Monday June 25, 2012 | 10:04 AM
It's great to be near the water. But it's even better to be on the water. With music. Or beverages. Or whales swimming leisurely past.

Fortunately for both the natives and the tourists, Maine has plenty of boat cruises to offer that provide all those things and more. Choose from schooners or sailboats or ferries or lobster boats with a little help from our list.

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Sea Escape Charters, 23 Sea Escape Lane, Bailey Island Sailing and boat charters for touring the area, fishing or just spending the day on the water. Also sunset tours, lighthouse cruises, Eagle Island tours and seal-watching trips.

River Run Tours, 99 Commercial St., Bath Non-scheduled, appointment-only private coastal tours with custom service.

Belfast Bay Cruises, Thompson's Wharf, Belfast The steam ferry Patience offers scenic harbor cruises, sunset cruises and trips up the river to Bucksport and Bangor.

Balmy Days Cruises, 42 Commercial St., Boothbay Harbor Trips to Monhegan Island, harbor tours, lighthouse tours and fishing excursions offered from Pier 8 on the waterfront.

Cap'n Fish's Whale Watch, Boothbay Harbor Take a boat trip to see whales, puffins, sea birds or for sport fishing or lobster trap hauling with the originator of whale watching in Boothbay Harbor.

Boothbay Whale Watch, Fisherman's Wharf, Boothbay Harbor Cruise aboard the Harbor Princess, the largest and only boat in Boothbay built for whale watching. The company also offers classic rock and reggae cruises and harbor tours.

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First Chance Whale Watch & Scenic Lobster Cruises, 2 Harbor Lane, Kennebunk Climb aboard the largest whale watching vessel in the area for an exciting whale watching cruise that lasts approximate four hours.

Rugosa Lobster Boat Tour, Nonantum Resort Marina, Kennebunkport Fully restored 1963 oak plank lobster boat offering 60- and 90-minute tours of the Kennebunk River and the Kennebunk coastline as you learn the rules, techniques, lore and art of trapping lobsters.

Pineapple Ketch Sailing Excursions, 95 Ocean Ave., Kennebunkport Daily two-hour sails, sunset excursions, private charters and learn to sail programs.

Schooner Eleanor, 43 Ocean Ave., Kennebunkport Sail aboard a schooner with Capt. Rich Woodman on two-hour trips along the scenic coastline from Cape Arundel to Cape Porpoise.

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Songo River Queen, On the Causeway, Naples Replica of a Mississippi River Paddle Wheeler can handle up to 350 passengers and heads out into the lake five times daily between July 2 and Labor Day. Choose from one-hour, 90-minute or two-hour cruises.

Hardy Boat Cruises, 132 Route 32, New Harbor Take a cruise to Monhegan Island, go on a puffin or seal watch, see the local lighthouses from the water or try the fall coastal cruise aboard the Hardy III.

Finestkind Scenic Cruises, 70 Perkins Cove, Ogunquit Try a scenic breakfast cruise, Nubble Lighthouse cruise, lobstering trip, cocktail cruise or sailing cruise aboard one of three traditional Maine-built wooden vessels.

Monhegan Boat Line, Route 131, Port Clyde Steam out of Port Clyde Harbor past Marshall Point Lighthouse and Seal Rock and on to Monhegan. Other trips include puffin and nature cruises, lighthouse cruises and scenic sunset cruises.

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Downeast Duck Adventures, 94 Commercial St. (Casco Variety Store), Portland Ride through the Old Port during a 60-minute narrated adventure and learn about the city before splashing into Casco Bay to view the working waterfront and some of the ocean wildlife. Tickets $17 to $24. Seasonal.

Portland Discovery Land & Sea Tours, Long Wharf, Portland Try a land & sea tour combining an Old Port trolley tour with a harbor cruise ($27 to $39) or end the day with a 90-minute sunset lighthouse cruise ($15 to $21).

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Casco Bay Lines Ferry, 56 Commercial St., Portland Board a ferry for a scenic cruise, sunset cruise, mailboat run to one of Casco Bay's islands or a music cruise, or sign up for a group lobster bake and cruise to Peaks Island. Most cruises range from $7.50 to $15.

Lucky Catch Cruises, 170 Commercial St., Portland Learn about lobsters and haul traps during a lobstering cruise to Portland Headlight or Whitehead Passage, or try a seal watch cruise. Cruises run Memorial Day weekend through Columbus Day weekend. Tickets $15 to $25.

Casablanca Scenic Cruises, 18 Custom House Wharf, Portland Take the two-deck harbor cruiser on a sunset party cruise, a narrated daytime cruise or a concert cruise featuring local musicians. Most cruises $15 to $20.

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Portland Schooner Company, Maine State Pier, Commercial Street, Portland Sail on an authentic wooden schooner built in the early 20th century for an afternoon in Portland Harbor or an overnight windjammer adventure. Seasonal. $10 and $35 for two-hour sail.

Schooner Stephen Taber, Windjammer Wharf, Rockland Come aboard for cruises that lasts overnight or for six days from Memorial Day through foliage season on a ship that has been on the water for 140 years. Also charters and specialty cruises available.

Penobscot Ferry and Transport, Knights Marine Service, 525 Main St., Rockland Take a day trip to Isle au Haut, Monhegan or Vinalhaven or see puffins on Matinicus Rock. The small family-run ferry offers transportation to any island in the bay that has a pier.

Captain John's Charters, Camp Ellis, Saco Scenic cruises, fishing trips and private charters aboard the Island Prince.

Atlantic Seal Cruises, Freeport Town Wharf, South Freeport Narrated cruises depart daily Memorial Day weekend through October, including seal and osprey watch cruise, Eagle Island adventure and fall foliage cruises. Tickets $15 to $20.

About the Author

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Shannon Bryan, content producer for MaineToday Media, likes exploring Maine - from mattress races to cardboard boats, she's into the weird stuff.

Karen Beaudoin, online editor for MaineToday Media, likes knowing the important things - like who's just opened their deck for a sunny afternoon beer and what Portland's eclectic set of street performers are up to.

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