Over the last three years I've been on a handful of whale watches out of Galilee. One was alright and the others sucked, sucked, and sucked some more. Of the five or so I have been on, two of them did not have any whales. This isn't a bad thing because you get a free ticket to go another time. Usually, my friends and I root to not see whales. We go out there hoping to see birds. There are five species of birds that you really can't see from shore (a couple of them you may see in a storm). Four species of shearwater and Wilson's Storm Petrel are our goal.
Some of our whale watches have been devoid of birds also. Nothing worse than seeing the blowhole of a whale or two from a half mile away and not seeing any birds. One of the trips was so bad all we saw in four hours was one gull. Read that again, one gull, no whales!
However things have changed this year southeast of Block Island. The name of the game is bait, and this year there is a lot of it! A few of my friends chartered a boat a few weeks ago and saw tons of whales, dolphins, and birds. It was so good, they couldn't wait to use their vouchers for a free whale watch trip so when Scott suggested we go soon, I set in motion a plan to go today, July 1.
We took the Francis Fleet whale watch out of Galilee today. This is the same boat that I have had so many disappointing whale watches on. Sometimes there just aren't any whales in Block Island Sound. Also, if there isn't any bait, there won't be any birds. The boat leaves at 1 pm and comes back at 5 pm. I think the cost is about $60/person after all fees. After boarding the boat and going through the Harbor of Refuge, it made its way southeast of Block Island.
Today, I saw more whales and more birds than every RI Whale Watch I had ever been on combined. We saw three types of whales: Humpback, Finback, and Minke. We had Humpbacks and Finbacks right next to the boat. The Minke was pretty close also. Dolphins you ask? We had hundreds and hundreds of Short Beaked Common Dolphins. No exaggeration, there were pods of all sizes all around the boat.
As for birds, there were a lot of them too. We had three Sooty Shearwaters. Great and Cory's Shearwaters were around the boat by the dozens. Wilson's Storm Petrels were also in the for to five dozen range. We didn't see any Manx Shearwaters, but the close up views of the other three were great.
My only complaint, and this goes for a great day like today or all the bad days, is the Captain does not shut up over the intercom. No one needs to hear him talk that much. But, every trip I have ever been on, I have had to listen to him droning on and on.
Normally I don't publicize my Rhode Island Whale Watch trips other than to write about the birds. I normally do not think they are a good value. Against the Stellwagen trips that go out of Plymouth, Boston, and Gloucester, RI trips are pathetic. However, this year, as long as their is bait out there, they could be epic every single day. If you have any intention of going out of Galilee for a whale watch the time is now!
Last note- Despite seeing whales for an hour and a half straight, I didn't get many, if any good photo of them. I've been on many great whale watches (in MA) and have lots of good whale photos. On the other hand, I don't have many good shots of dolphins. So I concentrated getting photos of them. I found out quickly they are much harder to photograph than their larger cousins. They are small, quick, and do not pop up where you expect them to. Needless to say, not a lot of good photos today.