Wednesday, August 26, 2009

A Whale of a Story

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

We started our day by moving Mo to a new campsite which seemed a bit more secluded than last night’s, so that Roxy would not feel compelled to bark at everyone who walked past our site on the main road. Also, now we don’t have a great view of the bathroom, ha ha! The new site is also even shadier than the one we had last night, so we felt that if we left Roxy alone all day, the RV would not heat up very much.

Then we hopped on the shuttle which took us to Bar Harbor. This shuttle idea to get people around the island is actually very good for RVers, as I think I wrote last night—it takes away a lot of the worry of driving into a crowded town and finding parking. And boy, is Bar Harbor crowded, AND I would NOT have wanted to drive there, that’s for sure. I kept seeing signs pointing to RV parking, but never actually SAW any RVs parked anyplace—maybe they send them a mile away! But the shuttle got us into town in only about 15 minutes. We got off at the Village Green and walked down VERY crowded streets past all kinds of adorable touristy shops, heading toward the waterfront.

Our original plan was to come to town and maybe rent scooters to explore. We were dressed for scooters, including carrying some snacks. However, it was already noon, and when we passed a VERY attractive ice cream and chocolate shop, I couldn’t help but go in—just to see if they had any sugar free ice cream for Joe; I certainly wasn’t thinking of MYSELF, of course! They had FIVE interesting sugar free flavors, including blueberry—so that’s what Joe got. I couldn’t let him have ice cream alone, so I got two flavors of chocolate—and MAN was that ice cream good!! Joe was super-impressed with his, also; he said it was wonderful. So it’s good to be grown up and have ice cream before lunch, right?

Then we walked to a grassy hill overlooking the harbor. It was simply beautiful! Blue water, white boats, green mountains in the not-so-far distance, and even the people everywhere couldn’t mar the vista. There was a good reason for all the people—the Caribbean Princess cruise ship was sitting in the harbor. I suspect there was an additional few thousand people in town just because of that. But we didn’t really care—we sat on the hill eating our ice cream, and admiring the view and the warm sun, blue sky, and exquisite day. It was simply perfect.

Then we went to check out the whale-watching cruises, because the building was right below our seat on the hill. They were sold out of their 1 pm cruise, but they had tickets for 4:30 for the “sunset cruise”. So we decided to go on that, and bought ticket. It boarded at 4 p.m.

This meant we had 3-1/2 hours to spend, but we decided NOT to get scooters this time around. Instead we wandered along the waterfront by the Bar Harbor Inn, and then window-shopped. Around 2 pm,we were hot and needed to eat some real food, so we found a nice restaurant for lunch (not a lobster pound, but Joe did have a lobster roll, a sandwich which is available everywhere here, and he said it was very good). Then we wandered again for about 45 minutes, before going down to get in line for the whale watching cruise.

The cruise got off to an inauspicious start. For one thing, it was 4:30 and we were still standing in line waiting for the previous whale cruise to come back. We didn’t get onto the boat until around 5. They apologized for the delay, explaining that the 1 p.m. cruise had not seen any whales, and they’d been sailing quite a long way in search of them, which was why they came back late. Then they told us that they were going to take us to a different place from the 1 pm cruise, but it was farther out in the water, and would be choppier. They gave us the option to get off and get a refund or a new reservation, but Joey and I stayed on, despite my growing apprehension that we were not dressed right for this experience. We were both wearing shorts, and although I’d brought a long-sleeved shirt for myself, Joey didn’t have one (he insisted he didn’t need it.) I recalled that it got cool at the campground last night, and realized that on the deck of a boat out in the ocean, we were going to be COLD. But, we stayed anyway in our seats on the top deck at the very front.

So the boat got under way, and almost immediately I was cold. All the other people apparently knew what to expect—I saw people pull out everything from cotton hoodies to heavy jackets! If I’d had any idea we’d be out on the water today, I’m sure I would have packed differently too. I managed to stay on deck for an hour, but just around the time we got to the area where they thought the whales might be, I went down to the 2nd deck so I could stay inside if we didn’t see whales.

Almost immediately, however, we found a huge group of pilot whales. The guide was very excited—he said it was the first time he’d seen pilot whales this season. They are not among the “large whales”, as he called them, but they ARE whales and they are cute. All in all, we may have seen 50-75 pilot whales, and they were on both sides of the boat, very close to us. In the photo with the 5 pilot whales here, you can see the blow-holes on two of them, which should give you an idea—they were so close below us (and since I was one level down, I was even closer than I would have been up on top.)
I forgot about being cold, and started snapping pictures and oohing and aahhhing with everyone else, running back and forth depending on which side of the boat the whales were on (finally, they were all around us!)

But then the guide said he saw white puffs of water coming up a little bit further away, and we got a close-up view of 3 or 4 finback whales. Finback whales are among the very largest whales, and this group was chasing fish and moving very fast! However, the boat was able to stay fairly close to them, and we saw them again and again, first to one side and then to the other. They were intent on feeding and didn’t come too close to us, but they were coming up out of the water as they swam, making large waves, and exhaling in great puffs. I got several really good photos, as you can see!

All in all, we spent about an hour with the whales. The pilot whales came back near us as we were finishing up, and the sunset gave us some lovely light with whales—both finback and pilot-- silhouetted against it.
The guide said it was the best cruise of the day; the photographers (who were working for the local whale study program) were very excited, and of course we were happy also, knowing that the previous cruise hadn’t managed to see ANY whales (they think that the waters had been stirred up by the recent hurricane, so that they had moved from their previous location and were proving to be more elusive.) BTW, supposedly you can see the “official” photos on a flickr site at I don’t know if it works, though (I hope I remember the address right.)

The ride home was about an hour long, but they showed us a nice movie of undersea life. One interesting thing was that at 5:15 when we left the dock, it was getting overcast and dim; but the visibility out on the ocean where we saw the whales was much clearer. As we came back to harbor, it was totally foggy again, and the decks of the boat were slick with moisture. But the town of Bar Harbor itself was considerably warmer than the ocean had been, and less foggy too. I do wish I’d had long pants and a heavy jacket on this trip, but I managed to survive, and we were thrilled by the whole thing. We caught a 9:30 shuttle back to the campground, and luckily Joe has a flashlight on his keys, because the ride here was foggy and the campground is VERY dark! But we are back, and warmed up, and my blog is done. I’m not sure if I want to go up and post it now—it’s after 11 pm. It’s been a very long day, but a very good one. I am SO glad we decided to come here to end our vacation—the area is beautiful, there is a lot to see and do, and we are looking forward to the next few days.

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