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See A Spout, Watch Out!
June 1, 2022 | Photo courtesy

Seeing a whale while out at sea is an exciting experience, but it can also result in accidental collisions that are harmful for both the boater and the whale. Follow these 6 straightforward tips to safely and responsibly watch whales from your boat!

1. See a Spout, Watch Out!

If you see a spout, tail, or a breaching whale, please slow down and post a lookout. Some whales may dive for 20 minutes or more while searching for food. If you’ve seen one whale, many more could be close-maybe too close to your boat and its spinning propellers. Proceed cautiously!

2. Head On is Wrong!

Always parallel the whale’s course and don’t approach head-on or cut off the whale’s path. Follow official approach guidelines and adhere to all approach regulations.

3. Lots of Boats, Then Talk to Folks!

If there are other boats watching or traveling near whales, hail them on your VHF radio (channel 9, 13 or 16 for hailing) and coordinate your viewing efforts.

4. Avoid Trouble, Steer Clear of Bubbles

Humpback whales sometimes feed by creating bubble clouds. They blow bubbles below the surface of the water to confuse and condense schools of small fish. Bubble clouds look like light green, foamy patches on the surface of the water. Never approach, or drive through, a bubble cloud as a hungry whale is likely just below the surface.

5. Don’t Chase, Give the Whales Space

Closely approaching a whale may cause the animal to move away from its food source. Respect the whale’s behavior and keep your distance. If a whale moves away, don’t chase it. A cautious boater may get to see whales feeding, playing or breaching. Enjoy the whales; don’t endanger them!

In US waters it is illegal to approach a right whale within 1500 feet, or 500 yards (5 football field lengths). Other countries may have different restrictions.

6. Drop Your Sails While Watching Whales

A boat under sail may not be able to reduce speed or stop at a safe distance from a surfacing whale. When in the vicinity of whales, it is best to utilize your auxiliary motor and proceed cautiously.

Even more on safe sailing can be found HERE.

How much do you know about responsible whale watching? Click here to take a quiz and test your safe boating knowledge.

Want to dive deeper?

Take the boating course! The first 300 participants to complete this course will receive a free pair of polarized sunglasses, complements of Whale and Dolphin Conservation and made possible by the generosity of the Sheehan Family Companies. Instructions for claiming your sunglasses are included at the end of the course.

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