Before I answer any questions the most important piece of advice I can give you is ASK QUESTIONS, visit the various tour companies, look at the boats and make an educated decision about the company you want to go whale watching with, and we hope you choose us, Quoddy Link Marine!
The first question I want to answer is...
Why a Catamaran?
I want to answer this question simply by telling you why I LOVE watching whales on the catamaran. I've done a lot of whale watching, on many different styles of boats and the catamaran is by far my favorite.
First, I love the flat platform. You can get up and walk around and move from side to side. This is important because the whales are not always on the same side of the boat! You could be watching a whale, travelling very cooperatively down the left side of the boat and then "he" can cross over and end up on the right (Yes, then can swim under the boat and no, they will not tip us over). There is lots of room and window space to freely move from side to side. Also, the seats run down the centre of the lower deck so when you move from side to side you are never looking over someones shoulder. The flat and stable platform is also so great to photograph from.
Second, I love that the windows open. You have to be able to really see these whales and not through a window. And one of the really neat parts of a whale watch that guests may not consider is if you can't open a window you can't hear or smell the whales! Whales breathe very loudly and on a calm day can be heard over a mile away! They also can have a very stinky breath (you may be thinking "ewwww, I don't want to smell that" but it's all part of the experience).
Third, the large upper deck. We can fit 30 passengers on our upper deck. It's a great view from the upper deck, a different perspective because you can look down into the water and sometimes see more of the whale than you could at the level of the lower deck. I recommend taking the time to experience both the upper and lower deck (I actually prefer to photograph from the lower deck). And new for 2011 the upper deck was expanded and there is a new foredeck if you want to be right in front and in the breeze!
And fourth, but certainly not the least important is the safety and stability that the catamaran offers. We have twin engines, so if anything were ever to happen we always have an extra to get us home. The cat has great speed and can get us to where the whales are fast. And last, the catamaran is so stable. Of course you can feel that we are on water, there is motion, but at 17 feet across and with twin-hulls that motion is definitely diminished (I can certainly feel the difference when I am on our power cruiser (used for charters) and then on our catamaran in the same day).
I may touch on some of the points that made here in some of the other FAQ's but I just wanted to share with you why I love watching whales on the Quoddy Link!
What kinds of whales will we see?
A very common question. What kinds, or species, of whales we will see will depend on many factors, including; the time of season, the weather and where your captain is willing to take you. The time of season is very important. In our section of the Bay of Fundy, typically minke whales are the first species to arrive (usually around mid-June), the finbacks are next (usually around the beginning of July) and then the humpbacks (usually around mid-August but sometimes as early as the beginning of July).
The weather, another factor we have no control over. Sometimes the weather may dictate where we go, if it's too windy or foggy we may not to be able to travel to the "offshore area", where we usually see the larger whales like finbacks and humpbacks. Minke whales are usually more common in the inshore, protected areas and when the weather is bad, the inshore area may remain calm and relatively warm. Please feel free to check on the weather forecast the evening before your trip but all trips aren't decided upon until about 30 minutes prior to departure.
The one factor we can control is where we choose to take our passengers. If the weather co-operates, and the season is right for larger whales, like finbacks and humpbacks, sometimes there is a choice where to go. There are many times when there are whales about 10 miles from St. Andrews and whales 16-20 miles from St. Andrews and at these times we may have the choice to stop and stay at the first whales we see......or go further. With Quoddy Link Marine, we always go further. I have worked with the company for 6 years now and I can't think of a time when John or Matt (our 2 captains) didn't choose to go the distance to show our passengers the larger whales. To tell you the truth, we want to see the finbacks and humpbacks as well. Our Scout Boat helps out here as well, scouting the further locations for us, so when we leave St. Andrews we may not even stop at the closer whales (they may be close but there is almost always too much boat traffic). If we can show our passengers finbacks and/or humpbacks over minke whales, we will try. We will also try to leave boat traffic behind, it's not the best viewing experience to have too many boats with the whales and more importantly, it's not good for the whales either.
