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Gray Whales par excellence on the coast

2016 03-23 SB Channel

Captain Dave commanded three excellent adventures into the Santa Barbara Channel with Eric and Tasha as his crew.  The 9am trip had a light breeze and some chop from the western Channel, but this died out completely during the 12 noon excursion, which was glassy and very flat and stayed that way the rest of the day for all trips.   Total sightings for the day included 13+ humpback whales, mostly juveniles, and around 300 long-beaked common dolphins.  Here are the details:

9 am Quite close to the red and white harbor entrance buoy, which is further out than the green harbor entrance buoy, the sharp-eyed Eric spotted spouts while he was on the porch of the SEA Landing taking tickets.  We were on two gray whales by 918 am as they passed Shoreline Park on their way to Alaska.  They were small and shy, and their typical dive pattern consisted of 1 breath at the surface then 6 minutes submerged.  At 955 am we veered off and played with 4 very frisky common dolphins for a while (they had infinite surface time and zero submergence).  This fun continued until we located another pair of gray whales just after 10 am near Hendry’s.  Again, two juvenile shy whales were found.   Just when we thought the trip was going to consist of timid cetaceans, we located a group of 4 gray whales that were “carrying on.”  There was a bit of rolling, tumbling, flukes in the air, bubble blasts and so forth, which we interpreted as socialization perhaps associated with mating.  This was followed by a group of about 40 additional common dolphins with a bunch of calves in the mix.

12 noon At 1215 pm we found a single gray whale at the harbor entrance and followed it up the coast for a half hour, when we got into a very nice sized aggregation of about 250 common dolphins off the Mesa.  At 130 pm and again at 150 pm we encountered single gray whales.  The 150 gray whale was a juvenile and was photographed off Hope Ranch as it traveled through an abundance of natural oil seepage, mousse and tar floating on the surface.  This was a typical summer type trip with very warm air and bright sun, except we had gray whales around us!

3 pm Although I was not aboard, I was told that the late afternoon or “sundowner” adventure experienced equally great weather and sea conditions.   During this trip there were gray whales in abundance all over the coast.  The “problem” was the vast majority were acting shy, like the ones I described from earlier in the day.  Dave says they did have a pair of gray whales pass by closely on the port side, and they gave everyone a spectacular sighting.  Otherwise, I don’t think I’m going to mention numbers or totals for those shy ones.   Similar sea conditions are forecast for tomorrow…so c’mon out and join the fun.

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

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