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September 17, 2005
It is a long trip, and I would advise getting your place at the rail early, and essentially staying put. When the whales are sighted, all of the passengers will move to the area of the whales and there are a lot of impaired views. The upper deck offers a bit of a better "clear view" when people are on the move to see. No one side of the boat is better than the other. These are wild animals, not trained performers, so what you see is what you get. There are numerous whales out there are at any given time. The photo ops are wonderful but FAST!!! Mostly you end up with a lot of water shots and a few whales.
They offer tours three to four times daily depending upon the season. I would advise calling a day or two ahead and making a reservation, because they do sell out frequently. I have never found a pattern of what time of day is better for the activity of the whales. We usually end up going out on the first tour of the day so we are not out on the water in the afternoon sun.
Bring a jacket, even if it is 90°F when you leave, because when you are out in the wind it can feel very cold!! It can be a long trip of up to 4 hours. It is well worth the cost, and the experience is both entertaining and restful! Take plenty of batteries for those digital cameras and leave them on. When a humpback jumped up fully out of the water in front of us, all of those around me, myself included, had their cameras off saving battery life since we had just left a great viewing spot and were traveling to another location.
From journal September in Cape Cod 2005
May 2, 2004
All excursions leave from MacMillan Pier in Provincetown, at the tip of Cape Cod. The ticket office is located in the Chamber of Commerce Building at the head of the pier. If you don't see a whale, you will get a pass for another day.
Not to worry on our trip. Just barely out of port, we came upon our first whales. The speaker told us what to look for, explaining how the whales make "footprints" on the top of the ocean. The old time whalers used to think this was actually oil left by the whales. Actually it is a result of the large amount of water displaced by their movements.
It was also explained that although there is a lot of sophisticated equipment on board the boat, none of this is used to locate the whales. They look for clusters of birds on the water because that means there is an abundance of food. Then they look for the whale spouts. As you know, when the whale comes up for air, there is what appears to be a steam burst coming from the whale. We learned that different whales also have different spouting patterns.
Our first sighting was of a pair of finback whales. We also saw a harbor porpoise at this stop. After the activity slowed down, the engines were revved and we moved further out of the harbor. Before leaving the harbor, we saw more finbacks and one humpback.
The speaker again instructed us on the whales’ habits. During the winter, they go to southern waters of South Africa and the like. There they will focus on mating and do not eat a lot of food. Having lost a lot of weight by the time they are back in our coastal waters, they need to consume a lot of food. This is good for the whale-watching industry because you can easily spot many whales on one short excursion. It's all about the food!
Since we still had not left the harbor, the engines were revved once again and we headed out to our last spot. And what a spot it was. Dolphins and whales came right by our boat. We saw many more humpbacks out here and there were some blue whales, which we were told was a rare sighting. One was a mother and baby pair and we were told this was the first baby blue whale they had here. One female blue was ensnared by a fishing line that another boat of team members were trying to get off her.
Although it was freezing cold and I did get sick despite the Dramamine, this was the highlight of our week. These are huge and beautiful creatures and I can relate to their motto. It's all about the food!
From journal Springtime at the Cape