Friday, February 9, 2001
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Posted on: Friday, February 9, 2001

Whale owes life to tour boat's crew

By Jan TenBruggencate
Advertiser KauaÎi Bureau

LIHUE, Kauai — A humpback whale is alive and breaching off Kauai thanks to a rescue by the crew of a tour catamaran.

A three-member crew with nine passengers on the Capt. Andy’s Sailing Adventure catamaran Hula Kai spotted the whale in distress about a half-mile from shore near Nohili Point, off Barking Sands. It was Super Bowl Sunday.

"He was all sunburned and weak and was towing a big orange plastic buoy," said Capt. Matt Faria.

The whale would attempt to dive, but appeared to be too weak to overcome the buoyancy of the float and several long loops of fl-inch line.

Faria said the whale appeared to have snagged the rope with its tail, and the tightly wound band of polypropylene was cutting into its skin.

"The whale was not traveling far," said Hula Kai passenger David Mona, a Hyatt Regency Kauai hotel concierge.

Mona said four large tiger sharks were swimming below the whale. Faria estimated they were 12 to 15 feet long.

Faria called the Coast Guard and received permission to approach the whale and try to free it.

His crew hauled the buoy and roughly 100 feet of rope aboard. Because of the sharks, no one entered the water.

Crew members were concerned the humpback would fight them, but it did not. "The whale just sat there while the crew cut the rope," Mona said.

About the same time, four to six other humpback whales began swimming toward the wounded whale.

Faria said the whales approached within a half-mile and held position while the boat crew hauled and cut the line. As the boat and whale separated, they approached the stricken animal, Mona said.

"We could count about six whales coming toward it from different directions. We were hoping they were going to chase the sharks away," he said.

Faria said the operation left a section of rope around the whale’s tail, with a few feet trailing. The whale swam slowly away.

"The next day we saw him, and he looked better. The rope was gone and he was diving," Faria said.

"Since then, some of the other crews said they’ve seen him, and he was breaching."

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