What an outstanding day on the water with drop-dead gorgeous weather and fantastic marine mammal sightings. Captain Dave and his crew ran south from Santa Barbara towards the western end of Santa Cruz Island. By the time the Condor Express neared the sea cliffs of the island, the huge northwest swell that has been in the news all week showed itself. The swells created a very big, sweeping “wall crawl,” as the long-period rollers moved along perpendicular to the cliffs. Hint: no Painted Cave penetrations today. These total sightings were great but do not tell the whole story: 1,000 long-beaked common dolphins, 2 juvenile humpback whales, and 250 California sea lions. Please read on.
As the Condor crossed The Lanes it came under the scrutiny of 500+ dolphins. As usual, they rode the bow, side and stern wake. Great looks were had by all, and all were thrilled to see the little calves with their moms in the clear “Santa Barbara cobalt” water.
Moving a bit further south the first humpback whale was “Stinky,” the small, speckled whale that had bad breath 6 months ago when we first met up, and the crew fired up a nickname that had staying power, albeit a bit derogatory. Today Stinky was unusually friendly and made multiple passes right next to the Condor Express. The pattern was to come up from astern and then overtake the boat (which was moving forward and 1 or 2 knots at the time). This gave everyone wonderful sightings of this little Channel “regular.” Stinky also came up out of nowhere after a deeper dive right smack in the middle of a fair-sized drifting giant kelp paddy. It spy-hopped a bit with seaweed all over its head and torso.
Soon after our encounter with Stinky, another large herd of common dolphins found the boat and gave everyone another chance to take delphies (selfies with dolphins).
Having moved a bit west and within 100 yards of the sea cliffs of the island with its rolling swells, a second humpback was sighted. It had long dive times except when it spent at least 15 minutes romping and stomping a massive giant kelp paddy. It swam through the algae upside down, slapped its pectorals at the seaweed, rolled around and appeared to be having a good time getting a full-body skin massage. It was spectacular.
Not far off the island, as our trip home commenced, we found three separate super-mobs of California sea lions with just under 100 animals in each. They got the ocean surface all roiled up and then disappeared for a few minutes on communal dive, only to pop up together and disturb the otherwise glass-flat surface water. Excellent!
You never know what Mother Nature has in store. Bob Perry Condor Express