Hollywood in Cape Ann!

March 31st, 2015

If you are visiting Gloucester, Beverly or Salem in the next few weeks and you think you spotted Matt Damon or Casey Affleck, you most likely did! Them and a few other hollywood celebrities will be in Cape Ann filming their new movie “Manchester-by-the-sea”.  The movie is being produced by Matt Damon and features Casey Affleck, Michelle Williams, and Kyle Chandler.  I saw it first hand while I was stuck behind the film crew last week while drivingon Route 128 South.  I also got to drive by Casey Affleck! How awesome!?  (see picture below) Hopefully we spot them again around town.  For more info on the movie click this link.


9/29/14: Best whale watch of the season!

October 14th, 2014

Although its pretty late in the season, according to one of our Blue Ocean Naturalists, Hannah, September 29 could have been one of the best! Read her Blog from that day here:

Another amazing day on the ocean! We had light winds and fairly calm seas as we headed straight east towards and area between Jeffrey’s Ledge and Stellwagon Bank known as Tillies Bank. The bank provides the perfect underwater topography for upwelling, which carries nutrients to the surface. It is most common to see whales and other marine life in these upwelling zones due to the large amount of fish that frequent the area.

As we headed east towards an area where whales were spotted over the weekend, we came across an ocean sunfish. Ocean sunfish, or Mola mola, are the largest and heaviest bony fish in the ocean. The average weight of these fish is around 2,200 lbs but the one we spotted today was not a full grown individual. Ocean sunfish eat jellyfish and so are often sighted after a jelly fish bloom occurs. There were reports of large numbers of jellyfish this summer so we have had a great season for spotting these large, uniquely shaped fish.

We then continued east and came upon our first pair of humpback whales. Humpbacks are a medium sized whale ranging from 40-45 feet and weighing in at 45 tons as an adult. The pair was swimming slowly and were diving for an average of 4-5 minutes. We got a special treat as one of the humpbacks was doing a behavior known as flipper slapping. The animal will raise one or both of the pectoral fins (flippers), each about 15 feet long and 1 ton in weight, out of the water and then slap it on the surface. It is not known what causes this behavior or why it is performed but in the case of these two whales, it was possibly communication. As we were watching the first pair of humpbacks, we noted that there was massive amounts of white water a few miles in the distance and decided to check it out.

As we were traveling toward the splashing, we saw that it was another pair of humpbacks (different from the first) and that one of the whales was breaching (jumping out of the water!) When we arrived near the whales, we were able to ID them as Tornado and her calf. The mother and calf will stay together for no more than a year so we know that this particular calf was born early this year and it probably around 9-10 months old. Again, we were lucky enough to observe the calf breaching out of the water multiple times and in a fairly predictable fashion. Similar to flipper slapping, the true meaning behind breaching is not well understood. Tornado was cruising at the surface and then taking short dives while her calf was rolling, flipper slapping and breaching near the boat. It was quite the treat!! We were able to see around 10 breaches. It was an extraordinary encounter with such amazing animals! Now that fall has arrived, some of the humpback whales will begin their migration to the warm waters of the Caribbean where they will spend the winter. We send them luck as they prepare for their trek south and are looking forward to what the remainder of the season has to offer!

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Tornado showing off with a tail breach

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Tornado & her calf (breaching in the background)

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Tornado’s breaching calf

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Flipper slapping

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Mola mola at the surface (ocean sunfish)

August 25th Whale Watch

September 2nd, 2014

Blog Post from Naturalist Diana

“What a gorgeous day on the ocean! Today’s trip was another long one to the southern end of Stellwagen Bank, but the seas were perfect for the voyage.   As we came into the area where the whales were today, we saw a trio of humpbacks near some other boats. We kept our distance and waited our turn, as  not to crowd the endangered whales. But then we spotted 2 more spouts close by.  We left the group and headed towards the pair. This was a humpback whale named Nile and her calf!  As we approached, the pair dove and we got to see Nile’s unique flukes showing the marking of the Nile River for which she was named.  When the pair resurfaced, they decided it was nap time, and they just floated at the surface ignoring us and the other whale watching boat completely. These whales certainly knew that we were there but it seemed they were not at all concerned.  We watched these 2 doze for about a half hour and even watched a curious Corys shearwater (cool offshore bird) buzz the pair a couple of times! But soon the trio of humpbacks was getting closer so slowly moved away from the sleepy pair (don’t wake the baby!) to see who these whales were.

