The Fat Happy Seals of Portland Maine
Courtesy of Natural Resources Council of Maine
I have wondered from time to time, as I sat on the deck of Luke’s Lobster at the end of the Portland Pier, if the seals know how good the food is here? Has somebody told them? Is that why they’re here? Do they read restaurant reviews? Luke’s, at the end of Portland Pier, is on my walking tour and we consistently, all year long, see seals out there frolicking in the Fore River. Last summer, the biggest, fattest seal I have ever seen in my life put on a show pretty much every single day I was out there June to October. I named him Tubby. That seems mean but he was probably looking at me thinking here comes that same stupid looking guy in the ball cap again. We got to know each other.
Luke’s Lobster Portland Pier via Facebook
I found out later that sometimes the lobstermen will dump their excess bait to the left of Portland Pier when they come in from their rounds setting or checking their traps. Can you say “big fat seal party?”
There’s no lack of seals out there in Casco Bay/Portland harbor. One of the cool things to do in Portland in the summer is to take a lobster tour, go out on an actual lobster boat and pull some traps with the locals (#Lucky Catch). If you go on such a tour, or even a harbor tour (#Portland Discovery), the captain will likely take you by Seal Rock, a ledge just off Portland’s eastern Prom where the seals like to hang out and sun themselves. You’ll learn that seals are cute, adorable, fascinating, noisy…….and very smelly.
There are four types of seals native to Maine: harbor, harp, grey, and hooded. To the average Mainer, they’re all just seals and mostly what we see out in the Fore River, our harbor, are harbor seals. They’re the smallest of the four types, 5-6 feet long and can weight 200-300 pounds. They’re curious creatures and are known to follow boats to see what’s up. The end of the Portland Pier at Luke’s is a good place to spot one. The end of the Maine State Pier, a couple of piers up, is also good. The best place to spot a seal in Portland, however, is from a boat. Consider riding the Peaks Island Ferry.
Photo by Casco Bay Lines
Riding the ferry to Peaks, or to one of the other islands in Casco Bay, is a singular Portland experience that should not be missed by any visitor. There are longer trips to be had on Casco Bay Lines, and even (in the summer) a narrated tour of Casco Bay on their mail boat, but the Peaks boat runs most often and is a 20-minute ride out and 20 minutes back in if you just stay on the boat. Kids on Peaks go to school in Portland, so the ferry is both consistent and persistent all year long. The price of a ticket fluctuates throughout the year but it’s only in the eight-to-twelve-dollar range. It’s an outstanding way to see the harbor, Casco Bay Islands, lighthouses (Bug, Spring Point, Portland Headlight, Rams Ledge), historic Fort Gorges, Fort Preble, Fort Scammell (on House Island), and seals.
In the winter, if you plan to be on deck, bundle up as temperature on the water drops dramatically the moment you leave the dock. In the summer expect a party atmosphere, especially on the weekends as excited wedding parties ride the boat to their appointed destination. Hanging out on Commercial Street, counting the brides running for the ferry in their dresses, is an amusing Saturday activity in high summer in Portland. And as nice as our restaurants are for lunch, I can’t think of a nicer date on a sunny day than a sandwich on the ferry, and cookies from Standard Baking across the street from the terminal.
Ross – Portland Tour Guide