Yankee Fleet's knowledgeable naturalists narrate the tour with nuggets of whale wisdom, and on-board whale researchers are available to answer one-on-one questions. While eyes are sure to be filled with majestic sightings of mammalian sea beasts (if you don't see one, your next trip is free), the body's fellow senses won't be forgotten. Passengers may have the opportunity to listen to whale sounds, touch whale artifacts, help capture plankton, analyze water visibility, and measure how far away whales are by counting the seconds between their lightning flashes.
While the 90-foot long Thomas E. Lannon schooner boasts many impressive characteristics?including a 64.5-foot deck, a spacious 18-foot beam, and a resemblance to a 1903 sword-fishing schooner?none of them rivals the story of how the vessel got its name.
Before the ship was built in 1997, owner Tom Ellis was visiting his relatives in Newfoundland when he overheard them reciting stories of his grandfather Thomas Lannon, who had fished the Gloucester coastline for more than 40 years. On one particularly stormy day in 1908, Lannon and five other men set out into the waters off Nauset aboard two dories and rescued the crew of the capsized schooner Eric amid 70-mph winds. Each of the rescuers received the eternal admiration of the rescued men and a medal from the Massachusetts Humane Society, which Ellis possesses to this day.
More than a century later, the crew of the Thomas E. Lannon keeps its namesake's love of the sea alive by chartering an array of sailing voyages that have attracted more than 100,000 passengers to date. After helping raise the sails at the voyage?s start, passengers capture vivid views of Gloucester harbor's lighthouses, castles, and beaches.
Since 1979, the whale-watching pioneers of Cape Ann Whale Watch have escorted more than half a million spectators fascinated by the sea's magnificent leviathans on three- to four-hour treks 15 miles off the Gloucester coast, earning it a spot on the Top 5 American Whale-Watching Tours by Joshua Horwitz, author of War of the Whales. Aboard the lightning-fast 115-foot Hurricane II, passengers can witness the natural grace of humpback whales, finback whales, dolphins, and pirates disguised as mermaids feeding and frolicking just feet from the boat. In the course of the approximately 30-mile circuit, a naturalist from Whale Cetacean Alliance narrates excursions, illumining the sight of each water dweller by discussing why whales breach, how to recognize individual humpbacks, and various feeding styles.
As many as 15 species of whales populate the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary. The mission of 7 Seas Whale Watch is to bring passengers within eyeshot of these enormous sea creatures as they thrash about, breaking the water's surface with their enormous heft and diving gracefully back below.
Seven of the species that populate the area are defined as great whales, which means they reach 30-feet at full growth. So while the tours spend 90 minutes in the whales' feeding area, customers might spot humpback whales, finback whales, minke whales, and even Atlantic white-sided dolphins. As the whales appear, grandiose and graceful, an on-staff naturalist describes the different species and their behaviors. Though whale sightings are never guaranteed?the whales are wild and act entirely on their own whims, much like tenured philosophy professors?7 Seas boasts a 99% success rate for spotting whales, and they offer free rain checks if whales don't appear.
Customers scan the seas from the sun decks or heated cabins of The Privateer IV, a Coast Guard?certified boat with modern accommodations. The boat was built to accommodate 300 passengers, though 7 Seas' trips top out at 149 passengers to ensure space, comfort, and a good view.
When the Ice Age ended more than 15,000 years ago, melting glaciers created the saltwater estuary that today sustains the Essex River’s myriad boaters, clammers, and fisherman. Amid this naturally beautiful backdrop, Essex River Cruises and Charters floats its two handsome spectator vessels, the Essex River Queen I and the Essex River Queen II. Guides lead daily, narrated cruises through the estuary, navigating the protected waters and pointing out the various local flora and fauna of the salt marsh.
Cruises embark daily from May to October and also include weekend cruises accompanied by coffee and muffins, during which passengers are serenaded by the plaintive cries of pelicans begging for the love of a good man. The fleet is also available for group tours and charters for up to 100 passengers at a time, and the staff caters signature clambakes and other events along the tidal beach. The cruise-curators even make big days memorable, transporting wedding parties to any of the many secluded tidal beaches in Essex Bay for ceremonies or receptions.
Capt. Bill and Sons Whale Watch started more than 50 years ago, but the late Captain Bill Cunningham can't take full credit for his business' creation. In many ways, the whales themselves founded the company, though they still made Bill do all of the paperwork. Capt. Bill and Sons originally chartered deep sea fishing trips, but the anglers would often get distracted when a humpback or minke whale breached the surface. Seeing how the majestic mammals awed his passengers, the company decided to stow its fishing rods and set out on whale-watching tours instead.
Today, the Capt. Bill and Sons team?which includes son Marc?welcome whale-watchers aboard their two-tiered ship, the Miss Cape Ann. Once they head out into the water, the experts share tips on spotting whales and insights into the animals' behavior, biology, and social structure. Passengers should look sharp for other species as well, as the waters around Stellwagen Bank and Jeffreys Ledge are also home to Atlantic white-sided dolphins and harbor seals.