It’s Tuesday, August 9, 2016 and we had a great whale watching excursion into the Santa Barbara Channel today. The weather was overcast and skies were gray all day, and the wind started off near zero with glassy seas. The seas picked up gradually as we moved further offshore and the morning turned to afternoon. Captain Dave and his crew took us throughout the north-central Channel and, overall, we saw: 5 humpback whales (more in the area), 1,500 long-beaked common dolphins and at least 150 California sea lions.
Our first encounter with cetaceans consisted of a small group of dolphins that approached the boat and rode the bow, side and stern wake. Conditions were glassy smooth at the time, and there were quite a few little “football sized” calves in the group. We were no more than a mile or two outside the harbor at this sighting.
About 30 minutes later “Ojos de águila” Auggie, our deckhand, located a tall spout several miles ahead. How does he do this when both the sky and the water is gray? Numerous dolphins were all around us and what turned out to be our first humpback whale of the day popped up to the surface. The tail fluke on this whale was deformed in kind of a slice along the outside edge of the right fluke. It reminded me of a pinky-finger. This animal also threw its tail once. There were abundant elegant terns and sooty shearwaters in the area. At one point, a “friendly tern” came along the port side of the boat very closely. A passenger on the bow reached up, raising his hand towards the bird. It opened its mouth as if to bit the hand and squawked…but never came so close as to draw blood. It was the first time I’ve ever seen such behavior by an elegant tern towards the boat.
Dave continued to head west along the middle of the Channel. Soon four more humpback whales were located and they swam singly and in pairs for the rest of the trip. Loads of dolphins were in the area as were about 100 or so California sea lions. The smallest of the humpback whales breached separately twice, and had an episode of wild and crazy tail throwing. This was exciting stuff especially since the wind had picked up and white caps were all around, so each throw was enhanced.
You never know what Mother Nature has in store. Bob Perry Condor Express