New Hampshires Favorite Day At Sea!
August  2017
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Sighting Reports

August 18, 2017

When we left shore we could barely see 30 feet in front of us because of the dense fog. Luckily as soon as we passed the Shoals not only did the fog clear but we found our first whale! A fin whale was hanging out just passed the Shoals! This fin whale we IDed as Comet. We watched what we thought was a single fin will for a while and it wasn’t till later while looking through the photos we realize there was actually two individuals in that same area. We saw some splashes behind the boat so we headed over to check them out and stumbled upon a small pod of dolphins. We played with the dolphins for a while seeing some really cute small calves in the mix. After some time with the Atlantic white sided dolphin’s we ventured north where we found a sleepy humpback pair job brew and spoon.

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We saw some splashes behind the boat so we headed over to check them out and stumbled upon a small pod of dolphins. We played with the dolphins for a while seeing some really cute small calves in the mix.

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After some time with the Atlantic white-sided dolphin’s we ventured north where we found a sleepy humpback pair: Jabiru and Spoon. These two humpbacks were mostly sleeping but give us some fantastic looks at their flukes. We hope for another great will watch tomorrow!

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August 17, 2017

Despite a forecast for a breezy afternoon, it was a beautiful, warm day with calm seas! There was such a variety of marine life out there, all pretty close to shore.

Soon after we left the harbor, we saw a couple harbor porpoise. These porpoise spent a little time at the surface (which is unusual) and we saw them surface in our wake a few times as we headed out. Great start to the trip!

We headed past the Isles of Shoals and started seeing some birds, then lots of splashes. This was a huge pod of dolphins! As we approached, the pod was splashing so much and so concentrated in a line that it almost looked like a long wave!

Dolphins from a distance, with birds hovering overhead

Dolphins from a distance, with birds hovering overhead

Dolphins and birds

Dolphins and birds

Like yesterday, there were gannets hovering above the dolphins, waiting for their chance at some fish. The gannets didn’t dive as much as they did yesterday, but the dolphins were very playful and often leaped through the waves. At one point another boat helped out by circling around, giving the dolphin a big wake to play in while we watched them leap around.

Dolphin off the bow

Dolphin off the bow

Atlantic white-sided dolphin surfacing

Atlantic white-sided dolphin surfacing

Leaping dolphin

Leaping dolphin

Northern gannet

Northern gannet

There were many calves in this pod, and some were still pretty small and staying close to their moms. After awhile of watching these dolphins, we headed north and found a fin whale!  This whale first appeared right next to us, but then dove down. It was a little hard to keep track of at first, but we eventually got some more good looks. This fin whale led us towards what we think was another large dolphin pod of 100+ dolphins (we could also see our first pod in the distance!).

Fin whale

Fin whale

We then continued further north, and saw 4-5 different minke whales and another fin whale! This one was also a bit hard to keep track of, but there was plenty to look at as when we weren’t watching the fin whale, minkes would pop up in all directions.

Fin whale

Fin whale

Minke whale

Minke whale

We also saw lots of seals throughout the trip, with a total of 5 harbor seals and one gray seal.

Harbor seal

Harbor seal

We only have a couple weeks of whale watching left before school starts. Come join us!

August 16, 2017

We had a bit of a crazy day today. The pictures can’t do it justice.

We headed out through the Isles of Shoals, getting a beautiful look at the islands.

Star Island

Heading towards the Isles of Shoals

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Between Smuttynose and Appledore

Between Smuttynose and Appledore

We started to head north toward where whales were spotted this morning, but got a call from another boat that they had some dolphins, so we headed that way.  On the way, we stopped for a minke whale. We got a few looks at this whale but it wasn’t spending much time at the surface, so we decided to continue on.

We headed towards where we saw some splashing, and found ourselves in the midst of a feeding frenzy. Not only were there many dolphins (we estimated over 100), there were so many birds we couldn’t count them all. Most of them were northern gannets, our largest local seabird. These birds feed in spectacular fashion – they fly about 50′ above the water and then when they spot prey, they fold their wings in and plummet straight down.  As we approached the dolphins, all around us we could see splashes from diving gannets!

Gannet (almost adult plumage?)

Gannet

Diving gannet

Diving gannet

As we headed into the dolphin pod, the dolphins swam on all sides of us, especially affording great looks off the bow, where they were riding in our bow waves.

Quick-moving dolphins

Quick-moving dolphins

Atlantic white-sided dolphins

Atlantic white-sided dolphins

Dolphin

Dolphin

We spotted several calves in the group, and saw more bird species – gulls, great shearwaters and even a few Wilson’s storm-petrels were in on the feast!

Great shearwater

Great shearwater

Amazingly, another species turned up in the middle of all this – an ocean sunfish!  This large fish swam calmly and slowly at the surface as the dolphins charged right by.  Seeing a sunfish in the same area as dolphins was a first for me!

Ocean sunfish

Ocean sunfish

Ocean sunfish

Ocean sunfish

Atlantic white-sided dolphins

Atlantic white-sided dolphins

We also had 3 harbor seals in the area. So much life around today!

August 15, 2017

It might have been a gray day but we still had great sightings! We spent time with two humpback whales up north. They were a sleepy pair: Jabiru and Spoon.

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Jabiru

Jabiru

We then ventured back down south to a pod of dolphins! Although these Atlantic White Sided Dolphins are here year round, we don’t see them very often, so it’s always a special treat. There were several small calfs in the pod which were so cute!

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During our adventuring around we also found 3 harbor seals and 3 minkes! Great day!

August 14, 2017

Super calm seas and whales near by, what more could you ask for?! We had quite the variety today: 3 humpbacks, 2 fin whales, 1 minke, 1 pod of harbor porpoises and 5 harbor seals! Talk about a busy day on the water!

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Trip of humpbacks!

Trio of humpbacks!

Our humpback whales were a sleepy trio made up of Spoon, Jabiru, and Geometry. They mostly logged (or slept) which allowed us to get some really awesome looks.We also go to see some Wilson’s storm petrels fluttering around the humpback whales making them look so small!

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Our fin whales started apart, then joined together, then separated again. The minke whale wondered around the area. Seals kept popping up as we traveled from sighting to sighting.

All around, a fin-tastic day!

August 13, 2017

It was a great day to be on the water!  There was a small swell, but it was sunny with warm temps and nice breezes.

Just a couple miles outside the harbor, we were surprised with our first sighting – a minke whale!  This whale seemed smaller than our normal minkes – perhaps it was a juvenile. We got a few looks at this whale (sorry, no pics of this one – it was pretty quick!) and then moved on. We also got some great looks at the schooner Roseway as it was passing through.

Schooner Roseway

Schooner Roseway

Schooner Roseway

Schooner Roseway

We headed toward an area where there were a number of tuna boats, and saw several more minke whales – 5 in total! There were also a few seals in the area. We were between the Isles of Shoals and Boon Island – two spots where seals haul out, so it was prime seal-watching territory! We also had a large jellyfish off the bow.

Gray seal

Gray seal

Minke whale

Minke whale

Jellyfish

Jellyfish

Tuna boat

Tuna boat

We spotted a tall blow, but even after waiting 20+ minutes, we didn’t see the whale again. This was probably a long-diving fin whale.

We did some more exploring, but just as we started running out of time we got a call from another boat – they had found a couple whales!  We headed back towards Boon Island and found two familiar humpbacks, Spoon and Jabiru!  Spoon was first identified in 1977 and we have no idea how old she is, but she’s one of the biggest humpbacks we’ve ever seen – so large that Jabiru (who was first identified in 2002) almost looked like a calf next to her.

Spoon and Jabiru

Spoon and Jabiru

Spoon diving

Spoon diving

Spoon's distinctive tail markings

Spoon’s distinctive tail markings

Whales and Boon Island

Whales and Boon Island

Whales and Boon Island

Whales and Boon Island

These two spent a lot of time at the surface, often slowly lifting their tails but not quite diving down. They didn’t seem to be in any hurry, so hopefully they will stick around for awhile!

We’re saying lots of goodbyes this week. Today, we said goodbye to Blue Ocean Society intern Colin who’s going back to school soon. Thanks for all your help this summer, Colin!

August 12, 2017

It’s been a couple of weeks since the weather has cooperated for a Saturday trip!  It cooperated today.

Mason fishing while the boat gets cleaned:)

Mason fishing while the boat gets cleaned:)

We headed out to the south and west where we ended up on the backside of Cape Ann and had a pair of humpback whales.

Windmills in Rockport,MA

Windmills in Rockport,MA

I initially though this was a mother calf pair…it was not:)  Instead it was a pair of females both born in the 1980’s.

As we approached the pair we could see big splashes and knew a whale was being very active at the surface.  One whale, Tornado, was making short dives and staying near the surface.

Tornado's dorsal fin

Tornado’s dorsal fin

Tornado's fluke

Tornado’s fluke

Eventually we got both whales at the surface and then Sickle began to tail breach and flipper slap!

Remnants of tail breach

Remnants of tail breach

Sickle tail breaching end

Sickle tail breaching end

Sickle's, sickle shaped, dorsal fin

Sickle’s, sickle shaped, dorsal fin

After a few tail breaches she then began to flipper slap.  So cool to see the whole length of her big pectoral flipper…approaching 15′ long.  If you look at where the flipper leaves the body it is pink…just like us whales pump heat out where the arms leave the body.

Sickle flipper slapping

Sickle flipper slapping

The humpbacks quieted down after this activity and we headed back towards Rye.  Just a few miles outside of the Isles of Shoals Captain Todd found a blow. This ended up being THREE finback whales.  After the 1st sighting we knew we had at least one finback.

Finback whale

Finback whale….can you see the dolphin just ahead?

Then a few gray dorsal fins screamed under the bow toward the port side.  Atlantic whitesided dolphins!  They were racing to meet up with the finbacks that were now surfacing just under the port side of the boat.  We had dolphins associated with fin whales yesterday too.  Such a treat.  Maybe 4-6 dolphins zipping in and out around the trio of finback whales.  So amazing.  Again we had the dolphins riding the wave pushed up as a fin whale surfaces….I got a picture…sort of:)

Fin whale head surfacing with an Atlantic white sided dolphin just behind.

Fin whale head surfacing with an Atlantic white sided dolphin just behind.

The finbacks had 3 very distinct dorsal fins.

Chopped off dorsal of fin whale

Chopped off dorsal of fin whale

Another fin whale

Another fin whale

We watched them surface 3X and then had to make the turn for Rye.  Back in Rye we wished Jordan good luck as he completed his last shift as crew before heading out to boot camp in San Antonio, Texas.  Good Luck!

August 11, 2017

What a day.  The whales literally came to us!  We headed out right through the Isles of Shoals passing between Star & Appledore Islands.  The provided us with just great looks at both islands.  We could see the Haley house on Smuttynose Island and easily made out the cod on the weathervane of the stone chapel on Star island.

Haley House on Smuttynose Island

Haley House on Smuttynose Island

White Island

White Island

Cod on the weathervane

Cod on the weathervane

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Just a little beyond the Shoals and still west of Jeffrey’s Ledge we had a blow.  Then 2 blows. 2 finback whales!  IMG_0520 IMG_0516

2 Finback whales

2 Finback whales

Finback whales are just amazing to see.  They are so big.  And so graceful.  They barely disturb the surface when they come up and then just glide back beneath water.

Piscataqua River bridge between NH and ME easily seen while we watched the whales.

Piscataqua River bridge between NH and ME easily seen while we watched the whales.

Mt. Agamenticus in York, ME also easily seen.

Mt. Agamenticus in York, ME also easily seen.

