Fall Fun on the Boston Harbor Islands

Last Saturday I spent the day working on the Harbor Island boats conducting harbor tours and the Voyager III which we used to host an after race party for the Boston Harbor Islands Regatta. I brought my camera and took some photos but most of the day we were too busy to take our own photos. It was wonderful to see so many people understand how much fun fall on the Boston Harbor can be. Below is a photo essay of what I saw during the day:

For those who know boats, you may be stumped by this one. This is a 36’ Windsor Craft. It is one of a handful of modern boats built of wood as opposed to fiberglass. Note all the varnished mahogany (60 coats). The hulls are built in Turkey of cold molded mahogany and West epoxy construction technique. You can pick one of these up used for between $300,000 and $500,000.

Voyager 3

What a great venue for a party! Here race participants check in and join the party. We used our 115’, three deck Voyager III for the party where we had 2 bars, and tables loaded with food donated by sponsors available for guests and a fantastic selection of fun summer music playing  in the background.

Sailing Regatta

As we were setting up for the Boston Harbor Islands Regatta party, I spied the Baltimore Clipper historic reproduction sailing vessel “Pride of Baltimore II”. The original “Pride of Baltimore” sank in a storm after being hit with what was described as a “micro burst”. She was returning to the United States from the Caribbean on May 14, 1986 when the sinking occurred with a loss of 4 of the 12 crew.

Sailing Regatta

On the left is a 26’ Thunderbird class sailboat that participated in the regatta (note the insignia on the sail). I raced on one of these back in the 1970’s with a former teacher of mine, Ed Grogan. The boat was bright green and named Leprechaun.

On the right are boats rafted together after the race with the north drumlin of Spectacle Island in the background.

Sailing Regatta

“Slippery When Wet” rafts up next to Class A winner “Shout” after the race while other racers anchor in the background and prepare to head in for the post race party.

Sailing Regatta

In addition to the exciting day with the Boston Harbor Islands Regatta, there were many guests visiting Spectacle Island. Here at 2:00 pm there are still full bots of guests arriving while guests who came out earlier in the day are ready to go home and are waiting on the gangway. Long Island Bridge can be seen in the distance.

Sailing Regatta

A racer from one of the cruising classes picks up a mooring off the north end of Spectacle Island as a historic sailing vessel enters the harbor via the Main Ship Channel in the background.


Racers tie up and relax at the Spectacle Island Marina after the race as the after race party begins.

Harbor Islands Ferry

The Island Expedition finishes boarding guests and prepares to head out to the islands.

Plane Spotting

Every day we go out on the harbor I learn a little more about aircraft and how to identify each type. Here a Bombardier Dash 8 comes in low overhead for a landing on runway 4R. Identifying features of this plane include: Prop driven, Landing gear retracts into the engine nacelles, Wing on top of fuselage, “T” shaped tail.

Plane Spotting

This Jet Blue Air Bus A320-232 is named “Mo’ Better Blue.”

If you are curious about any particular plane but do not want to bother with learning the identifying features of each plane type, all you need to do is type the airplanes tail number into your computer or smart phone and the planes entire history, photographs and specifications will come right up. Try it…tail number N580JB!


This Integrated Tug and Barge came barreling into the harbor while we were doing our Harbor Cruise with a group of Cruise Ship passengers. We do over 100 of these each year in partnership with the shore excursion company “Intercruises”.

Georges Island

97 guests waiting to board the Island Adventure at Georges Island after a great day exploring the historic Fort Warren and enjoying the beautiful day. We loaded everyone quickly for a 4:15 pm on time departure. The recently refurbished Visitor Center and open air dining area are in the background and the granite walls of Fort Warren are in the distance.

Boston Harbor

A little bit of afternoon atmospheric moisture settled in for this photo with a recreational trawler type boat in the foreground, Camp Harborview on Long Island in the middle background and the Boston skyline is in the distance.

Ferry Center

Departing guests after a wonderful day on the islands. Note the couple taking photos behind our pirate photo board; this is from the back side. These cut outs are a lot of fun and it is amazing how many people have taken photos with our pirates this year.

