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( Established 1991 - Canadian Coast Guard Approved - CAA & AAA Approved )

Letters & Accolades

The following is a copy of a letter which a Mr. James R. Brisbin of Caledon, Ontario wrote in 1991, addressed to the Travel Attractions Editor of the CAA/AAA in Heathrow, Florida.

In the letter, Mr. Brisbin being a CAA/AAA member is recommending our company, Island Coast Boat Tours, as a possible attraction to be approved by the CAA/AAA. As a result of this letter our company was mystery shopped, evaluated by an inspector from the above mentioned automobile associations and subsequently approved.

James R. Brisbin
1685 Cheater Drive
Caledon, Ontario

Bill Wood
Travel Attractions Editor
1000 A A A Drive
Heathrow, Florida

Dear Sir/Madame;

I am writing this letter to bring you up to date on a new service provided to tourists on Grand Manan Island, New Brunswick. I am referring to Island Coast Boat Tours Inc.

I had the occasion to book a four hour whale watching tour at a price of $32.00. The day was bright, warm and generally beautiful with fog in the distance. We departed on time on a new Cape Islander vessel with striped tarp sun shade and toilet facilities. The owner operator, Dana Russell, gave a complete introduction to the boat, crew, facilities, program and general history of the region. About a half hour into the trip we arrived at the place where the whales had been last sighted but the fog had set in so that visibility was reduced to only about 50 to 100 meters, not the best conditions for locating whales.

The captain turned the boat around and returned to the dock at North Head. True to his promise, he charged absolutely nothing to the 20 passengers. The result of his honesty and integrity was that many of those who had time in their holiday schedules rebooked for the evening historical cruise or the whale watching cruise for the next day. I myself booked the evening cruise along with six others. This cruise was most informative, entertaining and casually friendly.

In a business world where the dollar is so critical especially during the recession, it was indeed a pleasure to meet and deal with a new tourist activity which was responsible to the client and proud of its integrity.

As a long term traveler all over Canada, I would recommend that you list Island Coast Boat Tours of Grand Manan Island, New Brunswick as one of your highlighted activities in your future tourist publications.

James R. Brisban
Geography Teacher and Canadian Traveler


After being approved by the CAA & AAA our company Island Coast Boat Tours Inc. was featured in the June, 1992 issue of  "Leisure World", the CAA auto club magazine. Here is a copy of the article which appeared in the above mentioned publication.

The Prince of Whales
Margot MacPherson Brewer

There is a rhythm to the whale watching experience. It starts with the boatís engine and the captainís pitch.

"Welcome aboard the M.V. Against the Wind, ladies and gentlemen. You've lucked out today. The temperature is 68 degrees Fahrenheit or 20 degrees Celsius. That's the hottest it's been out here this summer!"

The captain is Dana Russell, a commercial fisherman in Grand Manan for the past
seventeen years. We have just set off from the North Head wharf in Grand Manan,
New Brunswick, heading into the Bay of Fundy in search of whales. Finbacks are out there and maybe some humpbacks. Local rumors say we may see a right whale although they are rare. Those rumors might have been started by someone with a good business head.

In a fast-food world, dominated by gleaming plastic and neon, Grand Manan is a relief for its utter authenticity. The whole maritime atmosphere of the island is so absorbing, that the string of salty sea air is soon taken-for-granted. Only the stench of rotting herring occasionally wafting across the harbor is a subtle reminder of place.

On this unusually hot, sunny summer day the rhythm of normal whale watching is slightly skewed. We pass a Russian fish-processing factor ship, the Rybatskaya Slava, anchored a mile and a half off Grand Mananís shore. Strewn on her decks are dozens of scantily-clad Russian sailors, who wave and smile broadly and watch us watching them as we slowly circle their boat.

It all felt a little odd - us watching them watching us - but we were assuredly breaking new ground in international goodwill and cooperation.

The chance to do some sunbathing was undoubtedly a welcome relief for these hard-working seamen, who may spend as long as ten months at sea without ever setting foot on shore.