We watched these two make a dive or two and then were surprised when we had a pod of Atlantic white sided dolphins slip in from the west and meet up with the finback whales.  Some of the dolphins seemed associated with the finbacks and surfaced with them.IMG_0527

Mason even came out to look!

Mason even came out to look!

See the different dorsals on the dolphins?

See the different dorsals on the dolphins?

At one point we had a finback surface right in front of the bow and as it rose up to the surface 2 Atlantic whitesided dolphins rode the wake in front of it.  Just amazing to see.  No picture though:(

See the dorsal fins?

See the dorsal fins?

Such amazing looks.  The finbacks were staying down for 6-7 minutes and the dolphins were right with them when they came back.  The funny part was that the fish finder on the boat didn’t show any bait?  We had many whales and birds out there.  Maybe the fish were widely dispersed and not picked up by the sonar?  The pod of dolphins was stretched out across 2 miles or so and everywhere we looked we saw dolphins.  From a distance dolphins just look like small splashes at the surface.  When you get closer they actually initiate the interaction and come over to the boat.  We left the finback whales and moved out to the east to meet up with another part of the pod.

Everyone is watching the dolphins just below the pulpit on the bow!

Everyone is watching the dolphins just below the pulpit on the bow!

Captain Todd would drive in a large circle to create a wake to encourage the dolphins to surf and play.

See the dolphins surfing in the wake?

See the dolphins surfing in the wake?

Yay!

Yay!

After some amazing looks at the dolphins we headed back towards Rye and got a quick glimpse of a minke whale and the 2 finbacks again.

Northern gannets

Northern gannets

Glimpse of diving minke dorsal...really:)

Glimpse of diving minke dorsal…really:)

Boone Island Light in the distance

Boone Island Light in the distance

3 species of whales and lots of pelagic birds out there.  Wonder what tomorrow will bring?

August 10, 2017

There was a lot to see out there today!

We began the trip with some minke whale sightings. There were at least 4 minke whales in one area, zipping around pretty quickly! We didn’t see him close up, but are pretty sure that Scar was in the area. It was great to be in one spot with so many minkes nearby.

Then, we got a call from another boat that they had found some Atlantic white-sided dolphins. These are always one of our favorite sightings, as we only see dolphins on 15-20% of our trips and lots of times they are very active.  We headed a few miles south and as we approached, one of the dolphins leaped several feet in the air – always a good sign!

Dolphin just off the bow

Dolphin just off the bow

Mom with calf (see the top of its head?)

Mom with calf (see the top of its head?)

Dolphins jumping in wake

Dolphins jumping in wake

We got into the middle of the pod, and estimated there were 100 dolphins or more. There were many small calves traveling around with their mothers, and lots of activity at the surface, including a wiggling/thrashing behavior. We’re not sure if this is some sort of social behavior or associated with feeding, but it’s fun to watch. Periodically, Capt. Todd would pick up speed and create some big waves in our wake, and the dolphins would surf in the wake and occasionally jump out of the water!

Surfing dolphins

Surfing dolphins

Mom and calf

Mom and calf

As we watched the dolphins, we saw a few northern gannets in the area.  It was like someone rung a dinner bell, because suddenly there were at least 15 gannets flying around, and we even got to see a couple dive!  Some shearwaters even joined in the fun, for a great dolphin/bird watching experience!

Juvenile northern gannet

Juvenile northern gannet

Great shearwater

Great shearwater

Lots of gannets flying around

Lots of gannets flying around

After lots of quality time with the dolphins, we headed out to do some exploring. We came upon a large number of tuna boats, including the F/V Hard Merchandise, which had a fish on and was filming for Wicked Tuna.  We then passed another boat with a tuna… lots to see for fishing enthusiasts on board!

Hard Merchandise

Hard Merchandise

Misty Mikayla

Misty Mikayla

Finally, it was time to head home. But we weren’t done yet. As we approached the Isles of Shoals, we saw a blow. This turned out to be Hornbill the humpback, back again for another day!  We got some great looks at Hornbill before heading past the Isles of Shoals and back to Rye Harbor.

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Thanks to all our passengers for their enthusiasm today! Hope to see you again soon.

Rye Harbor

Rye Harbor

All that sun... time for a nap!

All that sun… time for a nap!

August 9, 2017

Whales were pretty easy to find today!! We headed offshore and found Hornbill the humpback whale bubble-feeding among the tuna boats. He wasn’t feeding at the surface, but we saw many leftover bubble clouds that he was using while deep feeding.

Hornbill

Hornbill

Hornbill

Hornbill

We got many great looks at Hornbill and his distinctive fluke, and also had 2-3 minkes in the area. At one point, 2 minkes (we think one was a well-known whale named Scar) were heading straight towards each other off the port side of the boat.

We also saw another blow about 1/2 mile off that appeared to be another humpback, but couldn’t find it.  We explored another area on the way home and saw some tuna splashing before heading back for a nice cruise through the Isles of Shoals. Thanks to everyone who joined us today!

Mason

Mason patiently waiting for whales

August 8, 2017

No trip today due to forecasted rough seas. See you tomorrow!

August 7, 2017

Today took a little bit of searching but we were eventually able to find Hornbill the humpback whale!

Our trip started off going through the Isles of Shoals to head towards a popular fishing area where we encountered many boats including a very familiar minke whale named Scar. Scar only took a couple breaths at the surface and didn’t seem to be cooperating with us so we decided to press on and search the area a little more.

We were definitely glad we did because we came across the humpback whale, Hornbill, not too far away! We were able to get some nice looks at this whale as he only took about 4-5 breaths at the surface before making 7 minute dives. There were even a couple of small minke whales in this area that could be seen from afar as we waited for Hornbill to resurface.

Hornbill

Hornbill

Hornbill

Hornbill

Hornbill

Hornbill

Thank you for all the passengers today for your patience as we searched the area for marine life. Every day out on the water is so different, we wonder what we’ll see next on our next trip!

August 7, 2017

We stayed at the dock today due to rough seas.  See you tomorrow!

August 6, 2017

We didn’t get out yesterday due to rough seas, so we were excited to head out today to see what was out there.  Today proved a bit challenging.  The weather was great, and seas were a bit choppy but easily manageable. Just past the Isles of Shoals, we spotted a minke whale. This whale came up pretty close to the boat and surfaced twice, but then disappeared.

Since we were still pretty close to shore, we didn’t want to wait too long and headed off to do some exploring. We went through an area where we have seen whales in the past, but only saw some tuna boats. We continued on and eventually found a blow – a fin whale! I always feel fortunate when we get to spend some time with one of the largest creatures on the planet.

Fin whale

Fin whale

We ended up getting some terrific looks at this fin whale, who took 4-7 minute dives, so it was spending lots of time at the surface. Thankfully, it didn’t travel far when it was down and even though there were a few other whale watching boats in the area, we managed to get some nice close looks.  We loved the enthusiasm of our passengers today, especially those on the bow who, although they kept getting hit by sea spray, remained on the bow and were so excited every time the whale came up!

Fin whale blowhole and back

Fin whale blowhole and back

Fin whale

Fin whale

Our plankton tow today revealed a scattering of zooplankton. After the tow, we headed back through the Isles of Shoals for a close look at the islands on the way in. Thanks to everyone who joined us today!

August 4, 2017

Everybody was fishing today.  We saw a boat out trawling for herring and a bunch of boats out fishing for tuna.  The whales were out there doing some fishing too.  We started with a quick glimpse of a minke whale just past the Isles of Shoals.  Our minke proved elusive and we continued out to Jeffrey’s Ledge.

Herring boat

Herring boat

Soon we had the blow of a whale that turned out to be a known humpback, Hornbill.  Hornbill was super busy beneath the water staying down for 6-7 minutes and then surfacing for just a single quick breath before he dove again.

Quick glimpse of Hornbills fluke

Quick glimpse of Hornbills fluke

Just a few minutes after Hornbill dove we saw a whale right in front of us….this was actually a new species, a finback whale.  The finback came up along the  left side of the boat and we could clearly see it’s white lower jaw glowing green through the water. No pictures:(

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Owl’s blow…see the dent along her back where she has a healed boat strike?

Eventually we moved off to where we had a mother and calf pair of humpback whales!  Owl and her calf of this year.  Owl was doing tail breaches and causing huge splashes at the surface followed by she and the calf diving for 7-10 minutes.   IMG_0463 IMG_0464

After several nice looks at Owl and her calf we made the turn to head back to Rye.

Owl's distinctive fluke

Owl’s distinctive fluke

We had great visibility all day and could easily see southern Maine as we headed back to shore.

Mount Agamenticus on the horizon.

Mount Agamenticus on the horizon.

Storm clouds over Rye on the way home

Storm clouds over Rye on the way home

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Happy Coast Guard Day!  Wonder what we’ll see tomorrow?

August 3, 2017

Another great sunny day with a variety of marine life, including some close looks at Owl the humpback and her calf!

We headed out to an area where we’ve seen whales often over the last few weeks, and spotted a couple blows. Owl and her calf were back again!  About the same time, we spotted another humpback at a distance.  We decided to watch Owl and her calf, and this decision definitely paid off.  We got great looks at the two whales and there was clearly some feeding going on as we got to see several bubble clouds rise to the surface. Owl seemed to be using these clouds in deeper water to corral some fish!

Owl and calf diving

Owl and calf diving

Owl and calf diving

Owl and calf diving

At one point, the pair turned and dove straight under the bow – what an amazing sight!  The ocean was a little choppy today, but such a beautiful color, and the white flippers of the whales really showed up well.

Owl heading towards the boat

Owl heading towards the boat

Owl - see her distinctive scar?

Owl – see her distinctive scar?

Gray seal

Gray seal

Owl and calf right next to each other

Owl and calf right next to each other

Calf fluking!

Calf fluking!

While we were watching Owl and calf, we saw a few minkes – they kept zipping around. We also saw a gray seal, who popped up in the middle of everything to take a look around!

Our plan was to see if we could catch a closer look at the other humpback (who turned out to be Hornbill), but a number of other boats came into the area and we decided to go look around some more. Before we left, we did a plankton tow and found lots of zooplankton!

Thanks to everyone who helped with the plankton tow!

Thanks to everyone who helped with the plankton tow!

A semi-blurry shot of our plankton sample. All the little dots are zooplankton!

A semi-blurry shot of our plankton sample. All the little dots are zooplankton!

After cruising a bit and doing some exploring, we turned for home and cruised through the Isles of Shoals for a great tour of the islands on the way in.

Heading to the Isles of Shoals

Heading to the Isles of Shoals

Isles of Shoals

Isles of Shoals

Isles of Shoals

Isles of Shoals

Thanks to everyone who joined us on this beautiful day!

August 2, 2017

We had an amazing day today, with great looks at humpbacks, minke whales and harbor seals!

We headed offshore and it wasn’t too long before we cruised toward some tuna boats and saw our first blow, and then another! This turned out to be two humpback whales – Owl and her calf! Owl is a familiar whale that we see almost annually (she’s also one of Blue Ocean Society’s adoptable whales). She was born in 1986 and this year’s calf is the 9th that she’s brought to our area!

Owl and calf diving

Owl and calf diving

Owl

Owl

Owl

Owl

After spending lots of time with Owl and calf, we decided to cruise to another spot while we still had time. We found another humpback – Hornbill, a male first identified in 1977! While we were watching Hornbill, there were a couple minkes zipping around, and we had both Hornbill and the two minkes all up at the same time near the boat. Even though humpbacks and minkes are baleen whale species, it’s striking how different they look, and we could really see the differences today.