The Boston Harbor Island National Park Area is officially open through Columbus Day and out Whale Watch operation on Voyager III runs through October 27th. AND, our Specialty Cruises that run all fall, winter and spring are just starting. Just because we are in New England does not mean we can not have fun out on the water year round; dress for the weather, bring your camera and come on out for some fun.

Mike McGurl

Boston’s Best Cruises, Principal 

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Voyager III: The Definitive Boston Whale Watching Ship

Boston’s Best Cruises is proud to say we have the only ship specifically designed for Boston Whale Watching. With a unique catamaran hull that cuts back on fuel consumption and exhaust emissions, a spacious deck for optimal Whale Watching, a cozy yet equally spacious interior equipped with the finest whale location/GPS technology, 6 digital screens to compliment the onboard narration and a full onboard bar, there is nothing like a Whale Watch with Boston’s Best Cruises.

Voyager III was delivered from her builder, Gladding-Hearn Shipbuilding in 1999. She immediately set the tone for a new era in Whale Watching with many revolutionary features in her design and construction. Interestingly, more than a decade later, Voyager III is still a generation ahead of all of the other Whale Watching vessels that visit Stellwagen Bank with guests from all over the world to observe the great Cetacean show.

Below are the highlights of what makes Voyager III so special. Note that some of the other whale watching vessels have some of the features found on Voyager III, but no other vessel has ALL of the features on Voyager III:

The Voyager III Catamaran Hull was designed in Australia by the world-renowned designers at International Catamarans (INCAT). The catamaran hull offers the most stable platform for guests to improve safety and provide a comfortable ride. Additionally the INCAT-designed hull requires only 2/3 the power of a similarly sized single hull vessel to carry the same number of passengers at the same speed. This reduces fuel consumption and associated exhaust emissions and boat wake by 2/3 as well.

Boston Whale Watching

The long knife thin twin hulls, which reduce fuel consumption, can be seen here. The large bow area and wide side decks provide great viewing space for guests.


Boston Whale Watching

Voyager III, at 115’ feet long and three decks with ample inside and outside accommodations, provides flexibility and seating options to guests.

Boston Whale Watching

With 100% lifesaving equipment and other ocean going equipment, Voyager III is the only Whale Watching boat in Boston that is fully licensed to travel more than 20 miles off land to find the whales. With close to 20% of the whale watching grounds beyond 20 miles, this is significant in completing successful trips.

Boston Whale Watching Ship

The height of the hull from the water line to the main deck is called the vessel’s freeboard. Voyager III has the highest freeboard of all Whale Watching boats in Boston providing added comfort and safety in rough conditions.

Whale Watching Monitor

A flat screen monitor in the passenger cabin displays the same Global Positioning System (GPS) that the captain uses to navigate the ship. Guests can follow along and observe important information about where Voyager III is at any given moment.

Voyager 3 Flatscreen

A state of the art audio visual system includes 6 digital screens displaying slide shows and videos to compliment the narrated presentation.

Whale Watching Boston

As the cooler seasons approach, Voyager III sports a digital fire place. Inevitably, someone warms their hands in front of the pretend fire.

Whale Watching Boston

Voyager III has unique graphics designed by staff member Ashley Shaffert. On the starboard side of the cabin is a full-sized male Humpback whale and on the starboard side are images of a full-sized mother and calf Humpback whales. Not only are these graphics great works of art, they provide guests with an idea of how big these animals really are.

Voyager 3 Interior

Whether guests are inside or outside, there is ample viewing opportunity as seen here by virtue of the large picture windows in the cabin.Voyager 3 Interior

Booth seating makes for a great family environment. Note: we provide the crayons and paper for budding artists. This young man drew a surprisingly accurate representation of a tanker we passed in the harbor.

Voyager 3 Bow

The huge bow deck forms a fantastic viewing platform for whale watching and the wide beam of the ship keeps everyone safe and comfortable.

Whale Watching Boston

This image shows the value of having open side decks that wrap around the entire vessel.

Voyager 3 Gear

This image, taken during a recent shipyard maintenance period,  shows 2 of the 4 water jets that power voyager III. On the ground are the inlet grates that prevent sea creatures from funneling into the jet system. Most importantly, there are NO propellers hanging down below the hull. Propeller strikes are one of the leading threats to whales.

