We found a whale watching tour that allows dogs! Oshan Whale Watch did have a stipulation that if any of the passengers objected to having a dog on board, we would not be able to bring Angel. But we decided to take a chance.
Bay St Lawrence
Oshan Whale Watch goes out of Bay St. Lawrence, at the most northern coastline at the top of Cape Breton Island. We left at 7a.m. for our 10:30 boat tour so we’d have a little time to stop and gawk and take a few photos.
This was our first drive on the Cabot Trail, and the first time we entered the Cape Breton Highlands National Park. VERY scenic.
And, yes, we were able to take Angel on board, and although a few people looked surprised, everyone seemed ok with having her there. Angel was a little disoriented at first, but she settled right in. Keeshonds were companion dogs on Dutch barges, so I think she still has boating in her blood.
It was a relatively clear but cool and windy day and Captain Cyril Fraser informed us that because of the strong winds, he was going to skim the coastline rather than heading straight out. We headed out as some snow crab fishermen were returning to the dock with their catch, giant snow crab, WOW!
Shortly after the start of our tour we spotted an eagle perched on the rock face of the imposing cliffs, some gray seals and quite a few birds including beautiful Northern Gannets. Gannets dive for their food and they put on quite a show.
The most prevalent whales here are pilot whales, humpback whales are not spotted too often in these parts this time of year, so we adjusted our expectations accordingly. It was taking a while to spot any whales and then we found the pilot whales.
Pilot whales travel in pods so we saw quite a few. They are known to be very friendly and curious, and, true to form, they swam right up to the boat. Seeing their fins above the water, they almost look like giant dolphins until you see their cute bulbous heads.
The captain put out a hydrophone and we heard the whales singing, very cool. Then they swam off and we followed them for one more look. Angel was a little short to see over most of the side of the boat, so I don’t believe she saw them, but her little nose was going crazy, so I think she smelled them.
Off the north end of Nova Scotia … latitude 47
The whales swam off a second time and Captain Fraser said he was going to give them a break and not go after them again. Hector and I were excited to have seen a third type of whale in the wild while on our tour of the Maritimes.
At one point Angel decided she would assist the captain and sat right behind him. Before I could warn him, he stepped back and stepped on her. And instead of getting upset, he was very apologetic and petted her to soothe her. So sweet.
Pilot Whale exhibit
After the tour, we headed back to the Cabot Trail. On the way we stopped to have our packed lunch at Cabot’s Landing Provincial Park, a picnic and beach park. This park also features a National Historic Site marker and a plaque commemorating the landfall of John Cabot (Giovanni Caboto). The first to discover continental North America in 1497 (Columbus landed in the Caribbean).
Giovanni Caboto was Italian, but sailed for King Henry VII. According to the plaque, “His landfall…, was in this vicinity, and is believed to have been the lofty headland of North Cape Breton”. Apparently, there are other places that claim he landed there first, including Newfoundland.
The most specific area for his landfall that is proven beyond a doubt is somewhere between Maine and Labrador. But the people at Cape Breton claim this as the spot where he made landfall. And who are we to question?
It was a very long day and drive and Angel had a nice nap on the way back home. She is such a good girl and a real trooper.
Oshan Whale Watch is a very simple outfit. They don’t have wildlife experts on board and they don’t narrate much on the tour but they will answer any questions that you have.
Oshan is the Gaelic clan moniker for the Fraser family and the name of their boat and business. It’s a small family operation with some very nice folks. Captain Fraser has 30 years experience as a captain most recently as a lobster fisherman. In fact the boat is a working lobster boat during the season.
This whale watch company offers something we hadn’t seen before (besides allowing dogs on board); if you go out on their tour, you can stand by for a second whale watch tour at no charge. Of course, most tourists are not around long enough to take advantage of that, but we were 🙂
So the following week we decided to take the afternoon boat tour in order to get a different perspective with the afternoon light. And out we headed mid-day with Angel for the 4:30 tour. Well, this time it was a bright, warm, clear, sunny day with almost no wind. Perfect day for boating, whales or no whales.
And the folks at Oshan were once again SO nice, they’d even taken our names down that morning when we called even though we were on standby. And here we were taking a free cruise with a dog!
And when Captain Fraser saw Angel, he said to her “I’ll try not to step on you again”. Obviously a dog lover. And again some passengers looked surprised, but no one objected. So Angel set off for her second whale watching tour. And the first mate, the Captain’s daughter, gave her lots of pets along the way.
The water was still and crystal clear. And, not long after we cast off, we found the pilot whales once again. This seemed like a larger pod and they came even closer to the boat. There was even a cute baby calf in the group!
Cute!! Looks just like mama.
What’s that smell??
I’d positioned Angel on a low side of the boat so her head was just above the gunwale, but I’m not sure if she saw them, and, if she did, she didn’t react much to them. But her little nose was going once again.
We went after the whales once and then the captain said he would not chase them again, just like the last time. Clearly he respects these lovely creatures.
And on this cruise, since it was such a calm day we headed straight out to sea and around the northernmost tip of Nova Scotia, Cape North. Which was really cool, since we’d also visited the other end of Nova Scotia, Brier Island, last month.
There were lots of gray seals popping their heads out of the water all around us. I love these seals with their long noses, and because they’re so curious.
Then, as we rounded the point, we spotted a flying eagle and another eagle sitting in its nest. Captain Fraser brought us a bit closer to the shore, but there were some submerged rocks in the area and he couldn’t get too close. Everyone still got a good look at the eagle, you could even see his white head up in the tree with the naked eye.
The captain then took us around some beautiful rock formations and arches. It was quite a scene with the crystal clear water.
As a last activity, Captain Fraser gave his passengers an opportunity to try and fish with a line. He dropped a line with some lures in the water, then each person got to pull it in and lo and behold! each person almost instantly caught three mackerel. Cute.
Then Captain Fraser cleaned the fish in the back of the boat and offered mackerel to anyone who wanted it. Really a very entertaining tour and a totally different experience from our first outing.
And Angel agrees with us that our first tour was lots of fun, but this one was truly perfect.