Over the years, Hyannis Whale Watcher Cruises has carried tens of thousands of children on our whale watches. This post was written to offer some insights to help you and your little ones enjoy your four-hour whale watching adventure! You will see that the word prepare figures prominently into this blog. We encourage you to be pro-active!
The youngest whale watch passenger in recent memory was seven weeks old! Infants may even do better than their older siblings on boats. The ocean’s liquid state, and gentle rocking often puts them at ease; no need to wonder why! Make sure you bring a well-stocked travel bag and remember the sunblock and protective clothing; including a sun hat! Strollers that fold are permitted, but we do not allow double-wide or oversized models as they are too large.
With older children, we suggest that you help prepare your kids. If you begin this preparation before you get on the boat, the whale watch will be much more meaningful! By prepare, we do not simply mean carrying that well stocked activity bag, but rather, in actively preparing your children for the trip itself.
We remember one family who never made it off the dock because their son was scared of our boat: the Whale Watcher. This little boy never made it down the ramp, let alone went whale watching, because the size of the boat intimidated him. Upon reflection, some simple homework may have prevented this outcome. It’s a good idea to familiarize yourself and your child with the Whale Watcher. Before you board, walk around the waterfront and get some first looks. As you look at the boat, talk about the trip ahead and address any concerns your child may have. Take a moment to talk about safety.
We want all of our passengers to have a great time, but without exception, safety is the number one priority on every whale watch. Part of preparing kids for a boat ride is giving them expectations of safety and letting them know that there are rules. When moving about the boat, follow an old sailing expression: “One hand for the boat, and one hand for yourself”. This reminder means that as you and your child are moving around, you should always have one hand on a fixed part of the boat for balance.
Without exception, there is no running, and no climbing or standing up on benches or railings. The boat is made entirely of metal, and falls may be serious. Parents, please do not put your child on your shoulders, this unnecessarily puts your child in vulnerable position . Remember that you must have a free hand to react to the movement of the boat for both of you.
Your naturalist will review boat safety at the start your trip. The location of US Coast Guard inspected emergency equipment such as life jackets, and life rafts is also reviewed. The Whale Watcher is fully certificated as a passenger carrying vessel, and children do not need to bring or wear life jackets.
Learning about whales will also help prepare them for their trip! Humpback, finback, and Minke whales are the species we most often encounter. There are lots of ways to learn: read children’s’ books about whales, watch videos, and explore the internet. Kids really enjoy sharing what they already know, and they benefit from having ownership in the experience.
Remind your child that whales are wild animals; they are not trained. The species of whales they will see, and what the whales will do, depends on the day. When we do see whales it is very exciting for everyone! As part of preparing them for this moment , please explain that screaming and yelling is not a good idea. It will put the crew on notice, and will distract other passengers.
Travel time to and from the whales is a little over one hour. Prepare by bringing activities for your kids. A backpack with crayons and coloring books, playing cards, field guides, and electronic devices (…sigh of resignation), can go a long way in filling that time.
The Whale Watcher has a full service galley with food and drinks for all ages, but you may also pack snacks for your kids. Coolers up to six-pack sized are permitted, but must be stored out of the way. Before your trip, fuel up on plenty of water, and lighter foods which are easy to digest.
We hope that this post helps you and your family prepare for the adventure of a lifetime! Please post any other questions you might have and we will respond. Others with the same questions will appreciate it! The crew looks forward to seeing you all aboard for a safe and fun whale watch!