Whale Watching Tour

Senior Captain Debbie gives a pilot house tour. Voyager III’s pilot house is state of the art and features panoramic views and modern electronics to make whale watching safe for the guests and the whales. When conditions permit, pilot house tours are offered on each trip.

Boston Whale Watch Tour

A well stocked snack bar with offerings including chili and chowder in the cooler months and specialty drinks to go with the seasons.

Whale Watching Boston

In the end, it’s all about the guest experience. Here a proud mother accompanies here daughter on a Whale Watch on the day before Tufts University graduation. Happy and comfortable on a spring day, here is a lifetime memory in the making.

Mike McGurl, one of the Principals of Boston’s Best Cruises


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Full Moon & Harpoon: A Match Made in Heaven on the Full Moon Cruise

Harpoon Brewery

We’re kicking off the fall right with our special themed-cruises, and we are proud to offer a selection of local Harpoon brews on our Full Moon Cruise this Saturday, September 21, at 7:30pm! Working with Harpoon, we have selected 4 special brews to complement the fall theme: Oktoberfest, UFO Pumpkin, UFO White and Craft Cider. These great beer offerings, paired with fantastic moonlight views, will make it a night of glowing smiles and great cheer.

We will leave the dock at Long wharf North at 7:30 sharp on Saturday evening and head directly out to an optimal viewing location where the moon is situated right behind the Boston Light. It will be an amazing spectacle and an incredible photo opportunity.

A little bit of music, a full moon and fall beer offerings will make for a great Moonlight Cruise during the Harvest Moon.

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Boston Harbor Lighthouse Cruise

This Saturday is the first Harbor Lighthouse Cruise of the fall season with Boston’s Best Cruises and we are very excited, especially after the success of our Plane Spotting Cruise last weekend. What makes our Specialty Cruises unique is that we really concentrate on making the trip fun for everyone from beginning to end.

So, what can you expect on the Lighthouse Cruise? There are 4 lighthouses within Boston Harbor: Long Island Head Light, Deer Island Light, Boston Light and Graves Light. Additionally, depending on weather, there may be distant views of Minot Ledge Light off of Cohasset. We will visit each of these lighthouses and provide fascinating narration about the history of lighthouses, navigation and piloting in the early colonial days up to present day. We provide unique views of the lighthouses and other aspects of the harbor. The photographs below help to illustrate the trip:

Boston Harbor Lighthouse Cruise

A group photo in front of Boston Light is always a highlight of our trips. The photos get posted on our Facebook page and guests may download the photos for their own use. This photo was taken during one of the late fall trips last year, hence the winter attire.

Boston's Best Cruises

The Island Expedition, one of our Island Class Catamarans, is ideal for harbor cruises. There is plenty of outside space on the first and second deck plus there is inside climate controlled space in case it gets chilly. These ferries are great platforms for photography and for listening to narration and enjoying the view. There is also a snack bar and bathroom in the cabin.

Boston Light

This photo of Boston Light is from the most popular angle, the southwest, as it provides the brightest sun in the afternoon. This was taken during a Lighthouse Cruise last fall and there happened to be a Lobster boat in the area so I included it in the photo.

Boston Light

This photo was taken from the Hypocrite Channel looking south. It shows the treacherous north side of the light with the lighthouse backlit by the sun. An outcropping of rock on Calf Island is on the Right and Middle Brewster is on the left; the Town of Hull is in the distance.

Boston Light

From the seaward or eastern side of Boston Light are the Shag Rocks which are home to many sea birds. This photo clearly illustrates why the lighthouse was originally needed and why mariners use it as an important navigational landmark today.

Boston Lighthouse

For every angle, time of day and height of tide, Boston Light has a different look. This late summer photo was taken from a boat at high tide looking over the low area in the middle of Great Brewster Island towards Boston Light.

Boston Light in Boston Harbor

This photo of Boston Light is taken from the top of the southern hill on Great Brewster Island.

Boston's Best Cruises

Another group photo at the end of a great trip.

