Dolphins are capable of such powerful presence that they can alter lives. Count me among those who believe.

I’ve seen it happen on multiple occasions. Here is one such story.

A family chartered my boat, the WaveWalker, for a critter cruise. I love those trips. This family was mom, pop, mid-teen son, pre-teen daughter and a boy of about second-grade age.

It was a nice family, with one glaring exception. The mid-teen kid (Charley we’ll call him) had a chip on his shoulder the size of a block of ice. He was as unfriendly as a block of ice, come to think of it.

I was tempted to make him walk the plank for the way he treated his parents and siblings. Nothing they did or said was okay with him, and he unpleasantly let them know he thought they were full of it and that he was the only strong powerful one in the family.

Charley hadn’t yet figured out the whole part about who was footing his expenses. I could see that his family was weary and beleaguered. 

Fortunately, he was just smart enough not to lock horns with the captain. We have very sharp and stubborn horns aboard our own vessels.

The stress was taking a toll on everyone aboard the boat, and I was relieved to spot a large pod of common dolphins. It was a good size bunch of them … several hundred.

I altered course and paralleled them better than a hundred yards off — a respectable distance. As happens frequently, the dolphins came racing over to check us out and play in our bow waves.

The family went to the bow of the boat to enjoy the playful critters. Well, except for Charley who stubbornly remained, sullen and griping, in the cockpit area.

The family needed this break from him and needed the refreshing diversion. We hung out with the dolphins for a good long time.

When the family came back to the cockpit area, Charley went alone to the bow of the boat to get away from them.

I sat on the bridge and although Charley couldn’t see me, I have my captainly ways to see everything aboard my vessel and I could watch him, which I felt was the prudent thing to do.

Feeling like we needed some help here, I held up my hand to the dolphins and then pointed toward Charley who by now – and thinking no one was watching – was looking intently at the dolphins. In fact, Charley laid down along the gunn’l so he was only a few feet from the critters.

On queue, one dolphin moved in very close, rolled partway onto its side and looked Charley right in the eye — eyeball to eyeball. It seemed to look right through Charley, who slowly reached his arm down toward the water. That dolphin watched his arm come close and then strangely, it moved even closer so that Charley’s hand grazed along its back.

Charley looked stunned. He stood up with eyes wide open like he was shocked and surprised. He came back to the cockpit of the boat, hugged his parents, dropped his gang-like speech patterns and behaved himself the remainder of the trip.

As the family disembarked at the end of the trip, both parents were wiping away tears as they embraced me to say thank you.

I quietly told them I’d pass on their appreciation to the dolphins who deserve it.

— Capt. David Bacon operates WaveWalker Charters and is president of SOFTIN Inc., a nonprofit organization providing seafaring opportunities for those in need. Visit to learn more about the organization and how you can help. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.