Monday, August 25, 2014

There be whales here (aka we went whale watching)

I suspect that no self-respecting Boston-area resident would do something so tourist-y as go on a whale watching tour (or one of those hop-on, hop-off trollys, which we've also done), but that's what Andrew and I did on Saturday afternoon. I don't quite remember when the discussion first came up, although I'm pretty sure it was Andrew who expressed the initial interest in going. We went with the New England Aquarium Whale Watch tour, which leaves from the Long Wharf in Boston, and takes passengers to the Stellwagen Bank Marine Sanctuary, (close to the tip of Cape Cod). Although it's billed as a 3 hours tour, we were out for closer to 4.
On the bow of the boat, waiting for our tour to depart.
Saturday was a lovely day in Boston, not super hot (low 20sC for those of us who prefer metric), although fairly breezy. The breeze was pleasant while we were inland, but it translated into fairly choppy water. It was recommended to us that if we went on the tour, it would be smart to bring warm clothing (long sleeves and a jacket) even if it was a nice day, since it would be much colder on the ocean. Plus, if you wanted to hang out on the bow while the ship powered through the water, you'd be much happier with a few extra layers.
On the cruise out to the Sanctuary.
It took us over an hour (close to an hour and a half, maybe) to reach the Sanctuary. We took it slow for the first few minutes to navigate the traffic in the harbour, but once we were through the densest area, the captain punched it. I have no idea how fast we were travelling, they might have said something over the loud speaker, but the rumble of the motor was such that Andrew and I had shout to talk to each other. What I can tell you is we were moving fast enough that I felt like my nostrils were being pushed open as wide as they would go--it was fast. With the water being choppy is made for an almost roller-coaster like ride, which didn't suit some people's stomachs.

It took us a while to find any whales once we reached the Sanctuary. I think the tour operators allot a certain amount of time for searching for whales (they communicate with other ships in the area to figure out where they might be feeding at the surface), and they offer rain checks to all passengers if no sightings are made during your tour. We lucked out, though. First we found a single humpback, then we moved on to find a group of four humpbacks feeding together (apparently not common, since they're typically solitary creatures). Three of the whales in this group were adults, and one was a calve.
I shot pictures like mad, trying to catch whatever I could of the whales.
I'm not sure how long we stayed at the Sanctuary, maybe about an hour given the length of time we were out. For the ride back Andrew and I stayed back at the stern of the boat. I was feeling overly wind-blown (although thankfully not sea sick) at this point and didn't much feel like hanging around at the front for more crashing through the waves.

All-in-all, if you know you a reasonably stable stomach when it comes to the rocking motions of a boat, I'd recommend going on a whale watching tour. It's pretty cool to see these animals at a reasonably close proximity. If you get motion sick, however, I wouldn't recommended. There were a lot of people on the tour that spent the bulk of it throwing up, in which case it might turn into 3-4 hours of torture.



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