Boston Harbor

Over the years many structures have been erected that have changed the skyline of Boston Harbor and added new piloting reference points. This is the first large structure windmill on the harbor waterfront and is located in the town of Hull next to Hull Gut which is being transited by this lobster boat.

Boston Harbor

Along the way we will see many beautiful maritime sights such as this C. Raymond Hunt Designed 39’ Concordia Yawl.

Boston Harbor Islands

This distant view of Long Island Head Light with the southern end of Spectacle Island in the foreground shows how dramatic the late summer lighting can be.

Boston Harbor Lighthouse

Graves Light is located in the outer harbor and marks the North Channel. Graves Light is still an active navigational aide but it was just sold by the Federal government to a private entity.

So, come on out and have some fun, take some pictures and we can tell you the story of how Long Island Lighthouse keeper Edwin Tarr’s coffin became a toboggan after his funeral!

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Explorers of the Sea, Titans of the Sky

We work 24/7 during the summer season to make Boston’s Best Cruises the best it can possibly be. But when an opportunity arises to take to the water, nothing sounds more refreshing.

We came across some fascinating planes and boats on today’s voyage. We took the Island Adventure from its berth in the Quincy Shipyard to the Charlestown Navy Yard to pick up 115 youngsters, their group leaders and National Parks Rangers for a trip to Spectacle Island sponsored by the National Park Service. One of our managers, Captain Jill Rowley and one of our Whale Watching Naturalists, Captain Melissa Rocha, commandeered the vessel, giving me a much needed break to just observe and assist. Along the way I captured some of the special sights.

And as you look at these photos of the awesome planes in the Boston Harbor, you have a special chance to come see the planes for yourself on our first-ever Plane Spotting Cruise on September 7th.

The Logan Airport TowerThe Logan Airport tower. This was taken from a couple of miles away off of Castle Island. The pier under the approach to runway 4R lies in the foreground.

Airplane departing on runway 22RAirplane departing on runway 22R. There was a lot of moisture in the air today, so the colors, especially in the distance, are a little washed out.

Win two free Specialty Cruise tickets for this fall!OK, time for a little airport trivia; in this photograph, there is a dark object a little left of center and just above the line of grass and between the left two cement structures. What is it? Whoever emails the answer to me first will get a pair of free tickets to any of our Saturday Specialty Cruises starting in September. (send answers to mmcgurl@bostonsbestcruises.com)

Spotting an Air France 747 with Boston's Best CruisesThis is an Air France 747. I believe this is a sample of the largest type of airplane that regularly lands at Logan…it’s even more tremendous in real life.

Plane Spotting Cruises at the pier for Runway 4R / 22LOn the Plane Spotting Cruise we will spend quite a bit of time right here at end of the approach pier for Runway 4R / 22L.

Viewing Logan Airport from a different angle!People often think of Logan Airport as flat, which as this photo shows, is not entirely true. Here you can see the tail of a plane that has just landed. The rest of the airplane is obscured by the remnants of Governors Island. In Colonial times, the Logan Airport site was a large mud flat area with three islands: Apple Island, Governors Island and Bird Island. These islands were largely leveled to fill in the mud flats to create the airport, leaving small reminders of the past sites.

Disembarking from the Island Discovery!Our youth group guests wait patiently as other Island visitors disembark from the Island Discovery.

A park ranger leading a tour on the summit of the South DrumlinTaken from the Island Adventure at the dock, this photo shows a park ranger leading a tour on the summit of the South Drumlin.

Hikers head around the northwest end of Spectacle Island Hikers head around the northwest end of the island on a beautiful day.

Having a lunch break at Jasper's Summer ShackAs we had a layover waiting for our group to return to the dock, Jill and I had lunch at the island’s Summer Shack restaurant. We sat in the Adirondack chairs and devoured our delicious sandwiches while gazing at the harbor. While we waited, Island Discovery showed up and was gently docked by the excellent Captain Sam.

An “Integrated Tug and Barge” sits waiting in the anchorageThere are always many interesting sights in the harbor and every day brings a surprise. Here an “Integrated Tug and Barge” sits waiting in the anchorage.

