Kauai News

Local Tour Company Retains Nearly All Its Employees Post-Pandemic

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Amid the uncertainty that swarmed around business owners during to COVID-19 pandemic, Shaye Clarke wanted to be an anchor for her employees at Blue Dolphin Charters.

The virus, declared a pandemic in March 2020, not only disrupted daily life but decimated the economy on a global scale. Clarke, vice president of the family-owned and operated business, said the first six weeks of the health crisis were confusing.

During those lockdown weeks, Clarke told Kaua‘i Now she touched base with every employee on a weekly basis. Whether it was a phone call or group text, she tried to share jokes and get group conversations going.

“I really made an effort to make sure no one felt alone,” Clarke said, adding it has helped keep a positive momentum for the 35 to 40 staff on Kaua‘i.

Blue Dolphin was shut down for 15 weeks. They started operating their zodiac on July 4, 2020, sporadically during the summer months for kama‘aina.


“We didn’t have a catamaran out but gave huge discounts on raft trips to help people have something to do,” Clarke explained.

The business reopened catamaran operations on Nov. 6, 2020, but was forced to close again in December when Mayor Derek Kawakami opted Kaua‘i County out of the state’s Safe Travels program. Despite the ups and downs of closings and reopenings over the past year and a half, Clarke was able to retain most of her original staff pre-pandemic.

“The pandemic was challenging and rough from a managerial standpoint, but it was all worth it,” she said. “The bonds built during those pandemic months helped the company retain nearly 100% of its staff.”

Chad Kubo, a captain at Blue Dolphin, has worked at the company for 11 and half years. He said the team was always close, but the pandemic unified them in a unique way.

“Shaye guys kept everyone’s head up and keeping us from going astray — so it’s pretty cool,” Kubo said.


Kubo said the team at Blue Dolphin is a family. From cookouts, to watch parties of sporting events to fishing or diving trips, most everyone came out to be together.

“It kept everyone close, instead of drifting apart,” Kubo said.

When businesses around the state were forced to lay off staff, Kubo said, Clarke kept their crew working as long as possible.

During those months when the state was shut down to travel, Clarke felt it was important to not only foster a sense of family and community but to encourage her employees to expand on their skillset.

“You can only have an extended personal vacation in Hawai‘i for so long,” Clarke said.


With Blue Dolphin offering scuba diving to guests, Clarke said, she encouraged some of the staff to get their certification.

Let’s not sit and be stagnant,” she noted. “Let’s continue to learn and grow through those long slow days.”

Kubo said they were the only touring company that reopened to give the community something to do.

Blue Dolphin reopened again on March 5. Kubo said he’s seen a lot of new faces at other competing touring companies.

“We’re still the same crew,” he said.

Since May, Blue Dolphin has been running tours from four catamarans and one Zodiac.

Clarke said giving up was never an option.

“Ultimately, we got through it together,” Clarke said. “Our team bonded through the challenging days. It’s made the long days coming out of the pandemic so much easier.”

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