We are permitted for up to six passengers and two paid crew, so with a maximum of eight persons on a 33-foot boat, the Fast Raft is never crowded.
Yes. With only six tickets per trip, tours often sell out (but are never crowded). Book as far in advance as you can to guarantee your desired day and time.
Yes, please! We might need to adjust plans. Nice weather on land sometimes means rough seas. Please be reachable in case of weather or scheduling concerns. When you book, please enter a cell phone number and remember to check voice mail and email before your trip (including the SPAM folder).
The boat leaves the dock at the tour start time and boarding is 15 minutes before that. We have a safety orientation, distribute waterproof clothing, and put on life vests. You’ll need another 15 minutes to visit the restroom and pay for parking at the far end of the parking lot. Late arrivals will shorten the time on the water for everyone on board.
There are great sightings and trips offered all year long. Read more: What to See When.
Whales are active all day long but the sea is calmer in morning. The weather is what changes and affects us. SUMMER-FALL (June-November): morning is usually much calmer but may be foggy; choose morning if you have the option. Afternoon winds kick up chop and may reduce our ability to search a wide area, but humpbacks may do more breaching; come ready for wet spray and a bouncy ride. Winds often calm toward evening for lovely “Golden Hour” trips.
WINTER-SPRING (December-May): on sunny days the morning offshore breeze may make it choppy, and often calms mid-day before the afternoon wind picks up again. Mid-morning departures are good.
Storm systems come and go, so there may be several calm & drizzly days followed by rough days when we cannot go out at all, and then periods of warm, gentle sunshine. We’ll try to reach you if we think rough weather threatens your trip. Otherwise, expect to go rain or shine.
The tour runs in light rain and other moderate weather conditions, but Fthe captain may cancel a trip up to an hour before the start time in the event of severe or unsafe weather conditions. If we cancel the event, ticket holders will be allowed to reschedule tickets (subject to availability), convert their tickets to Gift Certificates for use in the future, or receive a full refund.
There is a possibility of getting wet when it’s rainy or windy and choppy since our vessel is open and low to the water. We provide waterproof-breathable jackets and pants that fit over your warm layers and provide wind and water protection (up to size XXL). The captain will endeavor to keep you as dry as possible, but in some conditions spray is inevitable.
We try to work with you in case of emergency (48-hour notice) or weather cancellation (at captain’s discretion up to the tour start time). You may reschedule if possible, or request a refund if there is no possibility of rescheduling. No-shows do not receive a refund.
It’s surprisingly cold out on the North Pacific Ocean where the whales are — even if it’s sunny and hot in Carmel Valley. Whales have blubber for insulation but we need jackets and hats, especially when our boat speeds up. Monterey Bay is a long way north from the beaches of San Diego.
Storage space is very limited aboard the Ranger. We have a large cooler that can keep purses and small backpacks dry.
Yes. Roll-top dry-bags designed to hold a DSLR with up to a 400mm/f5.6 lens are provided on two of the forward seats. Small camera bags can be stowed in the large coolers in the back. Larger bags can fit on the floor between the passenger seats, and we recommend bringing a drybag or heavy trash bag for protection.
We’re photographers too. Zoom telephotos such as a 70-200mm (with or without extender) or 100-400mm are ideal, to adjust to moving wildlife. If you have two camera bodies, put a wide-angle on one, and a telephoto up to 400mm on the other. Larger lenses like 500s and 600s are workable only on very calm days in the Bay, and in Elkhorn Slough (balanced on seat backs). Small point-and-shoot cameras are handy for wide-angle photos and videos. GoPros work well on this boat.
Not necessarily. It’s worth checking our calendar for the days you’re thinking about.
Possibly. It’s worth asking.
We allow children 8 and up on all trips, and recommend ages 6–7 only on shorter hour (1–2 hour) private charters. For safety reasons we do not allow younger children. Children must wear life jackets assigned by the Captain at all times and follow all safety instructions, with parents’ attention.
Due to the possibility of bumpy conditions, we do not recommend this activity for pregnant women, people with chronic back or neck problems, or vulnerability to fractures. The shock-absorbing straddle seats smooth some of the percussion on rough days, but may be difficult or uncomfortable for some people to get into.
The dock is wheelchair and walker accessible, but one must be able to step/climb down from the pontoon into the boat and straddle a jockey seat for the tour duration (see photo gallery). If you and your companions think you can negotiate the boarding and seats, please contact us to discuss trying a calm day tour. We like to help people experience the ocean who cannot negotiate steps onto larger boats. Please use your own judgment about your abilities and respect that the Captain has final call on all safety issues.