Island Discovery passing the Boston Harbor IslandsOn our return to Quincy we passed the Island Discovery one more time. Note the gentleman standing in the middle of the bow door. He is taking a photo pointing straight up…I need to get him the “Plane Spotting Cruise” information.

Sighting a very attractive Alerion 28’ SailboatShortly after passing under the Long Island Bridge we came across this very attractive Alerion 28’ Sailboat. Alerions are known for their traditional look with modern performance…By the way, are you coming out for the Boston Harbor Islands Alliance Regatta on September 28th? You can be a spectator on the island or join a tour to follow the race. Stay tuned for details as this will be a first of its kind in Boston Harbor. It will be a fully narrated tour following the fleet of racers around the course.

Captain Melissa guides the Island Adventure ½ of our captain team. Here Captain Melissa guides the Island Adventure past a dock on Spectacle Island on our return to Quincy.

I do not get many chances to be out on the water during the week, but when I do I take advantage! Almost every Saturday and Sunday I can be found somewhere in Boston Harbor – heading to the Boston Harbor Islands, on a Whale Watch, or assisting with guest services at our ticketing and boarding location on Long Wharf North. I hope to see you out there!

Mike McGurl, one of the Principals of Boston’s Best Cruises

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Airplane Lovers: You’ll Love our Fall Plane Spotting Adventure Cruise on September 7th!

By Mike McGurl, one of the Principals of Boston’s Best Cruises

Thank you to all our friends for your valuable feedback about our Fall Plane Spotting Adventure Cruise! As I was planning this cruise, I was especially pleased to get input from people with more plane spotting experience than I. Several plane spotting groups have already purchased tickets, and having the experts on board will make this trip more exciting than ever. As of today, we are officially opening ticket sales to the public! We hope you can join us on Saturday, September 7th for our Plane Spotting Adventure Cruise, boarding at 3:00pm!

Fall Plane Spotting Adventure Cruise happens Sept. 7!Taken from the Island Expedition near the end of 22L

This cruise will take guests to key vantage points around Boston Harbor to view, log and photograph commercial airplanes departing from and arriving at Logan International Airport. Regardless of the runways in use, we will be able to get incredibly close views only available from the boat. The trip will also provide observation of airport ground operations and support services such as the MASSPORT fireboats. Finally, the trip will provide a unique perspective on airport history as the boat will be able to get very close to locations of historic significance.

Additional trips will be designed to attract a wide range of guests; this trip is going to be geared specifically toward guests with a significant interest in serious commercial plane spotting.

Saturday, September 7, 2013
Departure Location:
Our Ferry Center on Long Wharf North (on the Christopher Columbus Park side of the Marriott Long Wharf)
Begin boarding at 3:00
Depart 3:30 (sharp)
Return to dock at 7:00
Guest tickets include a $4.00 coupon valid for any future Boston’s Best Cruises trips
Only 100 tickets available!

Click here to purchase your tickets!

Onboard Amenities:
• Snack bar with typical snack bar fare including chili and a fully stocked bar
• Bathroom
• Two decks with inside and outside seating. The inside spaces are climate controlled.
• Digital screen with FlightAware Display to track local air traffic
• Digital Screen with slide show and airplane specific information
• Full narration with plane activity announcements, including Air Traffic Control being piped in from Logan
• Group photo opportunities and real-time uploads to Boston’s Best Cruises Facebook page. Any guests can download the photos at their leisure.
• Guests can visit the Pilot House and speak with the captain about vessel operations and navigation / piloting equipment
• Q&A with onboard staff about Boston Harbor and harbor history

Welcome to Boston's Best Cruises Ferry Center!Our Ferry Center

Snacks and drinks onboard Boston's Best Cruises GalleySnack Bar and Digital Screen

We always embrace a group photo opportunity on our Boston Harbor cruises!Group Photos are Fun for all!

British Airways Plane Spotting near 22LIsland Expedition Underway

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Spectacle Island: A Great Place to be Active!

