2015 07-06 SB Channel
First let me give you the total picture of today’s excursion:
We closely watched 17 humpback whales (with at least that many more in the distance and seen as we were moving locations), and 1,000 long-beaked common dolphins. It was mostly a cloudy, low, thick stratus sky today with light mist/drizzle in the morning. As we left Santa Barbara Harbor there was absolutely no swell, but a light breeze from the west kept us cool. Visibility was good, at least 20 miles and the water temperature was 66F.
Now here are the details:
At 10:15 we were only 1 mile south of the Harbor and stopped for a nice pod of 200 or so dolphins. After 15 minutes of playtime, Captain Dave started heading further south for a batch of tall spouts that our sharp-eyed deck hand Augie had spotted with his binoculars. About 20 minutes later we stopped for a breaching #whale and that got the whale fans awake…we were just shy of Charlie at the time.
Continuing southeast, we found ourselves out past Habitat at 11:15 watching a half-dozen humpbacks. One rolled around a bit and issued a few trumpet blasts. There were plenty of additional spouts all around.
We entered the commercial shipping lanes even further south of Habitat at 11:40 and I made a note that there were multiple whales spouting all around the boat in every direction I looked. This hot region also supported 500 or more dolphins and one of the 10 or more humpbacks was a mother with her calf. By this time a few sunny “sucker holes” in the cloud layer were beginning to open up. After a good long time with this load of knobby-headed cetaceans we had a debate in the wheelhouse: run over and tour the eastern end of Santa Cruz Island, or run east down the separation zone between in-bound and out-bound ships and search for blue and/or fin whales.
Running for blues won the election and by 1:15pm we were half-way between Platforms Gail and Gilda watching a huge female blue whale with her medium-small calf. (See photograph above) Although their dives averaged 10 minutes, the surfaced near the Condor Express each time and the whale fans were thrilled by our time with these beasts. We were a long way from home and after 4 nice surface sightings we had to turn and burn…using the speed of the boat to get back somewhat on time.
On our way home we cut across the southern edge of The Flats and saw at least 10 more humpback whales and 400 dolphins whiz by as we ran out of time and could not stop. The wide distribution and large concentration of huge whales and their dolphin companions in the Santa Barbara Channel is phenomenal right now.
You never know what Mother Nature has in store.