Minke

Minke

Hornbill

Hornbill

Hornbill

Hornbill

In addition to the plentiful whale life, there were a number of different seabird species around, including shearwaters (great and even a Cory’s!), Wilson’s storm-petrels and terns, and we spotted 3 harbor seals during the trip.

Wilson's storm-petrel

Wilson’s storm-petrel

On the way in, we got a nice close look at the Isles of Shoals as we cruised between the islands. What a day! There’s space available for tomorrow’s trip – come join us!

Gosport Harbor and some of the Isles of Shoals

Gosport Harbor and some of the Isles of Shoals

Smuttynose and Cedar Islands

Smuttynose and Cedar Islands

Happy Mason

Happy Mason

August 1, 2017

Another gorgeous day to be in the Gulf of Maine! Today we started out with a few harbor seals and a gray seal. We got to see them for a few minutes.

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Gray seal

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Then we hung out with several minke whales getting fantastic looks at them. Since there were several of them and the water was quiet and flat we could hear the blows coming from different directions.

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We also had a very curious ocean sunfish who breached(check out our Facebook page for a video!)! The sunfish hung around at the surface for a while, circling around the boat. Come out and join us soon!

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July 31, 2017

It was a beautiful day out on the water and since I personally haven’t been out in a couple of weeks, I was pretty excited! Luckily, my need to hang out with whales was met with a fin whale and some playful minkes!

Scar, the minke whale

Scar, the minke whale

We headed out and first found a couple of minkes. While we stopped and waited for them to surface we saw a blow in the distance. Once the minkes surfaced and we knew where they were we headed to the blow. This blow belonged to a fin whale!

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The fin whale was barely staying below the water; it kept taking shallow dives and quite a few breaths. We got some wonderful looks at it but then it surprised us by coming up right to our stern and turning over on its side to show off its very white belly. We even got to see the lower right side of the jaw, which unlike the left side, is also white. It’s a pretty cool color adaptation that makes its coloring different than most mammals.

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The minkes continued swimming around us and we noticed one was a familiar friend, Scar! This whale is an adoptable whale through Blue Ocean Society and we have seen him for several years.

Another great trip from Capt. Todd

Another great trip from Capt. Todd

 

July 30, 2017

After an afternoon at the dock yesterday due to rough seas, we were eager to get out today and see what was out there.  We headed out onto the ocean, where there was a slight swell but seas were pretty calm and we had beautiful sunny skies.  It was an incredibly clear day – no haze in sight, making for excellent spotting conditions.

After cruising through the Isles of Shoals, Capt. Todd spotted a minke whale. While we waited for it to come up, we watched a harbor seal lazily cruise along the port side of the boat. Unfortunately, the minke didn’t reappear, but at least we got great looks at the seal.

Harbor seal

Harbor seal

We then headed out to the western edge of Jeffreys Ledge, where we caught a quick glimpse of an ocean sunfish.  We saw the dorsal fin flapping at the surface from a distance, but when we approached, the fish had gone under and didn’t reappear. We decided to head back inshore, where we had gotten reports of a whale sighting.

As we approached the area, our patience was finally rewarded with amazing looks at a fin whale and her calf! We don’t usually see fin whale calves in our area, so this was an extra special sighting.  We happened to be in the right place at the right time, and the pair cruised right by the boat.  When they dove, they only stayed down for about 5 minutes at a time and didn’t go far. After watching many fin whales take 20+ minute dives this month, 5 minute dives were great!

Fin whale mom

Fin whale mom

The chevron marking on the mom fin whale

The chevron marking on the mom fin whale

Mom's back and dorsal fin

Mom’s back and dorsal fin

Calf

Calf

Once as we waited for them to come up, we glanced to the port side and they were right there – just feet off the side of the boat! Such an amazing sighting!

Eventually, we had to head home. There was another fin whale in the area which we spotted from a distance, and then we cruised back through the Isles of Shoals on the way home.  What a great day!

July 28, 2017

So pretty today.  We had great visibility and cruised out past the Shoals and headed to a sea floor feature a bit west of our typical destination of Jeffrey’s Ledge.  We could easily  see the southern coast of Maine, the entire New Hampshire coast and then the northern coast of Massachusetts out to Rockport!

Mount Agamenticus in York, ME on the horizon

Mount Agamenticus in York, ME on the horizon

White Island Light

White Island Light

After a bit of searching we headed north to a report of a possible whale and quickly came to the blow of a humpback whale.

Humpback diving

Humpback diving

We were able to keep this whale in sight as it made relatively long dives between 8-12 minutes.  During the 5 or so surfacings it travelled over 5 miles.

See the two nares (nostrils)?

See the two nares (nostrils)?

Diving humpback

Diving humpback

As we waited for the humpback to come back to the surface we had 2 minke whales make a quick appearance…one in the distance and one right next to the right side of the boat.

Scylla

Scylla

We were able to get 3 or so nice looks at this whale’s fluke which told us that this whale is an identified female named Scylla.  Scylla was born in 1981 making her 36 yrs old.  Scylla was the 1st Gulf of Maine humpback to be identified at her birth and then re-sighted with her 1st calf 4 years later providing important data about the age of sexual maturity for humpbacks.

We eventually left Scylla and headed back towards Rye where we encountered a Mola mola or Ocean sunfish.  These are just the coolest fish.  They are the largest bony fish and can be enormous with weights up to a ton.

Mola mola

Mola mola

Look at the Mola mouth!

Look at the Mola mouth!

Ocean sunfish “swim” along at or near the surface and suck up jellyfish.  Their dorsal and ventral fins are triangular in shape and are quite large.  So great to see this fish and for it to cooperate and do as much boat/people watching as we were doing fish watching.  We cruised home through the Shoals again with great looks at Star & White Island.

See the cod weathervane?

See the cod weathervane?

Star island stone village with solar array across middle of picture. 75% of the electricity o the island is generated by the solar panels!

Star island stone village with solar array across middle of picture. 75% of the electricity on the island is generated by the solar panels!

July 26, 2017

Today was one of those days when it was just great to be on the water. After 3 days of wind and some rain, today we had beautiful calm seas, warm breezes and sunny blue skies. Just amazing spotting conditions!

Soon after we cruised through the Isles of Shoals, we spotted a harbor seal, and then another one!  We got some quick looks at these seals and then cruised on to find a minke whale. This whale was a little elusive. We got a couple good looks near the boat right at the beginning, but then it seemed to find something else to do, and moved on!  So we continued on our way.

MInke #1

Minke #1

We then cruised on, and found another minke whale. After a couple quick looks, we saw a fin flapping at the surface. This was our first ocean sunfish of the season!  Although this fish (maybe 4-5′ across) was a small one, ocean sunfish or Mola mola are the largest bony fish species. This one decided to cruise along both sides of the boat, as well as the bow and stern, giving everyone a great look at this really interesting-looking animal.

Ocean sunfish back and dorsal fin

Ocean sunfish back and dorsal fin

Ocean sunfish

Ocean sunfish

We decided to get another look at the minke whale, and then we experienced probably one of my favorite sightings ever. The minke proceeded to circle the boat, dive underneath us, cruise alongside the boat and even rolled on its side a bit, seeming to check us out. The glass calm seas made this the best minke sighting I’ve had in 20+ years of whale watching. Just amazing!!  There’s nothing like being able to watch a whale like this, with our engines off and just enjoying seeing the whale in its natural habitat.

Minke snout

Minke snout

Minke - see the eye?

Minke – see the eye?

Minke whale

Minke whale

Minke approaching the boat

Minke approaching the boat

The minke whale eventually seemed to get tired of us and moved off, but hopefully left many passengers with an experience they’ll never forget!

We cruised around a bit more and got a quick glimpse of another minke before we headed home and got a terrific look at the Isles as we passed through again.

Thanks to everyone who joined us on this beautiful day!

July 22, 2017

We’ve been fortunate to have beautiful weather this week, and today we had some of the best. The seas were glass calm for much of the trip, and we had nice cool breezes and partly sunny skies.

Near the Isles of Shoals, we got great looks at a harbor seal right off the side of the boat. Unlike most seals, which often dive quickly, this one stayed up for quite awhile! (sorry, no pics… didn’t quite have my camera out yet!). Throughout the rest of the trip, we also had a few more seal sightings!

Soon after that, we saw our first minke whale. This whale was zipping around just east of the Isles.

1st Minke Whale

1st Minke Whale

Near the minke, we had lots of Wilson’s storm-petrels – small birds that spend the summer feeding on the ocean.  These birds were named petrels because of their habit of seeming to walk on water, like St. Peter.

Wilson's storm-petrel

Wilson’s storm-petrel

Wilson's storm-petrels feeding

Wilson’s storm-petrels feeding

Wilson's storm-petrel "walking on water"

Wilson’s storm-petrel “walking on water”

We then moved on and found more minke whales, and they started seeming to pop up everywhere! No only that, but we had a great blue heron fly by, something I’ve never seen in 20+ years on the water.  We were about 15 miles offshore at that point!

Great blue heron! (sorry, it's a bad pic)

Great blue heron! (sorry, it’s a bad pic)

We also had the unusual sighting of two minkes that appeared to be coordinating their movements at the surface. We don’t usually see minke whales associate with each other like this.  Perhaps it was a coincidence, but they surfaced together several times and even exhaled at the same time.

Another minke whale

Another minke whale

Two minkes who seemed to be coordinating movements

Two minkes who seemed to be coordinating movements

Then, it was time to head for home.  We got close to the Isles of Shoals, and surprise!  A fin whale!  This whale appeared out of nowhere, right in front of us.  We stopped and waited for it to come back up. It took 15 minutes, but we were rewarded with a fabulous look at the whale right off the port side. What a great ending to the trip!

Fin whale!

Fin whale!

Fin whale

Fin whale

Thanks to everyone who joined us today – with a total of 7 minkes, 4 harbor seals and a fin whale, plus many bird sightings, it was a great day!

 

July 21, 2017

What a treat to spend the day in the AC provided by the Gulf of Maine.  We passed quite the yacht as we headed out.

Yacht!

Yacht!

Past the shoals we came to an area a little west of Jeffrey’s Ledge where we had a couple of elusive minke whales and a quick peek at a harbor seal.

Harbor Seal! Caught him:)

Harbor Seal! Caught him:)

Minkes can be difficult to get a look at and today was one of those days.  They came screaming through the surface and then vanished just as quickly.  The humidity was just right and they were actually producing little spouts which is unusual for minkes.

Minke

Minke

Minke

Minke

Luckily there were enough of them (10+) that we would soon get a glimpse of another.  We eventually headed a bit farther east and north to where there were reports of other whales.  We had a few more minkes and then the blow of a fin whale.  We would see the blow once or twice and then the whale would disappear resurfacing 1/4 mile away for a single blow before diving again.  This continued for quite a while and in total we had probably 4 or 5 fin whales in the area.

Hoofprint

Hoofprint

We saw a lot of these.  Hoofprints.  These slicked out spots are created when the whale dives and his tail pushes a column of water to the surface creating a “hoofprint”.IMG_0404

Finback whale

Finback whale

After many distant looks we got a very nice look at one fin whale as it surfaced off the right side of the boat.  We were in about 300-350′ of water and the fish finder showed very little bait in the water column.  Heddy the intern then did a plankton tow that showed a few copepods but not too much in the water.

Fuzzy plankton pic

Fuzzy plankton pic

Usually when we have repeatedly diving whales only coming up for a short breath yet staying in the area we would see the evidence of feeding…fish on the fish finder and lots of plankton in the water. But not today.  We ended up getting nice looks at 2 of the 4 or 5 finback whales.  The last whale had a really distinctive dorsal fin and I believe it’s a whale we know named Crow.