The M.V. Against the Wind is a pristine boat decorated brightly in red and white, and carries up to twenty passengers. This is the first year of operation for Russell's company, Island Coast Boat Tours, who runs it with his wife, Patsy. Against the Wind was commissioned and built in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia two years ago, to serve the dual functions of a fishing and tourist vessel.

Captain Russell obviously enjoys the duality of his roles as commercial fisherman and tour-boat operator, and he has taken to the role with gusto. He's on the ship's public address system, keeping up morale. There is no guarantee the whales will cooperate and show themselves. Russell tells us to watch for blow. It's an impressive sight, Russell tells us, but getting too close has its downside.

"Yessir, it's quite something to see, when there's fifteen or twenty finbacks out there," Russell assures us. "But if the wind's just right, they can smell pretty high, too."

Whales, apparently, suffer from bad breath.

Much of the whale watching experience is meandering, on the high seas, mind you, but meandering nonetheless. Half and hour from shore, the passengers have settled in nicely and are content to enjoy the view, the breeze and the magnificent sunshine.

About an hour out, the watch for whales begins in earnest. Twenty pairs of anxious eyes start combing a vast unbroken expanse of blue sea and sky looking for telltale signs of whales - the spume, or blow from a whale's head as it surfaces to breathe, a glimpse of the fin breaking the surface, or a tail rolling out of the sea and under again. The passengers concentrate on the task with intensity of scientists doing high-level research.

Captain Russell grows restless and lifts his field glasses. In the wheelhouse, Mate Rodney Ingalls is doing his bit, piloting the vessel and scanning the Loran radar screen for schools of herring where the whales are most likely to gather. A hungry humpback can put away a ton of fish a day, and these waters are fertile feeding grounds for whales who visit here every July, August & September.

Russell is on the PA again and points out two humpbacks in the distance. You can tell them from the finbacks, he tells us, because "humps" are the ones whose tails roll out and under the water. Humpbacks are known as the clowns of the sea and, if they are in the mood, can put on quite a show.

The dorsal fin of a basking shark breaks the surface about twenty-five meters from the boat. No - it's two sharks swimming on behind the other. Or so we think until we come right up beside it. That fin we thought was a second dorsal was, in fact, the same shark's tail fin. Must have been twenty-five feet long, or as long as two-thirds of the boat.

We watched the shark just below the surface, so close we could have touched him. Some passengers shared looks of amazement. Others hummed the theme from Jaws.

A passenger spots spume from a finback in the distance. Its dorsal breaks the surface. The watchers gasp collectively, then grow silent. The waiting is over. It has now become very real.

Some distance across the bay, another company's whale watching schooner appears to have a finback at very close range. There are envious looks from our boat as we strain to watch the whale as it frolics just behind the stern of their boat. Ingalls points our boat in their direction.

From our starboard side, it looks like the two humpbacks again. Our boat comes closer, but the humpbacks don't move away. They appear to be basking. This is the whale watching we all hoped for.

Rhythmically, they rise to blow, then go under the surface again. It's like a dance and we are all mesmerized, not to mention, impressed.

Ingalls cuts the engine and we drift even closer. The whales stay put. A hush descends on the boat as we watch these mighty creatures. It is a strange sort of calm, almost sacred, to be so close to whales in the middle of the Bay of Fundy just watching them as they rest. Humpbacks may be known for showing off, but they don't show off for us. We float along. The whales float along. Occasionally, a shutter clicks. Mostly we all watch in silence.

After close to half an hour, the captain reluctantly orders the mate to start the engine. We've been out for several hours and it's time to head back. We take one last look at these sleeping giants, most of us caught up in our own reverie and appreciation of the sight before us. The engine is started and we head for shore, an hour and a half away. The unbearable tension of concentrating on the two basking whales starts to ease. The passengers breathe a collective sigh of relief and settle in for the trip back. Some order hot coffee to stave off the oncoming evening chill. There is a quiet sense of calm and satisfaction.

Suddenly, at the stern of the boat one of the passengers lets out a shriek and is pointing wildly: "Looooook!"

In the distance, on of the humpback's tail is straight up out of the water. All forty eyes are glued on that tail. Then it goes under. Again - and under. Once again then falls over into the water with a tremendous splash. Again and again. Seven. Eight. Maybe nine times.

