By LARRY VAUGHT
If there was a priority on our must-see list when my wife and I left for Cape Cod, Ma., it was to see whales. Or at least a whale.
Friday was our day to do that with Hyannis Whale Watcher Cruises out of Barnstable. We hoped it was a good sign that it was a great day weather-wise with plenty of sun and warmth.
We made the short drive from West Yarmouth to Barnstable and easily found Hyannis Whale Watcher Cruises, the only mid-Cape’s only whale watch sailing daily from mid-April t hrough October from Barnstable Harbor to Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary — which annually ranks among the top 10 places to see whales.
This year USA Today has ranked Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary No. 1 as the best place to see whales.
“The top ranking indicates we had an active fan base voting for us, and also a site that offers great opportunities for close up encounters with aquatic (marine) life. The whale watch fleet brings upwards of 1 million passengers a year out to see whales in a relatively short trip — 3 to 4 hours — and at a reasonable price,” said Anne Smrcina, the Education and Outreach Coordinator for Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary.
She’s right. At $49 per adult (there are reduced prices for children and senior citizens) it’s hard to find a better bargain in Cape Cod even with the $15 parking fee.
As we boarded the jet-powered Whale Watcher, we learned we had a naturalist to not only help spot whales along with the captain, but also to educate us about everything we saw. Hyannis Whale Watcher Cruises claimed a 99 percent sighting rate, but that sounded too good to be true.
But guess what? Less than an hour into our cruise, we spotted a minke whale. Actually, I was one of the first to see it surface twice. That was great, but only the start.
It was not long before we saw our first humpback whale. Luckily for us, it was not our last one. For almost 90 minutes, we seldom went longer than 6-8 minutes without seeing a whale of some type. Once a humpback whale got so close to the boat that I thought it might come aboard. Later another humpback got almost as close.
Minke whales are not as big, but perhaps more playful and several times we saw a minke whale lift its tale out of the water.
Our cruise had people of all ages and origins. We got to spend a good bit of time with a family of six. The father was a Navy doctor stationed in Roanoke, Va., and had his wife and four small children with him. They were energetic but loved the whales as much as I did.
Hyannis Whale Watcher Cruises also had another nice touch — a galley with reasonable prices. I had a bowl of chili (even with temperatures in the 70’s on the coast, the wind on the water made it much cooler) that was delicious and priced at $3.50. Bottled water and soft drinks were $2. The galley had hot dogs, cheeseburgers, pizza, big pretzels and a lot, lot more. But it was all reasonably priced.
Yet you were also allowed to bring food and drink on board with you and most of us did that also for the four-hour trip.
I can’t imagine a better day and would suggest if you make a trip to Cape Cod, contact Hyannis Whale Watcher Cruises. I don’t think you will be disappointed.
Check out the website at http://www.whales.net/.
So what do you do after such a memorable experience? For my wife and I, it was a drive to the town of Sandwich to see the Sandwich Boardwalk. Some locals told me it was better known as the “Plank Walk” because locals contributed money for the boardwalk’s upkeep and had their names engraved on planks you walk on.
The boardwalk is almost 1,400 feet across Mill Creek and the marsh to Town Beach. It was a lovely beach with just a few people on it despite the sunny weather. You could walk or run in any direction almost by yourself.
Again, no cost for the beauty and solitude.
I tend to like to eat at the non-traditional type spots. I like ones with local flavor that I can tell are unique.
For the second straight night, we found on in Salty’s on Main Street in West Yarmouth. It’s a casual seafood restaurant with a diverse menu and lot of options.
I went with the lobster roll, my wife got the tuna roll. I really liked the onion rings and cole slaw, but the lobster roll was just heavenly. Also got to admit that the baked beans my wife ordered were superb.
For dessert, my wife picked fried dough with powdered sugar that was huge.
I actually hope we make it back again so I can try the seafood casserole that has shrimp, scallops, haddock and crab baked in Newburg sauce.