The other humpback whales were Pele, Eruption and Storm. This group consistently would come up to the surface with Pele spouting first, followed by Eruption and then Storm. They would also dive in this order. There is still so much we don’t understand about whale behavior! Eruption was the largest whale in this group, and she was the only definite female (females are larger than males when full-grown).  This trio was also seen together yesterday. How much longer will they hang out? We don’t know! But we are looking forward to heading back out to see who we might find tomorrow!”

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Humpbacks Storm & Eruption

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Cory’s Shearwater

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Great Shearwater

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One of our infamous Humpbacks, Nile.

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Humpback Pele taking a dive

July 22nd Whale Watch report

July 24th, 2014

Blog post from Naturalist Dianna Schulte:

Sunny skies, calm seas and lots of whales! What else could you ask for??

Today’s trips brought us back to Stellwagen Bank where the humpback whale activity has been very good the past few days.  On the morning trip, we started with a group of 3 adult whales and a calf: Bayou, Pepper, Nile and her calf!  Nile’s calf was doing a bit of resting at the surface while mom and her friends foraged for fish. Even a busy baby humpback whale needs to nap now and then!

In the area were many more humpback whales including a group of at least 9! This group even included 3 mom/calf pairs!! At one point, the moms all dove, and all three calves were at the surface together! It was like a humpback calf nursery!   Two of the moms were identified as Milkweed and Perseid, while Soot, Cajun and Aerospace were with them.

We spotted several more humpback whales on the periphery, including Pele, but soon it was time to head home.

The afternoon trip was equally impressive. The groups from this morning seemed to have broken up a bit. We saw Pepper briefly traveling to the SE with another whale that we haven’t ID’ed yet.   Aerospace was now spending time with Northstar, who has a relatively new injury on its back and was flipper slapping and even tail breaching! Milkweed and Perseid, and their respective calves, were now with Pele and another whale.  Lots of active calf-play today too with the calves rolling upside down and one even opened its mouth at the surface!

Excellent day by far!!

Photos from our 9AM trip:

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Humpback named Aerospace taking a dive

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Humpback named Bayou diving as well

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A fluke from Cajun, one of our known humpbacks

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Milkweed and calf (flipper slapping)

Photos from 2PM trip:

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Mom and calf, traveling close together on the feeding grounds

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Humpback Northstar putting on a little show with a tail breach..

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AND flipper slapping

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Pele’s fluke

JULY 10th Whale Watch

July 23rd, 2014

Guest Blog post from our Naturalist Tina Ciarametaro

Stellwagen Bank was overflowing at the brim today with whales.  What another spectacular day to be at sea.  Beautiful weather, calm seas and incredibles whales.  Both trips were treated to at least 15-20 whales, some different on each trip.  Our afternoon trip also encountered at least a dozen Minke whales and 4 Finback whales within 2 miles the the breakwater in Gloucester.

The Sand Lances were in such abundance that the surface of the water looked to be percolating!  Hundreds of gulls and shearwaters skimmed the surface for a mid day snack (not to mention those birds brave enough to dive into the open jaw of the humpback whale!) Feeding behaviors that we witnessed were lob-tail feeding, blowing bubble clouds/nets and surfacing with their mouths wide open, chin-breaching, tail-breaching, Pec-slapping and mother nursing her calf.  A naturalist’s dream look around the boat and see whales on all sides!

Some pictures from the trips are below!



Open mouth feeding with a great shot of  baleen

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Flippers and tales glowing green under the sea water


Beautiful fluke shot


Mama and calf humpback swimming along

TONS of WHALES Yesterday!

