Great Bay EcoCruise

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July 2 July 11 July 20 August 4


Join fellow explorers on an activity-based cruise from Portsmouth up the Piscataqua River into the Great Bay Estuary and to the Jackson Estuarine Laboratory. You are likely to get your hands wet as you learn about marine and estuarine ecosystems on this informal, educational cruise. You'll be invited to tow for plankton and marvel at its movement in a magnifying scope; capture water from below the surface and test its characteristics; observe, handle and hear about plants and animals from the unique habitats of the estuary; deploy an otter trawl; and find out what scientists study about The Great Bay.

The Great Bay Estuary system adds approximately 150 miles to New Hampshire's relatively small coastline. Those 150 miles include everything from industrial, historical and military landmarks to a wildlife refuge and National Estuarine Research Reserve. There will be opportunities to learn more about these landmarks and share what you know. There is also plenty of time on-board to just enjoy the fresh air, sights and sounds of the estuary with your on-board companions as we scan for bald eagles, osprey, and harbor seals.

You will cruise aboard the 50 foot UNH Research Vessel, Gulf Challenger, under the guidance of the enthusiastic and knowledgeable UNH Marine Docents, a N.H. Sea Grant water resources educator and the crew of the Gulf Challenger. Time aboard the boat is approximately 5 hours including about a half-hour visit to the Jackson Estuarine Laboratory.

Cruise leader, Julia Peterson, at Jackson Estuarine Laboratory with a cruise guest and horseshoe crab

Reservations, prices & times:

Open to members of the public on a first come, first served basis
Ages:  Adults & Children 10 years of age and older (must be accompanied by an adult)
Cost:  $40 for Adults   $25 for Children (10 & up)
Location:  UNH Pier next to the U.S. Coast Guard Station at Fort Point in New Castle, N.H.

8:30 a.m.:  Mandatory check-in and orientation
9:00 a.m.:  Departure
2:30 p.m.:  Return to dock

IMPORTANT – Parking at the UNH pier is limited, so please carpool. Parking is in the Public Parking lot on the left side of the access road to the Coast Guard Station. Click here for directions to the pier and parking.

Important Information

To ensure your comfort on the cruise, plan to dress for variable weather and to be exposed to the elements much of the time, although there is some space down below for use as needed. We cruise rain or shine! Bring a brown-bag lunch to eat while we make our way up the River or during our stop at Jackson Estuarine Lab. There are toilet facilities at the UNH Pier facility, on the Gulf Challenger, and at Jackson Lab.

Some walking is required, mostly embarking and disembarking and can include steep ramps and floating docks. Comfortable, sturdy shoes are recommended.

Seating is very limited, except on deck surfaces. The cruises are best experienced with an attitude for adventure and learning, sure to ignite your curiosity and provide an unforgettable experience!

This program is approximately six hours in duration with a majority of the program taking place aboard UNH's R/V Gulf Challenger. This is a working research vessel providing insight on how marine research is conducted and therefore does not provide amenities one might find on a passenger vessel. Participants must be prepared to stand for the duration of the program and will have limited protection from sun, rain or spray. There is limited seating available below deck and it is only accessible via a steep set of stairs. Toilet facilities, in addition to being small, are accessed by using a steep set of stairs. Participants are encouraged to use the toilet facilities located at the Judd Gregg Marine Research Complex.

If concerns about seasickness have prevented you from exploring coastal waterways, this is the perfect cruise for you. Sea conditions in the Bay are generally very calm and risk of seasickness is extremely low.

The R/V Gulf Challenger departs from UNH's Judd Gregg Marine Research Complex. This is a working research pier. Access to the vessel is via a steep floating ramp. The slope of the ramp varies with the tide. This program includes a visit to UNH's Jackson Estuarine Laboratory. Participants will disembark from the R/V Gulf Challenger onto a floating dock and up a steep ramp.

Participants requiring the use of an American Sign Language interpreter or assistive  listening device should contact Dari Ward at at least two weeks prior to cruise date.

Full payment is required to reserve a space. You will receive a full refund only if you log into the reservation system and cancel your reservation up to three business days before the cruise or if the cruise is canceled. Cruises go rain or shine and will only be canceled in cases of severe weather and/or inadequate reservations. In case of severe weather, registrants will be called early in the morning the day of the cruise.

Each passenger is required to have a signed wavier in order to participate. Families can be included on one sheet.

Click here to download directions to the UNH Pier

Click here to dowload the cruise waivers.

Sign and mail waivers to:
New Hampshire Sea Grant
Great Bay Cruise
122 Mast Road
Lee, NH 03825

OR bring it with you the morning of your cruise.

Water quality testing
Water collection