How is the Fast Raft different from other whale-watching boats on Monterey Bay?
- Small — only six passengers, no crowds
- Fast — more time with the wildlife & scenery
- Open — enjoy fresh air, bird sounds, and no diesel fumes
- Personal — each trip is tailored to those on board
- Stable — far less likelihood of seasickness
- Quiet — 4-stroke supercharged gasoline outboard engines don’t roar, they purr.
How many people are on board? Is the boat ever crowded?
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.
Do I have to purchase tickets in advance?
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.
What is the Cancellation Policy?
Please contact us with as much advance notice as possible to reschedule or cancel your booking. We will refund your tickets with 48 hours notice if you are not able to reschedule. Cancellations made less than 48 hours before a tour will be handled at our discretion. If Fast Raft cancels your tour due to weather or other reasons we will do everything we can to reschedule your trip while you are in town, and if it’s not possible we will give you a 100% refund.
Should I check my phone or email before the trip?
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).
Why should I arrive 30 minutes early?
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.
When is the best time to come?
There are great sightings and trips offered all year long. Read more: What to See When.
Which trip is better, morning or afternoon?
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.
Do winter storms affect winter boat trips?
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.
What happens if it rains?
The tour runs in light rain and other moderate weather conditions, but the 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.
Will I get wet?
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.
Why do you tell everyone to dress for snow when it’s summer in California?
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.
Highly recommended clothing:
- long pants & long sleeves
- closed-toed shoes (not sandals or heels)
- warm fleece sweater or jacket
- warm hat & scarf (chin straps needed for brimmed hats)
- gloves (in winter)
What else should I bring?
- snack, drink
What should I NOT bring?
- full meals or messy/crumbly snacks
- fragile glassware; sharp knives
- muddy or caked shoes (keep boat clean & reduce our water use)
- fine leather shoes/jackets that could be damaged by salt spray
- sharp or high heels
What is NOT allowed on board?
- firearms including permitted concealed carry
Is there storage aboard the boat?
Storage space is very limited aboard the Ranger. We have a large cooler that can keep purses and small backpacks dry.
Is there waterproof storage for my camera gear?
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.
I’m a serious photographer. Which lenses are best on this boat?
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.
Do you get fully booked on weekends and holidays?
Not necessarily. It’s worth checking our calendar for the days you’re thinking about.
Can you add a trip or put me on the waiting list?
We do not keep a waiting list and usually cannot add trips. We do sometimes have last-minute openings so keep checking the calendar. We may announce last-minute additions on Facebook at facebook.com/fastraft.
Is this tour good for all ages?
Our age limit is 8 and up on all trips. 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.
Is this tour good for pregnant women, people with back or neck issues, or frail bones?
We’re sorry, we do not permit pregnant women on board. Due to the possibility of bumpy conditions, we do not recommend this activity for people with chronic back or neck problems, or vulnerability to fractures.
Is this tour wheelchair or mobility-limited accessible?
The Moss Landing 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.
Is there available restroom on board?
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!
Is there parking available nearby?
Yes, ample paid parking is available at both locations.
Are life jackets available on board?
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.
How far out from land do we go?
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, and more often it’s five to ten miles out over the deep Monterey Bay Submarine Canyon. On long tours we may travel in search of open ocean species if all passengers are comfortable and interested, yet are rarely more than 10 miles from the nearest land.
Do you guarantee whale sightings?
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.
Will we be able to feed, pet or touch the wildlife we encounter?
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.
How close can we get?
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.
What if we encounter an entangled whale or animal in distress?
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.
Are drinks or food served on the trip?
Food and drinks are not included with your trip. We have a cooler on board that can accommodate light snacks and beverages.
Is there water on board?
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.
Is there any shade or shelter on the boat?
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.
Will I get seasick?
It’s not as likely as on large whale-watching boats, however, sensitive people may still get seasick and should take medication. 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).
I’m sensitive to seasickness, so what should I do?
- Book a morning trip rather than afternoon, for smoother seas.
- Take over-the-counter medication (Dramamine, Bonine) an hour before the trip, or get a prescription for the patch (Scopolamine) or oral Zofran.
- Choose the rear seats, as the front goes up and down more.
- Tell your captain that you’re sensitive at the start of the trip, and give her updates if you start to feel queasy. Usually she can adjust the motion of the boat to help you feel better.
What type of boat is this?
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.
How fast do you go?
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.
Is this a thrill ride? Should I be scared?
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.
Are gift certificates available for Fast Raft trips?
Yes! Gift certificates are great for any occasion. To purchase a gift certificate, please contact us.
Can I book a private tour?
Yes! We offer private charters. To inquire further, please email us.
How many boats do you have?
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.