Foote Brothers Canoe and Kayak outfits canoers with the paddle-driven vessels they need to power across the surface of the Ipswich River, charting a downstream course through a wildlife sanctuary and the majestic Wenham wetlands. After a shuttle bus drops them off at Salem Road in Topsfield, up to four adventurers strap on lifejackets and step into a sturdy 15- or 17-foot Grumman canoe to commence their waterborne odyssey. Paddlers adjust to the natural rhythms of the wetlands surrounding them, lifting their oars in musical unison with the warbling birds and beat-boxing brown trout that populate the river’s forested wildlife sanctuary.
Amazing Grace Marina sits on Powder Mill Pond, a placid body of water that reflects the turning leaves of the surrounding forest and even the none-too-distant peak of Mt. Monadnock. A pond more in name than in scope, the water?which the marina's staff describes as "a sheet of blue glass"?spans almost 500 acres and encompasses islands, covered bridge overpasses, beaches, and secluded coves that bring kayakers up close to vegetation. The waters teem with fish like bass, trout, and pike, while white-tailed deer and black bears roam amid the trees. The Amazing Grace staff recommends taking the Contoocook River at the south end of the pond for the best chance at spotting land-based critters, as the banks lie close together and the animals are drawn to the fresh water.
Established by Captain Red Hilton in 1967, Newburyport Whale Watch was among the first seagoing outfits dedicated to whale watching in the Gulf of Maine. Passengers hop aboard a boat whose top speed gets them out to prime whale grounds quickly and dissuades punk dolphins from trying to start dangerous drag races. Staying abreast of current sightings, the cruises rarely fail to find some frolicking whales, often seeing humpbacks, minke whales, and even the occasional blue whale. During the tour, a naturalist from the Blue Ocean Society dispenses facts about the majestic mammals to curious guests. An onboard galley offers snacks, beer, and wine.
Captain William Webb bellowed to his crewmen, "Ready cannons, bring her to starboard!" as they rounded on the English ship Concord. He wasn't born a soldier, but the English had press-ganged some of his closest friends into slavery on their warships, stolen his family's livelihood, and set his home of Salem, Massachusetts, on the path to financial ruin. Like many other merchants, fishermen, and ship owners, Webb and his crew outfitted whatever boats they could find to fight the English during the War of 1812, and the 70-foot Fame was no exception. The original Fame went on 11 more journeys before being wrecked in 1814 and now lives on as a luxurious home for the retired actors of The Little Mermaid.
The Fame seen around Salem today is a direct replica of that heroic ship, built exactly as the original was in the early 19th century. Passengers on the ship's daily public sails relive the experience of navigating the Atlantic in an traditional, wooden, gaff-rigged schooner. The boat also plays host to weeklong camps, during which kids learn how to sail, tie essential knots, and read charts and maps before camping out for an evening of dumping tea in the ocean.
Mahi Mahi Harbor Cruises & Private Events was started in 2006 on a 55-foot sightseeing boat affectionately known as The Finback. Every day, she carries passengers on scenic tours through the North Shore. Bordered by Salem, Marblehead, Machester-by-the-Sea, Beverly, and the Misery Islands, the sound?s scenic shores are dotted with lighthouses, mansions, and greenery as verdant as a national Shrek convention. Narration helps passengers brush up on their local history as they nosh on fresh meals and sip tropical drinks from the onboard tiki bar. Larger groups can cruise the same waters on the company?s newly refurbished boat, The Hannah Glover, which accommodates up to 150 guests and boasts two bars.
Nashoba Paddler traverses the bends and twists of the mighty Nashua River and its tributaries, giving tourists a view of the wild from the safety of rental canoes and kayaks. Soak up some natural vitamin D and ripple the wave tattoos on your triceps during a full day of paddling in Old Town river vessels. Before shoving off onto the waterway, experienced guides can provide field guides, maps, and safety and paddling advice, as well as tips for fun routes and how to harmonize on wildlife motets. Then explorers can solemnly begin shoving paddles into the Nashua and floating through habitats ranging from woodsy bends to marshy areas replete with swans and herons eager to perform splish-splash acrobatics. Nashoba Paddler is open through June 20 on weekends and holidays from 9:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. and on weekdays by appointment.