Friday, August 3, 2012

A Whale of a Tail

Bar Harbor, ME  Mount Desert Narrows Campground     High:  74  Low: 59

Do ya think that this sign in front of our rig was a subliminal suggestion for Sparky to book a whale watch tour?

It didn't take long for that sign to work its way into Sparky's conscious mind so today we went on a Bar Harbor whale watch tour with the Bar Harbor Company. We rode the Island Express propane fueled buses for free to get to Bar Harbor so we didn't have to worry about parking. It's really difficult to find parking in downtown Bar Harbor, you can only park for two hours in the day time and parking lot parking for the whale watch tour is 2.00 an hour, so this is the way to go. The tickets aren't cheap, it was 63.00 a person, no cheaper on the internet, they tack on a 4.50 handling charge to a 59.00 ticket price. So go ahead and book on the phone or stop by in person to get your tickets at the harbor. At any rate, it helped fuel her decision to go on a whale watch when she saw the whiteboard in front of the ticket office the other day where it had a recent whale-a-paloosa count of:

Here are a couple of whale watching tips culled from previous whale watch tours over the last couple of years.

1.) No matter how early you get in line for the tour and get a good seat on the boat, the people at the end of the line will eventually work their way to right where you are sitting and crowd the rail right in front of you. If you want to get a view at the rail, you'd better claim a position at the rail soon after the boat leaves the dock or be prepared to jockey your way into a viewing spot 45 minutes later.

2.) Seasoned whale watchers know that the tour boat usually turns itself as they spot whale activity so each side can get a view. If the naturalist says, "Whale at 10:00", and it's on the opposite side of the boat, the captain will turn the boat around so the OTHER side gets to see the whale activity if it's still happening. If you have a boat full of newbies, everybody dashes to other side if the whale isn't on their side. Captain says, "whale spotted at 3:00" everybody scurries over to the other side again. The first whale tour we went on, it was comical. (Sparky was right there with everybody else, changing sides, laughs E.) If it had been a little boat, the boat would have tipped precariously as the people switched from side to side to try and get a shot of the whales. It was HILARIOUS to see everyone make a mad dash from one side of the boat to the other as the captain called out sightings. Today's tour was an experienced bunch, everybody pretty much remained at the rail and didn't budge.

3.) Unless you are an experienced photographer, just set your camera to auto, put it in burst mode if you have one and wait for something to happen. Sparky has missed two breeches on other tours because she was too busy trying to focus a little point and shoot camera and guess where the whale would surface. And you can ALWAYS use a camera that never fails, your MIND. Etch that wonderful memory into your braincells and you'll always have it.  Hopefully! But Sparky needs a photo for backup, the way HER mind is going....

4.) If you want to keep your spot at the rail, it is almost impossible to hear the wonderful narration by a naturalist or whale scientist on the tour. Sparky missed all the great information about whales, types of whales and all kinds of neat facts, but many she had heard before and today she wanted to get a great shot, if possible.

Note: There are several whale watch tours to pick from, two are the same price but the focus is split between getting to see puffins and seals and whales or just go for the whales. Sparky picked WHALES ONLY to get the best bang for the buck.

Sparky decided to be smart today and not give up her position at the rail. Eldo was backup. It happened like she said. Right out of the dock, people started lining up at the rail. Sparky was in position. She planted her feet firmly and got ready to whale watch.  We got to the whale feeding grounds. Things started happening. WHERE did they start happening? On the OTHER side of the boat! First, a whale BREECH! arrrrrgggghhhhh! Sparky stayed put. Something will happen on her side of the boat for sure, soon.....And it did....whale tails.....One right after another....At least three in a row.....Not bad....

 What happened next? A big "OH-h-h-h--h-h!"  from the OTHER side of the boat. Another collective, "AHHHHH-H-H-H!" on the OTHER side of the boat. Sparky stayed put, but her feet itched to move....She didn't. What happened next? ANOTHER BREECH ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE BOAT!  That did it! Sparky had Eldo hold her position at the rail and she went to the other side to catch some of the action, she had missed it.....She saw white sided dolphins dance in the wake of the boat returning to her original position, but missed the camera shot. She missed the shot of the same dolphins just YARDS away from Eldo at the rail, swimming and diving and dancing as she was making her way back.  She missed the WHOPPER whale jump completely out of the water near a neighboring tour boat just as she climbed the steps to rejoin Eldo.  Eldo saw it, but he wasn't able to get a photo either. He said it was the BIGGEST splash he had ever seen! But she did see a whale give a little jump out in the distance with a pretty good smack! How about a lighthouse? Not quite as spectacular, but wonderful to see them. Not sure of the name of this one....

What was the grand total and activity today whether we saw it all or not?  Two whales that have been coming to the area since 1976, Gemini and Tusk, EIGHT humpback whales, some tail lobbing, and two breeches. Because Sparky missed the breeches A-GAIN, future whale watching tours in other locations will be forthcoming.....(Sigh....says a resigned E.)

Side Street Cafe
To cap off the day after getting off the boat, we found a really great little restaurant called the Side Street Cafe--voted best lobster roll and burgers in Bar Harbor two years in a row...There are MANY wonderful little cafes and boutiques on the side streets that shouldn't be missed, and this is one of them. It's off the beaten path, and that means not as long a wait to get served or get your food!

Sparky had a Reuben sandwich with sweet potato chips and it was wonderful! Eldo had lobster mac and cheese, and it was even more wonderful...the atmosphere of this place was really inviting. We ate out on the patio, but the interior decor was fresh, bright and colorful, and reminded us of the Florida Keys. We would definitely come back again to this outdoor cafe on Rodick Street in Bar Harbor.

I changed my little video (which didn't work) to a couple of shots of the humpback whale tails we saw on our trip. July seems to be a good month for whale watching. Sightings have been regular for the whale cruises down at the dock signboard.Wanted to preserve the memory for a blog book-to-print some way!


  1. Hate to tell you the slideshow didn't work :-))) We never tire of whale sightings; our best to date was on the way back to Kodiak a few years ago.

  2. Thanks for letting me know. I threw in photos of the unique tails so when I make the blog into my little, er, rather, BIG coffee table memory book (Blog to Print) the whale's tails will be in it! :-)

  3. Looks like a fun adventure, no matter what side of the boat you ended up on. Thanks for sharing!

    Karen and Steve
    (Our Blog) RVing: Small House... BIG Backyard

  4. Wonderful! I've seen whales in Monterey bay (CA) and they never cease to amaze me :)

  5. Oh goodness. . .I just hate that you missed seeing the whales breach. . .how far offshore does the boat hafta go before you start seeing action. . .is there anywhere onshore you could go. . .and get a shot?

  6. Isn't it ALWAYS the way?? Whatever side you choose they are on the other one. Well not for everyone obviously just for us of course. In Alaska, we decided to go in a small enough boat that we could see both sides. That worked. :-)

  7. Good info on whale watching. That and moose looking are on our list!