Seeing and photographing sharks is pretty high up on my bucket list, so when two reports of a 20-foot basking shark came out of Boothbay Harbor last week, I was excited to get on a boat. My husband and I braved the morning rain on Friday, hoping that as forecast, the precipitation would clear out by the time our afternoon cruise left the harbor. Almost -- we did sit in light drizzle when we first boarded. However, we were soon air-dried as we picked up speed once clear of the harbor.
There was a lot of chop, and I was told by our marine biologist/narrator, Dominique, that the odds of seeing a basking shark were not good. These sharks like to cruise the surface on calm, sunny days. The ride aboard Cap'n Fish's Harbor Princess was exciting in its own right, however. The boat would dip down into deep trenches and rise again on the next big wave. It's a sturdy boat and Captain Steve looked like he knew what he was doing, so I wasn't nervous. Some passengers were whooping it up every time the boat bucked, but I suspect it was more for fun than from any anxiety.
Various members of the tour group spotted seals and dolphins on our way out to the deeper feeding grounds where big whales might be found. We also passed scenic light houses, and observed with some awe an illusion creating "mountains" out of clouds along the horizon.
We were in luck, as a pair of humpback whales decided to stay near the boat, coming up for air every three-to-five minutes and then treating us to a wave, a spy hop, or a fluke before diving again. A third whale was seen some distance off the starboard side toward the end of our visit, but then our pair of nearby whales decided to swim under the bow of our boat and appear directly beside it, so we stayed put to get more photos!
The ride back to Boothbay Harbor was calmer, but no less scenic. There were seal and dolphin sightings, light houses, and as we neared the harbor, plenty of colorful boats, lobster traps, and historic buildings along the shore to admire and photograph.
I'm sad that I didn't see a shark (I had seen a blue shark on a previous whale watch tour out of this area). That said, spending time with playful humpbacks is great fun, too! While some of my shots are blurry (let's blame the choppy seas), I managed to get a few fluke shots that may help Dominique identify which whales graced us with a visit, which will be interesting.
And really, if I manage to cross sharks off my bucket list, what excuse will I have to run off to sea now and then?
UPDATE on July 10: I've heard back from the marine biologists at Cap'n Fish's, who said: The whale on the left [with the black dot on it's fluke] is named Owl. She was born in 1986 and her mother's name is Falco. She has since had at least 4 calves of her own! The whale on the right [black fluke with white edging] is named Ravine. She is a whale that we've seen here in previous years! Two years ago, she let us watch her calf! Glad to know she's returned.