It was a rainy day at Acadia, so I picked out a two-hour "Nature Cruise" from Bass Harbor on the quieter side of Mt. Desert Island. Seals and information about Maine lobstering were the highlights of this enjoyable little tour.
Today was predicted to be cloudy with sporadic rain. The weather people were right.
We went back and forth about what to do. We narrowed it down to a boat tour or a hike. We were all set to do a hike, but it kept raining off and on.
I found Island Cruises out of Bass Harbor, and we signed up to take the 2-hour afternoon nature cruise.
Mt. Desert Island is split half way up through the middle by Somes Sound.
Looking at the map, the side of the island on the right, or east, is where the Acadia National Park Loop Road, Cadillac Mountain, Jordan Pond, the Carriage Roads, and Bar Harbor are located.
On the left side of Somes Sound, is what is referred to as the quieter side of the island. The National Park still covers much of it, but that side is visited less. You will find Southwest Harbor and Bass Harbor at the southern end of that side.
So, our campground is at the northern end of the right side of the island and Bass Harbor is located at the far south end of the left side of the island. It's about a 20-mile drive.
We arrived at Island Cruises a bit early and parking was a little tough. The earlier lunch cruise hadn't come back yet, so there were vehicles from that tour still in the parking lot, which isn't very big to begin with. But everyone managed to squeeze in.
While we waited, I took some photos of the harbor.
It's still a "working" harbor and 80 lobster fishermen run boats out of there.
The boat returned to the dock and once the other passengers unloaded,
we were able to board. We grabbed a couple seats under the roof.
It was looking like it was going to clear up, but that soon changed and more rain rolled in just as we were departing. Fortunately, we brought our rain gear and extra layers 'cause the rain definitely made it chilly even though temps were in the 70s.
Our captain gave some great history of the area and talked about the lobster industry. There are 80 lobster boats in Bass Harbor and each fisherman is allowed 800 traps. All the boats have a buoy on top that is color-coded and matches the buoys attached to all their traps.
As we left the harbor we passed the Bass Harbor Light.
The next several minutes of the tour, the rain was blowing in my face, so there is a pretty large gap with no pictures as we listened to the captain talk about the island communities and the industry that came and went throughout the years. Cod fishing, timber, granite from the shoreline, and even the sale of blocks of ice, sustained the people of the area for a long time.
We spotted some Harbor Porpoises, but they were hard to view as you'd see them surface one time and then they were gone.
Eventually, the rain let up and we saw some Harbor Seals popping their heads up around some rocks.
That was the first of a few stops where seal viewing quickly became the highlight of the trip.
Mostly, it was Harbor Seals up on the rocks and then larger, more curious Gray Seals in the water.
The Gray Seals had a more sloped head ....
and looked like dogs in the face, whereas the Harbor Seals had a more rounded head.
The Gray Seals followed the boat and got pretty close while the Harbor Seals watched us cautiously from their rocks.
I was surprised at all the many different colors of the Harbor Seals.
They are definitely cute.
We could have watched the seals all day, especially the Gray Seals.
Linda took this video of the seals on the rocks and she tried to get the Gray Seals as they randomly poked their heads out of the water.
But we had to move on. We spotted four Bald Eagles, but I didn't get very good pics of any of them.
We stopped by an Atlantic Salmon farm and learned about the process of raising salmon.
Our captain has a recreational lobster license, so he has five traps. He pulled one up that had several lobsters in it.
He told us about the size limits and how they measure lobsters. There is a fairly small window of size they can keep. If they are too small, they go back in to grow, and once they get too big, they are legally safe. There are also rules for females versus males.
He explained the differences between soft shells and hard shells. Lobsters shed their shells every year in order to grow, so he could tell if the lobster had recently shed and grown back its shell (softer shell) or if it was due to shed its shell. There are different types of bands to go on the claws depending on the shell.
He showed us the lobster trap and how it works.
It was really interesting to listen to all the information about lobstering in Maine and how these fishermen, more than any other, have embraced the regulations and even fight for them to sustain the industry. With all the lobster fishermen up and down the coast, because of their stewardship, there are as many if not more lobster than ever before.
As we left the trap, I took a picture of some buoys to show some of the many different color schemes.
They all look like giant fishing bobbers, and they are everywhere in every direction you look. But, each harbor has a territory. So you won't see the above buoys in another harbor's area.
From there we headed back to the dock. We loved the seals and the lobstering information, but all of it was interesting. It was a great little two-hour tour with lots of diversity. The weather could have been better, but it was a good way to enjoy the area without hiking or biking in the rain.
The rain continued as we made our way back to the campground. I have a feeling we'll spend more time on the Bass Harbor side of the island while we are here.
The jury is still out as to whether or not we might return to Acadia at the end of the month or early September after we get back from Wisconsin. It has so much to offer, but we'd certainly prefer to be here when it's not so crowded. Acadia is in the top ten of National Parks with respect to numbers of visitors, and peak season is only about two months long. We just happen to be here at the peak of the peak.