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Surrounded by Humpbacks and Dolphins

2015 05-12 SB Channel

Hooray! It was our first official trip of the “Island Whale Watch” season for 2015 and it was sensational. Captain Dave was at the help and as we left the sea lions on the entrance buoy in our wake, he set a course up the coast just in case any late season straggling gray whales were there. None spotted. But sharp-eyed Augie did locate a mini-pod of about 50 long-beaked common dolphins off Hope Ranch. We played for a few minutes then Dave turned south and headed for the west end of Santa Cruz island. There were thin stratus clouds overhead but you could see sun at the island and also to the west. Nobody was going too far to the west as strong winds up that way generated some moderate seas for our Santa Barbara Channel crossing. As we approached Santa Cruz the wind really blew and when the whales spouted spray was sent down-wind and asunder.

The west end of the island was awash and no #whales could be found. As we passed Fry’s Harbor, however, we found ourselves in the midst of a mega-pod of at least 2,500 long-beaked common #dolphins. These little cetaceans were traveling in all directions but each of them turned and rode the swells as they passed by from the north. I personally did not see these dolphins feeding, nor did I see bait in the rather green water, but there were several flavors of gulls, cormorants and crash-diving brown pelicans everywhere, and they were actively feeding and creating a massive oceanic hot spot. Sea lions also joined the activity.

As we rode down-swell to the east along the north face of the island, Dave gave a great island orientation and quickly located some spouts up ahead. The first pair of spouts belonged to a mother humpback whale and her calf…heading west, into the oncoming swells and wind. Soon there were many other humpback whale spouts, many moving west, but like the cow-calf pair, they all turned east, then north, then south through the same general spot.  It was not long before the dolphins caught up with the whales and visa-versa. There was action all around the Condor Express as all the birds, dolphins, sea lions and whales got very active. All this activity was highlighted by the big swells and strong winds which blew spout spray, and features the humpback whales busting head-on through the seas. It was NatGeo all the way.   We closely watched at least 8 humpback whales, but there were more spouts in the area we could not get to. One huge humpback had an all white tail and it was spectacular to see moving up and through the waves.

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

I’ll post up these photos asap.

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