Should we bring binoculars?
Yes, but binoculars are not great for watching whales, they are mainly used for looking at stationary objects like seals on rock and bald eagles in trees. We do use binoculars when looking for whales in the distance. When looking for whales we have to look for blows, or "spout", which can be seen from a few miles away on a clear day. The best advice we can give is bring your binoculars if you would like, but when we are watching whales, put them down and use your eyes, otherwise you will miss a lot of the experience.
Can we bring our camera?
OF COURSE! But when photographing whales, the best advice I can give is when we get there, put your camera down and just watch the whales, learn a bit of their behaviour, and don't spend the entire trip looking through your view finder or at your LCD screen, use your eyes, take in the experience. When on the boat I can offer some advice on photographing the whales as well.
What should we wear?Layers, layers, LAYERS. We can't stress this enough. Even if it's beautiful and warm on land in St. Andrews please bring warm layers (coat, pants, sweatshirt....hat and mittens even, it's cold on the open Bay of Fundy). There is no quicker way to ruin a trip then to be cold and we do have some blankets on board but please dress warmly. Also, sunscreen is essential, when on the water to get hit twice, once from the sun, and again from the reflection off the water.
Is there a bathroom on the boat?YES, there is a modern, electric washroom on the Quoddy Link.
Is there a snack bar on the boat?No, there is not a snack bar on the boat but feel free to bring along a lite snack, or even a small cooler. It is a good idea to at least bring along a bottle of water. Please, no alcohol, we are not licenced. We do provide free hot chocolate and a small taster, to give you a flavour of New Brunswick.
How many passengers are there on the boat? How many guides?
The Quoddy Link hold 47 passengers and 3 crew but actually there is room for over 60 passengers, the numbers are kept down for comfort and viewing. There is a large upper deck that can hold 2o people, seating runs down the middle of the boat so on the lower deck everyone can stand at the sides and have a clear view out an open window. It's essential that the windows open, to hear the whales and smell, yes...SMELL them, is all part of the experience. There is covered seating for 47, and the windows can be closed, so in case of rain, EVERYONE will stay dry.
There are 3 crew, 2 guide and 1 captain, aboard the Quoddy Link, all with first aid and all crew take a Marine Emergency Duties coarse.
Are young children and babies safe on the boat?
Definitely, the boat is fantastic for families. We do ask that all children are accompanied by an adult when on the upper deck, and on the stairs, at ALL times, and there is absolutely no running allowed on the boat. The Bay of Fundy is big and we must respect it, so please be safe. We do have first aid but we don't want to have to use it. If someone gets hurt we may be over an hour from port, so again, please be safe. As for infants, you are more than welcome for bring a stroller on the boat, there is plenty of room.
Do you go out in the rain...fog....etc?
Rain, yes, the whales are already wet, they don't care if it's raining. Fog....it depends. Some seasons the whales will set patterns and we can locate them relatively easy in the fog. Sometimes the fog will clear in areas where some whales are and sometimes it's just TOO foggy. Thunderstorms, NO. With all weather, our captain will make an informed decision (sometimes going out to check on the weather in the open Bay of Fundy with our Scout Boat) about 30 minutes prior to departure. The weather can change very quickly on the Bay of Fundy and it can also differ greatly from St. Andrews to where we have to go to see whales. Feel free to call the day before for a weather outlook but again, no decision will be made until 30 minutes prior to departure. We thank you in advance for your patience if weather becomes a factor.
Here are some FAQ's all about whales....
Do you guarantee whales?
