2016 07-22 SB Channel
So much of where we go and what we see in the Santa Barbara Channel is tied directly to sea conditions and weather patterns that I generally try to paint a picture for you right here in the opening paragraph. It sets the stage for the main actors that you will read about below. Today we had bright, warm sunshine all day long. It was so sunny because there was a light breeze that kept the stratus away. We also experienced a moderate bump on the water due to very strong winds in the far western Channel. That being said, Captain Dave is a master of keeping the Condor Express in as calm a situation as possible. Today we closely watched the following species thanks to Dave and the oceanic conditions: 7 humpback whales, 1 Minke whale, 2,800 long-beaked common dolphins, hundreds of California sea lions and 2 ocean sunfish or Mola mola.
Our first cetacean encounter took place about 8 miles out from Santa Barbara where at very large, spread-out herd of dolphins found us and took turns riding our bow, side and stern wake. There were a few medium-sized calves in the mix and a lot of mating going on. The herd passed through a few hot spots where the dolphins got active and attracted lots of sea birds and sea lions. A single, large Minke whale was on patrol around the outer edges of the hot spots and it gave us great looks.
About a half-hour later after moving further southwest into the prevailing seas, our keenly observant deckhand and second Captain Eric located some big spouts which turned out to be four humpbacks working patches of northern anchovies. The dolphins, sea lions and birds were all around this activity zone. The feeding was sub-surface but must have been fairly shallow as the whales only rarely put up their tail flukes. A monster Mola mola, at least 1.5 meters in diameter, drifting down the port side and had its big eye on the whale fans.
At this point Dave took a gamble and ran almost due west. Progress was slow as we bucked-up against the moderate chop. We passed through several more herds of dolphins until we located another hot spot containing at least 3 additional humpback whales, loads of sea lions, birds and another large Mola mola. The sunfish was large, but not nearly as big as the first one. The ride home downswell into Santa Barbara was comfortable and nice.
You never know what Mother Nature has in store. Bob Perry Condor Express