By Mike McGurl, one of the Principals of Boston’s Best Cruises

This is the fourth in a series of Photo Essays in which I am exploring the wide variety of interests and activities that can be enjoyed on Spectacle Island. In this installment, I am going to focus on exercise and fitness opportunities that can be found on the island! With 5 miles of hiking paths of varying degrees of difficulty and many health oriented activities and events year round, Spectacle Island is a great place to improve your health while enjoying the great outdoors and beautiful island scenery. All photographs are either taken on Spectacle island or from one of the Boston’s Best Cruises Boston Harbor Island ferries:

Boston's Best Cruises visitors relaxing on Spectacle IslandVisitors relax on the top of the North Drumlin on Spectacle Island. The hill is 157 feet high. Although the winding paths rise at a very gradual angle, when you get to the top it is the equivalent of climbing a 14 story building!

Public beach on Spectacle IslandImmediately adjacent to the ferry dock is a public beach enjoyed by many guests under the watchful eye of the life guard staff. In the upper corner of the photo you can see the outdoor showers for rinsing off and the private changing areas beyond. This makes it very easy to have an invigorating swim and be all cleaned up and ready to go to lunch at Jasper White’s Summer Shack, which operates the food services on Spectacle Island.

Visitors play catch on Spectacle Island, Boston MAHere, a father and son play catch on the North Drumlin. Bring a Frisbee or a ball and a couple of gloves, and you have a great opportunity to relax and get some exercise at the same time! As important as the exercise is, the family memories are sure to last a lifetime.

Hiking trails on the Boston Harbor Islands, Boston MAAlong the hiking trails there are many maps to help you along, as well as informational signs like this one to provide interesting background history on Spectacle Island and Boston Harbor.

Yoga after a 5K Run on Spectacle Island, Boston MAShown above is an informal yoga class after the Spectacle Island 5K road race last spring. A free yoga class is offered every Saturday morning during the summer on the island starting at 10:30!

Boston Harbor Island 5K Road Race, Spectacle Island, Boston MAA line of runners stretches out on the Northwest side of Spectacle Island during the Boston Harbor Island 5K road race. You do not need an organized race to go for a great run out on Spectacle Island! Come out, take a run, rinse off in the outdoor showers and change in the private changing areas after your run. It’s a convenient way to get in some exercise while being surrounding with an absolutely beautiful setting!

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Boston’s Best Cruises Kicks Off Whale Appreciation Day on July 22

Wouldn’t learning be more fun in a floating classroom? That’s why Whale University wants to bring you face to face with the sea’s gentle giants for our first official Whale Appreciation Day on July 22 at 9:30am. Climb aboard the powerful Voyager III and behold the grandeur of our sea-dwelling companions while engaging in exciting activities including a chance to chat with our marine experts. Whale Appreciation Day also marks the first time Boston’s Best Cruises will pick up passengers at the Pemberton Point Pier in Hull, making a scenic whale watching adventure far more accessible for South Shore residents, with a pickup at 9:45am and a drop off at 1:15pm.

Whales are some of the most fascinating creatures on our planet. And there is so much more than meets the eye. The more you learn about them, the more you’ll appreciate them. For instance, did you know that the male Humpback Whales off the coast of Boston sing 10-20 minute songs to attract mates? Over the past six months, Whale University, a Boston’s Best Cruises educational experience that partners with the Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC) and Whale Sense experts, has traveled to schools all over Boston’s South Shore hosting hands-on educational experience featuring whales. One of the most popular activities is walking through the life-size inflatable whale, where the group learns about basic biology of these animals. WDC is the leading global charity dedicated to the conservation and protection of whales and dolphins. Whale Sense is a program that recognizes companies committed to responsible whale watching practices and ocean stewardship. With Boston’s Best Cruises Naturalists and WDC and Whale Sense experts , our guests get an unforgettably fun and informative experience!

Whale lovers of all ages are eligible for the class of 2013. To commemorate your experience, Boston’s Best Cruises will even present you with a Whale Lover’s Certificate, showing your knowledge of whales and important conservation practices. And the best part? You can bring your certificate back next year for a discounted Class of 2013 Reunion whale watching trip!

Whether you want to sit back and enjoy the afternoon breeze with a drink from our full bar in your hand or you want to participate in hands on whale activities, there is something aboard the Voyager III for everyone.

