Featured Stories & Articles from Cape Cod Travel Magazine: Getting Your Feet Wet
If only your vacation days outnumbered the amount of fun things to do and beautiful spots to explore on Cape Cod’s waterways. Maybe someday….but for now, make the most of those you do have and set sail with Captains Bob, Charles, Jim, Abi, Cliff or any of the other pros mentioned here who are well-versed in the history, habitats, tides and species that bring so much wonder to this peninsula.
Despite the name, Captain John Boats, based in Plymouth, is run by Captain Bob Avila. From the first week of April through the end of October, he and his staff of marine biologists and expert naturalists conduct two- and four-hour floating classroom excursions for up to 120 students of all ages. Students shift through a series of hands-on presentations beginning with a plankton tow (examination of the plankton), a fishing station, evaluation of water quality, marine knots and an American lobster station. This program has been so well received that it now serves as part of the science curriculum at a number of area schools.
Equally exciting and enlightening are the four-hour whale watching tours aboard a 110-foot-vessel. Tours take you to Stellwagen Bank, a marine sanctuary that is one of the primary feeding grounds for humpback whales, dolphins, fin whales and harbor porpoises.
“We’ve been on the water for 40-plus years,” said Captain Bob. “Our naturalists are so familiar with the region they know the whales by sight.”
If you’re staying in the mid-Cape area, another option is Hyannis Whale Watcher Cruises, departing Barnstable Harbor from May through October. Three naturalists, with in-depth environmental education and marine biology backgrounds, provide insight into the world of whales and the local ecology and history of the area. Hyannis Whale Watcher Cruises also offers private charters, a sunset “Clambake Cruise” and a “Fireworks Cruise” on the 4th of July. And out in Provincetown, the Dolphin Fleet runs an entire fleet of whale watching boats, with a wide variety of departure times, out of MacMillan Wharf located in the heart of the downtown area.
Also based out of Barnstable Harbor, Aquarius Sportfishing offers four-, six-, and eight-hour trips for up to six people, with all equipment supplied. An experienced mate helps set the lines, adjust the drags, and will fillet and package your fish while you relax on the trip home.
For a quieter ride, but one that brings you just as up-close and personal with Cape Cod wildlife, rent a kayak from Great Marsh Kayak Tours out of West Yarmouth. They offer three- and four-hour tours, including the “Tidal Tour” for beginners, “Sunset Spectacular” and the “Fly Fishing Tour.” Excursions take you to Scorton Creek, Barnstable Harbor, Cotuit Bay, and Mashpee River, where you’ll encounter snowy egrets, great blue herons, mute swans, osprey and hawks in their salt marsh habitats.
Yet another fishing opportunity, Stripers-R-Us, based in East Dennis, departs daily during high season from Sesuit Harbor for inshore fishing excursions in Cape Cod Bay. “We’re a family-oriented operation,” said Capt. David Bois, who has operated the business for 15 years. “We have a ball with the kids. I let them drive the boat on the way back and they love that. We do three- and six-hour trips, fishing mostly striped bass and some blues. In 15 years, we’ve only been skunked three times. That’s pretty good.”
Salt Shaker Sportfishing also departs from Sesuit Harbor in pursuit of striped bass, blue fish and cod. Captain Dan’s 30 years of experience on local waters make him an expert in targeting the best spots for a successful catch.
Bass River Cruises and Kayaks, run by husband-and-wife team Abi and Cliff Smith, both captains, offers Cape Cod’s only river cruise along with kayak rentals out of West Dennis. For 22 years, they have regaled passengers with historical background and fun facts regarding the rich and famous who have resided in the estates lining the river during 90-minute cruises aboard The Starfish.
The Starfish is available for private charters and has hosted plenty of parties. They also conduct interactive, kid-friendly pirate cruises through the Red Jacket Inn Resorts. And if you prefer a smaller vessel and want to expend some energy, the Smiths rent both solo and tandem kayaks for unguided tours along the river.
“We give (customers) paddling instructions, five dollars off lunch at Sundancer’s and a complimentary launch – a shove off the beach,” said Abi Smith with a laugh. “It’s a very safe river – you really can’t get lost. We send kayakers up into Grand Cove and Little Cove where they may spot the only white duck in the area, swans and tons of osprey, who are almost guaranteed to dive-bomb on cue and catch a fish right by your boat.”
For those looking to learn a little, or a lot, about sailing, cruise out to Provincetown and visit the Santos family. They’ve been offering up expert sailing advice for 65 years at Flyer’s Boat Rentals. This family knows their stuff; they’ve won both sailing divisions in the Provincetown Regatta, and they’re ready, willing and more than happy to share their decades of experience with the novice sailor.
New on the schooling scene is the Sacred Surf School in Wellfleet. This crew is as passionate about surfing as Flyer’s is about sailing. Sure, they’ll teach you all about managing to actually stand on a board, but they also strive to share their know-how on recognizing the perfect wave and their overall passion for the ocean.
Yet another educational option in the world of water is the new ‘stand up and paddle’ rage. At the aptly named Stand Up & Paddle Cape Cod, the experienced crew will show you the basics and beyond of this amazing sport. The upper body workout is intense, the lower body needs to stay engaged to keep you upright and the potential for taking in the views is unsurpassed.
Not up for a workout? Captain Mort of Fishtale Sportfishing promises a rewarding experience aboard the fully equipped 33-foot Fishtale, no paddling required. Departing from Saquatucket Harbor in Harwich Port, you’ll pass the National Wildlife Refuge at Monomy Island en route to the rips where the big striped bass dwell.
Outermost Adventures, owned by Captain Fran Facchetti, provides a water taxi service out of Outermost Harbor in Chatham to the barrier islands of South Beach and North Monomoy Island. A Coast Guard certified captain transports up to 17 people at a time out to the islands for fishing, birding or simply enjoying the beach. Shuttles run all day in the summer.
“You have the Atlantic on one side and the calmer Southway on the in“You have the Atlantic on one side and the calmer Southway on the inner side,” said Captain John Higgins. “You get the best of both worlds.”
Captain Charles Gallagher of Orleans-based Sea Charters assures fishing enthusiasts a memorable outing aboard his 30-foot vessel, Blackwatch. He’s been running fishing charters for more than twenty years, leaving from Pleasant Bay in South Orleans and heading out to spots such as the Monomoy rips, Nantucket Shoals and Great South Channel.
With his son Nick as mate, Gallagher also offers four-hour tuna charters as an alternative to the more common eight-hour excursions. Gallagher, who has been featured on the television program "New England Outdoor Life", claimed media attention last July when he, his brother and brother-in-law took fourth place in the “Monster Shark Tournament” on Martha’s Vineyard after reeling in a 281-pound thresher shark.
Between ponds and lakes, creeks and waterways and, oh yeah, the ocean, there are infinite options when it comes to learning a little something about ways to have fun on the water on the Cape.