By this time, most of the passengers are hysterical with excitement. Cameras whirr steadily. Random shrieks of delight and laughter as a "clown of the ocean" puts on quite a performance. It rolls to show off massive flippers that are one third the length of its body, a body that can measure around forty-five feet in length.

The magnificence of the performance increased the closer we get. Now, one whale rolls over revealing the white patch of its underbelly and the knobby edges of its flippers.

Captain Dana Russell has the field glasses glued to his eyes. he mutters almost inaudibly, "I've never seen one stand on his head that long."

You know you are part of a special experience when a sixteen year veteran of commercial fishing gets excited about a performing whale.

The next few moments offer a ballet of rare and elegant synchronicity - cetacean
synchronicity, even better. The whales continue frolicking, rolling their tails and showing off their flippers. Some of us are egocentric enough to think the whales are putting on this show because they like us. Some cynic suggests it the red bottom of the boat that has attracted them. Steadily, the bay seems to transform into a veritable Marineland. Three harbor porpoises appear at the starboard jumping over each other in a game of water leap-frog. In the distance just behind the porpoises, a finback blows. Our eyes dart from one spectacle to another. It's almost too much to take in. One passenger giggles audibly. Nature has an uncanny ability to stimulate many senses.

Floating about in the middle of the ocean utterly dependent on the benevolence of weather and the integrity of a small boat forces respect for nature. As one of nature's largest ambassadors, whales command special respect. The show before us finally winds down, the whales swim off and, with our senses finally satisfied, our vessel finally heads for shore.

There is a common bond among, whale watchers, especially those who share an exceptional experience like this. There is a look, a certain, "knowing" that transcends words. It even transcends the fleeting understanding weíve all gained having seen the whales and the waters they inhabit up close. On their own turf, as it were. Whales live their lives in the unfathomable depths of the world's oceans. Their lives and habits are unfathomable to most mere mortals.

Perhaps the best reason to go whale watching is the simple lesson it imparts: a deeper awe and respect for nature. It's a lesson everyone could study a little harder in these environmentally fragile times. Whales are uncommonly patient and, by times, amusing teachers. And whale watching, for us mere mortals, is a thrilling way to learn.

Customer Comments

Since 1991 Island Coast Boat Tours Inc. has accommodated clients from all over the globe. Near the completion of each tour a guest book is offered to all passengers for comments. Here are just a few comments taken from your guest book.

Francis McQuire, Deputy Minister of NB Tourism,  (Fredericton, NB)
"You make New Brunswick proud."

Rick & Lori Hayes,  (Oro Station, Ontario)
"WOW! We loved it and will never forget coming eye to eye with a right whale! Thanks."

Keith Purcee,  (Bradford, West Yorkshire, England)
"More whales than we could count! What an experience to be so close to these gentle mammals. Wonderful. Great crew, too!"

Jorgen Beckbissinger,  (Wangs, Switzerland)
"WOW! (we don't have whales in Switzerland)."

James Baird,  (San Diego, CA)
"Glad we didnít have to pay by the whale - must have seen 40 right whales."

Joy & Alfred Viola,  (Wayland, MA)
"Far more whales & better show than we've ever seen back home in Massachusetts! Especially nice to see so many right whales."

Stephanie Gilman,  (Mountain, Ontario)
"The knowledgeable information and skillful skippering were much appreciated. You seem to have anticipated all our tourist needs. Great whales. Thanks."

Glen & Mona Hayward,  (Saint John, NB)
"Certainly the highlight of our vacation! Highly recommend. Exciting - a learning experience. Certainly gifted in finding whales."

John Hubley,  (Leeds, England)
"When I planned my visit to Canada I saw this trip advertised and thought that it would be worth going for. I was right - well worth coming to Canada for!"

Greg & Janet Kemp,  (Richmond, Virginia)
"Great! Saw at least 30 right whales and one breached 4 times!"

Do you have any questions?

Island Coast Boat Tours Inc.
199 Cedar St.
Grand Manan, N.B., Canada
Tel: (506) 662-8181
Fax: (506) 662-9904
Toll-free: 1-877-662-9393
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Revised Dec 27 1999