Wednesday, July 15, 2020

July 13-15, 2020

The continuous wacky weather only gave us whale watching windows on Monday and Tuesday morning. Such calm seas provided a pristine backdrop for spotting marine life on Monday morning. Harbor seals and harbor porpoise could be seen around us soon after leaving the harbor. Our first stop of the day was quite a special treat. A sea turtle; the first of the season! With a little patience we got some decent looks at a leatherback sea turtle!
Leatherback turtle!
As we continued out towards Jeffreys Ledge, and throughout the day, we saw a total of three minke whales and three ocean sunfish.
Minke whale
Ocean sunfish
We then were treated to three resting humpback whales. Pinball, Spoon and Bayou were mostly napping though we did see an occasional tail flick, roll, and tail breach from these whales. On top of an already abundant list of sightings, these three whales were surrounded by a small pod of Atlantic white-sided dolphins being equally as mellow swimming around the trio.
Humpback whale
Tug and barge passing by the dolphins and humpback whales
Atlantic white-sided dolphins nearby humpback whales
As we ventured back offshore on Tuesday morning the expected wind was arriving earlier than planned. Whales still need to breathe so the wind and waves appeared to be of no notice to them. We came across Pinball, whom was traveling straight towards a pair of humpback whales. Soon enough Bayou, Spoon and Pinball were together again and still with dolphins, just as they all were yesterday! The humpback whales were mellow and the Atlantic white-sided dolphins surfed down the waves as they all remained associated together.
Humpback whale dorsal fin and dolphin dorsal fin
Humpback whale flipper
Leaping Atlantic white-sided dolphin
Diving whale

Sunday, July 12, 2020

July 11-12, 2020

The strong winds from tropical storm Fay provided the necessary energy for the wave action to build and remain throughout the weekend. No trips were run on either Saturday or Sunday. We'll be back out on Monday to resume our whale watching schedule. See you then!

Friday, July 10, 2020

July 9-10, 2020

Thursday morning, the fog was pretty thick.  We sailed into the mystic (any Van Morrison fans out there?) with less than a tenth of a mile of visibility. Fog makes our job really tough. We find whales by sight, not by electronics, so having blinders on pretty much negates our chances of finding a whale. However, we are professionals and we know that the fog comes and goes. We started our trip by heading to where we saw whales on our last trip (Tuesday morning). Magically, a whale appeared in a very small clearing. If we have been there 30 seconds before or after, we wouldn’t have seen our old friend Pinball, the humpback whale! Pinball has been hanging around since last weekend, but has also been moving around the Ledge quite a bit!  

Humpback whale spouting, blowholes wide open

Humpback whale, Pinball
As we followed her around, a couple minke whales also popped up, but rarely surfaced for more than one breath at a time. A fin whale then came into the area and gave us great looks before disappearing into the fog.  
Fin whale diving
Harbor seals were plentiful even though we were miles from the nearest haulout. An ocean sunfish was quite cooperative allowing us to show it off to both sides of the boat! Ocean sunfish are the largest species of bony fish, weighing in at over 2000 pounds, but we tend to only get the young ones in our area. This fish was probably around 4 feet or so in diameter!   
Ocean Sunfish
On our way in, we spotted a huge grey seal! Grey seals are much larger (and more aggressive) than the more common harbor seals.
Grey Seal
Thursday afternoon, we started out with some visibility. We could even see the Isles of Shoals from the harbor (about 6 miles away). But as we passed the Shoals, we saw the looming fog bank in the distance. Our visibility was one again reduced to less than two tenths of a mile. We were in touch with another whale watching boat that said they had a nice pocked of visibility just a few miles from our location, so we headed there. We were able to break on through to the other side of the fog bank (any Doors fans out there?)  and soon spotted a couple of minke whales as well as a humpback whale! Pinball was still in the area, although several miles from where we found her in the morning. Pinball made a couple of close approaches to our boat, and at one point even swam underneath our bow! Incredible! 
Pinball diving

Pinball spouting- white flippers visible
A fin whale was seen in the distance but when we went to investigate, it was gone. We spotted another fin whale and minke whale on our trip back home, but these whales were less than cooperative.

Friday morning, we left the dock with the Isles of Shoals in view ahead of us. Yet as we approached them, they disappeared in the fog yet again!  We pressed on, heading to the general area where whales had been seen recently. Looking around the area with only a few tenths of a mile visibility, we saw nothing. But as we were getting ready to leave, our deckhand Matt spotted a blow nearby. We searched and searched and only caught a quick glimpse of a minke whale. At the same time, we saw a humpback whale diving off in the distance. We cruised over to that area and waited for over 10 minutes. The humpback did not reappear, and the fog was closing in again.  Zigzagging in a search pattern, we covered a lot of ocean, but it took a long while before our captain spotted a blow close by.  Pinball, the humpback whale was still in the area!! She dove and that was the last we saw of her. One quick look at her tail slipping beneath the waves, but for many, that is all they hope to see.  
One quick look at Pinball
The fog then cleared and a sharp eyed guest on the bow spotted what was likely a minke whale on our way home, but the minkes have been increasingly evasive and we were unable to relocate it.

