Don’t miss the boat! Dol­phin watch ad­ven­ture at the Jersey Shore

Daily Times (Primos, PA) - - TRAVEL - By Ruth Rovner Spe­cial to Dig­i­tal First Me­dia

It’s a glo­ri­ous late sum­mer day at the Jersey Shore as our boat pulls away from the dock at Gard­ner’s Basin in At­lantic City. We’re off on a dol­phin-watch­ing ad­ven­ture, and our cap­tain is op­ti­mistic about our quest.

“The ocean’s per­fect, there’s a nice breeze, and we do ex­pect to see dol­phins to­day,” says Jeff George, owner of the popular At­lantic City Cruises. The Dol­phin Watch is one of four cruises of­fered dur­ing the sum­mer sea­son and this one con­tin­ues through the end of Oc­to­ber.

Now that beach sea­son is over, it’s a chance to en­joy other plea­sures at the Jersey Shore, such as tak­ing a cruise that in­cludes a search for dol­phins.

They are spot­ted 90 per­cent of the time, said our cap­tain. On the rare oc­ca­sions when they’re not, ev­ery­one on board gets a free re­turn ticket - with no limit on when it’s used.

One day, 35 dol­phins were ca­vort­ing in the ocean off the coast of Bri­g­an­tine, so the cap­tain heads in the same di­rec­tion to­day.

Our boat, the Cruisin 1, is a com­fort­able dou­bledecked 65 foot ves­sel. As we head out to the ocean from the bay, seag­ulls swoop over­head. Soon we see the At­lantic City sky­line. Cam­eras click as we ad­mire the out­lines of casi­nos from this van­tage point. The gaudy Taj Ma­hal, the sleek Trump Plaza and oth­ers - all look like fan­tasy rec­tan­gles against the sky.

Then the Bri­g­an­tine beach comes into view, and we see sun­bathers and swim­mers. Oth­ers are en­joy­ing kite board­ing: they’re on surf­boards guid­ing col­or­ful kites.

But our main fo­cus is dol­phins, and as we cruise, Cap­tain Jeff gives us some ba­sic in­for­ma­tion. Dol­phins are wild, he em­pha­sizes.

“Th­ese aren’t like the dol­phins at places like Sea World in Or­lando. Th­ese are not tamed in any way.”

They stay at the Jersey Shore from May through Oc­to­ber, when the ocean turns colder and they swim south. Dur­ing the day, dol­phins eat 40- 60 pounds of fresh fish.

“They have hearty ap­petites,” said our cap­tain. And it shows: fe­males grow to 400 pounds, and males are even heav­ier at 60 pounds.

A sea­soned mariner and ex­pert on dol­phins, Cap­tain Jeff has been work­ing on boats since age 5. His grand­fa­ther started the busi­ness in Sea Isle City over 40 years ago. Cap­tain Jeff, who is a na­tive of Me­dia and for­mer teacher, now owns the fam­ily busi­ness and lives full time at the Shore.

As the boat heads far­ther out to sea, he urges us to be on the look­out. “You’re part of our re­search team, so tell us as soon as you see a dol­phin,” he said. “If you see a dark gray fin rise and fall, that’s a dol­phin. And they have to come to the top to get air. Then they dis­ap­pear back into the wa­ter.”

Sud­denly, on the star­board side, we see flashes of a fin com­ing to the sur­face. Then we catch a brief glimpse of the be­fore it into the wa­ter.

“Oh, look!” pas­sen­gers ex­claim. “Look how close it came!”

We will soon see more, Jeff prom­ises. He senses that there are lots of fish around, and that means the dol­phins are en­joy­ing their lunch.

He also knows they’ve been hav­ing “lunch” un­der­wa­ter.

“They take the fish, catch it in their teeth, and swal­low their meal whole,” he said. “See all the birds? They’re get­ting the scraps of fish caught by the dol­phins.”

Soon we see many more en­tire dol­phin dips back that their flashes of fin. They’re ca­vort­ing in the wa­ter- com­ing up, and then dart­ing down- and they’re on both sides of the boat. Jeff es­ti­mates that al­to­gether there are about 50 dol­phins un­der­wa­ter, although we won’t see that many.

“There are plenty of dol­phins. They’re fe­males with their ba­bies,” Jeff said. He knows this be­cause ba­bies only swim with their moth­ers and aunts. He can even es­ti­mate that one baby dol­phin is only a week old or less.

Th­ese At­lantic bot­tle­neck dol­phins keep flip­ping up and then div­ing back down un­der­wa­ter. Their tail fin is called a flip­per, Jeff ex­plains, be­cause of how they use it to flip through the wa­ter.

He skill­fully ma­neu­vers the boat so those on both sides get good views as the dol­phins come even closer. “Here they come, right on cue,” he says. Pas­sen­gers young and old are de­lighted. The kids are ab­so­lutely glee­ful.

Cap­tain Jeff is pleased, too.

“I promised we’d see dol­phins - and that we’d have an ad­ven­ture- and I kept my prom­ise!” he said.

After we’ve en­joyed spot­ting the dol­phins and they are very fast­mov­ing - it’s time to turn def­i­nitely back. On the re­turn trip, pas­sen­gers en­joy the calm wa­ter, the gen­tle swell of the waves, and the sea breeze. Although the ex­cite­ment is over, en­joy­ing the gen­tle cruise is an­other plea­sure.

The pas­sen­gers are a var­ied group, span­ning all ages. Some are Jersey Shore va­ca­tion­ers who are on their first dol­phin watch. But oth­ers are re­peat pas­sen­gers who come when­ever they’re at the Shore.

Each trip is a new ad­ven­ture, and there’s also the sheer plea­sure of the boat ride and the chance to watch dol­phins rid­ing the waves.

At­lantic City Cruises of­fers its Dol­phin Watch cruise daily through Sept 30 and then on Wed, Sat and Sun from Oc­to­ber 1 to 29. For sched­ule and in­for­ma­tion, visit­lantic­c­i­ty­ or call 609-347-760­lantic­c­i­ty­

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