Crow

Crow

We sailed home by the Isle of Shoals with nice looks at Anderson’s Ledge, White Island & Star Island.

Anderson's Ledge

Anderson’s Ledge

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Rye

Rye

Mason getting some attention

Mason getting some attention (yesterday’s photo)

I realized today that Mason, the boat golden, has a schedule where he heads out for passenger adoration.  I saw this exact same photo but Mason was surrounded by kids.  He deserves the attention even if I didn’t take a picture:)  Wonder what tomorrow will bring?

July 20, 2017

It was another clear, calm afternoon. We started out with a quick look at a harbor seal, then had a giant gray seal that was moving slowly at the surface. This was the biggest gray seal I think I’ve ever seen!

Gray seal

Gray seal

We then spotted a minke whale. It was so close to the Shoals we could hear the foghorn from White Island Light the whole time!

Minke whale

Minke whale

We continued on, and found a couple more minkes zig-zagging around the tuna fleet.  These whales appeared to be chasing prey nearby. We got some great looks at them near the boat.

We then got a call from another boat, and they had some Atlantic white-sided dolphins!  Even when they were still 1/2 mile away, we could see the dolphins charging around at the surface.  Like yesterday’s pod, this one was large – probably about 100 dolphins, and very active.  There were many tiny calves in the group.

Two adult dolphins with a calf in between

Two adult dolphins with a calf in between

As we watched, we started seeing a funny behavior – one dolphin started thrashing around at the surface. Soon, other dolphins were doing this behavior, which seemed to involve quickly rolling at the surface and making a big splash. We’re not sure what this was all about, but perhaps they were chasing prey.  These dolphins surfed in our wake as we got ready to head out, and then a couple started leaping in the air – a very cool sight!

Leaping dolphin

Leaping dolphin

Leaping dolphin

Leaping dolphin

Wiggly dolphin

Wiggly dolphin

We decided to move on, but soon saw a couple more minke whales.   After this, we explored some more areas but didn’t see much else, and it was time to turn for home. On the way back, we saw another minke whale and some really cool storm clouds before heading through the Isles of Shoals. Thanks to everyone who joined us today!

July 19, 2017

We had a wonderful day on the water! The seas were nice and calm, and temperatures were very comfortable once we got offshore.

As we headed towards the Isles of Shoals we started seeing some splashing – dolphins! Atlantic white-sided dolphins rarely swim that close to shore (about 5 miles), and this was a large pod of about 100 dolphins. They were also very active, occasionally leaping entirely in the air and surfing in the boat wake. There were also several calves with the pod, and they were likely very young as dolphins give birth in June and July.

Atlantic white-sided dolphin

Atlantic white-sided dolphin

Atlantic white-sided dolphins

Atlantic white-sided dolphins

After spending some time with the dolphins, we headed further offshore and found a minke whale circling through the tuna fleet.  We got some great looks at this whale next to the boat several times.

Tuna boat

Tuna boat

Minke whale

Minke whale

While we still had time, we headed a bit further offshore and eventually saw a blow – this was a fin whale!  The whale stayed at the surface for a few breaths and we got one great look off the bow of the boat.  We believe this was a whale first sighted by Blue Ocean Society in 2003 (a whale known as #0354).  Unfortunately, the whale decided to take a long dive after that. We waited 25 minutes but didn’t see it again and decided to head home.

Fin whale (#0354?)

Fin whale (#0354?)

On the way, we caught a glimpse of one more minke whale before cruising through the Isles of Shoals for a Shoals tour on the ride in. Thanks to everyone who joined us!

July 17, 2017

It was a beautiful day today, with relatively calm seas and nice cool breezes on the ocean. We had some really cool sightings although the whales were challenging at times.

Just past the Isles of Shoals, we got a couple looks at a minke whale (sorry, no pictures of this one).  We then moved further offshore where there were a number of fin whales in the area.  The first whale we saw was an adult, single fin whale.  This whale disappeared for a bit but a mom and calf fin whale appeared! It’s always so cool to see mom/calf fin whale pairs because we rarely see them in our area. For some reason, the limited data on these pairs shows that they spend their time further south.  The mom appears to be whale #0802, which means it was first sighted by Blue Ocean Society researchers in 2008 (thanks to Melanie White for the ID!).

Our first fin whale

Our first fin whale

Fin whale mom and calf

Fin whale mom and calf

Fin whale mom, a whale first sighted by Blue Ocean Society in 2008

Fin whale mom, a whale first sighted by Blue Ocean Society in 2008

We got to see this pair surfacing several times, with the calf always appearing on its mom’s left side. At one point, we saw the mom and calf, and then had a fin whale spout on either side of them, with another fin whale further back behind us! It seemed that all these whales surfaced at the same time, and then disappeared just as we got a good look at them. We were in about 300 feet of water, so perhaps the whales were feeding closer to the bottom, which necessitated longer, deeper dives.

We also got to see a couple more minke whales before heading home. It was great being on the water during such a hot, humid day on land. Come out and join us soon!

July 16, 2017

What a wonderful day on the water! We had calm seas and beautiful blue skies as we headed offshore. before we got to the Isles of Shoals, we got a quick look at a minke whale. We then got a nice tour of the islands as we passed through before heading offshore, back to where there were some boats fishing for bluefin tuna.

We spotted a blow, and were really excited – it seemed we had found a fin whale that had been hanging around the area all morning. But the blow was about all we saw. We did get a quick glimpse of this whale (or perhaps a minke whale) again, but then it never appeared, and we waited quite a while. So we decided to head further offshore.

We got out a little further and found a minke whale. The boat was over a patch of bait fish so we figured the whale would hang out for awhile. We did get several great looks at this small (20-30 feet!) baleen whale as it zig-zagged around the surface in search of prey. However, the area got crowded with a couple other private boats who were also moving around (one of them, not so respectfully), and we think as a result of this the minke whale moved off.

Minke whale

Minke whale

We decided to head further, to an area where more minkes had been seen by another vessel, when some passengers spotted a blow far off the starboard side. As we turned, we were surprised to see a big tail in the air – a humpback whale!!

We approached and realized this was a familiar humpback, Spoon! Spoon was first sighted in 1977, making her one of the first whales cataloged in the Gulf of Maine! Spoon took fairly long dives, but appeared to rest at the surface when she came up, and lazily would do a tail rise before she eventually fluked down for a deeper dive. It was great seeing this whale, and a surprise, as she had been seen down on Stellwagen Bank less than 2 weeks ago!

Spoon diving

Spoon diving

Spoon

Spoon

Mason watching whales

Mason watching whales

Even among humpbacks, Spoon is a massive whale, and it was great to spend some time with her.

Before we left, we did a plankton tow, and among a bunch of zooplankton zipping around, there was a fairly large comb jelly (ctenophore)! We’ve seen these in our plankton tow recently and they are always an interesting sighting as they are much more visible than the tiny zooplankton.

See the comb jelly?

See the comb jelly?

On the way home, we got another close look at the islands, along with a tall ship that was passing through the area.

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Star Island

Star Island

Thanks to everyone who joined us today!

July 15, 2017

Sunshine.  Finally!  Feels like we’ve been trapped in grey weather for a while.  The day began among the tuna fleet out over Jeffrey’s Ledge where we had a minke whale.  As soon as we got a glimpse of the minke we had a blow to the east.

Blow!

Blow!

This was a finback whale.  We love to see these animals.  They are sleek and beautiful and fast and soooo big.  They max out at about 75′ but here in the Western N. Atlantic they max out at 60′ or so.  They are the 2nd largest animal to EVER live on the planet.  And they come feed just offshore of NH in the summer.  How great is that?

Closer fin whale blow!

Closer fin whale blow!

This whale was making 15 minute dives which can be a challenge to watch.  Today was a lesson in whale zen.  We had to fully live in the whale present as we watched some long diving and busily feeding whales.  It’s what they do.  They only feed for 6 months and so when the fish are here they focus on their food which is below the surface.

Fin whale chevrons

Fin whale chevrons

IMG_0380

We stayed with this whale for a while and watched as minke whales surfaced in the distance.  Captain Todd eventually decided to slowly move up to the minke whale area and this paid off nicely as a minke surfaced right next to the boat!

Minke!

Minke!

Not close enough for everyone to see the minke mittens but still a great look.  On the way back towards Rye we had another Fin whale and a few more blows.  We sailed home by the Isle of Shoals.  What will tomorrow bring?

Star Island

Star Island

July 14, 2017

Visibility was great today.  The overcast skies and relatively flat seas allowed us to easily find things at the surface.  Just a few miles away from the dock we caught a quick glimpse of a harbor porpoise.  These little toothed whales (yup they’re whales) are not the easiest to find.  2 quick looks and then it disappeared.  A little bit farther out we had a harbor seal and then a minke whale.

Minke!

Minke!

The minke whale is the most common baleen whale for us to see in the summer.  They are so streamlined that they really don’t generate any white water and surface very gracefully.  We moved off from our 1st minke to where we had 2 additional minkes.  We stayed between these two little whales for a while as they fed around the boat.  At one point we had a minke surface close enough to just make out the white minke “mittens”.

Minke mittens...just barely on the right side of the frame.

Minke mittens…just barely on the right side of the frame.

After watching the minke whales for a while we headed out in search of other animals on Jeffrey’s Ledge.  There were several Wilson storm petrels fluttering over the water and a couple of Northern Gannets.

Immature Northern Gannet

Immature Northern Gannet

We came upon a big bouquet of balloons.  Balloons are a constant hazard on the ocean.  They ALWAYS head out to sea on the prevailing winds and eventually sink into the water column where they resemble jellyfish.

Matt rescues the balloons!

Matt rescues the balloons!

Eventually we ended up to the south where there was a report of Atlantic whitesided dolphins.  These little toothed whales are a favorite.  They come over and interact with the boat.  The group had several calves sprinkled throughout.  We watched as they came over and checked us out and then they played in the wake of the boat.  We could easily see the white and amber stripes on their sides.  Mason the boat golden was super excited about the dolphins and had to be restrained to keep him from going for a swim too:)

Mason watching the dolphins

Mason watching the dolphins

White and amber on side of Atlantic whitesided dolphin

White and amber on side of Atlantic whitesided dolphin

Just under the bow

Just under the bow

Blowhole!

Blowhole!

See the dolphin starting to exhale as it surfaces?

See the dolphin starting to exhale as it surfaces?

We cruised back past the Isle of Shoals and had a seal pop up here and there during the cruise.

Isle of Shoals

Isle of Shoals

Then back to lovely Rye Harbor.  3 minke whales, 1 harbor porpoise, 20+ Atlantic whitesided dolphins, 3+ seals and lots of pelagic birds.  Who knows what we will see tomorrow?

Rye

Rye

July 12, 2017

What perfect weather we had today!  Calm seas, cool breezes and sunny skies for most of the afternoon!  The variety of marine life was just about perfect as well. We cruised to where we’ve had sightings lately and had a variety of life.  We started with some terrific looks at a minke whale, who conveniently cruised right along the starboard, and then the port side of the boat. The seas were so calm, we could easily spot the “minke mittens” on its flippers!

Minke whale. Can you see the minke mitten under the water?

Minke whale. Can you see the minke mitten under the water?

MInke whale

Minke whale

We then moved a bit further out and saw a blow. This turned out to be Pinball, a 28-year old female humpback! Pinball was busily feeding on a patch of prey near the boat, and happened to surface right next to us a few times. She also had an interesting behavior today, where she was spouting before she reached the water surface, which amounted to a fountain of bubbles preceding many of her spouts!

