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Gray Whale Honey Hole

2015 12-27 SB Channel

Oh, what a wonderful day it was as we crossed the Santa Barbara Channel and ended up in the Santa Cruz Channel (the “gap” between the islands of Santa Cruz to the east and Santa Rosa to the west). The sea surface was nearly dead flat calm with a light breeze.   A medium long wavelength swell ran down from the west, but we were shielded from all that once Captain Eric tucked the Condor Express up into the gap. It was sunny and clear. Vistas from Bony Ridge to Point Conception included all 4 northern Channel Islands. This was winter wildlife cruising at its best.

As we left Santa Barbara Harbor and entrance buoy with one small male and several much smaller female sea lions, approximately 12 inshore bottlenose dolphins were observed milling around. Several approached the Condor Express, including a mother bottlenose with her calf. It was a great sighting and a harbinger of things to come.

Out on the 50-fathom curve sharp-eyed deckhand Auggie had been watching a single, very tall, spout for several miles.   When we approached it turned out to be one very big humpback whale. Unfortunately, it sounded and did not come back to the surface for 18 minutes. And although we had good looks before and after its dive, that surface interval was just too long for us if we wanted to reach the ever-productive honey hole, the Santa Cruz Channel.

Just after noon we arrived in the Santa Cruz Channel and immediately spotted gray whales and their spouts in all directions. There were at least 5 gray whales a few miles ahead of us in the southern end of the Channel, but we stayed and followed 5 more that were right next to the boat.   It was 4 gray whales on our left side that formed their own pod with Santa Cruz Island as their backdrop, plus a solo 5th whale about one-quarter mile towards Santa Rosa Island. We stayed and enjoyed all these gray whales in the warm, calm waters of the gap for about an hour.

On the way back to the harbor there was one more gray whale heading southbound, only a few miles off Santa Cruz Island, and a small herd of about 25 long-beaked common dolphins closer to mid-Channel.

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

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