True to its name, Portland Discovery helps visitors explore the scenic coastal town's majestic, rocky coastline with tours by boat or vintage trolley bus. These tours include cruises among the lobster boats and seabirds of Casco Bay that pass lighthouses and historic forts, and trips through downtown that highlight local landmarks.
Whale watching was a relatively new concept when John Fish's grandfather started giving tours. "We kind of originated it," Mr. Fish says. "Thirty years ago we were the only ones doing whale watching." As the company became more successful over the years, additional captains were brought on to cover the demand. Today, these crews continue to ferry groups into the habitats of several whale species, including humpback whales and sperm whales. Though the whales seen along Cap'n Fish's Whale Watch's journeys still breach and refuse to sign autographs, other things have changed over the years. Below deck, the current fleet's engines work to reduce emissions and provide a fume-free experience. Above deck, 360-degree viewing decks and modern technology help bring whales into sight. Onboard computers display large maps of where the aquatic mammals are known to swim, and GPS systems reroute boats around mermen constructing new reefs. In addition to illuminating the behavior of whales for passengers, the crew's wildlife experts point passengers toward other animals they spot along the way, such as white-sided dolphins and harbor seals. Though some variables are beyond their control, the crew members almost always spot whales and boasted a 98% success rate in 2009.
Al Gauron Deep Sea Fishing & Whale Watching’s three boats ferry up to 60 passengers out into the Atlantic’s cobalt waters during fishing excursions, and up to 150 while whale-watching. The fleet also escorts passengers across the ocean on evening fireworks cruises.
Al Gauron’s sea-seasoned team takes fishermen miles offshore on 2-, 4-, and 9-hour deep-sea fishing trips that have yielded fish up to 20 pounds in the past. Anglers have even been known to catch up to 100 mackerel on four-hour trips.
For close encounters with humpbacks, finbacks, minke whales, and giant sharks, the ships sail 25-30 miles offshore on four-hour whale-watching trips. The naturalist educates passengers on the whales, such as pod size and each whale’s sweater size, while promoting the appreciation, understanding and protection of marine life.
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.
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.
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.