This is a question we get quite a bit during the season. No one, no matter what you may be told, can guarantee you a whale sighting. The Bay of Fundy is a wild and natural environment and the wildlife within this environment travel and feed on their own schedule, NOT OURS. What I can guarantee you is that I have worked for Quoddy Link Marine now for 7 years and not once have either of my captains taken the "easy way out". What I mean by that is sometimes we have to search for whales, sometimes we have to search hard, but that is what we do. On occasion there may be a whale in the "inshore" area (a protected area closer to St. Andrews), but this whale may come with some boat traffic. If the weather is good enough and we can take you further to look for whales "offshore" (an area 15+ nm from St. Andrews) then we go further. This is why our trips vary in length (2.5-4 hours), it is the only way to consistently see the larger whales offshore, and, as I mentioned, this is a changing environment. Quoddy Link Marine does have a Scout Boat which can head out early to help in the search for whales. Quoddy Link Marine also has 13 years experience searching for whales on the Bay of Fundy and we have a 90-100% success rate during the past seasons. If a whale or whales are not sighted we do offer a voucher for a free trip.
Can we touch the whales?
NO, we don't touch or feed the whales, we can't "call them with a whistle", and most likely we don't even know right where they are when we leave St. Andrews. The whales, as well as the seals, porpoise and all of the other animals we see, are wild. It is their home, and they go where they want. Sometimes the whales do set up patterns, and this can make them much easier to find. We do have a "Scout Boat" which can leave before our trip and help search for the whales.
How close will we get to the whales?
Honestly, we can't answer that before we leave, because these are wild animals but the most important point you must know is our captains are very experienced (over 12 years on the water with whales) and they know how to position the boat so as to give you the best view of the whales. You always want to travel with the whales, letting them lead the way, so they can change direction when they want, and you never want to be in a position to cut a whale off. When we view these animals we must respect their boundaries and stay a safe distance away, it is so important for their survival. It is very important to note that Quoddy Link Marine is a signee to the Bay of Fundy Whale Watchers Code of Ethics (http://www.bayoffundytourism.com/environmental_leadership/code_of_ethics.php).
Will the whales "jump"?
This is a very common question. The act of jumping or "breaching" out of the water is an awe-inspiring thing to see, but it doesn't happen on every trip. The most common whales that breach in our area are humpback whales, usually seen in August-October in our part of the Bay of Fundy.
Will the whale raise its tail?
Another very common question. Not all whales raise their tail. Humpback whales will most likely raise their tail on their terminal dive (whales will usually do a series of dives and then arch their back and dive deeper, this final dive is called a "terminal dive"). Finbacks, the second largest whale in the world and much larger than humpbacks do not typically raise their tail. Finback whales can reach lengths of over 70 feet and weigh more than 180,000 lb.
Why is that whale all alone?
Baleen whales, like humpbacks, finbacks and minke whales are commonly found alone or in small, unstable groups. These groups form and may stay together for a few days, a few weeks or only a few minutes. It is very common to see a humpback whale travelling on their own. Humpback, finback and minke whales are here in the Bay of Fundy to feed and nurse their young, you don't see the large groups like you would on breeding grounds. The Bay of Fundy is an important feeding, nursing and courting ground for the North Atlantic right whale, who can often be seen in large aggregations, known as surface active groups or "SAG's". We usually do a few right whale trips a season, taking a limited number of passengers 30-40 nm from St. Andrews out into the middle of Bay of Fundy in search of right whales. Please keep in touch if you are interested in our special right whale trips.
These certainly are not all of the questions that our guests ask and if you have any questions please feel free to contact Quoddy Link Marine (firstname.lastname@example.org) or myself (email@example.com) or ask me questions on Twitter (http://twitter.com/QuoddyLink). There will be lots of video and pictures coming this season but also we are now on Facebook and Twitter so there are new ways to connect with our future and past guests. If you have questions about either our Facebook group or Twitter just send me an email.
Our season begins on June 23rd . I am hoping that the 2012 season will be one of the best!
Our season begins on June 23rd . I am hoping that the 2012 season will be one of the best!
Come down to St. Andrews and experience the Bay of Fundy with Quoddy Link Marine......catamaran style.