Thar She Blows--How to Have the Best Whale Watch Experience
Several weeks ago, on Sunday July 6th, my family took a day trip to Gloucester, MA for a whale watch! We used to take these out of Boston, and I remember them being quite fun (although I also have a distinct memory of someone on the deck above us getting very sick...). Mom found a Groupon for the Cape Ann Whale Watch so that the normal price of $48 was discounted to the $30s.
The whale watch lasted over five hours. The boat started in Gloucester, and then drove an hour and a half, all the way down to Provincetown, on the very end of the Cape! We were having a lot of luck finding animals, so they gave us a little more time on the water before heading back. Three whale species put on a little show for us while we were out there--finback whales, which are the second largest creatures on earth (next to the blue whale); minke whales, a smaller baleen whale; and humpbacks. We also drove through a large pod of dolphins--they were wave-riding and jumping on all sides of the boat! Afterwards, we hit the town--as much as you can on a Sunday night when everything is closed.
The Cape Ann Whale Watch prides itself on being educational. A marine biologist stood at the bow of the boat, pointing out whales when she saw them and talking about the different species. Staff members went around with maps of our route, pieces of baleen to look at, and whale-based matching games. On the way back, the upper deck became home to a play area for the young kids when a staff member pulled out a bag of toy sea creatures.
There are many different companies that have whale watches and many different outcomes of these trips. but I highly recomend everyone try one. Read below for my photos and tips for having the best experience possible!
// Dress for the occasion. Sundresses are cute but totally not practical for a windy ride like this. Opt for shorts, pants, or a maxi with a T-shirt or light sweater. Bring a jacket or cardigan because it can get cold. As for shoes, opt for something flat, ideally with rubber soles. Don't forget sunglasses and something to corral your hair with! (On my trip, I wore a maxi skirt, my work loafers, my "Wish I Was Here" shirt, Smith sunglasses, and a light cardigan.)
// Don't get caught up in the camera. It's very difficult to capture the exact moment you want to, so don't spend the whole time looking through a lens. In fact, it actually may be easier (if your camera can do this; mine cannot) to take a video and pick out stills after the trip.
// Don't expect the whole ocean to do a parade for your boat. Some whale watches don't find any whales at all; others see whale after whale after whale with jellyfish and dolphins and rare birds thrown in. Every trip is different and uncontrollable. If the whales happen to be MIA during your trip, enjoy the sun and the waves and meeting those around you.
// Plan for seasickness and fatigue. Bring snacks (because who wants to pay high prices for chips on board?), maybe a book, and something to help with seasickness (Dramamine or motion sickness bracelets). Remember that sitting out on the deck often helps if you're feeling ill, while sitting in the cabin makes it much worse.
// Explore the area. Whale watch tickets are expensive and probably a little out of your way. Make the most of it by scheduling in time to explore the surrounding town, beaches, or docks!
Have you ever been on whale watch? Would you like to?
Photos by Julia Domenicucci or Michael Domenicucci