2017 10-08 SB Channel
Captain Eric and the crew of the Condor Express took a bold path and chose to not cross the Santa Barbara Channel. Current buoy data showed that island waters were rough and windy as we left Santa Barbara Harbor at 1000 am. Today’s heading was mostly west and stayed in waters deeper than 50 fathoms. We ended up a bit west of Platform Holly, but 6 or 7 miles offshore, at our farthest point.
As has been the case for the past week or more, long-beaked common dolphins were around us and the whales all day long. Groups were mostly spread out but with little clusters of a couple dozen. Our first encounter was with 150 dolphins 5 or 6 miles off the Hope Ranch area. Twenty minutes later a couple hundred additional dolphins found the Condor Express well offshore of More Mesa, and another bunch off Isla Vista.
Around 1130am we were many miles south of Holly where at least 1000 more dolphins were active, and where the first humpback whale found us. It was small, probably a juvenile. Soon a large humpback came in, and then another, and finally a third whale. Seas were moderate and so was the wind. The whales appeared to be shy and meandered around the zone with their dolphin escorts. There were plenty of little calves among the dolphins.
At 100 pm we thought we saw a western gull picking at a surface sunfish, Mola mola, but it turned out to be a degraded Mylar balloon which Steve picked-up after Eric put him in position.
The last sighting of the day was quite dramatic. By now the seas had subsided and the winds diminished a bit. We got into an area with 4 additional humpback whales, three large and one small. This area was located as Eric steered towards a distant breach. During the next hour the four whales came together, split up, and then congregated once again. One whale spent about a minute kelping, until its pals moved away and left it. Another whale threw its tail a few times.
Totals for the trip included: 8+ humpback whales, 2000 long-beaked common dolphins, 400 California sea lions and 1 Mylar balloon.
You never know what Mother Nature has in store.