Pinball

Pinball

Pinball

Pinball

Pinball's flukeprint

Pinball’s flukeprint

Pinball blowing bubbles

Pinball blowing bubbles

We had another minke in this area, and even a few harbor seals!

MInke

MInke

Harbor seal

Harbor seal

After spending lots of quality time with Pinball, we moved off to watch another humpback, a male named Satula!  Satula is another of our favorite whales, and a regular in our area.  He was taking fairly long dives. Once while we waited for Satula, we noticed a large jellyfish next to the boat.

Jellyfish

Jellyfish

We also spotted the minke again before heading home. What a great day!

July 11, 2017

No trip today due to sea conditions.

July 10, 2017

There was a bit of an overcast when we left the dock this afternoon but it quickly turned into a great afternoon. We started out by trying to chase Hornbill the humpback around but when we realized that he was on a mission we gave up and went to a nearby blow.

Pinball's fluke

Pinball’s fluke

2017-07-10 15.41.51-1

That blow belonged to Pinball another humpback! She must have been in the right spot because Hornbill eventually made his way into this area and we got some great looks at both the humpbacks.

Hornbill making his way back to us

Hornbill making his way back to us

Hornbill

Hornbill

There were several minke whales in the area. We counted about 6 during today’s trip. After some great looks at the humpbacks, we headed for home. However, out Captain found us 2 more whales about a mile of the beach! It was two fin whales hanging out pretty close to land. We got some quick looks at this pair and headed home. Definitely an eventful day out there today!

One of the two finwhales

One of the two fin whales

July 9, 2017

Summer!  Clear blue skies, bright sunshine and calm seas made for a lovely day on the water.  Today brought us to a familiar place…among the tuna fleet on Jeffrey’s Ledge.  We began with a quick glimpse at a minke whale.

Minke

Minke

This little whale surfaced a few times around the boat.  We caught a quick glimpse and then headed farther east to where we saw our old friend Pinball the humpback in among the tuna fleet.  The good fishing brings the whales to Jeffrey’s in the summer and it also brings the blue fin tuna.  Fishing must have been pretty good as you could see some boats with tuna hanging off the side.

See the tuna?

See the tuna?

Pinball was busily feeding and navigating some pretty crowded waters.  She even seemed to be using the boats a little bit as cover as she dove and coralled fish.

Pinball's dorsal fin

Pinball’s dorsal fin

We were close enough to admire her long pectoral fins glowing green through the water.  After she dove we got some great looks at the “hoofprint” left behind at the surface.

Hoofprint or slicked out patch of water left behind after a dive.

Hoofprint or slicked out patch of water left behind after a dive.

Pinball surfaced and dove right near the boat multiple times.  A few times we saw some lighter areas in the water where she seemed to be blowing bubbles.

Blow

Blow

Pinball

Pinball

Diving

Diving

We eventually left Pinball and cruised south to the back side of Cape Ann in search of more animals.  The visibility was just awesome and we could see the tip of Cape Ann, Hampton Beach and Mt. Agamenticus in York at the same time from the water!  We found a helium balloon floating on the water but no whales.

Helium Balloon...they always float out to sea:(

Helium Balloon…they always float out to sea:(

Eventually we headed back towards Rye and literally just outside the harbor Captain Todd found us another minke whale.  So close!  Wildlife is so unpredictable and it’s that surprise that makes each trip worthwhile.

July 8, 2017

What a day!  We headed out today with storm clouds building quickly to the west.  Out past the Isles of Shoals we found our friend Pinball the humpback in among the tuna fleet.

Pinball diving

Pinball diving

Pinball was only surfacing for a breath or two before she’d dive again to feed.  We watched her for a few dives and then the weather took center stage!IMG_0261IMG_0266 IMG_0268

Whale watching is a rather low key undertaking.  But this storm forced all of us to just stop and look.  Sometimes that’s the best experience ever.  The storm swirled around us with rain and a little wind and thankfully no lightning!

IMG_0270

Storm!!

Storm!!

Everyone hunkered out of the rain and just watched the storm.  Pinball continued to feed during the rain and we watched her make a couple of dives.  We also got a quick look at a minke whale flying through the surface as it surfaced right next to us then quickly dove.  And then it was clear again.IMG_0283 IMG_0287 IMG_0281 IMG_0288 Pinball continued to feed in and among the tuna boats.  We eventually had to turn back to Rye but took a beautiful route through the Isle of Shoals.

Anderson's Ledge...see the gull near the top?

Anderson’s Ledge…see the gull near the top?

White Island Light

White Island Light

Star Island....Stone chapel, Tucke obelisk and solar panels

Star Island….Stone chapel, Tucke obelisk and solar panels

Calmer skies

Calmer skies

Pinball the humpback + 2 minke whales and one amazing storm were our totals for the day.  Come join us.

July 7, 2017

The skies were a little hazy today, but the seas were nice and calm. A little rain didn’t stop some hardy passengers from showing up! Just a few miles offshore, we spotted our first whale – a minke!  We got some good looks at this whale before moving on.

Our first minke whale, just a few miles away from the harbor

Our first minke whale, just a few miles away from the harbor

We headed offshore towards the area where we’ve seen whales over the past couple days, and were rewarded with some great looks at several more minke whales.  They were zipping around the boat, and it seemed like everywhere we looked, a minke whale would pop up.

Minke whale

Minke whale

After these great looks, our plan was to head out and look around to see what else might pop up. Suddenly, we saw a blow in the distance. This turned out to be a humpback whale!  Not just any humpback whale, but a well-known one – Pinball!  Pinball is a female who was born in 1989. We last saw her in late May, so we were excited she was back in the area again.

IMG_5101

Pinball

Pinball

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We got some amazing looks at Pinball – she appeared to be feeding on a patch of prey right near the boat (check out our Facebook page for a video of Pinball). While we watched Pinball, we saw even more minke whales zipping around the area.  Before we left, we did a plankton tow and the water sample revealed lots of zooplankton, which was probably why there were so many fish in the area.

Zooplankton in our water sample

Zooplankton in our water sample

Mason and volunteer Beth supervise the plankton tow

Mason and volunteer Beth supervise the plankton tow

On the way home, we got a great look at the Isles of Shoals. It was a great day to be on the water, and we look forward to a fun weekend. Come join us!

White Island

White Island

July 6, 2017

It was another beautiful day on the ocean.  It was a little bumpy when we started out, and we worried we might have a hard time spotting whales.  But we cruised out to where we had whales yesterday, and soon saw a spout!  This proved to be a very elusive fin whale that seemed to be taking long dives. But it wasn’t long before a minke whale popped up!  We ended up having 3 minke whales around us who popped up in all directions. Several times, we got to see the whales’ pointed snouts as they surfaced. We got some close looks right next to the boat, and even got to see the “minke mittens,” the white patches on the whale’s flippers.

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We also saw another fin whale from a distance, but after seeing it spout several times, it seemed to disappear.  Thankfully, the minke whales were fun to watch and spending lots of time at the surface! We had a great look at one more minke before we cruised in through the Isles of Shoals and had a close look at these historic islands.

Looks like it’s going to be a great weekend for whale watching – come join us!

July 5, 2017

We had a beautiful summer afternoon on the water. We ventured offshore through the Isles of Shoals and headed out towards some smaller Ledges inshore of Jeffreys Ledge. After some searching, we saw our first blow. This turned out to be one of several fin whales in the area! We got a couple decent looks at the whales early on, but then they became more elusive, and took longer dives. Perhaps they were feeding on prey closer to the ocean bottom. We spent some time trying to get more looks at these whales, but as soon as they’d appear at the surface and we would head over, they would disappear again. Sometimes that’s just the way things are when you’re watching wild animals!

Fin whale, with the mainland in the background

Fin whale, with the mainland in the background

Eventually, we spotted a minke whale in the same area, and got some great looks at this whale as it surfaced several times near the boat. Suddenly it seemed like there were minke whales everywhere, and we finished up the trip with looks at three minke whales that happened to be all near the boat at the same time. We even got to see their minke mittens!

Minke whale

Minke whale

Minke whale

Minke whale

See the "minke mitten"?

See the “minke mitten”?

Thanks to everyone who joined us today! Congratulations to Sharon from Buffalo, who won our free drawing!

July 4, 2017

Someone must have told the whales it was a holiday because they all seemed to take the day off. We searched for 40 miles and found 2 minkes and a fin whale. Unfortunately, all three seemed to be in a rush and quickly disappeared. I guess sometimes we need a reminder that seeing whales is a privilege and that these are wild animals who move around as they please.

Boone Island, ME

Boone Island, ME

We did get a few quick looks at the minke and fin whale and 2 seals as well. It was so beautiful out at least it was a nice day on the water!

Fin whale

Fin whale

July 3, 2017

A beautiful day on land means an even more beautiful day off shore! As we were heading out we came across an outgoing minke whale. This minke surfaced twice pretty close to the boat giving us some great first looks on today’s trip.

First whale of the day, a minke!

First whale of the day, a minke!

We then pressed on and good thing we did because we found a humpback whale! This guy was a familiar friend, it was Blue Ocean Society’s adoptable humpback whale Satula. We spent a while with Satula, watching him circle around. There was another blow in the area but we never were able to get close enough looks to determine what species it might have been. Potentially it was another humpback.

Satula

Satula

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We spent a while with Satula, watching him circle around. There was another blow in the area but we never were able to get close enough looks to determine what species it might have been. Potentially it was another humpback.

Overall a great day!

July 2, 2017

Hooray for the natural AC provided by the Gulf of Maine today.  We left a scorcher on land and were soon wearing sweatshirts as we headed out to Jeffrey’s Ledge to look for whales.  We cruised past the lovely Isles of Shoals with nice looks at Star Island and its Oceanic hotel and solar panels.

Nesting boxes in the foreground & Star island in the background with solar panels.

Nesting boxes in the foreground & Star island in the background with solar panels.

First we found a minke whale that took a few breaths and dove again surfacing 1/4 mile away or so.  Minkes can be great when they cooperate but this little whale was busy chasing fish and so we left him behind and went out to where we had reports of some blows.  Eventually we came to an area with several blows.  This was a group of widely dispersed busy humpback whales.  The 1st whale was a humpback that we know named Patches.

Patches the humpbacks dorsal fin

Patches the humpbacks dorsal fin

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No sooner did we have our 1st whale dive that we then had another humpback in the distance.  The whales were very busy and moving quite a bit below the surface.   We quickly realized we at least 3 whales and maybe 5 in the vicinity.

Satula

Satula

A couple of times the whales came up close enough to the boat to allow us to easily see the white flippers glowing green through the water.

Green!

Green!

We had several looks at a distance as these whales were very busy.  On our last look where we had to turn back to Rye our last whale surfaced right alongside the boat and gave us fantastic looks and dove right next to us.  This turned out to be our 1st whale again, Patches.IMG_0251

Patches

Patches

The whales are only here for 6 months and in that time they need to feed enough to survive a migration to the Caribbean and back.  So we watch a lot of feeding behavior.  Today was one of those days where it was clear the whales are focused on that priority.

We cruised home by the Isles of Shoals and got some nice looks at White Island Light again.

White Island Light

White Island Light

Just outside the harbor Captain Todd spotted a blow and sure enough we had a very speedy minke whale at the surface.  This little whale was charging through the surface and even did a little chin breach.  No pictures:(  But great memories.  Everyday is different.  Come beat the heat with us.  No Mason pictures today either:(  He had a sore shoulder and a sad face that I felt guilty  photographing him.

