Destin dolphin cruises and pontoon boats back and running

Tina Harbuck
The Destin Log
The Destin Log

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For most, it’s just about getting out and enjoying the outdoors.

After being locked down for more than a month due to the coronavirus, folks were out renting pontoons and taking dolphin cruises this week in Destin.

“It’s just nice to be back on the water,” said Rod Bouchard of Boogies Watersports as he washed down a boat.

Bouchard said they were busy over weekend but not so much during the week, although they were open and ready to rent the boats.

“I’m stoked and loving it,” said Chase Andrews of S.E.A. Chase Watersports.

Last weekend they were totally booked and on Wednesday they had about 14 pontoon boats out on the water.

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“Mostly family groups,” he said, noting they are still limiting the boats to just 10 passengers and making sure they are wiped down.

The Dowd family from Texas were at the docks waiting to shove off Wednesday at S.E.A. Chase.

“We were getting tired and bored,” said Kristen Dowd, who’s been doing home schooling with her two children. So they came to Destin to visit with family.

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“Now we are doing the schooling in the morning and playing in the afternoon,” she said.

As for being concerned about the coronavirus she said they are not too worried.

“We’re just living our life and getting out doors. And the kids love fishing,” Dowd said, which is what they had planned aboard the pontoon.

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Luther's Pontoon, Waverunner, & Kayak Rentals is back up and running this week as well and taking all the CDC precautions.

As for dolphin cruise boats, they are back up and in service but at a limited capacity, like area restaurants.

Olin Marler’s Dolphin Cruises and Fishing Charters had the Hannah Marie dolphin cruise boat up and running this past weekend and as of end of day Wednesday had made 10 trips.

“But we haven’t had a trip that was maxed out,” said Kristy Collinsworth, manager of Olin Marler Charter Service.

The Hanna Marie has dropped from seating 130 passengers to a max of 60 spread across the two-level boat. However, most of their trips haven’t come close to capacity.

On their 12:30 p.m. trip Wednesday they had 14 passengers aboard for the dolphin excursion. And the folks were just happy to be aboard and outside.

Anthony Daniels of North Carolina was loving being on the water and not concerned about the coronavirus.

“It’s been great here ... we actually got to go in a restaurant yesterday,” Daniels said while cruising around the Gulf.

Daniels said he recently had a defibrillator put in and has been stuck at home.

“My buddy (Greg Miller) kidnapped me to get away,” he said, which is how he made it to Destin.

There was a group of guys from Kentucky aboard as well who were excited just to be on the Gulf for the first-time ever.

As for a threesome from Indiana, they had no worries about getting on the boat.

“It’s pretty water,” said Jason Berry of Indiana as he peered off the back of the boat looking for dolphin.

The Southern Star dolphin cruise boat as well as the Buccaneer Pirate Cruise is open and running.

Both boats will be running two trips each this Saturday at a little under 50 percent capacity, which is about 75 passengers, according to reservationist Brianna Engel.

So the majority of the boats are back in operation and the sentiment of most passengers and workers alike is “it’s just nice to be back on the water.”

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