a while.
Welcome to Maui, big guys. Why don't you take a look around?
Next time you see a whale breach, imagine Marvin Gaye singing "What's Going On" for accompaniment.
Or, better still, go out with Marty Dread. Sure, you can catch the island's well-loved reggae artist in his regular club gigs, but they don't provide gauzy pink and purple twilight dancing over the West Maui Mountains for stage lighting. Not to mention, whales in the chorus line.
The Mai Tais help, no doubt. Whale watches are always cool, they're just not always this happy. More like giddy, actually, as Marty works the boat, his recorded music in the background as he goes from deck to deck. He's in people's faces. No one minds. At the end, folks wind up on the foredeck, dancing.
A terrific showman and singer, it's his easy, no worries, up-close-and-personal quality that wins the crowd. When the crew drops a hydrophone over the side and actual whale songs come over his sound system, it's more like a duet.
And when Marty breaks into Bob Marley's classic "Is This Love," the answer is a most definite yes, no matter which side of the ocean surface you're on.
* Contact Rick Chatenever at firstname.lastname@example.org.