July 1, 2017

Today was a little challenging. It was a beautiful, hot day onshore and we were eager to get offshore to experience some cooler sea breezes. We headed out towards reports we had received of activity from this morning, but as we continued out, the seas started to get rougher. We opted to stay closer to shore and check out some of the ledges inshore of Jeffreys Ledge.

We headed towards the morning’s reports, and didn’t find any whales, so headed north. We eventually got up near Boon Island, a historic island off the coast of York, ME. Then, some eagle-eyed passengers spotted a blow!

Boon Island

Boon Island

This turned out to be a fin whale – what a nice surprise!  It’s always exciting to see the second-largest species on Earth. This whale stayed near the boat at first, and we got a couple great looks near the bow of the boat.

Fin whale

Fin whale

Soon after that, the fin whale decided to head north at a fast clip. We got a couple more looks before heading back to Rye Harbor. The marine forecast looks calmer for the next few days – come spend some of the July 4th holiday with us!

Time for a nap

Time for a nap

June 30, 2017

Some high swells and fog could have kept us docked, but we decided to brave the seas and head out! Luckily, the whales were out there! They were a little far, but we found 3 humpback whales!

 

 

 

 

One of our humpback whales

One of our humpback whales

Another humpback

Another humpback

They weren’t staying at the surface long and always managed to fluke facing away from us but we IDed one of the whales as Gondolier, a whale we have seen in the area recently. They circled around the area and we bounced from watching one whale to another.

Gondolier

Gondolier

We also managed to take a bundle of balloons out of the water thanks to our mate, Ollie! Balloons can we very harmful to whales especially since they are feeding in the area.

Ollie managed to get this bundle of balloons out of the water

Ollie managed to get this bundle of balloons out of the water

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On our way home we spotted a minke whale hanging off the Isle of Shoals. Join us this holiday weekend every day at 1:30 PM!

June 29, 2017

What an amazing day to be out on the water — the sun may not have been out today but the whales definitely were! We started our trip seeing as many as eight different harbor seals swimming around the Isles of Shoals along with a small pod of 3-4 harbor porpoises.

Minke whale

Minke whale

Since these animals can get easily spooked by our boat, we continued on. We then found ourselves surrounded by at least five different minke whales as we searched around the area. We eventually came upon one fin whale traveling along on its own until we found two more fin whales swimming side by side together. It was so amazing to see these large animals so close to shore!

Hornbill breach!

Hornbill breach!

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We then moved further offshore where we came across a very familiar face, or should I say fluke? We saw Hornbill, a humpback whale that we have been seeing since 1977, breach five times out of the water. It was such an incredible sight! As we came closer to him, he calmed down a bit and we were able to get some great looks at him as he was traveling through the area. Before we turned home for Rye Harbor, we saw a basking shark swim right next to the boat. With so much variety here in the Gulf of Maine, we wonder what we’ll see on our next trip!

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June 28, 2017

Wowza! Such a great trip today. Sunny & flat and perfect visibility.

Anderson's Ledge

Anderson’s Ledge

White Island Light

White Island Light

We began with a minke behind the shoals & a quick seal (no pic on the seal:)

Minke

Minke

We then travelled out to Jeffrey’s where we had a good look at 1 fin whale while several other fin whale blows were around in the distance.

Long back of a fin whale

Long back of a fin whale

Bp dorsal After some great and cooperative looks at the fin whale we headed out to an area of whitewater that was confirmed by Colin, one of our summer interns, to be a widely dispersed pod of Atlantic whitesided dolphins. Yay!

Mason dolphin watching

Mason dolphin watching

Fuzzy dolphin pic:(

Fuzzy dolphin pic:(

Dolphin dorsal

Dolphin dorsal

These dolphins came over and played around and beside the boat for quite a while. So great. Mason, the boat golden, is also a big fan of dolphins! After a good 20 minutes with the dolphins we headed out to look for more animals and found a big splash and some birds above. Turns out this was a HUGE basking shark!!!Right next to the boat. Just under the surface. Easily 20+ feet.   No pictures on this one either but what an enormous shark!  These are the 2nd largest species of shark and are filter feeders.  Their presence is an indication of very good feeding conditions.  This shark was easily 20 feet more likely 25′!  Then onto home and another fin whale.

Fin whale blow

Fin whale blow

Soooo long

Soooo long

Another basking shark popped up as we watched the fin whale.  As we left the fin whale and quickly had minkes all around.  At least 5 minke whales behind the Shoals.  A cruise through the Shoals and we were back in beautiful Rye Harbor. Rye smallWhat will we see tomorrow?

 

June 27, 2017

We ventured out today despite the forecast inland of t-storms and luckily we did! We ran into the same mom and calf pair of finback whales we had seen the other day when we had camera issues. I was so happy to finally get to document them! But as they did the other day they were up one minute and gone the next. We searched the area and they never seemed to surface near us again. This mom has found a sneaky way to leave the area and protect her baby from what she might consider a threat.

Mom up close, little baby peeking behind!

Mom up close, little baby peeking behind!

Mom closer, calf behind her

Mom closer, calf behind her

Next, we explored around to see if we could find Hornbill again today. And after some searching we did! He was behaving the same as yesterday, short shallow dives followed by longer deep dives. He was circling around the area presumably looking for lunch.

Hornbill the humpback

Hornbill the humpback

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A couple of minkes passed by in the meantime. Being 20 miles off shore and having some rain coming in we decided to start heading home. We hit some rain and clouds on the way home but our Captain Todd got us all home safely despite the storm.

In total today we saw 2 fin whales, 1 humpback and 3 minkes!

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June 26, 2017

Another beautiful day out on the water. We started the trip with some harbor porpoises and after heading out a few miles, found the first humpback of the week an old friend, Hornbill!
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We watched Hornbill for a while and kept an eye on another blow in the area. This blow belonged to Gondolier, a male humpback first spotted in 1992. We watched him for a while as well. Having him come up right next to the boat gave us amazing looks at this whale.

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We searched for another whale who’s blow we saw in the distance but it never re-surfaced. Still a great day with some humpbacks out on Jeffrey’s Ledge!

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June 25, 2017

It was a great day to be out on the water! Our naturalist just had one little tiny problem….her camera had an error come up on the first whale and refused to take any photos of today’s trip. Luckily, cell phones can capture pretty okay images so for today’s whole report you will have to bare with me as I show you what I got!

Frist, we started with a blow that our volunteer, Dan, pointed out. It belonged to a determined finback whale. It was determined to find food and was traveling around the area, usually away from where we were. We never did get very good looks at this whale until we had almost given up and it came up right next to the boat…this is when I discovered my camera was broken.

We had another fin whale in the same area so we decided to go look for it. We stumbled upon a minke whale and then our fin whales appeared! A mother and calf pair! Always great to see new whales being added to the population. We saw them do a few synchronized dives and then they disappeared.

Basking shark!

Basking shark!

We continued on eventually finding two different basking sharks and getting some cool looks at them! Since rain was treating the remainder of our trip we started heading home but we did have a scenic ride through the Isles of Shoals!

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June 24, 2017

We stayed on the dock yesterday due to some unfriendly storms on the coast but luckily today it was clear, sunny, breezy and flat seas. Our trip did start off with some fog, but that didn’t stop us from seeing some harbor porpoises before we even got to the Isles of Shoals. Once the fog cleared up we came across a feeding basking shark!

Basking shark dorsal

Basking shark dorsal

We got some great looks at the shark before venturing around to find some whales. We found a minke, who popped up next to the boat a few times giving us some great looks. After a little, we continued on in search for more.

Minke whale!

Minke whale!

We came to a few blows belonging to some fin whales. We got to look at a couple of them. A few times appearing just a few feet from our boat. It’s been a great summer for finbacks so far, they have been seen nearly every single day for a few weeks. Always a really cool thing to see the world’s second largest animal in the world swimming right along side the boat.

Finback whales

Finback whales

On our way back to the harbor we passed right by another minke whale which we watched as we made our way back to the harbor. Overall we saw 3 finback whales, 4 minkes, 2-4 harbor porpoises and 2 basking sharks. Beautiful Saturday afternoon well spent!

June 22, 2017

Wow – so much variety out there today!

We headed out to where we’ve had some whales over the past few days, and found a fin whale. It wasn’t spending much time at the surface, but we eventually got a good look at one of them and a quick look at a basking shark that passed near the bow!

Fin whale (see the chevron marking?)

Fin whale (see the chevron marking?)

We decided to head further offshore out to Jeffreys Ledge, and found a few more fin whales. We spent lots of time watching these huge, graceful animals. The whole time, we kept our eyes on some blows further in the distance.  We had a choice – to go back inshore and try to get some better looks at the whales there, or head offshore to investigate.

We decided to investigate, and were well rewarded!  The blow was from a humpback whale!  This was Gondolier, who was first sighted as an adult in 1992.  We got some terrific looks at Gondolier, who approached the boat several times and fluked right near us.

Gondolier

Gondolier

Gondolier's dorsal

Gondolier’s dorsal

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In addition to Gondolier, there was so much other life in this area – at least 3-4 fin whales, 4-5 minke whales, and yet another basking shark!  We were surrounded by whales, all of whom were spending plenty of time at the surface.   We did a plankton tow at one point and it was chock-full of copepods. It’s so neat to see this aspect of the food chain and the prey that the shark was likely feeding on.

Fishing for plankton

Fishing for plankton

We really got to experience the variety of life in this area today!  Thanks to everyone who joined us!

June 21, 2017

After a couple days at the dock due to rough seas, we were excited to get out on the water today!
The seas were calm, we had sunny blue skies and warm temperatures as we ventured offshore.  It wasn’t too long before we had our first blow – a fin whale! We spent some time watching this whale and then went further offshore.
Fin whale

Fin whale

As we cruised further out, we saw a large fin in the water. This was a basking shark, which soon turned into several sharks!  We had 4 basking sharks cruising around the boat, feeding on plankton.  We did a plankton tow and found the water sample full of copepods- tiny zooplankton that are food for a variety of species.
Not the best picture ever... but the light coloring is the inside of a basking shark's mouth!

Not the best picture ever… but the light coloring is the inside of a basking shark’s mouth!

Basking shark

Basking shark

We explored some more, and found at least 5 more fin whales! We got some great looks, including at one whale who I think we (Blue Ocean Society) first saw back in 1996!  This whale has a very distinctive dorsal fin.
Fin whale

Fin whale

Fin whale chevron

Fin whale chevron

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It was a great day out on the ocean, and hopefully our sightings are an excellent sign of the summer to come!
There's nothing like a nice nap on the way home!

There’s nothing like a nice nap on the way home!

June 18, 2017

It was a little bumpy out there today! But there was plenty of sunshine and nice, cool breezes to beat the heat onshore.

We cruised out toward Jeffreys Ledge and got a nice look at the Isles of Shoals as we passed through these nine historic islands. As we headed further out, the whitecaps kept fooling us into thinking we were spotting marine life. Finally, we did see a blow in the distance. This turned out to be a fin whale!

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As we headed over to the fin whale, we started seeing more blows in the area. There were at least 5 or 6 whales in the area. Thanks to some expert maneuvering by Capt. Brad, we got some great looks at two of the whales, while we watched the others spout in the distance.

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To be surrounded by 60+ -foot whales is always awe-inspiring! Thanks to the group from North Dakota and the other passengers on board for all your enthusiasm. We are glad you got to experience our local whales!

June 17, 2017

Every day is so different on the water.  We headed out today with a healthy swell making the ride a little extra entertaining.