Join us for Whale Appreciation Day on July 22nd and remember the celebrations continue on the third Monday of each month from July through October. Call (617) 770-0040 for tickets or for Hull boarding information. Note: there is no additional charge for boarding in Hull.

Like Boston’s Best Cruises page on Facebook or share the Whale Appreciation Day post and you’ll be entered to win two free tickets to Whale Appreciation Day!

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Spectacle Island: A Great Place for Airplane Spotting

By Mike McGurl, one of the Principals of Boston’s Best Cruises

This is the third in a series of Photo Essays in which I am exploring the wide variety of interests and activities that can be enjoyed on Spectacle Island. I am inspired to do this series to answer one of the most common questions we get asked at the Boston’s Best Cruises Ferry Center on Long Wharf North: What kind of things can you do on the Boston Harbor Islands?

In this installment, I am going to explore the hobby of “Plane spotting.” In as much as everyone is familiar with bird watching and other outdoor activities, I recently discovered that there are many people out there with an interest in aviation and the best way to get face-to-face with full-sized planes is to stake out a place near an airport where you can watch the planes take off, land, taxi, etc. Around Boston there are several locations that are popular with plane spotters and aviation enthusiasts. Each location is wind direction dependent because the airplanes use different runways depending on wind direction.

Of particular note is that the North Drumlin on Spectacle Island is the highest point of land that is close to the airport, therefore it offers a unique visual perspective as the planes can be viewed from a vantage point higher than the runway. All photographs are either taken on the island or from one of the Boston’s Best Cruises Harbor Island ferries:

Airplane Spotting

Boston's Best Cruises Airplane spottingAbove is a screen shot take from a plan spotting web site. Balloons A, B, C, D and E are popular plane spotting locations. I added the star to mark the 157’ high, North Drumlin on Spectacle Island. I also added the red lines which show the approach and departure angles for Logan Airport’s south side. Note that depending on the destination of each departing plane, they often follow a dramatic arching path near the island. The screen shot was copied from the following website which has interesting plane spotting information: http://www.nycaviation.com/spotting-guides/bos/. Here is another web site for Boston area plane spotters: http://www.meetup.com/BostonAirlinerSpotters/.

Airplane flying over Boston's Best Cruises FerryThis photo was taken from the ferry while passing directly under path of runway 22L. As I am new to this, I am having trouble identifying the plane from below. The two engines and six flap actuator fairings give a hint that it could be a Boeing 777. There is at least one variant that has winglets as this plane does.

Planes approaching Long IslandWith the light northwest breeze, planes were approaching over Long Island, seen here with Deer Island in the background and landing on runway 33L. Although I had only a modest telephoto lens and no tripod, the potential for this site as a spotting area is evident and at the same time, you can enjoy everything else that this location has to offer.

Plane Spotting from Spectacle Island - Boeing 737This appears to be a later model Boeing 737. First flown in 1967, this model has been upgraded several times and is the highest selling jet airliner in history.

Plane Spotting from Spectacle IslandI was kept busy trying to observe planes coming in over my right shoulder while other planes were taking off in front of me; here again, runway 22L was used for take offs on this particular day because of the West and Northwest winds.

Airplane landing at Logan Airport, BostonAirplane landing at Logan with Winthrop in the near background and in the very far distance you can see the smoke stack of the Salem Power Plant.

Airplane seen landing from Spectacle IslandFrom the top of the drumlin you can watch the planes coming in from miles away and thousands of feet in the air. At the closest point of approach to my location the planes appeared to be very close to my own elevation. As the planes continued their descent they dropped below my elevation until they ultimately landed at Logan.

Airplane Spotting from Spectacle Island - Boeing 747 I really wanted to see a “Big” plane land from my vantage point and I was just about to give up when I spotted this distinctive Boeing 747 as it came lumbering in from the Southeast.

Photo taking opportunitiesHere you can get an idea of how huge this plane really is and you can see the possibilities if you have a bigger lens, a tri pod, ….and more skill with a camera than I have.

Looking down on planes as they landBecause of the height of the drumlin, you can actually look down on the planes as they land.

Boston's Best Cruises Ferry to Boston Harbor IslandsAfter spending a couple of hours on the top of the North Drumlin, I began my descent back down to the ferry dock to meet my ride home.

