Windy seas with a humpback and some grays
2016 05-20 SB Channel
The NOAA Marine forecast was for calm seas with light and variable winds in our neck of the Santa Barbara Channel, becoming windy in the afternoon and evening hours. So as we departed Santa Barbara Harbor and left a very small juvenile California sea lion behind on the green entrance buoy, I took a wind measurement: 18.5 knots. There was moderate chop…a Beaufort 4. This did not deter the keen eyes of deckhand and second Captain Eric.
When Eric sits down and rests the binoculars on the railing in front of him, if one was not a trusting person, you might swear he was asleep. But this is impossible for two reasons. First, he spots wildlife at great distances, and second, he does not snore like I do when I take a wheelhouse nap. Right off the bat Eric located a mother gray whale and her calf by the bushy spout of the mom being blown asunder by the strong breeze. This pair were moving up the coast and about 4 miles off the beach. I admit there is always a certain fascination watching our wildlife busting through the rough seas.
Not long after we left the gray whale pair Eric located some bird activity way out to the southeast. On the scene, we found several hundred sooty shearwaters arcing high above the seas and taking full advantage of the lift afforded by the strong winds whipping up the front sides of the swell. Brown pelicans and elegant terns were there too. There were also a few distant monster surface crashes that could only have been caused by a breaching whale.
Before long a single humpback whale popped up and took a few breaths before diving again. It’s down times varied between 4 minutes and 10 minutes, and the beast is partially responsible for my current mental condition. Those of you that know me are aware of the fact that my camera is always held high and ready to capture any action that comes my way. But on occasion we get animals like this humpback whale that take off on a completely random, single breach without any warning or any indication where (or if) it will happen within a 360° circle around the Condor Express. Great to see, but no photographs were possible. What a whiner I have become, making excuses !
After staying with this humpback for an hour or so and wishing it would breach in front of all the camera lenses on board, the wind was blowing 23 knots and Captain Dave started to move the boat slowly towards home. When we changed course we were down east in the Flats. The trip ended on a high note as we took a tour of a sailboat and its dinghy that have become completely over-taken by California sea lions. Dave made sure we were up-wind during this whimsical sighting.
You never know what Mother Nature has in store. Bob Perry Condor Express