Something I was looking forward to when in this area was taking a unique whale watching tour that uses zodiac boats and goes out of nearby Tiverton, Long Island. Ocean Explorations is run by a biologist who’s been guiding whale watching tours for 20+ years. We signed up to go out on the first day that showed a clear weather forecast.
Getting to Tiverton meant about an hour and fifteen-minute drive past Digby, down the length of Digby Neck, plus a four-minute ferry to cross over to Long Island. The ferry is available only on the half hour so we had to time it appropriately.
We signed up for their 12:30 tour, which was their first tour of the day. But we took off in the early part of the morning in order to take our time driving over, and also to make an early ferry. We always plan to take an earlier ferry than the one that gets us to our destination in time, just in case there are any issues with the ferry.
Then we took the ferry over to Long Island across a small channel called Petit Passage that has really treacherous currents. They are so strong that you can clearly see them swirling impressively. The ferry ride however was over pretty quickly,. And as we arrived at our destination we noticed that it was still foggy.
But off we went to prepare for the whale watching tour. That morning when I checked, the forecast predicted a “light fog” which would clear by afternoon. So I was still somewhat hopeful, although by now I’ve learned (or should have learned) that weather changes quickly around here.
The thing about fog is that just because you can see some immediately around you doesn’t mean that it’s foggy throughout the area. There can be patches/bands of fog interspersed with clear areas. So Tom headed out to see if we could find a clear area. The whales are not impossible to find in the fog, but it’s more challenging to do so.
I will say that riding in the zodiac is really a unique experience. It’s quite a seaworthy boat (used as a rescue boat by the Coast Guard), and this one had twin four-stroke engines so it was really pretty quiet.
Going into the fog is very cool, it’s like flying into a cloud but without the plane around you and you get totally wet (recommend taking a sunglass cloth if doing this).
After cruising around for a while, Tom explained that he was going to change route because it was still very foggy, so we wound up making a very long loop. Heading across the Bay of Fundy almost to New Brunswick and then out towards where the Bay opens to the Atlantic.
Now, the zodiac ride is cool, but if you’re cruising for several hours it’s not a comfortable ride. You’re sitting on the side, hanging on to some rope and if it gets choppy at all, as it did as we approached more open water, it’s a knee crusher.
We spotted some harbor porpoises and stopped briefly, then continued. After a little while we spotted a gray seal and then another. These are really cool seals, larger than harbor seals, and with a longer and rather adorable nose.
Although not common this far south, we saw some Atlantic Puffins. They are making a bit of a comeback and they are so adorable.
After about two hours, no whales and I was getting tired. Then Tom got some news on the radio about humpback whales, but we had to wait because they allow only two boats at a time to get anywhere near the whales. It was getting late and almost time to head back but we finally got the go ahead to go out to see the humpback whales.
Then just as we headed out towards the humpbacks, a minke whale swam by the bow of the boat. These are the second smallest of the baleen whales measuring from 25 – 35 feet, and they don’t usually show their tails, so you can lose sight of them quickly. But we saw it swim by a few times.
Then, we got to the humpback whales. You’re supposed to stay 100 feet away from them, but, if they come to you, that is ok. Well, they were swimming away from us. Darn! I had been dreaming of having one breach right in front of me. It was not to be. But we did get to see them dive through the fog.
Humpbacks are majestic. With life spans of 45 – 100 years, mature whales measure from 45 – 55 feet long (calves are 20 feet at birth) and weigh from 30 to 40 tons. The absolute definition of awesome.They also have famously bad breath. We got close enough once to smell the “whale’s breath” when the whale blows just before diving. Yuk.
Unfortunately, we had to turn around because we’d gone so far that Tom was already running a bit late getting to back for the next tour. But, although it took a while to find them, we got a really nice sighting of the whales towards the end.
We arrived back at the dock and it seemed as if the fog was clearing a bit. So I think that the next group was going to fare better, good for them. I just adore whales and cannot get enough of them. And, happily, we had a number of firsts on this trip, first minke whale, first gray seals, first zodiac ride, first puffins (in this area) and first time cruising into the fog. Quite an experience, really.