In this article we highlight six local on-the-water adventures
Summer on Cape Cod is never short of options for outdoor activities. Whether you’re a year-round resident or a first-time visitor, the Cape’s waters will eventually beckon you. (A Cape Cod summer just isn’t complete without some fun on the ocean, right?) What better way to experience the region’s maritime charms than by taking a cruise? From observing seals, whales and other wildlife in their natural habitats, to exploring historic waterways, to simply sitting back and enjoying the view, the local cruises described in the following pages offer scenic water adventures for all ages.
Hy-Line Cruises’ Cape Cod Canal Cruise
What’s one of the best-kept secrets in the village of Onset? According to Philip Scudder, principal of Hy-Line Cruises, it’s his company’s Cape Cod Canal Cruise—the only sightseeing cruise on the historic canal. Cruises depart from the Onset Town Pier from the end of May through Columbus Day and last two or three hours. Two-hour trips take passengers through the canal up to the Bournedale Herring Run, while three-hour trips travel all the way through the canal and into Cape Cod Bay. Guides provide history on the manmade waterway, built in 1914, as well as the many sights along the way, from Massachusetts Maritime Academy and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers buildings, to the Sagamore, Bourne and Cape Cod Canal Railroad bridges.
“Most people just travel over these bridges,” Scudder says. “On a Canal Cruise, you get to see what they really look like.” Those without sea legs need not fear, as Hy-Line’s canal tours are “calm water cruising,” Scudder says. “It’s a relaxing, scenic trip on the water filled with history.” Hy-Line also offers specialty canal cruises during the summer, including a Sunset Cocktail Cruise, Kids Ride Free Family Cruise and the 21-plus Live Music Cruise.
Hy-Line Cruises • Canal Cruises Terminal • 184 Onset Avenue, Onset
Liberté the Schooner
Eager to be his own boss after years of captaining other’s boats, Woods Hole native Chris Tietje bought a 50-foot schooner, the Liberté, in 1990. Twelve years later, he and his wife, Jane, designed a 77-foot schooner—a new-and-improved Liberté—to accommodate more sail seekers (up to 49) on Cape Cod during summers and in Annapolis, Maryland in the spring and fall. Aboard this impressive, three-masted vessel, which departs from Falmouth Harbor into Vineyard Sound, passengers will travel to destinations including Nobska Point, the coastlines of Vineyard Haven—with its big beautiful houses, mega yachts and antique sailing ships like the Alabama and Shenandoah—and along the coastline of the salt ponds of Waquoit Bay. The actual itinerary for this two-hour trip depends on wind and tides.
To Tietje, every time out is an adventure. “Our mission is to provide the best sail experience on each sail we go out on and make it the best day off ever,” he says. “We try to accommodate the needs of the entire group, whether they’re experienced sailors or first-timers, and we have a fun, happy crew who tell great stories.”
Learn more at theliberte.com
Liberte’, the Schooner • 227 Clinton Avenue • Falmouth
Dolphin Fleet Whale Watch
Founded in 1975 as New England’s first whale-watching cruise, Dolphin Fleet offers a one-of-a-kind experience in the waters off Provincetown. “It’s not often you get to see a 40-foot animal in its natural habitat,” says owner Steve Milliken. “Until you’re actually 100 or so feet away from them, you don’t realize how large they really are. It’s quite breathtaking, almost like what Herman Melville would’ve described.”
Not only will passengers have the chance to observe these awe-inspiring creatures—including humpbacks, finbacks and minkes—they’ll also learn more from the marine biologists as well as the many hands-on displays and activities onboard the Dolphin Fleet’s four 150-passenger vessels. All boats offer heated and air-conditioned cabins and serve breakfast, lunch and cocktails. Cruises often make their way through the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary. With each whale watch, Milliken says the crew aims to educate passengers on the importance of protecting this sanctuary and all other natural whale habitats. “We want our guests leaving knowing something new about the whales and how important they are to the world.” Dolphin Fleet offers three- to four-hour trips daily, April through October.
Learn more at whalewatch.com
Dolphin Fleet Whale Watch • Ticket office • 307 Commercial Street, Provincetown
Blue Claw Boat Tours
Cruising on a Blue Claw Boat Tour is about more than just seeing seals—as appealing as they may be. Case in point: “We had a woman onboard a few years ago who had lived in Orleans for over 50 years and had never once been out on the waterway between Orleans and Chatham,” captain Rob Wissmann recalls. “She was brought to tears by how beautiful the waterway is.”
From the dunes of the Cape Cod National Seashore, to the vibrant coastal scenery along Orleans and Chatham, to the fishermen offloading their catch at the Chatham Fish Pier, and to the hundreds of seals sunbathing along the barrier beach, Blue Claw offers a variety of sightseeing tours from early May through October. In addition to the Seal Watch Adventure Cruise, the company also offers a combined Seal Tour and Beachcomber Expedition—in which passengers get an hour to explore a barrier beach—and a Full Moon Cruise in Little Pleasant Bay. New tours for 2017 are the On the Water Scavenger Cruise and Lazy Lunch Cruise. Also, every Fourth of July the company’s three 17-passenger boats take guests out to Pleasant Bay to watch the holiday fireworks.
Learn more at blueclawboattours.com
Blue Claw Boat Tours • 235 Main Street, Orleans
Monomoy Island Excursions
The seal haven that is Chatham’s Monomoy Island is home to thousands of harbor and gray seals. Aboard Monomoy Island Excursions’ 35-passenger catamaran, captain Peter Spalt and crew take guests out to this barrier island not only to see its seals but also to experience its natural beauty. “The beauty out there—from the eelgrass growing along the large sand dunes to the crystal-clear water—is just so pure,” says Spalt. “You see some nice big sea swells off the Atlantic breaking slowly on the outer bar, and the seals are all lined up on one side. Then you might see a school of fish working their way down the water. It’s like being at the aquarium, but better.”
Beginning in Harwich Port’s Wychmere Harbor, the 90-minute tour ventures down Stage Harbor through new channels along Morris Island, passing by Stage Harbor Light and Chatham Light. A trained naturalist provides information on the area and its wildlife, which also includes hundreds of species of birds. Tours are offered daily from early May through mid-October.
Learn more at monomoysealcruise.com
Monomoy Island Excursions • 702 Route 28, Harwich Port
Cruisers on a Catboat Ride can let their worries drift away on the serene waters of Hyannis Harbor. “We’re here to give people a relaxing, comfortable ride,” says captain Marcus Sherman. “Generally we don’t give a canned speech or a formal travelogue. It’s nice to be able to just enjoy talking to the person next to you and hear the birds and the waves without the sound of an engine or loudspeakers.”
Since 1989, Sherman—who grew up sailing in Hyannis—has been offering Cape residents and visitors a traditional Cape Cod sailing experience from Memorial Day weekend through Columbus Day on his 34-foot catboat, the Eventide. Catboats, which feature a single mast, were developed in the early 1800s and used extensively around the Cape for various coastal fishing and local transportation. During the daily 90-minute excursions, Sherman takes passengers out to one of three destinations, depending on the weather: Lewis Bay and the Pine Cove Wildlife Sanctuary, where it’s “smooth water” sailing and “the osprey are the stars”; the Kennedy Compound in Hyannis Port Harbor, which the Eventide gets quite close to, since it sails swimmingly in waters as shallow as 30 inches; and the “ocean adventure” into Nantucket Sound, where passengers will see Point Gammon Light at the end of Great Island. Bonus: All Catboat Ride passengers receive a $5 coupon toward a future ride.
Learn more at catboat.com
Catboat Rides • 164 Ocean Street, Hyannis