While waiting for a group of tour participants aboard his kayak on Cape Island Creek, Bob Lubberman made a new acquaintance when a 4-foot great blue heron landed on the nose of his boat. It's not an entirely new experience for the owner of Miss Chris Kayak Rentals and Tours, as opportunities to commune with nature came often as he crabbed and fished as a child from his grandmother's dock. Now he's able to connect visitors to this ecosystem as they independently paddle rented sit-on-top kayaks or as they participate in guided kayak or boat tours.
Paddlers on kayak tours often catch close-ups of ospreys, terns, and other birds, and see diamondback terrapin turtles sunning themselves on the shore or trying to hold their own ice-cream cones. Day and sunset tours let guests explore the wildlife-rich salt marshes, and night tours led during high tide let them paddle over grassy terrain to otherwise inaccessible areas. Guests explore similar territory on tours aboard the Osprey as they watch migrating shore birds or look out on the harbor's historic buildings. Kayak tour guides include an associate naturalist and a Cape May Bird Observatory field associate, and land-based staffers maintain a touch tank on the Miss Chris mooring dock, which they temporarily fill with conches, eels, and other sea life pulled up using open-sided conservation traps.
In 2012, after more than two decades studying marine mammals off the New Jersey coast, the founders of the Cape May Whale Watch & Research Center welcomed the American Star into port. The whale-watching vessel journeyed more than 2,700 nautical miles from Seward, Alaska to Cape May, allowing the Research Center to expand its private-exploration and public-sightseeing operations.
Today, the Research Center’s captains and guides effectively welcome up to 150 passengers onto the research team, relaying the basics of wildlife scouting before boogying into Poseidon's ballroom to scope out dolphins, whales, and birds around the island of Cape May. An enclosed, climate-controlled cabin keeps passengers comfortable during misty weather, and multiple, spacious sundecks allow for up-close views of migrating whale pods. On-board sonar, radar, cameras, and GPS capabilities facilitate up-close, unobtrusive sightings of nature in action.
Equipped with GPS, radar, and electronic fish-finding technology, you wouldn't think the Capt. Robbins is more than 60 years old. Rainbow Deep Sea Fishing's captain Victor Hartley purchased the storied vessel in 2011 and refurbished it the next year. The acquisition was a homecoming of sorts, as Hartley once worked on the ship as a child. Today, the Capt. Robbins ferries up to 125 passengers on fishing trips off the shores of New Jersey.
Tony Hoffman, a United States Coast Guard licensed captain, brings more than 35 years of fishing experience to his charter boat company. During guided fishing trips, he escorts groups out on the back bays and instructs them in the basics of fishing using on-board rods. The action takes place on the Family Fisherman, a 40-foot pontoon boat equipped with an open-air deck, a state-of-the-art stereo system, and the busts of famous bluefish. Passengers can cast a line at flounder, sea bass, and small sand sharks, enjoying views of the glistening New Jersey bays along the way.
Each morning, as the sun stretches skyward and begins to reflect on Chesapeake Bay, fishing crews from the Chesapeake Bay Sport Fishing start loading up vessels for full-day fishing excursions. They equip each of their guests with all of the necessary equipment, including rods, reels, bait, tackle, mermaid bottom halves, and licenses for landing trophy-size striped bass. The crew sails seven days each week, with an average of 6–10 passengers.