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13 Gray Whales and much more.

2016 03-16 SB Channel

The Condor Express ran two, 2½ hour excursions today and total sightings for the trip include 13 gray whales, 70 Pacific white-sided dolphins, 5 long-beaked common dolphins and scads of California sea lions. Conditions were marvelous. It was very warm and sunny, little to no breeze, and the early morning chop from the west died out by mid-morning.   Here are the specifics:

9am A little hot spot was sighted in the East Beach anchorage and consisted of about 25 Pacific white-sided dolphins (aka, Lags), and a bunch of feeding California sea lions. The spot quickly dispersed and we were able to follow the dolphins down east for a while with great looks. Around 930am we saw spouts out in front of Santa Barbara harbor so we back-tracked to the west and ended up watching 2 separate gray whales with about 100 yards between them. Following them west (the way you get northbound to Alaska in our Channel) brought us to another widely dispersed group of 25 more Lags off Hope Ranch.

By 1030 our westward trek had us just off Coal Oil Point (aka, Counter Point) where the northbound gray whale census happens every year. We located a trio of gray whales here along with a mixture of 5 Lags and 5 common dolphins. On our way back home there were two more gray whales off UCSB.

12noon Off Leadbetter, Captain Dave pointed to a surface mud plume and moments later a single gray whale surfaced just north of the Condor Express. Was it bottom feeding?   Kicking sediments with its powerful tail flukes? Rubbing itself on the bottom? or?

A few moments later a second gray whale for this trip spouted and we attempted to follow along. Both the muddy whale and the second one had other ideas and had long down times which kept everyone on edge. At 100pm a small group of 5 Lags swam by and spent a little time riding our wake. Ten minutes later we found a pair of gray whales moving quickly west and, again, long down times.  125pm and a group of 10 more Lags came by. Finally, not far from the harbor, a very cooperative pair of gray whales were sighted and we followed along for quite a while. Their down times were short and most of their travel was just a foot or so beneath the waves. They spouted together and were exceedingly photogenic.

You never know what Mother Nature has in store. Bob Perry Condor Express

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