July 10th, 2014

Blog post from Naturalist Diana from Wed 7/9/2014:

What an incredible day on the ocean! Calm seas, cool breezes, and “tons” of whales all around us! The best part- they were really close to Gloucester, making our travel time really quick! Both the morning and afternoon trips were awesome today with over 20 humpback whales each, although we saw different individual whales on each trip. The morning trip also found 5 or so minke whales and a small group of Bluefin tuna.

Feeding was apparent throughout the day as the humpbacks were lob-tail feeding, blowing bubble nets and surfacing with their mouths wide open.  Chin-breaching, tail-breaching, mother and calf pairs, barrel rolls, flippers in the air…we saw it all!   At one point this afternoon, I just took a step back to watch the sheer number of spouts all around us.  It looked like we were surrounded by a picket fence of white spouts. Yes, these whales are endangered, but you wouldn’t have guessed that today! Humpback whales were out in force, feeding on sand eels which were also being snatched up by thousands of gulls and hundreds of shearwaters (Great, Sooty, Corys). Not a good day to be a sand eel!

But as we watched these incredible animals feed, I was again reminded of all the hazards they face on a daily basis. Many of the whales we saw showed evidence (scars) of prior entanglements (presumably in fishing gear), boat collisions and even killer whale attacks. Although these endangered whales are protected from hunting in most parts of the world, other human factors as well as natural predators certainly take their toll. Fortunately all the whales we saw today can be considered the lucky ones- just bearing the scars of their prior encounters, but still going strong.

Can’t wait to get back out there tomorrow to see what Mother Nature decides to show us!

Photos from the 9:00 trip:

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Humpback named Iris

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Filtering water

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Can you see the sandeels jumping out of the whales mouth?

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Lots of scarring along the flukes

Photos from the 2:00 PM Trip:

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Humpback whale named Cat Eyes

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Wide open mouth!

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Check out all those round circles on the whale’s chin- these are from barnacles (REALLY big barnacles!)

6/23/14 Whale Watch

June 25th, 2014

Monday 6/23/14  Sightings blog & pictures from our Naturalist Dianna:

Beautiful seas on Monday’s whale watch! It doesn’t get much calmer than that! We ventured out towards Tillies Bank where we have been seeing whales on our past few trips. Sure enough, some whales were still there!  We came across our first pair of humpbacks, Tear and Fern.  As we watched them for a bit, we spotted more blows in the distance. Whales seemed to be all over the place! We maneuvered towards a small group and found Daffodil with a couple other whales, and Xylem on the periphery.

But that wasn’t all that was there. A team from the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary was here to place digital suction cup tags on humpback whales. These non-invasive tags show researchers how the whale moves underwater, when we can no longer see it. The tags record things like the whale’s pitch, roll, heading, sounds and more! Also, a team was here placing a Critter Cam (as seen on National Geographic) on one of the whales! Very cool to see science and documentaries all in the same place!

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Introducing the Blue Ocean Society

June 17th, 2014
Guest blog from our new naturalist and President of the Blue Ocean Society Dianna Schulte


As some of you may have noticed, there is a new logo aboard the Miss Cape
Ann. Blue Ocean Society for Marine Conservation has partnered with Capt.
Bill’s Whale Watch to provide the educational aspect of each trip all the
while collecting valuable research data to learn more about the incredible
whales seen each day, similar to the mission of the Whale Center of New

Although Blue Ocean Society is new to Capt Bill’s, the co-founders certainly
are not.  In the spring of 1996, Dianna Schulte and Jen Kennedy met while
interning for the Whale Center of New England (known as the Cetacean
Research Unit back in those days).  Some of their first whale watching trips
were aboard the Miss Gloucester, owned by Capt. Bill’s. Since then, Dianna
and Jen kept watching whales in the neighboring area of Jeffreys Ledge, just
north of Cape Ann. They voluntarily continued to collect data based on their
training from the Whale Center, and submitted their data and photos to
established research organizations including the Whale Center.  Soon they
realized that if they wanted to learn about the whales on Jeffreys Ledge
specifically, and not just collect data on them, they would need to form
their own organization.