Friday afternoon, the fog rolled right back in again.  I felt like we were living in a parallel world to the movie Groundhog Day, where every trip starts off the same. We cut through the Isles of Shoals on our way out to the Ledge, but no one could have known that we were less than a half mile from these islands as the fog was still very thick.  (Well, unless you had a good nose as those islands are home to hundreds if not thousands of nesting birds…) Two other whale watching boats were scouring the area where the whales had been the past few days with no luck, but of course the visibility conditions didn’t help. Who knows, we could have been surrounded by whales but just couldn’t see them. Unlike our recent other trips, the fog never cleared for us this afternoon. We briefly spotted a minke whale on our way home and tried hard to get a couple more looks at it, but Mother Nature had other things in mind.

Tropical Storm Fay is now looming at our doorstep so it looks like we may be taking a day or so off from searching for whales, but hopefully this oceanic disturbance will stir things up and bring us some better weather patterns to allow for us to find the whales again!

Thursday, July 9, 2020

July 6-8, 2020

On Monday morning we found Pinball the humpback whale. She was constantly darting around and spending a good amount of time under the water but we eventually got some great looks at her.
On our journey offshore in the afternoon we crossed paths with a small pod of Atlantic white-sided dolphins. These toothed whales were darting back and forth at a quick-action pace!
Atlantic white-sided dolphin
Offshore we spent some time with Pinball and even checked out a minke whale circling around.
Pinball (above and below)

Minke whale
Tuesday morning we had a crisp horizon but that was likely due to the increasing winds and seas we were experiencing. We saw minke whales, Pinball the humpback whale, a small pod of Atlantic white-sided dolphins and a newcomer for the season: Ravine the humpback whale!
Diving humpback whale
Pinball at the surface
We stayed tied to the dock Tuesday afternoon due to the high winds and waves. Mother Nature's offshore conditions also kept us on land on Wednesday.

Sunday, July 5, 2020

July 4-5, 2020

The weather and whales were finally on the same page to start off the 4th of July weekend. On Saturday morning's trip we saw 4 minke whales and a very familiar friend. Pinball the humpback whale has returned for another season! What a great start to the weekend.
Pinball (above and below)

During the afternoon trip we briefly saw a basking shark before finding a pair of fin whales.
Basking shark fin
The fin whales were not moving quickly through the water allowing for some phenomenal looks at two of the second largest animals on earth!
Our pair of fin whales synchronizing their movements (above and below)

Throughout our travels we also saw 3 minke whales and ended the holiday with Pinball once again.
On Sunday, the weather reminded us of the fun we have had with fog so far this season as we had varying levels of it all day long. We are very thankful to our fishing friends. After repeated relocation efforts, close communications with fishermen and a LOT of patience we finally found Pinball!
Hello again Pinball!
Pinball diving in the fog
Our luck continued because what seemingly felt like out of nowhere a pod of approximately 25 Atlantic white-sided dolphins were launching themselves through the water and fog. Our first sighting of these toothed whales for the 2020 season!
Leaping dolphins!
Atlantic white-sided dolphin
The fog slightly dissipated this afternoon and Pinball was nowhere to be seen. Instead we found a fin whale. One turned into two, then three and within just minutes we had four fin whales all converging on the same area! Not only were these whales moving every which way around each other they were occasionally lunging through the water and even left some digested 'clouds' at the surface!
Whale watching with our friends on the Captain's Lady III while a fin whale lunges through the water
Fin whales
Fin whale poop!

Friday, July 3, 2020

July 2, 2020

Thursday’s morning trip was all about fin whales and fog. We started out in foggy conditions, knowing the forecast for the day was for it to burn off early.  We got to an area where we had whales on Wednesday’s trip and magically there was visibility there! However, we didn’t find any whales there and then the fog rolled back in.  We pressed on to find another area where the fog wasn’t as thick and found 2 fin whales, one of which we tried to spend time with. The other disappeared quickly. The first was taking short dives of only 5 minutes, but then just as soon as we found it, we lost it as the fog came back yet again. Our trip home was mostly fog-free and we found another fin whale to end the trip.

Fin whale
Fin whale spout

 Thursday afternoon, our new intern Rachel found the whales!  We started with a pair of fin whales that quickly split up. One of the pair surfaced right next to our boat with its mouth full of fish and water! This was an incredible look at a beautiful creature!  Two other fin whales were in the immediate area as well. Although the whales were moving around quite a bit, we only got photos of the same whale over and over 😊  
Fin whale

Cool fin whale marking!
We had seen some spouts further offshore, so we went to investigate. There we found a sleeping fin whale!  Whales don’t really sleep, but just rest- shutting down half of their brain at a time. During this resting phase, they move very slowly at the surface, taking a breath every minute or two. With our good lighting, we were able to keep track of the whale just below the surface between breaths. This was really a special experience!

Sleeping fin whale

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

June 29-30 and July 1, 2020

The weather kept us land-bound at the start of the week with no trips on Monday or Tuesday. Wednesday we were 'thrilled' to see the fog monster had returned as we ventured out on our morning trip. But weren't we giddy to see the fog dissipate earlier than expected finding ourselves surrounded by a slight swell but otherwise calm seas. On our morning trip on Wednesday we first found a basking shark followed by an ocean sunfish. Not whales but our first sightings of these marine creatures for our 2020 season!
Basking shark dorsal fin
Ocean sunfish (above and below)

Once on Jeffreys Ledge we found an old friend, Crow the fin whale! This whale was first sighting in 1998. Welcome back friend.
The afternoon trip we check out another region of the Jeffreys Ledge area. This time we came across a different fin whale. This whale was staying close by, filtering occasionally at the surface and providing nice looks at this massive creature.