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Epic Day for Weather and Whales

2016 02-03 SB Channel

Wow! It was such a gorgeous day full of mammals I’m speechless (almost). This was a cruise ship trip and seafaring passengers came off the big ship and got directly on to the Condor Express. To begin with, it was so crystal clear and sunny that you could see Pt. Conception to the west and Bony Mountain to the east including all 4 northern islands at once. The sea surface varied from rippled (Beaufort 1) to buttery glass (Beaufort 0). Totals for the day included 5 humpback whales, 6 gray whales, and 2,000 long-beaked common dolphins.   This does not include hundreds of California sea lions, a handful of Pacific harbor seals (on bait barge), and all sorts of pelagic birds.   Here is the story.

Captain Eric steered south towards multiple tall spouts in the far distance that were picked up by deckhand and Spotting Maestro, Auggie. Around 1035 we found 1 of the 5 humpbacks for the day migrating about 100 yards from 2 of the gray whales as they swam, in parallel formation, heading directly to the east with no deviations or other nonsense. After some nice looks at these very business-like whales, Eric continued south and about 5 minutes later encountered a small pod of around 200 long-beaked common dolphins. These little cetaceans were first spotted by Eric as they rode the 3-foot wake waves created by a container cargo ship that was now about 5 miles west of our location. The dolphins left the wake waves and played with the Condor for quite a while. There were lots of small calved in the pod. We continued south.

About a mile north of Santa Cruz Island, just off Platt’s Harbor, we hit the “mother lode” of sea surface biomass. In this area we watched three distinct, large northern anchovy bait balls each of which created their own hot spot with lots of dolphins, sea lions, and 3 more humpback whales. Brown pelicans were crashing and the rest of the avian biota dove and dunked from the surface. What a show!

After a while we did move over to the midriff northern face of Santa Cruz Island for a short tour, but were “interrupted” by two more pairs of gray whales traversing the island and creating some dramatic photo ops with the island in back of the whale spouts.   One pair consisted of two large adult whales, and the other pair was a large whale with a much smaller, perhaps yearling, gray whale.

We left the island and were homeward bound but ran smack dab upon yet another ocean hot spot with more dolphins, sea lions, birds and our final humpback whale of the day. Adjacent to the bait ball at a 100-yard distance, there was a medium size raft of California sea lions with pectoral flippers in the air and not too anxious to move from their reveries even as the Condor Express passed by slowly and their human fans were calling to them.

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

PS   The 25% off coupon deal has been extended through February 13. Print and show the coupon, available free on our FaceBook page, to be eligible for this special deal while it lasts.

PSS On February 15 we change over our schedule to coastal northbound gray whales (with other species frequently encountered) and offer three 2.5-hour trips per day. For more information go to our website

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