Gloucester, Massachusetts is a picturesque little harbor town with a lot of history. And it offers some of the best whale watching in New England, with no fewer than 3 whale watch tours within a few blocks of each other. This time we settled on Captain Bill and Sons, which as its name suggests, is a family owned operation.

On a chilly Sunday morning (the one time of the week we could score free parking nearby) we headed down to the wharf where we met a Russian-Italian family with whom we took turns photo-bombing.

One of the great things about whale watching in Gloucester is that you can spot the critters only a short distance from land, which means you don’t spend half of your tour time getting to and from a viewing spot many miles offshore, as you do in most other places.

The cruise, which promised to be rather uneventful at first, gave us a close look at quite a few dolphins. And then the backs and tails of a couple of humpback whales. And then suddenly – bam! – those whales began breaching. Which means they were leaping up out of the water with their multi-ton carcasses, putting on quite a show. And it was a rare show: it’s evidently quite uncommon to see them breach at all, much less to see so many of them. It was a most memorable cruise, one that will give our Russian-Italian friends a great memory of their visit to America.

We want to know what you would name a whale. Post your favorite whale name in the comments below.

Special thanks to Captain Bill and Sons Whale Watch for providing the whale watching adventure.