From boats, land, docks and bridges, everybody wants to get a gander at the dolphins, it seems.

“We were just saying that mothers are probably telling their kids, ‘no dolphins if you don’t finish your dinner,'” one woman quipped as she awaited the return of the mammals to the vicinity of McLoone’s Rum Runner in Sea Bright last night.


And just about everybody, it seems, has a theory as to why they’re here and why they’re sticking around.

Bob Gibson, who lives on the river next door to Gaiters restaurant, said he thinks that dolphins are fearful of leaving the river because they’d have to pass construction barges now anchored underneath the Highlands-Sea Bright Bridge.

Even when the construction project is idle, as was the case this weekend, “it’s metal on metal” as the barges and cranes rock in the river, Gibson said. “You and I can’t hear it, but it could be frightening them.”

Chad Higgins, an Ocean Township man with a bushy beard, cyclist’s racing shirt and thick black socks and shoes, stared plaintively upriver as he stood atop a bulkhead near McLoone’s. Higgins turned out to be full of apocalyptic musings about the dolphins, which he said may portend terrorist attacks like those seen on “the big buildings” at the World Trade Center in 1993 and 2001.

“Maybe they hear al Qaeda,” he said, citing Bible verses and reports of whale beachings in Washington State in support of his theory.

Liz Keene of Navesink was pragmatic. “They’re sea mammals,” she said. “They go where they want to go. End of story.”

That parking lot, by the way, is owned by the Ship Ahoy beach club across Ocean Avenue from McLoone’s. The club has been allowing visitors to use the lot as a dolphin-watching spot during the week, but on the weekend, the lot is strictly reserved for club members and their guests.

But even when they’re allowed in, some visitors don’t even get out of their cars, lending an air of drive-in theater to the scene. Donna and Bob Cullen of Jackson Township made a night of it by coming up Sunday evening for dinner at McLoone’s, and then sat watching the river for signs of the dolphins through their windshield afterward.

“I’d love to see them before they go,” Donna said.

She might have headed across the street for a souvenir. Over the weekend, Ship Ahoy started selling notecards featuring photos of the dolphins at $5 a package.

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