Seal The Deal

A fishing boat company brings a new adventure to Wickford

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Fish’n Tales Adventures is based in Newport, and they are best known for their fishing trips. You can haul up lobster traps, sort the catch, and even rent a fishing boat for a four-hour party.

But this year, Fish’n Tales added something new: seal-watching tours. Each winter, these adorable, blubbery mammals swim their way into Narragansett Bay, where they hunt in the cold water, swim in pods, and sprawl over rocks. Such public posing makes them easy to spot, and Fish’n Tales wanted to give animal-lovers the opportunity to see them.

“This is our inaugural year,” says Thaxter Tewksbury, who has captained for Fish’n Tales for nearly four years. “We finally got our oar in the water, so to speak.”

The winter tour is exciting for Thaxter, who holds a master’s degree in oceanography and used to lead similar marine tours in Connecticut. Fish’n Tales proposed the new service to the Wickford harbor master, the town council, and the local Chamber of Commerce. The concept has won enthusiastic support, and trips have departed from the Wickford town dock since January.

The vessel is a 50-foot fishing boat originally built in 1967, and it’s permitted to carry 45 passengers at a time. “We have a naturalist aboard,” says Thaxter. “We do some natural history on seals. We talk about behavior, distribution.”

Seal watching is different from other kinds of eco-tours, partly because harbor seals are so subdued. But the Narragansett seals have already won a steady and diverse following. At $25 a ticket, the Fish’n Tales tour can last up to 90 minutes, and it’s a rare opportunity for winter boating. The craft must keep a distance of 50 feet from the animals, and Thaxter usually gives them an even wider berth; thus, the company provides binoculars for close-up viewing. Seals are only really visible during their down-time. “I always put it this way,” says Thaxter. “If people came in to tour your house while you were hanging out on the couch, you’d be lounging and resting. There isn’t a guarantee of a lot of activity.”

But that won’t bother seal enthusiasts. The sight of those slick, whiskered faces will be more than enough. All passengers need bring is an interest in nature – and warm clothes.

“We also provide complimentary hot chocolate,” adds Thaxter.