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Humpbacks and Gray Whale

2015 12-28 SB Channel

A truly exhilarating experience and cetacean watching extraordinaire. Back from the snowy slopes of Colorado, Captain Dave took command today along with Colorado native and ojos del águila deckhand, Auggie, on the binoculars. How fitting it was to have this Colorado connection as the day seemed to be as clear, crisp and cold as the slopes of the Rockies. And today was a a great winter wildlife day.

Our first wildlife encounter was with a scattered group of approximately 125 long-beaked common dolphins traveling in two’s and three’s and even some fives’s. It wasn’t massive or mega but they were very friendly.

Next up on the sightings list was a solo gray whale which we located just south of the Lanes, near Santa Cruz Island. At this point we were about an hour and a half into the trip and finding that the outer Santa Barbara Channel conditions were a bit windy. I recorded speeds between 19 and 23 knots at this location.   Luckily for us, the way home to Mexico is to travel east in the Channel and put the wind and seas astern, making it a comfortable affair.

Just a few minutes later we got into another more tightly-packed pod of at least 100 long-beaked common dolphins. Being able to witness these little cetaceans in the wind was good. At least 20 California sea lions were mixed in with the dolphins and mimicked the dolphin behaviors.

We were slowly heading home on a track that was across moderate seas, just big enough to be fun, and not so big as to be a danger in any way, when our grande finale was watched.   It was a true open ocean hot spot complete with all the major categories of marine predators all converging on a subsurface, but shallow, school of bait fish.   Seabirds, sea lions, dolphins, and 4 very large humpback whales were feeding amidst the waves. Two of the humpback whales breached separately and unexpectedly (my excuse for having no photos), and the first was a full body, into the wind, breach with a splashdown the sent out the loudest “crack” sound I’ve ever heard from a humpback whale. Again the crew speculated as to why we always seem to see these tremendous breaches with the seas are running.

To keep the totals updated, in addition to the 4 humpback whales on the hot spot, there were at least 200 dolphins, and an additional 50 sea lions.

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

PS   Hope to see you on board sometime this week !

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