In 2001, Blue Ocean Society was born. Up until this year, they have worked
with whale watching boats that primarily venture to Jeffreys Ledge, but when
the opportunity to partner with Capt Bill’s arose, they jumped at the chance
to continue the work that the Whale Center began, and begin to study on the
whales of Stellwagen Bank as well.  Although it is unfortunate that the
Whale Center of New England is no longer able to provide the educational and
research services that they used to for Capt Bill’s Whale Watch, Blue Ocean
Society plans to honor their legacy by using what they learned as interns,
and nearly 20 years of experience studying whales, and continuing the
mission of education, research and conservation.

Recently, Blue Ocean Society interns began working on the Miss Cape Ann,
collecting data and assisting with educating her passengers.  We have been
seeing a variety of whales on Stellwagen Bank including feeding humpbacks,
cruising finbacks, and curious minkes.  So far we have a great start to our
whale watching season and can only hope that the sightings keep up! As you
know, whale watching involves unpredictable, wild animals, and that’s what
we love about it! Every day is different and even we, the experts, don’t
know what each day will bring! We hope you will join us soon on an adventure to visit some of the largest animals on Earth!

Whale watching tips

June 10th, 2014


Coming on your first whale watch with Capt. Bill’s? Here are some answers to our most commonly asked questions.

1. What should I bring on my whale watch?

The most important things we tell people to bring with them is sunblock and a jacket/sweatshirt.  It tends to be at least 10 degrees cooler out on the water, so even if it’s really nice out on land odd are it going to get a littler colder once your moving along on the boat.  Sunblock is also key because you are going to be in the sun for at least 3-4 hours, and although there is an inside cabin for shade, you are most likely going to be outside most of the time. Other things you may want to bring would be camera, batteries, hat, blanket, and books/magazines.  If you are traveling with children you may want to bring a game or cards to keep them occupied on the ride out to the whales, as well as for the way back in.

2. Can we bring food and drink on the boat?

Yes. You can bring your own lunch/food/beverages aboard if you’d like.  Coolers are also allowed.  The only things we prohibit on the boat is GLASS and ALCOHOL.

3. How long is the whale watch?

Typically the whale watches last about 4 hours.  However this does depend on where we end up finding whales.  If the whales are closer to shore, trips may tend to be a little shorter.  If the whales are further away, the trip may tend to be a little longer.

4. Are we guaranteed to see a whale?

At Capt. Bill’s we guarantee that you are going to see a whale. BUT keep in mind, every time we go out on that boat we are going into nature.  We have no idea what we are going to see each and every time we leave the dock and every trip is different as well as every day. If for some unfortunate reason you do not see a whale, you get a free trip to come back…that never expires.

5. When is the best time for sightings?

This is one of the most common questions we get.  Unfortunately, there is no official lunch time or play time for the humpback whales.  There is no special time of day that they are more active or less active.  We do not do anything to attract them to our boat and definitely do not feed them.  They come up to the North Atlantic for the feeding grounds located up here, in particular for us, Stellwagen Bank and Jeffreys Ledge.  As long as there is plenty of food in the area for them, they will stick around for the duration of the season.  The best time weather-wise that we recommend is July/August.

6. Do you have free parking?

Yes! We have our own private lot here on Harbor Loop.  Sometimes we do block parking but don’t worry, you’re all on the same boat.  There is additional parking as well that we can direct you to when you get here.  Also keep in mind, on Sundays all of the parking meters are FREE (in Gloucester).

7. Do we need reservations or can we just show up?

Reservations are always recommended, but not required.  With a reservation we would be able to call you ahead of time with any weather cancellations or schedule changes.  Also, with a reservation you are guaranteed a seat on our boat in case we sell out.  Typically you can make your reservations up to a few days before your trip, but if you have a particular date in mind you should make it asap to ensure your spots.

Want to know what we are seeing lately? Check out our Facebook page.

Stellwagen event for kids!

June 4th, 2014

Looking for something to do on this rainy Wednesday?  Head down to Maritime Gloucester here on Harbor Loop for a fun filled event called “A Child’s Sanctuary: Exploring the Maritime Heritage of Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary”.  Kids will learn all about Stellwagen Bank, the local feeding ground for our humpback whales.  There will be puzzles, games, and lots of fun facts.  See the flyer for more info! photo