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Day of the dolphins, humpback whales, and sea lions

Long beaked common dolphins in the Santa Barbara Channel come along for a ride on the Condor Express

Okay, so I said it was sunny yesterday…how fast things change, it seems. It’s getting hot inland and so that mean fog gremlin was with us much of the trip today. It was the kind of fog that was not too deep, you could see the sun if you looked straight up, but it was thick and low when looking across the water for whale spouts. At times you could barely make out the bow of the Condor Express from the wheelhouse. With this to deal with, and the knowledge of where we left the humpback whales yesterday up to the west, Captain Dave steered a course to pick up the same GPS numbers, hoping to find the beasts still at work feeding. But alas! with near zero visibility and steering mostly by his radar, Captain Dave was initially thwarted from his goal. There MIGHT have been all sorts of whale in that area, but nobody could see well enough to do us any good.

But persistent Captain Dave continued to steer west. Before long we got into some clearing, or enough clearing for some decent lateral visibility. When we finally got a look at the shoreline we were well west of Gaviota Pier and both Platform Heritage and Point Conception were in view. Along the way, in the cleared fog hole, a massive mega pod of common dolphins, perhaps 1,000 in the single, tight packed pod, came along side and rode with the Condor Express for about 20 minutes. This gave everyone great looks and it was spectacular.

As time was running out and given the distance we had traveled up west, it was time to leave and move eastward back towards Santa Barbara Harbor. Of course, running east put us back into marginal to poor visibility again. Here is where the story gets eerie. Picture the boat heading east with about a quarter mile visibility (it was one of the “good” spots!), and somehow, using his built in natural “whaledar,” Captain Dave spots a humpback whale…a mere shadow on the edge of our ability to see. A veritable needle in a wide oceanic haystack. It turned out that this single humpback whale was friendly and surfaced very near the boat a few times. It fluked-up a lot, and we noticed a propeller scar and the left wing tip of its tail chopped completely off. The whale seemed healthy enough, and upon examining the photos, its tail had been raked by Orca’s and the posterior margin had been scalloped by cookie cutter sharks.

Numerous California sea lions, mostly juveniles that got kicked off the rookery by the beach masters up at San Miguel, were taking advantage of the glassy conditions brought on by the fog to raft and otherwise rest in the drifting kelp paddies.

It was a marvelous, but different, kind of day.

I’ll post the photos tomorrow to

best Bob Perry Condor Express

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