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If you are looking for a good time on Cape Cod check out the Hyannis Whale Watcher. It’s a trip you will remember.

photograph of people watching whales at stellwagen bank.

Watching whales from the M/V Whale Watcher

photo of the hyannis whale watcher boat in barnstable massachusetts.

The Hyannis Whale Watcher Jet Powered Boat

Last week I took a ride on the Hyannis Whale Watcher Cruise, for the second time. The whale-friendly (no propellers), water jet propulsion cruiser leaves from Barnstable Harbor (Cape Cod) and shoots you right out to the whales. If you like speed, you’ll enjoy the ride. We passed by the beautiful Sandy Neck lighthouse and cottages on their barrier beach at the mouth of the Barnstable Harbor. That view is incredible itself. I was so inspired last time I went out that I created a large, digital painting of the Sandy Neck Lighthouse. You can see it here.

photo of the sandy neck lighthouse barnstable harbor massachusetts.

Sandy Neck Lighthouse and Cottages, One of the Northeasts Most Beautiful Barrier Beaches

Once we were out of Barnstable Harbor and in the open waters, the jets kicked in and we were whisked out to the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary. I sat outside at the stern and watched the power of those engines pushing the water. Unbelievable. It felt a bit like flying.

photograph of the wake created by the jet propelled hyannis whale watcher boat.

The wake created by the water jet propellers that flew us to Stellwagen.

If you like photography and wildlife you will really enjoy the challenge that whale photography presents. I brought along my Canon 5D Mark II and my Canon 100-400 f4.5-5.6L Series zoom. I set my ASA to 320 so I could use a fast shutter speed and still get decent depth of field. Most were shot at 1/1600 at f6.3, f7.1 and f8. It seems to have worked. The whales and water are dark in color for the most part so you have to compensate for that too. I added between one third and two thirds of a stop more exposure in most cases.

The crew know their whales and they know where to find them. We had whale visitors within moments of arriving. We saw lots of Humpback whales on the day we went out so we learned a lot about them. They got their name from the hump on their backs, just in front of their small dorsal fin. Humpbacks are baleen whales, meaning they have no teeth, but they have baleen plates made of the same material as our fingernails (keratin). The plates hang from the whales upper jaw and allow the whale to filter its food from the water. Humpback whales can be 35 to 50 feet long and weigh between 25 and 40 tons, and they’re mid-sized whales. The underside of the tail, or flukes, is like our thumb print, no two whales have the same markings, making it possible to identify individuals and track them.

photo of a pod of humpback whales at stellwagen bank.

A pod of three humpback whales came by.

We learned that the Humpback whales that we were seeing spent the winter in the Caribbean where they breed and birth their young, their calves weigh about a ton, and are 13 to 15 feet long. Talk about labor! The Humpback whales travel up from the Caribbean in the spring and they hang out in the Gulf of Maine from late spring to early fall. They spend the entire time feeding. That’s why they’re up there—to eat. They eat krill, herring, mackerel, and other small schooling fish. They have to eat enough during their months up north to get them through the lean times in the Caribbean where there is little food.

photo of humpback whale mother and her calves.

Humpback whale mother and calves.

photograph of humpback whale mother and her calf.

Humpback Whale Mom and Calf

photograph of a humpback whale tail.

Humpback Whale Tail - Beginning a Dive

photograph of a humpback whales tail as he begins a dive.

Humpback whale diving below the surface.

photograph of a humpback whale tail with water streaming off of it.

Water streams off the whales tail as it lifts out of the water for a dive.

photo of the underside of a humpback whales tail showing its unique markings.

Humpback whale tail showing its unique markings that identify individuals.

photo of a mother humpback whale and her calf.

Humpback whale mom and her calf.

photo of a humpback whale diving right next to our boat.

A Humpback whale diving right next to the boat.

Some of the whales came right up beside our boat. They seemed to be really curious, even playful. They were lolling around on their backs, lifting their heads out of the water to get a look at us, slapping their fins on the surface, they were acting like they were genuinely happy to see us.

photo of the underside of a humpback whales tail as the whale dives below the surface.

Humpback whale tail showing its individual colors and markings.

closeup photo of a humpback whales blow hole.

Humpback whales blow hole. It looks like a giant set of nostrils to me.

photograph of a humpback whales white pectoral fin or flipper.

Humpback whale flipper, or pectoral fin. They can be up to 15 feet long and up to one third of the whales body length.

photo of the fins of a humpback whale as it lays on its back on the surface of the water.

This Humpback whale came up beside the boat floating around on his back. These are his flippers.

a photograph of a humpback whale flipper slapping the surface of the water.

One of the Humpback whales was playing around near the boat and showed us a nice flipper slap.

Humpback whales have lots of bumps on their heads. Each of these bumps, called tubercles, contains one hair. Scientists believe that these hairs are used as a sensory device.

photograph of humpback whales head showing the tubercles that are used as a sensory device.

Humpback whales head showing the bumps or tubercles, each having a hair, that the whales may use as a sensory device.

photo of the research vessel the mysticete with a whale beside it.

The Whale Center of New England owned Mysticete research vessel.

photo of a pod of at least three humpback whales.

A pod of at least three Humpback whales swam by us.

Here’s a Humpback whale waving his flipper at us as we head back to the harbor.

photo of a humpback whale lifting its flipper as if to wave goodbye as we left.

Humpback whale waving a flipper as if to say goodbye as we turned to leave.

Please protect the welfare of our whales, dolphins and porpoises for their future and ours. For more information visit the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society at