Tuesday, November 1, 2016

My First Westerly Nature Cruise

By Danielle Gariglio, Communications Intern 

Being fortunate enough to live in a state as beautiful as Rhode Island, I often take for granted the beauty that surrounds me everyday. Last weekend, I was able to go on one of Save The Bay’s seal tour cruises out of Westerly and rediscover the magic of New England as the leaves change. Heading out onto the vessel, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Since it was still early in the season I knew we might not see any seals, but the air was crisp and the sun was shining making it the perfect fall day to take a boat ride! So, with a few warm layers on, an open mind, and a camera in my hand, I joined the passengers and the Save The Bay crew, and off we went!

As we started cruising down the Pawcatuck River, I couldn’t help but notice the stunning fall foliage. Leaves of every color, from fire engine red to orange and yellows as bright as the sun warming our faces, lined the river, almost creating a barrier between us and the world outside the river.

Loons, swans and seagulls joined us while we traveled downstream, creating their own wake parallel to that of the vessel’s trail. Amidst the chitter chatter of the guests and families on board, I could faintly hear the hum and vibration of the boat’s engine and the chirps of birds, communicating with each other while out on their breakfast runs. A few guests got excited and began to stand up and walk around when an Osprey and its nest were spotted up in the treetops.

In addition to the picturesque sights we were seeing, stunning houses and villages also hid between the trees with loads of history wrapped up in them. We passed Avondale, a historic village that borders the Pawcatuck River. Education Specialist Lauren Farnsworth, our tour guide for the day, told us that more than 200 years ago a man named Joseph Pendleton owned the entire village of Avondale. Pendleton lost one of his vessels and an uninsured cargo of rum and molasses, so in an effort to make some of his money back, and with permission from the government, he used a lottery to sell off 124 quarter-acre lots of his land. The village was then referred to as Lotteryville up until 1893, when a post office was about to be established and the villagers decided they wanted to change their town’s name.

A passenger on the vessel also shared her own insight with us as we passed a massive, castle-like home near Little Narragansett Bay. Looking at the beautiful home, she told us that she used to work in real estate, and a few years ago the former homeowner wanted to sell his home and invited her to come look at his place.

Turning to several guests on the boat, she asked us, “You know how when you’re little and your mom or dad or grandparents mark your height in pencil somewhere on a wall in the house?”

“Oh man, yeah, my grandfather used to do that with us,” one man chimed in.

“Well, that’s what this guy had in his garage,” she said. “Except it wasn’t the height of his kids. It was the heights of all the water levels in his garage every time it flooded from a storm. He even had a line from the hurricane in 1938, it was incredible.”

After about an hour out on the water, we finally got to the main event! Despite my doubts, there they were. Two happy little harbor seals were enjoying the beauty of this warm, sunny Saturday. One was resting on a rock in his happy banana pose, and another one was bobbing his head up and out of the water. The excitement and thrill that overcame the boat overwhelmed me. Happiness, joy, and bliss are just some of the words I could use to describe the moment.

Not only was it amazing to see the seals, but also it was incredible to see them in their natural habitat. Seals have always been my favorite part of any trip to the zoo, but it was truly a gift to get to see these remarkable critters up close, uncensored and intimately. I felt as though I was a guest in their home. I didn’t go into a zoo and walk up to their exhibit or tank, but rather I went out on a boat and I went searching for them, and although it was only for a few minutes, I got to be a part of their world.
As we headed back to the marina, a couple went to the front of the boat to talk more with the education specialists and check out a map. They had just moved to Rhode Island from Long Island, and as a couple with a passion for boating, they were trying to become more familiar with the Rhode Island waters so that they could get back out on the water.

Watching the couple interact with the Save The Bay staff made me realize how much these boat tours have to offer. Getting on the boat that morning, all I was really hoping for was the chance to see some harbor seals. But as the trip went on I realized that Save The Bay’s seal and nature cruises give guests the opportunity to not only see some seals, but also learn something new and interesting, meet really cool new people, take a family outing and make memories that could last a life-time, or even fall back in love with the beauty and nature that Rhode Island has to offer.

Whatever your reason is for getting on a Save the Bay seal tour is, I promise you’ll leave with about a dozen more reasons to go back.

Book your Westerly Nature Cruise today! 

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