Frequently Asked Questions

How is your "small  boat" tour  different from others offered in Icy Strait?
We offer no more than six guests the opportunity to experience the whales and other wildlife from the deck of our catamaran Kohola.  Many of the other "small boat" tours pilot vessels slightly larger than our catamarans, but they carry between 18 and 24 passengers. These boats have been designed primarily to maximize revenue not your whale watching experience. We have designed our boat to maximize access to the whales and wildlife and provide the greatest comfort while traveling to and from the whale watching areas. This allows our guests to spread out and move freely around the full perimeter of the deck to enjoy the views, sights and sounds free from excess noise, crowding and most importantly other people blocking your view. Our catamaran provides the most stable platform from which to view the wildlife while drifting and the smoothest most comfortable ride out and back on days when the water might be a little choppy.

Do you guarantee we will see whales?

We don't guarantee you will see whales, however in over 900 trips we have only failed to find a whale on one occasion.    Your chances are extremely good to see multiple whales on every day of the summer season.  Weather and water conditions occasionally require us to modify our typical trip plans but with our great network of local operators we are able to find the best whale groups available for the day and provide you with a memorable and satisfying trip.


**The day we didn't find a whale was extremely stormy and foggy and we were unable to venture into Icy Strait and it just happened that there weren't any whales we could find in the fog in Port Frederick.
 
Are the whales more active in the morning or afternoon?  
The humpback whales in Icy Strait have one primary focus for their time spent here - eating.  That being said there really is no period during the day during which you can predict that the whales will be more active.  They often take advantage of the slacking tides to rest for a period of time but most of the time we are out on the water we observe them feeding and enjoying some exercise between meals.  We have been out at Pt. Adolphus in the late summer and have enjoyed the whales feeding and being amazingly active in the complete darkness of the middle of the night.  They feed as often as they are able and rest and play a bit between meals.

Will we get back to the ship before it leaves?
Absolutely! We schedule our trips so that we arrive back in the harbor a full hour prior to the scheduled sailing time of each cruise ship.  There are a number of local captains that look after one another and in the rare case of a mechanical difficulty are able to provide transport back to the harbor in plenty of time to catch the ship.

What can we expect the weather to be like?
The weather in Icy Strait varies widely during the summer months and may change significantly on any given day.  You might expect at worst some winds and heavy rain while hoping for a sunny clear 70 degree day.  Typically we have rain showers mixed with some sunny breaks so being prepared for some moisture but also being ready to enjoy some sunshine is advised.

What type of clothing should we wear?
It is best to dress in layers in preparation for a variety of conditions on the water.  A tee-shirt base layer with a sweatshirt or polar fleece over that and a windproof/waterproof outer jacket should be sufficient for almost any type of weather we will encounter. It is also a good idea to have along a pair of gloves and a wool hat.  The cabin is heated and affords you ample space to watch from inside the boat if the weather turns wetter than you care to endure out of doors.  Tennis shoes or regular walking shoes are adequate footwear. Read our Blog Post, What to Wear for more specifics about the weather and dressing appropriately.

What should we bring on the boat?
You should bring your camera, extra batteries perhaps, and a pair of binoculars if you have them along on the trip.  We have several pair of loaner binoculars for our guests including a pair of image-stabilized binoculars to compensate for the motion of the boat.  If you have rain gear for your trip we suggest you bring it with you but we also have extras.

Will we be able to get off of the ship in time to meet you for the tour?
On most days the ships are in port before the scheduled time of arrival and if you are on the disembarkation deck at the scheduled time of arrival, or maybe even a bit earlier,  you can be ashore in five to ten minutes. If for some reason you are behind schedule or confused about where to meet Teresa, a phone call or text will let us know to wait and facilitate getting together. 
 
What if the weather is terrible?
If the weather is stormy, and the waters are unsafe, we will meet you at the port at our regularly scheduled meeting time and discuss your options for the day with you and the others on your excursion.  If adequate whales are not available in a calmer location, we may have to cancel the tour and refund your deposit.  There have been only three occasions in our eleven years of serving cruise guests that we have had to cancel a trip due to extremely inclement weather.  

How close will we get to the whales?
We adhere strictly to the National Marine Fisheries Service whale watching guidelines which require us to maintain a 100 yard spacing from the whales when we are approaching the whales or maneuvering in the whale watching areas.  Once we have stopped moving and begin to drift and enjoy the whales they frequently will approach the boat at a much closer distance.  It is very likely that several times during the trip you will find yourself very close to one or more humpback whales and will get some excellent photos.

Will we see any bears?
We follow the shoreline closely on the way out and back from the prime whale watching areas.  Doing so gives us a great opportunity to find a bear somewhere along the shore during the trip.  While it is not a certainty on every trip, we see bears on about 50% of our tours, sometimes we are able to get close to them in the boat and other times we see them briefly from a distance.

Is there a chance we will get seasick?
Becoming seasick is an extremely remote possibility.  The number of people who have become motion sick is less than five (over thirteen seasons and thousands of guests.)  The waters are generally calm during the summer months and on the days when the wind and tide do make the water choppy, the motion of the boat is not of the kind that induces motion sickness.  The catamaran is exceptionally stable both at rest and when moving.  If you are concerned at all about this, the best course of action is to take a tablet of a medication called BONINE or non-drowsy DRAMAMINE, the night before or an hour before your tour and you should be protected from motion sickness during the day.

Does your boat have a restroom?
Absolutely the best.

Are there snacks aboard?
We will provide a basic selection of soft drinks and water as well as a thermos of hot cocoa.  Teresa also makes a special Smoked Alaskan King Salmon spread for you to enjoy with crackers. There are also a variety of chips. 

What if our ship is late?
If your ship is late arriving in port, we will wait for you before starting our tour. There have been very few late arrivals and when the ships have arrived late, they have generally stayed extra time to allow you the expected time in port.  If you are on the second scheduled tour of the day we will try to contact you to adjust the tour starting time.  

How far will we be away from the shore?
We follow the shoreline closely on the way out and back from the whale watching areas as much as possible to look for bears.  Once out to the whale watching areas we will venture as far off-shore as necessary to provide the best whale watching possible for the day.  While moving around with the whales we may be as far as three miles away from the shoreline but we will be within sight of land in all directions at all times.

How far is the cruise port from where we board your boat?
The harbor, from which our tours depart, is about a mile from the excursion hub where we will meet you for the tours.  It is a five minute drive to reach the harbor or city dock.  If you opt to walk into town to meet us for a late-morning or afternoon tour or if you choose to walk back to the port after a morning tour it is a very scenic, 30 minutes or so walk along a paved sidewalk.

If you find you have additional questions, please contact us and we will be happy to provide detailed information on any topic you desire.

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Updated 10/10/2016