Our fifth day traveling was the big excursion day which all of us had been looking forward to for weeks – day five was Whale Watch Day. As you probably know, the Bay of Fundy is the Summer home of many of the major whale species. They are attracted by the amazingly fertile waters of the Bay and spend all Summer fattening up for the long winter spent in the comparatively deserted waters of the Caribbean. After a freezing night in the Ice Shed (our new cabin) we set off bright and early in order to make the 10:30 ferry to Tiverton. I mentioned this in an earlier post, but Nova Scotia is in the Atlantic timezone which is one hour ahead of Eastern time. When booking our Whale Watch Lisa called ahead and asked about travel time from Annapolis Royal and when they recommended that we leave. The nice woman said that if we leave at 9:30 we would have no troubles making the 11:30 ferry. Lisa then translated the ferry time in her mind to our local time of 10:30 and that was what she remembered by the time the trip actually rolled around. I think you’ll see where I’m going with this. So being who we are, we left the campground at around 9, hit the ATM, and were well down the road by our recommended departure time of 9:30. Nervously watching the clock we slowly realized that there was no way we would make a 10:30 ferry. The clincher being when we made the last turn at 10:15 and saw that we had 40 more kilometers to go! The cell phone was back at the cabin and now we are set up to miss our major outing because we were late! Finally, we made it to the ferry launch and sadly saw the ferry on the other side of the channel. I hiked up to a little restaurant to make a call over to see if we could salvage the day and was politely informed that we were scheduled on the 12:30 excursion and still had a little under 2 hours to departure. Ahem, well thank you… Pictured at left is Piper and I waiting for the 11:30 ferry (first in line!!).
In reality, this particular ferry runs at the bottom of the hour or whenever there are a enough cars lined up to make it worth the trip. Since it was busy, the 11:30 ferry was more like 10:50 so we ended up cooling our heels at the whale watch departure point. We were so early I think we were making our guide nervous, so we took a short walk, ate lunch, and stopped drinking water (for reasons that will shortly be obvious). Lisa and Piper are shown here waiting on the bench outside the office. This is a rare picture of Piper actually wearing shoes, which ended up being exchanged for her rain boots shortly before departure.
About at half hour before we left we started getting suited up for the trip. Piper is shown at left wearing full rain gear and life preserver. Adults were given floater suits to protect against the freezing temperatures of the Bay. Apparently they dimply do not make similar suits in child sizes. This disturbed me a little since if the adults needed suits kids must too. Either way we were all dressed up and looking remarkably like orange pumpkins. Lisa and I drew from our experiences on previous whale watches and with Lake Superior and had bundled up expecting 50 degree weather out on the water (we were stripping like crazy a half hour later).
When boarding time finally came, without really thinking, I snatched up Piper and carried her onto the boat. She’s not as light as she used to be, and for a few moments I was concerned that I may not be able to safely carry her into a rocking boat from an elevated launch. Happily there were no stumbles – I’m not sure I could do the same thing with her next year.
It didn’t take long for the nine passengers and our guide to board and soon we were on our way and clutching the ropes attached to the zodiac. The bay was calm but the 1 1/2 to 2 foot waves really gave you a pounding when the boat caught one in the wrong way. Lisa was knocked nearly flat once when she lost her balance. Piper loved it – she stood right in the bow with her face in the wind. Captain Ahab would have been proud, albeit confused as to why we’re only looking at the whales. Darting around in the zodiac chasing whales was far preferable to standing still waiting for them. Poor Lisa had troubles with her motion sickness when we drifted, but it was worth it to see the whales in a small boat.
Many things have been written to describe whales: majestic, magnificent, awesome, etc. I’ll settle for humbling. We took a ton of pictures, but they all pretty much fall into two categories: tails and backs. We weren’t lucky enough to see any of the animals breaching or raising their flukes, but they were feeding heavily. We got close enough to smell the whale breath – which is VERY rank indeed. Altogether we saw two singleton Humpbacks, two sets of Humpback mothers with their calves, and two Minke whales. You can react so much quicker with a zodiac than a big tour boat and unlike a bigger boat you’re never really in a bad position to see. The small boat experience is a far more intimate. For one thing you can talk directly to your Captain and another there is only a dozen or so other people in the boat with you. Being low enough to actually touch the water gives a unique perspective to everything.
We saw some of the other inhabitants of the Bay of Fundy on the trip. We were especially hoping to see some puffins and we were not disappointed. They were common enough far out in the Bay, but we saw very few closer to shore. They were fearless of the boat and came quite close at times. We spent three hours on the bay and I wouldn’t have wanted to spend too much more than that. Both Lisa and I were worn out when we made our way back to the dock.
The last stop of the tour was a peninsula where seals were known to hang out. They were very curious about us and played games with the boat. They were popping up like groundhogs and then diving underneath again. Piper thought it was very funny – she obviously shared their sense of humor.
Both too soon and not soon enough we were back on dry land. Pictured at right is our faithful and trusty steed. She really wasn’t that much bigger than the ones zipping around on small inland lakes. Although the information our our tour’s website says that most people actually have less trouble with motion sickness on the smaller boats I’d still be careful if your susceptible. Piper and I are relatively immune to sea-sickness but even we were a little queasy when we were drifting. Its also a pretty rough ride – though to be fair we were sitting right in the front. The people towards the back didn’t get nearly the rattling that we did. Other than that it is so, so, worth it. We had so much fun and it is an adventure I’m sure that we will remember for many years to come.