Boston Harbor Islands Airplane SightingsWhile walking back down to the dock several planes passed overhead as they banked out over the ocean to the southeast after taking off from runway 22L.

The next time I go plane spotting on Spectacle Island, I will bring a tripod and maybe I can finagle a better zoom lens. I hope to see you out there enjoying the beautiful outdoor environment and perhaps spotting a plane or two.

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Spectacle Island: A Great Place for your Hobby or Passion

By Mike McGurl, one of the Principals of Boston’s Best Cruises

Welcome to the second installment of my Photo Essay series in which I will explore the wide variety of interests and activities that can be explored on Spectacle Island. I am inspired to do this series to answer one of the most common questions we get asked at the Boston’s Best Cruises Ferry Center on Long Wharf North: What kind of things can you do on the Boston Harbor Islands?

In this Photo Essay, I want to show some of the great photographic opportunities on a trip to Spectacle Island. Now, it is important to know that I am NOT a photographer; and although my skills with a camera are feeble, I hope to be able to show you the potential of this island for those interested in photography and encourage you to visit the island to hone your skills and produce beautiful work. All photographs are taken on Spectacle Island, from one of the Boston’s Best Cruises Harbor Island ferries, or from the Boston’s Best Cruises dock:

Blue Hills, Spectacle Island, Boston's Best CruisesLooking West along the path leading to the North summit looking towards the Blue Hills. That is “Big Blue” in the middle.

Looking East from the summit on Spectacle Island’s North Drumlin Looking East from the summit on Spectacle Island’s North Drumlin over the picnic area. In the near distance is Long Island with Camp Harborview in the low area. Beyond is Gallops Island, just to the right of center and the low lying Lovells Island. Behind and to the left and in the distance is the top of the bluff on Great Brewster Island. Finally in the far distance is the iconic Boston Light on Little Brewster Island.

The paths on Spectacle Island, Boston Harbor IslandsAs you may know, Spectacle Island was reclaimed from an industrial past and given a new life by capping with thousands or maybe millions of cubic yards fill, and then landscaped to its current configurations. The designers certainly had vision with beautiful paths and vistas created; here along a walking path and narrow strip of grass with picnic tables making for a wonderful place to hang out or to create art with the medium of your choice.

Climbing Spectacle Island in Boston Harbor IslandsI have always liked the look of the crest of a hill with something beyond. As you ascend to the top of the crest, more and more of what lies beyond becomes visible. It really invites you to finish the climb up the hill to see what is on the other side; maybe a perfect photographic opportunity awaits.

Boston's Best Cruises - Looking down from North Drumlin, Spectacle IslandLooking down from the significant height of the North Drumlin creates unique perspectives and interesting scenes, opening up infinite photographic possibilities!

Natural Habitat, Spectacle Island, Boston Harbor IslandsI liked the look of this small stand of birch trees along the trail, with glimpses of the water below.

Boston's Best Cruises Island Adventure Boat, Boston Harbor IslandsIn this photograph, Boston’s Best Cruises’ Island Adventure ferry provides some cruising action with Quincy in the background. The outcropping of rocks along the shoreline just to he left of center is Squaw Rock. If you drive about 1/3 of the way out the Moon Island Causeway, and look toward the rocks, you can see the profile of a face. I have not seen this in many years as travel on the causeway has been restricted and overgrowth along the road had obscured the view.

Boston's Best Cruises Spectacle Island Photo op!While you have your camera, do not forget to take some fun and memorable photos of your family and friends! I always make it a point to offer to take photos of groups with their cameras so they can get their whole group in the photo. On my day at Spectacle Island, I took at least a dozen photos of appreciative Boston Harbor Island visitors.

Boston's Best Cruises photo panels - Whale Watching with the Voyager IIIWe have a total of 3 different photo panels to take your picture with! My father, James McGurl, created two of them, including the pirate theme in the preceding photograph. Ashley Schaffert, one of our team members, created this popular photo panel featuring a Boston’s Best Cruises Whale Watching Adventure theme. If you come out for a trip to the Boston Harbor Islands, start your day with a fun group photo!

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