2016 01-10 SB Channel
Captain Eric and the crew of the Condor Express cleared the breakwater and entered the open ocean at 1020 am. After a brief stop to introduce ourselves to the California sea lions on the outer harbor entrance buoy, we were off on a southwestern course for the Santa Cruz Channel. About 20 minutes into the trip we came across a 200 or so member pod of long-beaked common dolphins. Eric slowed down and let the little cetaceans swim alongside and ride both bow and stern.
Around 1110am Eric, along with el águila Auggie, had us alongside 2 of the 6 southbound gray whales we’d eventually interact with today. These were two adult whales, one slightly larger than the other, and they were pretty much on a direct route east (the way a whale in the Channel goes home).
Getting back on a southwesterly track, around 12 noon we located a single humpback whale. It was a small humpback and exhibited the most bizarre behavior of any young knobby-headed cetacean I’ve seen. It never really left the surface for more than a minute. It’s path consisted of moving a couple dozen yards one way, then a couple dozen the other. It went east then west, north then south. It even randomly came alongside the Condor Express once or twice so we could see its white pectoral fins. One hypothesis: it was a yearling that had become separated from its mother?
Our next stop was Santa Cruz Island and the world-famous Painted Cave. We were all hoping to see the cave waterfall in action, as the weather radar showed a lot of precipitation out there yesterday. But there was no action today at the waterfall. A small ground swell was running and the sea lions had all climbed up pretty high on the cliffs.
There were two more fantastic wildlife sightings after we left the west end of Santa Cruz Island. Around 1250pm we found a tightly packed pod of four adult gray whales moving eastbound not too far off the sea cliffs of Santa Cruz. They fluked together, dove together, and spouted in synchrony. Finally, around 130 pm and on well on our way home, there was a megapod of at least 2,000 short-beaked common dolphins moving through the Santa Barbara Channel. They were highly animated with lots of tail slaps, breaches, and tail-walking. A lot of high speed runs led to dolphins leaping at full throttle to catch the boat. The net result was close looks at four different species of cetacean today.
You never know what Mother Nature has in store. Bob Perry Condor Express