White Island

White Island

About 18 miles out we spotted a spout.  This ended up being our 1st finback whale of the day. Finbacks are hard to wrap your brain around.  They are so big yet so very graceful and hydrodynamic.  It’s hard to appreciate their full length because they surface over a rather long period of time with at most 1/4 of their length exposed.

FIn whale dorsal

Fin whale dorsal

Hoof print created just after a whale dives.

Hoof print created just after a whale dives.

As we waited for the fin whale to come back up we had a super close and sneaky pass by from a minke whale.  Minkes are usually our most common baleen whale sighting but have been scarce this year.  This little whale came up right alongside the port side of the boat and then quickly dove.  If you were in the right spot you could see this whale’s white mittens on his pectoral flippers.  Such a treat!  No pictures:(  We also realized we had several fin whales in the area with at least 2 others nearby.

Head of fin whale...see the white lower jaw out on front?

Head of fin whale…see the white lower jaw out on front?

The conditions continued to improve while we watched these giant whales doing some rapid dives and foraging.  Next up we went to see a humpback whale.  This whale was also feeding and even came up right in front of the boat with a little bubblecloud!

Humpback!

Humpback!

We got some great looks at this whale who turned out to be an identified female born in 1990, Clamp.

Clamp diving

Clamp diving

Clamp's fluke

Clamp’s fluke

As we went to leave for Rye we had 2 basking sharks at the surface.  These are the 2nd largest shark reaching lengths up to 25′.  They are filter feeders are are great indicators of a productive food chain.

Basking shark heading away from us.

Basking shark heading away from us.

Basking shark dorsal

Basking shark dorsal

We also had some cool pelagic birds out there with Northern Gannets, Wilson Storm Petrels and even a shearwater.  Just a couple miles outside the harbor we had a 3rd Basking Shark!!!  So close.  Every day is different.

Once we’re back at the dock Mason watches a fishing line while the boat gets cleaned….he landed a striper with a little help.

Mason!

Mason!

Come join us for what’s next.  Happy Father’s Day!

June 15. 2017

We braved the choppy waters today to go find some whales. Since we knew they were close we sailed out in the white cap waters to find them. Luckily we did and we were rewarded with several finback whales. DSC_0064

We watched as many as we can, estimating 6-8 fin whales in the area. Having the second largest animal around us is always surreal! Join us this weekend for Father’s Day!

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June 14, 2017

Wednesday’s whale watch was filled with fin whales! Before we got to Jeffreys Ledge, we came into an area with at least 4-5 different whales. We spent a little time with fin whale #0402, before finding another well-known fin, #0282.  A minke appeared right off our bow, and more spouts were seen in the distance!

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Whales everywhere!  We then ventured out a little further, about 20 miles from Rye Harbor where we found a trio of fin whales!! This is a unique sighting since fin whales are usually by themselves, or spread out over a large area.  Having three of these huge whales all together was pretty amazing to see!Image00001 Image00003

June 13, 2017

Another successful day on the water!  It was 95+ degrees on land, but much more comfortable on the ocean, with calm seas that allowed for excellent visibility!

Fin whales were numerous again today. We got a quick look at a basking shark, but it wasn’t spending much time near the surface, so we moved on to some blows, and found 5 fin whales. We spent time with a single fin whale, and got some great looks as it circled around. The students aboard from Russell Elementary School got to see something we don’t see every day – whale poop!  It sounds kind of gross, but it also provides evidence that the whale was feeding on fish in the area.

Fin whale

Fin whale

Eventually, this whale joined up with another single fin whale in the area.  These pairings are interesting, as fin whales are typically solitary and we often don’t know the whale’s gender or why they swim together for short periods.

We then moved on to see another pair, and this was also an interesting sighting because it was the same pair we saw on Sunday – Blunt and friend!  Blunt was first cataloged in 1982, making this whale likely a minimum of 40 years old since it was an adult when it was first sighted. We haven’t identified Blunt’s friend yet.

Blunt (right) and friend

Blunt (right) and friend

blunts friend

After some fantastic close looks at the fin whales, we headed out east to see what else we could find, and saw a minke whale – one of only a few we’ve seen so far this season!  At an average length of 20-30 feet, these are considered a small whale – and that smaller size is especially evident after you’ve already watched some fin whales After some great quick looks at this whale, it was time to head for home. We cruised through the Isles of Shoals and got a look at the beautiful scenery there before heading back to the harbor.

Minke whale

Minke whale

Thanks to Russell Elementary School for joining us today!

June 12, 2017

No better way to spend a hot summer day than miles offshore with some whales! Today on Captain Todd’s first whale watch of the season, we found quite a few blows after a short time exploring.

Captain Todd's first day whale watching!

Captain Todd’s first-day whale watching!

We had around 13 fin whales in the area and several minke whales as well. We started with a fin whale who was being a bit difficult and moving around the area with short surfaces. Since we had lots of options around we headed to a different whale.

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Later in the trip, we had a fin whale head straight to the bow of the boat before it must have realized we were floating there and decided to make a quick u-turn, right under the pulpit. I had never seen a fin whale that close up! You could see his eye and his tail pumping under the surface of the water. Definitely a treat!

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Second finwhale heading right to us

Second finwhale heading right to us

After spending some time with this whale and getting looks at a few others in the area, we headed to a new area where we saw a few more blows. There we found another finback whale who was taking longer dives.

Look at that chevron pattern

Look at that chevron pattern

Overall it was a fantastic day out on the water. We got to see so many blows, fin whales and minkes for a great trip out on the water. Join us DAILY at 1:30 PM for whale watching!

 

June 11, 2017

What a day! It was so great to get offshore and beat the 90-degree heat!
In addition to some cooler breezes, we had great whale sightings!  We found ourselves surrounded by fin whales. It’s always so amazing to see the second-largest species on the planet.  Despite weighing 50+ tons, fin whales are so graceful as they glide through the water.
Pair of fin whales!

Pair of fin whales!

We had an initial individual fin whale that was spending lots of time just under the water surface, but we got a couple quick looks at its back. We headed further east, where we found 5 more fin whales, including a pair that was together most of the time we were watching them, and approached the bow of the boat several times for some close looks!
We identified one of the whales in the pair as Blunt, a whale first seen in 1982 by Allied Whale researchers!  We’ve seen this whale in our area a few times, including in 2005 and 2010, so it is definitely an irregular visitor to our area.
Blunt, first seen in 1982

Blunt, first seen in 1982

The white lower jaw of one of the fin whales

The white lower jaw of one of the fin whales

One of the pair of fin whales

One of the pair of fin whales

The beautiful chevron marking of one of the fin whales

The beautiful chevron marking of one of the fin whales

We’re not sure who Blunt’s friend is, but will update this post if we happen to identify the whale. By the time we left the area, the two seemed to have split up and gone their separate ways.
In the area, there were 3 single fin whales, and we got closer looks at one of them.
Fin whale

Fin whale

In addition to the fin whales, there were a few seabirds around also taking advantage of prey in the area – we saw a juvenile northern gannet, a couple terns, and of course the ever-present black-backed gulls.
It looks like we have more warm weather ahead, and we’re now whale watching daily. Come join us!

June 10,2017

Just a sunny lovely day on the water today.  We headed out towards Jeffrey’s Ledge and soon had the signature tall blow of a fin whale in the distance. Once we got closer we realized that we had 1 fin whale close and at least 2 others in the immediate area.  Fin whales are a treat in part due to their superlatives.  They are the 2nd largest animal to ever live on the planet.  They are just enormous.  But graceful.  And fast.  And pretty.

Long back of a fin whale...blow dissipating in the air

Long back of a fin whale…blow dissipating in the air

We stayed in the area and were treated to some really close looks as 1 fin whale surfaced alongside the boat.  Whales have been photographed and catalogued in the Gulf of Maine for over 40 years.  This particular whale was identified as  Blunt (#0506).  A fin whale first seen 1982 and seen on Stellwagen, Mount Desert Rock, Scantum, Jeffrey’s Ledge.  Such a treat to be part of a  35 year old record of this animals life here in the Gulf of Maine.

White lower jaw

White lower jaw

It’s always hard to appreciate the size of a fin whale simply because they only show us a fraction of their total length when they surface.  We had such nice patient looks that we could easily see the white lower jaw on the right side glowing a green color through the water.  We watched as the head and blowhole broke through the surface and produced a spout.  Next, we saw the area behind the blowhole with the characteristic V-shaped markings used to help identify individual fin whales.  Then finally the dorsal fin located 2/3 of the way down the back.  Blunt was so close we could also see some orange spots on his flanks from algae (diatoms).

Blunt's dorsal fin

Blunt’s dorsal fin

We eventually left our 3 fin whales and went out a little farther to where we had yet another fin whale.

2nd close look at a fin whale

2nd close look at a fin whale

Whale exhalation rainbow.

Whale exhalation rainbow.

We sailed home with the blows of even more whales on the horizon around us.  On the trip through the Isles of Shoals I snapped a quick picture of one of the islands and you can just make out a seal hanging out at the high water mark.  We have both harbor and gray seals here in NH in the summertime.

Seal is just above the water line in the center of the island.

Seal is just above the water line in the center of the island.

With highs in the 90’s forecast for tomorrow and water temps in the 40s a whale watch will offer immediate AC.  Come join us!

June 9, 2017

Wow! There was so much life out there today. We could easily witness the food chain in action!
When got a bit offshore, we had an immediate choice to make – should we go look at a shark or a whale? Not a bad problem to have. We opted for the whale (it’s a whale watch, after all), and got some terrific looks at a fin whale. While we were watching the whale, the water surface was boiling with schools of fish jumping at the surface!
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Gull snatching a fish

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Fin Whale

After some great looks at the fin whale, we did get to see the shark.  This was a basking shark – the second-largest fish species in the world. These sharks can reach lengths of 30-40 feet. The one we saw was well over 20 feet long. Basking sharks feed on plankton. During our time offshore, we did a plankton tow and it was chock-full of copepods, zooplankton smaller than a grain of rice. These are a preferred prey for large animals such as basking sharks and even North Atlantic right whales.
Blue Ocean Society interns Kati and Lindsey checking out the plankton sample

Blue Ocean Society interns Kati and Lindsey checking out the plankton sample

We saw another blow and went to check it out, and were surprised to see two animals – a huge fin whale and her (comparatively) tiny calf!! At Blue Ocean Society, we only see a handful of fin whale calves in any given year, so this was definitely a treat. The 20-foot calf looked so small compared to its 60+ foot mom!   The mom and calf stayed near each other, and occasionally the calf would push its snout above the water as it surfaced, and we could get a great look at the beautiful coloration on the right side of its head.
Fin whale calf

Fin whale calf

Fin whale mom and calf

Fin whale mom and calf

In this spot, we also saw another fin whale a distance away and another blow in the distance, but the whale didn’t resurface.  We decided to look around some more, and found another fin whale.   After some great looks at this enormous whale, we headed further to the east where we had seen the mystery blow before.
The whale still didn’t materialize, but we saw more sharks!  At one point, we had 3 basking sharks around us, all feeding near the boat. Several times a shark would cruise past and we could see INSIDE its mouth while it was busy filter feeding!
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Basking shark

Basking shark

Throughout the trip, we continued to see bait fish schooling at the surface, with gulls occasionally gliding down to scoop one up.  What an amazing day!!
There’s plenty of life around – we’re whale watching all weekend and it’s going to be hot out. Come join us!

June 4, 2017

Today it took a bit of searching on the calm beautiful blue waters to find some familiar whales. We came across a blow and before we knew it there were several blows in the area. The first whale we got to see close up was Hornbill, a humpback we have seen since 1977.

