Fair Wind Cruises is the oldest family-owned snorkel business in Hawai‘i, operating since 1971. With two 55’ catamarans taking guests to destination snorkel areas, Kealakekua Bay and various South Kona locations, the cruises are an inclusive experience complete with snorkel gear, instruction, flotation equipment and even a delicious owner-created breakfast and lunch.
Although the original Fair Wind was headed to the South Pacific, an accident while docked in Kona showed its captain Hawai‘i Island’s true spirit of aloha.
“My father, Mike Dant, sailed the original Fair Wind trimaran from California to travel the South Pacific in 1970,” owner Puhi Dant explains. “He made a stop, tied the vessel to a mooring already set in Kailua Bay, went to dinner at Herke’s Restaurant, and next thing he knew someone came in and asked if he owned that new boat in town. He soon found out his vessel had broken the mooring and drifted onto the rocks of the Hulihe‘e Palace grounds.”
The community came together to help the stranded mariner. A crane working on the Kona Hilton (now Royal Kona Resort) helped get the boat off the rocks and to a yard behind King Kamehameha Hotel, which let Mike repair his boat there. Capt. Cook Building Supplies fronted him the materials to make the repairs needed to get the Fair Wind back in the water. To pay off his debts, Mike started a snorkel cruise—$12 a person, advertised with hand-written flyers passed out to tourists.
“The town opened their arms to my dad and he fell in love with the people, the place and the lifestyle,” Puhi shares. “I moved over a few years later and started as a deckhand, then a dive leader, and then a captain. In 1983 my wife Mendy and I bought the business from my dad, and he retired to the mainland.”
Today, Fair Wind Cruises continues to give back to the community that opened its arms in 1970.
“We use as much fresh local produce and beef for our menus as possible,” Puhi says. “We use compostable products on board for food service, recycle as much as possible, and send our fresh food trash to pig farms and our Fair Wind farm compost pile. We also grow fresh fruits on our farm along with coffee, which we proudly serve on our vessels.”
Even the boats eat local—Fair Wind Cruises’ vessels run on 100% biodiesel, produced locally by Pacific Biodiesel from on-island feedstock. “The environmental issues are a great concern for us, as we see daily changes in the corals from the water warming,” Puhi says. “We support and participate in many environmental organizations, along with being as conscientious as possible.”
Fair Wind’s 46 years in business hasn’t been without challenges. In 1988, the state implemented new regulations for tour operators in Kealakekua Bay. It took two years to go through the conservation district use permit process. Then, in 1992, Hurricane Iniki broke the vessel Ho‘okele from her mooring and smashed her onto the rocks. Fair Wind found a temporary vessel, but it was half of Ho‘okele’s capacity. It took two years to recover and set sail with the Fair Wind II.
Puhi credits the Fair Wind staff with the company’s success. “They work hard physically and have to have patience and the love of people,” he says. “Working with 200 or more people every day can be challenging, but they put a smile on the face of almost every single guest that comes in contact with Fair Wind.”
So where does Puhi see Fair Wind Cruises in the next ten years? “We’ll continue as a family-owned business. Our sons were born and raised here, and we now have grandchildren that live here, too. We are very fortunate to have our family together. We have a lot of fun together.” ❖