There is a camping toilet on board for folks who are comfortable in the outdoors and for emergencies, and recommend that everybody use the public restroom at the dock before boarding. Ladies booking longer trips might want to invest in a stand-up funnel and practice beforehand. It’s a game-changer!
Yes, ample paid parking is available at both locations.
Yes, Coast Guard approved life jackets are provided and required to be worn. Our Mustang self-inflating “horse collar” style sailing vests are comfortable and stylish. We have foam-filled life jackets for children. Please do not bring your own.
We never go over the horizon. We go wherever the good wildlife sightings are, which varies as whales and sea life search for food in Monterey Bay or migrate past. They may be quite close to land, sometimes in very shallow water, or more often five to ten miles out over the deep Monterey Bay Submarine Canyon. Occasionally we go fifteen miles in search of open ocean species if all passengers are comfortable and interested.
Whales are seen on over 90% of all whale watching trips in Monterey Bay. We cannot control the weather or the whales themselves, though. Once a trip has begun, if sea conditions deteriorate or whales cannot be found, we will still give you a great Ocean Safari by teaching you about the wildlife we do see, or exploring more protected areas near shore where there are sea otters, sea lions, and seabirds. We are not able to offer refunds based on sightings.
No, for your safety and the protection of the animals, we do not touch, chase, pursue, harass or feed wildlife. We endeavor to observe without changing behavior, so that we get a view into the natural lives of the wild animals whose home we are visiting.
We follow the federal whale watching guidelines that apply to all boats, including kayaks: stopping the boat at least 300 ft (91 m) away from the whales, not pursuing or blocking them, and driving slowly when we are near them. We consider ourselves lucky if the whales or dolphins choose to approach us.
Captain Kate Spencer is a member of California Whale Rescue and Fast Raft is a participating whale watching company. If any of our trips sees or hears a report of an entangled whale, we may deviate from the day’s plan so that we can help observe the whale from a safe distance until the official, trained, federally permitted rescue team arrives. Continuously keeping track of a moving whale is often critical to a rescue, so we appreciate your cooperation and understanding as we do our best to help the animals that we love. We will report other injured marine mammals but are not allowed to touch them. We have a net and transport box on board in case we come upon an injured seabird that the captain deems safe and appropriate to transport to our local wild animal hospital.
Food and drinks are not included with your trip. We have a cooler on board that can accommodate light snacks and beverages.
Yes. We encourage passengers to bring their own reusable water bottles, and we do not offer single-use plastic water bottles. We carry a jug of purified water and clean stainless steel cups to drink from. As ocean stewards we support alternatives to “disposable” plastics because we’ve seen the destructive effects it has on the sea life we love. We might even stop to pick up some plastic trash or a deflated helium balloon during your trip, and discuss what we can all do to reduce plastic pollution.
The boat is not covered so there will be no shade on the boat, and you are exposed to the elements. Sunscreen, a hat, and warm clothing are recommended.
It’s not as likely as on large whale-watching boats, since Ranger is low to the water and its motion matches the waves, rather than a delayed roll. There will be constant motion depending on the sea conditions. Be sure to eat at least a light meal. Consider taking precautions if you know you are sensitive (see next question).
Ranger is a RIB, or Rigid-hull Inflatable Boat, with a hard fiberglass hull surrounded by inflated pontoons for extra stability. RIBs are popular for whale-watching in Hawaii, the Pacific Northwest, Europe, the Azores, and many other parts of the world. Ours is the first offering tours in Monterey Bay. Ranger was designed for military patrol use and is built to the highest standards of safety and reliability.
Our captain may give you a taste of Ranger’s maneuverability and speed at her discretion and far away from whales, but our primary focus is the experience of closeness to nature. We always operate within safe parameters for the sea’s changing conditions and with utmost respect for the wildlife of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. Many people report that hearing dolphins breathing when the engines were at idle, or listening to birds and whales with the engines off, is as exciting as speeding over the waves.
No. We never go as fast as the boat is capable (40+ knots), and only as fast as our customers like, when away from wildlife. The real advantage of a fast boat is being able to reach good sightings in half the time it takes larger boats, even going half the speed the boat could go.
Yes! Gift certificates are great for any occasion. To purchase a gift certificate, please contact us.
Yes! We offer private charters. To inquire further, please email us.
We have one vessel, “Ranger,” that holds six passengers. If you have a larger group, we can schedule consecutive tours. We can help you plan your group’s day with other excellent activities and restaurants nearby.
North Harbor Public Boat Launch Ramp — near Sea Harvest Restaurant
and Monterey Bay Kayaks
(2486 Highway One, Moss Landing, CA)
Breakwater Cove Marina — near Coast Guard Pier
and Monterey Bay Boatworks
(32 Cannery Row, Monterey CA)