Hornbill's fluke

Hornbill’s fluke

Around Hornbill was a finback whale and a minke whale. The minke whale was difficult to keep track of, but the fin whale stuck around for a while. Usually surfacing while Hornbill was down on a dive.

Hornbill diving

Hornbill diving

Finback whale

Finback whale

It’s always a fun trip when we get to see several species feeding near each other! Join us this weekend on Friday at 9:30 AM or Saturday and Sunday at 1:30 PM!

June 2, 2017

What a beautiful day for a trip! Thanks to Strafford School 5th graders and their chaperones for joining us today.
We cruised through the Isles of Shoals on the way out, and got some great looks at these historic islands.
White Island Light

White Island Light

We continued out towards Jeffreys Ledge, but before we got there, we saw a blow. This turned out to be a fin whale.
Fin Whale

Fin Whale

  This whale was a bit elusive  – we saw several spouts, but it was moving erratically and we didn’t get a very good look. So, we decided to continue on.
Basking Shark

Basking Shark

We were glad we did!  We soon found ourselves watching a huge basking shark!  We could see the large, triangular fin of this shark from a distance away, and it stayed at the surface as we approached.  These plankton-feeders are the second-largest shark species on the planet and can reach lengths of about 30-40 feet.
As we watched the shark, we saw some surface activity and moved a bit out to the east, where we found a sei whale skim feeding at the surface!  We got to follow the whale by its flukeprints as it traveled slowly under the water surface, and then got to see it open its gigantic mouth to feed!   There was at least one other sei whale in the area, with several others in the distance.

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Sei whale

Sei whale

We don’t get to see sei whales very often, so seeing these streamlined, 50-foot animals was a rare treat.
While we still had time, we decided to do some exploring. We saw a few blows, but decided to focus on one whale. This turned out to be a well-known humpback, Hornbill, who was first catalogued in 1977!!  We got terrific looks at Hornbill as he slowly swam around, apparently feeding. We saw several bubble clouds rise to the surface – he was apparently using these bubbles to trap the fish.

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Hornbill

Hornbill

We were sad to leave Jeffreys Ledge, but eventually had to head back to the harbor. On the way back, we saw yet another basking shark, and this one looked even larger than the first!  We could see both the huge dorsal fin and the top of the tail as this shark swam slowly at the surface.
All in all, it was a fantastic day, with 2 basking sharks, at least 2 sei whales (with others in the distance), a fin whale (probably more of those in the area, also) and a familiar humpback whale!
We’ll be whale watching this weekend  – come join us!

May 28, 2017

I know is sounds redundant…but such a great trip!  I am not sure where the sunny forecast of a day or so ago went.  We headed east towards Jeffrey’s Ledge with gray skies and a little bit of a chop.  When we came to a blow we found that there were really many whales spread out in basically every direction.  Our 1st close look was a smaller humpback whale that was surfacing unpredictably with 2 Atlantic white sided dolphins!  Every time the humpback surfaced so did the 2 dolphins.  Such a treat?!  We dont see that association very often and it was great to observe.  As that 1st humpback moved to the west we had a slightly larger pod of dolphins visible off the back of the boat and then a 2nd humpback dove letting us see its tail.  This whale was Pinball!  An old favorite and one of our adoptable whales.

Pinball's surprise surfacing!

Pinball’s surprise surfacing!

As we waited for either of the humpbacks to reappear you could see light blows just about everywhere.  The origin of these blows turned up almost under the pulpit of our boat when 2 sei whales surfaced in synchrony.  These are a rare sighting for us and a highlight.  Usually found offshore these whales skim feed at the surface and are known for their speed.   As they exhaled directly in front of the boat their breath washed over us verifying that yes they were feeding on something fishy:)  Did I mention the chop out there?  I was being a bit too careful with my camera and missed a great sei whale shot.  Oh well.  They are in my memory and sometimes that’s the best way to experience life.

Sei whale dorsal moving away from us.

Sei whale dorsal moving away from us.

We could still see blows all around but were quickly distracted by some surface active whales causing huge splashes a little farther east.  This ended up being a humpback whale calf and its much beloved and frequently sighted mother, Owl.  The calf was breaching, spy hopping, flipper slapping and chin breaching and just causing chaos at the surface while Mom responsibly fed below.

Partial breach of calf

Partial breach of calf

Humpback calf diving

Humpback calf diving

Calves are favorites for this reason.  They have to learn how to control their buoyancy and are relying on mom’s milk for food so they have lots of time and incentive to play.  The chop on the water also seems to encourage them to be more active.   This little whale and his mom made some close passes by the boat.  The calf came up vertically next to the left bow in a spy hop.  So fun.  Such an amazing blessing to witness so much activity from a wild animal.

Look at the 2 nares, openings to the blowhole! See the passenger's head at the bottom of picture:)

Look at the 2 nares, openings to the blowhole! See the passenger’s head at the bottom of picture:)

More calf white water

More calf white water

Owl! Notice the boat strike injury in front of her dorsal.

Owl! Notice the boat strike injury in front of her dorsal.

We eventually had to turn around and head back to Rye.  We passed the blows of so many sei whales on the way through.  A few miles to the west we had the big tall blow of a fin whale and watched from a distance as that whale went down for a dive.  The trip home was much more forgiving as we sailed home past the beautiful Isle of Shoals. What an amazing day.  So lucky.  We saw so many things that we tell people not to expect: dolphins, mothers and calves, breaching, interspecies associations, sei whales.  You just never know.  Come join us find out what the next surprise will be!

Mason fishing off the back.

Mason fishing off the back.

Star Island with a tall ship in port

Star Island with a tall ship in port

 

May 27, 2017

Wow! What an amazing trip to start Memorial Day weekend!
After cruising for awhile, we saw one blow from a large whale, and then started seeing more blows in the distance. Soon, there were whales everywhere we looked!
We started out with a few quick looks at a fin whale. That was enough to see how enormous this species is – the second-largest on the planet!  This whale seemed to be busy feeding, as it didn’t spend much time up at the surface.  We did get a nice look at this 60-70 foot whale off the bow before we continued on. Soon were surrounded by sei whales!
Fin whale - you can see the white lower jaw

Fin whale – you can see the white lower jaw

Fin whale

Fin whale

Sei whales only come into our area occasionally, presumably, when the prey conditions are right. These 40-50 foot whales feed on zooplankton, krill, schooling fish and squid. Today we were lucky enough to see them feeding at the surface!  While we stayed in one spot, the sei whales opened their enormous mouths at the surface and we could even see their baleen and the throat grooves that they expand while feeding. As we watched a trio of sei whales feed, we could see at least 2 more other groups of sei whales feeding nearby, all charging around at the surface!

Feeding sei whale with expanded throat grooves

Feeding sei whale with expanded throat grooves

Sei whale feeding (upper jaw and baleen are to the right, throat is to the left)

Sei whale feeding (upper jaw and baleen are to the right, throat is to the left)

Sei whale flipper

Sei whale flipper

The distinctive fin of a sei whale

The distinctive fin of a sei whale

We cruised out to yet another sei whale sighting, and also had a very rare sighting – a North Atlantic right whale!  These critically-endangered whales feed on the same prey as sei whales, so it makes sense that this whale was in this area. But with less than 500 of this species remaining in the world, it was still a big surprise.
As we looked around, we could see even more blows and got a couple more looks at sei whales before we headed home. The seabird life was plentiful today, too, with a number of adult and juvenile northern gannets, and even some phalaropes!  It’s hard to estimate the number of whales we saw today, as they were moving around so much. We probably saw the same whales multiple times. But there appeared to be at least a dozen sei whales in the area, along with at least one (but probably more) fin whales and that very special North Atlantic right whale.
We have trips scheduled for the rest of the weekend, and the forecast looks great for tomorrow. Come join us!
Congratulations to Fhabian on winning our whale adoption drawing today – enjoy your whale!  And welcome to the 2017 Blue Ocean Society interns, several of whom joined us for today’s trip!

May 21, 2017

What a gorgeous day!  Everything was in bloom as I drove to the harbor and there were reports of whales out on Jeffreys Ledge.  We started with the tall signature blow of a finback whale just a few miles past the Isles of Shoals.  This whale was staying down for 5+ minute dives and traveling quite a bit between breaths.  As we waited for the whale to come back up we had a second finback surface in the distance.  We quickly decided to head farther east to where we had reports of more animals.  There were so many birds out there today!  We had Northern Gannets all over the place.  These pelagic birds are just awesome to see as they cruise up 60′ or 70′ and then dive down into the ocean to feed on fish.Northern Gannet

Next up we had the shorter blow of a humpback whale.  This turned out to be a  a rather familiar humpback, HWC #0050.  Most of our humpbacks have names, but not this one…just a number.  This was the 50th whale entered into the Gulf of Maine humpback whale catalog and was 1st seen in 1976…making #0050 at least 41 years old.  We see this whale regularly on Jeffrey’s Ledge and frequently in the early part of the season.

0050

Again this whale was making repetitive dives and traveling a bit while down.  We did have one surfacing where we could really appreciate the pectoral flippers glowing green through the phytoplankton in the water.

See the glowing flippers?

See the glowing flippers?

We had a 2nd humpback fluke up in the distance while we watched #0050.  Eventually we headed a bit south and met up with a widely dispersed pod of Atlantic White sided Dolphins traveling with another finback whale.  Dolphins are always a treat and to have them associated with a finback whale was even better!  I failed to get a good picture of them surfacing in association with the fin whale:(

IMG_0062IMG_0063 IMG_0064We did have a nice close surfacing where we could see the white lower jaw of the finback glowing green through the water.  We eventually had to turn back towards Rye and home.  The trip back was great as we cruised by the Isles of Shoals.  3 species of whales today and fantastic conditions.  The season is in full swing.  We go out Saturday, Sunday and Monday of Memorial Day weekend….come join us…and Mason (the boat golden:)

Mason!

Mason!

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May 20, 2017

Whale watch season is finally here! After a long awaited 7 months, we got the most beautiful day out on the water. The seas were calm and clear, then sun was out and so were the whales!

We started our trip with a familiar humpback whale, #0050, who we’ve seen the last few summers. It was swimming around taking short dives and popped up right next to our bow at one point giving us some fantastics looks at the first humpback of the season! A minke also passed by us while we were waiting for #0050 to resurface.

#0050's fluke

#0050’s fluke

 

Sabot's fluke

Sabot’s fluke

Since there were several other blows in the area without even noticing, #0050 dove down and a different humpback whale came up. We ID’ed this whale as Sabot, a female first sighted in 1990. We hung out with Sabot for a little bit and then ventured off to two tall blows in the distance belonging to some finback whales.

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Crow in the back, #0354 up front

This pair was #0354 and Crow! They stuck together for as long as we watched them. Although fin whales are solitary animals sometimes they partner up for some cooperative feeding. There was another fin whale in the distance but unfortunately we didn’t get an ID.

At the end we saw 2 humpback whales, 3 fin whales and a couple of minkes. Not a bad start to the season! We hope to see you on the Atlantic Queen this summer!

 

May 12, 2017

We have arrived back in Rye Harbor after a long winter of maintenance and updates on the Atlantic Queen II.  We have completed our U.S. Coast Guard inspections and are now good to go for our opening day of whale watching on Saturday May 20th. Word from the local fishermen is that the whales are out front in large numbers. Let’s hope that is a sign of a great season to come! We will be running whale watches on Saturdays and Sundays (plus Monday May 29, Memorial Day) at 1:30 pm. Daily trips begin on June 10 at 1:30 pm. You can call ouroffice for reservations at 603-964-5220 or book online thru this site!