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Fin Whale Encounter !!

2020 07-16 SB Channel Far West


Conditions in the Santa Barbara Channel were absolutely glorious. The stratus layer was thin and burned off within an hour. Skies remained blue and seas were glassy smooth all day. Sightings for the day included: 1 Minke whale, 1 fin whale, 1 ocean sunfish (Mola mola), 70 offshore bottlenose dolphins and 1000 long-beaked common dolphins. Our adventure took us west along the picturesque coastline of Santa Barbara, Goleta and Gaviota, then moved offshore a little bit before we came home.

Small pods of common dolphins were scattered all over the coastal waters. From Hope Ranch east, the pods were of 10 or less individuals moving parallel to the beach and through the kelp beds. Small, dispersed balls of anchovies were targeted as they swam through the zone. Later in the trip we encountered three distinct pods of offshore bottlenose dolphins, groups of 6, 10 and 50 respectively. The offshores were not acrobatic today, but did surf our wake and brought numerous tiny calves to the boat for a meet-and-greet.

Just west of Hope Ranch a huge ocean sunfish (Mola mola) was very boat-friendly and remained on the surface for all sorts of great photographs and selfies.

A single shy Minke whale was spotted once as we approached Platform Hondo.

At noon, “Osprey-Eyes” (our deckhand Devin), observed a spout at least 5 miles south of our location. Upon arriving at the scene, the spout belonged to a 40-foot fin whale. The whale was on the surface and appeared to be logging. It never went deeper than about 10 feet, and spent most of the time right on the surface, the whole hour we spent with the animal. We had non-stop whole-body views of this ultra-friendly fin whale. It remained within a couple dozen meters of our port side, and drifted a little bit towards the bow a few times before drifting back amidships. At the end of the sighting it swam under the boat and took up a similar position on the starboard side with Platform Hondo and the Gaviota hills in the background…all this on a warm sunny day with mill pond glass conditions. You never know what Mother Nature has in store. Bob Perry Condor Express, and

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