Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Getting out of Salem for a whale watch with Capt. Bill & Sons

We headed to Gloucester on this Memorial Day to check out the whale watching. This is a perfect addition to a three-day Salem weekend.Here's how I would do it:

Day 1:
Arrive in Salem by 1 PM and grab lunch on the water and take in a few attractions in the afternoon. Perhaps there's a show at one of the theaters for after dinner.
Day 2:
More Salem. Linger in the museums, galleries, shops, do a walking tour, play skee ball at Salem Willows.
Day 3:
Head to Gloucester for a Whale Watch and a little bit of Gloucester history, all of which can be found on Harbor Loop.

Gloucester is a 30-minute drive from Salem via Route 128 and a few minutes longer if you drive the State Scenic Byway of Route 1A to Rte 127. Capt. Bill & Sons Whale Watch is located downtown on Harbor Loop where they offer free parking adjacent to their office.

Capt. Bill's works with naturalists from the Whale Center of New England. We arrived for a 10:30 whale watch at about 10:00 AM, bought the kids sunglasses in the gift shop, and boarded the Miss Cape Ann in time for a presentation about the whales we may see, done by Kelly from the Whale Center. Kelly was fantastic all day. Her enthusiasm for the whales we saw was contagious, making the experience even more exciting than it already was!

We departed the dock at 10:30 with Capt. Mark at the helm and First Mate Ray letting off the lines. We were advised that the whales are feeding on the southern edge of Stellwagen Bank, so our trip may be a bit longer than 4 hours (it was nearly 5 1/2 hours by the time we returned) so that we would have time to have a great experience with the whales. (Which we did!)

We entered the Stellwagen Bank feeding grounds and fairly quickly got a glimpse of a young whale named Bayou. And a bit further out we encountered four whales swimming together, which Kelly told us was incredibly unusual. Cajun, her as yet unnamed calf, Milkweed, and Freefall were feeding together and we followed them for almost an hour.

These whales were wonderful. They swam under the bow of the boat twice, provided us with lots of spouts, and many fluke shots as they dove for more food. At one point there was a double fluke as two of the whales dove for food, and I thought Kelly was going to leap off the deck with excitement. It was, in short, very cool.

The Miss Cape Ann is US Coast Guard certified to carry 150 passengers. She has a full galley, a large enclosed cabin, an upper deck that is partially covered, and four clean rest-rooms. After we said goodbye to the whales, my family and I settled in the cabin with sodas, grilled cheeses and a few good books for the trip back to Gloucester.

Back on land, adjacent to Capt. Bill & Sons Whale Watch is a free exhibit at the Whale Center of New England. The exhibit centers around the skeleton of a 28 foot humpback known as Inland. Whale Center staff is on hand to talk about the whales, their habits, and the Inland exhibit. There are also pieces of baleen that you can touch and look at to learn more about how Humpbacks eat.
Whale Watching is an expensive outing, but there are discounts to be had for Capt. Bills. If you have the Salem Visitor Guide, there is a coupon in their listing for $5 off your tickets. Visit MassVacation.com and download the Mass99 coupon for two $99 deals, one geared toward families and one for a couple. Capt. Bills also offers military, AAA, CAA, and AARP discounts.

After your whale watch you can wander to the top of the hill behind the Fitz Henry Lane house to see the sculpture of Lane painting, go over to the wonderful Gloucester Maritime Heritage Center Sea Pocket Lab and Aquarium. All of these things, and Capt. Carlos restaurant are located adjacent to Capt. Bill and Sons Whale Watch.

Every whale watch trip is different, and I can't wait to go out again!

Capt Bill & Sons Whale Watch
800-339-4523 | 978-283-6995 | info@captbillandsons.com
24 Harbor Loop, Gloucester, MA 01930

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