How often do you see whales?
While every season varies slightly, we sight whales on an average of 99% of our trips. Sometimes weather can be a factor; it is a bit more difficult to sight whales in the fog or on a rough day. However, some of our best trips have come on those difficult days, so we generally will go whale watching in all conditions, as long as safety is not an issue.
What kinds of whales do you see?
There are four main whale species sighted on our trips. Humpback, Finback and Minke Whales as well as Atlantic White Sided Dolphins. Less common species that we sight occasionally are Harbor Porpoise, Sei Whales, Pilot Whales, Right Whales and Blue Whales (very rare.)
How close do you get to the whales?
While we never will intentionally approach a whale closer than 100 feet (it’s against the law!) they are allowed to approach us if they feel like it. Whales have come close enough to touch (don’t do that-it’s against the law too!) plenty of times, but it is entirely up to them. Whales are wild animals and behave differently every day but generally we do get excellent looks while operating our vessel responsibly.
How far out do you go? Where do you go to see the whales?
We travel 12-25 miles from Rye Harbor on the average whale watch. Generally, we travel to an area called Jeffreys Ledge which is a very productive area in terms of whale sightings. We also occasionally travel to the northern area of the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary. We are in contact with many local fishing and whale watching boats and try to head to the area which gives us the best chance of sightings.
How long does the trip last?
Our whale watches last between four and five hours, depending on where the whales are located. If the whales are a little further away than usual, we will add some extra time to the trip so we can spend enough quality time with the whales.
What is the best time of the year to see whales?
It is really impossible to say when the whale watching is going to be the best. The whales are in our area before our season starts, and after it ends. In our area the whales are here to feed, not migrating, so they move in unpredictable patterns which differ from year to year. The only thing that remains the same from year to year is that we sight whales an average of 99% of the time each year.
What do we see on the trip besides whales and dolphins?
We often sight a large variety of pelagic bird species, as well as harbor seals, sharks, tuna, and sunfish. Depending on the direction we travel out to the whale watching grounds you may get a good view of the Isles of Shoals, Boon Island, Cape Ann MA, and sometimes even Mount Washington!
Is the whale watch boat handicapped accessible?
There are handicapped parking spaces near the dock at the harbor, and there is a long ramp to access the dock. In order to board the actual boat, there is a small staircase of five steps up, then it’s another two steps down to the deck (so the boat itself can’t be accessed via a ramp). The staircase has a railing on one side and our crew is happy to assist you. Once on board, there is an open area on the lower deck at the stern of the boat that is partially covered and has side-to-side access with room for a wheelchair or walker.
Is the Whale Watch narrated?
Yes. All of our trips are professionally narrated by one of our staff naturalists who are affiliates of the Blue Ocean Society for Marine Conservation. Our naturalists are all graduates of zoology and marine biology programs and are very experienced and enthusiastic.
What can/can’t we bring on the boat?
Feel free to bring food and drinks along. We do have a galley onboard serving hot dogs, soft pretzels, candy, chips, soda, soups and beer. Since we do have an alcohol license, you cannot bring any alcoholic beverages onboard. Small strollers are allowed onboard, but cannot be left in aisles, on the bow (front) of the boat or on the upper deck. Other things that you might want to bring are a camera, sunscreen, and binoculars.
How should we prepare for our trip?
It is usually at least 10-15 degrees cooler offshore than it is on land, so it is better to dress in layers, and bring one more layer than you think you need. Even on a hot summer’s day on land, people are glad they brought along a sweatshirt or fleece jacket once we’re offshore. If you are prone to motion sickness it is best to take medication before departure. The boat does move even on calm days, so soft soled shoes are a good idea, heels are not.
What happens if we don’t see whales?
If no whales or dolphins are sighted during your trip, we will give you a pass good for two years for a free trip back with us. We cannot give refunds.
Is it possible to sight whales on an Isles of Shoals tour?
Sightings of the larger whale species are extremely rare between Rye Harbor and the Isles of Shoals. They are almost always further offshore. We have a better chance of seeing Harbor Seals, Harbor Porpoise, and Ocean Sunfish.
Do I need reservations, and what happens if my trip is cancelled for bad weather?
We strongly recommend reservations. Our trips often sell out, so calling ahead or booking online is a very good idea. If you call us to make a reservation, we also take your phone number so that if we have to cancel your trip due to poor weather, we will let you know as soon as that decision has been made. If you’ve booked online and your trip is cancelled because of weather, you’ll have the option of rescheduling to a different day or receiving a refund. If your plans change and you need to reschedule or cancel any reservation, please just let us know as far in advance as possible.
Do you allow smoking on the boats?
No, smoking is not allowed on either our whale watch or island tour boats at any time.
Are there bathrooms on the boat?
Yes! The “Granite State” has two bathrooms and our Isles of Shoals boat, the “Uncle Oscar”, has one bathroom.