Do I Spy a Spout?

Friday, June 22, 2007

"Those whales are waiting on us," said a fellow passenger on the Twilight, a 75-foot vessel docked at the Cape May Whale Watch and Research Center, in a little marina next to the bridge leading into Cape May. About 30 of us had boarded the boat and were impatient for the 1 p.m. departure.

"I hope they're not union whales," his friend quipped.

We never found out: After three hours of searching a few weeks ago, we came up empty. Evidently, that was no fluke, though going later in the season might have upped the chances of a sighting.

Still, heading out to sea is worth it for the dolphin sightings alone. In the midst of a running commentary by naturalist Kathy McDuell ("Oh, look, 10 o'clock, there's Quasimodo," referring to a dolphin who often surfaces near the boats), I lost count of how many times I said, or heard, "Oh, my goodness, did you see that?"

We scoped a dolphin "spy hopping," reaching its head and body vertically out of the water and looking around. "Now that's a dolphin with an attitude," McDuell said as another spanked the water and then noisily sent water out of its blowhole.

In the moments when dolphins, cormorants, osprey and other wildlife were out of sight, McDuell filled us in on the history of Cape May and the stories behind the landmark buildings lining the shore.

Every now and then, a group of dolphins would pop up or swim under the boat and leap into the air on the other side, and you'd think the world's cutest baby had smiled at us from the way we responded. I swear I heard cooing at one point.

Actually, I think that was me.

-- Anne McDonough

Info: Cape May Whale Watch and Research Center (1286 Wilson Dr., 609-898-0055,; $35, but coupons for $3 discounts can be found everywhere). Sister ships at the Starlight Fleet leave from 6200 Park Blvd. in Wildwood Crest (609-729-3400,, and some of those trips include a touch tank with horseshoe crabs for kids. Both offer whale and dolphin as well as dolphin-only trips. Bring a sweat shirt and sunblock.

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