From The Boathouse: Follow rules to keep whales safe


Labor Day has passed and officially the summer season is over, but is it really?

As I have mentioned numerous times, I find fall one of the best times of the year to be on the water enjoying our Southern California weather. The crowds are thinning out and we still have the warm, sunny afternoons, plus right now the fishing is great.

However, I am heading to Seattle this weekend for a weeklong voyage. No, I am not delivering a yacht from Seattle, which is common for my crew and me, but stepping aboard the Princess Cruises' Star Princess.

CRN Digital Talk Radio, which syndicates my radio show, is hosting a murder mystery cruise to Alaska where listeners can meet and cruise with the station's radio personalities. My wife and I are looking forward to our cabin with a balcony, but the Lido Deck poolside is always my favorite relaxation area on the luxury liners. Come to think of it, it might be a little chilly this time of year while sailing by the glaciers.

As CRN Digital Talk President and Chief Executive Michael J. Horn said in my July 6 column, "It is always good to have a spare captain along on your cruise!" However, I plan to stay off the bridge and join in the activities during the cruise. Additionally, I will be writing a couple of travel articles about our adventures, especially the dining.

I will miss the next radio shows because I cannot broadcast from the ship. However, Chandler Bell will be at the helm and in the hot seat.

Tip of the week is for any and all boaters planning to go whale watching and for skippers who find themselves in close proximity to a whale or a pod. All boaters, swimmers, paddle boarders and anyone on any type of watercraft must follow certain regulations to protect the whales. These rules have been enacted to protect the critters from over-excited or disrespectful people.

The National Marine Fisheries Service is the federal agency responsible for protecting the whales with the passage of the 1972 Marine Mammal Protection Act.

The act applies to two levels of harassment, and prohibits hunting, capturing or killing any marine mammal.

The level A harassment refers to injuring a marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild. Level B is someone disrupting marine mammal or marine mammal stock behavioral patterns.

I follow the information on NOAA Fisheries' Responsible Marine Wildlife Viewing website at This site gives a great overview for safe viewing, the ocean etiquette and guidelines by regions.

You must stay 100 yards away from any whale, and if a whale approaches closer, stop or cruise slowly to maintain steerage. While viewing a pod, boaters should not operate at speeds faster than a whale or group of whales, and boaters should maintain a constant speed while paralleling. You must avoid following or approaching directly in front of whales, which could cause the whale to change directions.

Also, boaters should do nothing to cause a whale to separate from groups, or block a whale between your boat and shore, such as in a cove. In addition, aircraft pilots cannot fly lower than 1,000 feet when within a 100-yard horizontal distance from a whale.

Swimmers and divers cannot approach whales either, and never try to feed a whale. If you see a boater deliberately harassing a whale, report the incident to the National Marine Fisheries Service 24-hour hotline at (800) 853-1964. For injured of entangled whales, call 877-SOS-WHALE. Every boater must be considerate to the mammals because we are playing in their home.

And don't forget: Tune in to the No. 1 boating radio talk show in the nation, Capt. Mike Whitehead's "Boathouse Radio Show," broadcasting coast-to-coast on the CRN Digital Talk Radio syndicated network at noon Saturdays and replayed at 10 a.m. Sundays.

Safe voyages!

MIKE WHITEHEAD is a boating columnist for the Daily Pilot. Send marine-related thoughts and story suggestions to or go to

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