2015 05-20 SB Channel
Our first sighting of the excursion came along quite soon after Captain Eric took the Condor Express out of Santa Barbara. It was a mix of at least 500 long-beaked common dolphins and a lot of California sea lions spread out over a wide area and containing mostly mothers with their calves. This is always a special treat to see. Although seas started out quite calm with nearly zero wind and only some small wind waves from the west, by the time Eric had us in the shipping lanes, the wind had come up and there were more medium-sized swells too.
We turned east and down swell to keep the ride nice and calm and negate the breeze, and also to cross several tracks we had laid down with whale interactions earlier this week. There were no big #whales home out there, but we did run into our first of many “hot spots,” and this one had at least 1,500 #dolphins along with crash-diving pelicans and a very large assemblage of sooty shearwaters. As we left this first hot spot, and the day progressed, it suddenly dawned on me that no matter where we went, and no matter which direction I watched, crash-diving pelicans were visible. This told me that there was a lot of bait out there, but it was really spread out except for the hot spots we were lucky enough to find.
North of Hogan we got into 3 more hot spots full of dolphins, shearwaters, pelicans…and we moved farther to the east and south onto The Flats where eagle-eyed deckhand Tasha spotted our first humpback whale of the trip. It was a small whale with a tiny notch in its dorsal fin. It was a good one though from the standpoint of its short down times and good surface intervals. However it was a “whale on the move,” and kept circling this area of The Flats, east of Henry. There were lots of common dolphins all day, everywhere, and here in The Flats was no exception.
Heading back to the harbor we found yet another humpback, a huge one with a scarred back and dorsal fin. We almost missed it because we were all watching a big ocean sunfish (Mola mola) lifting its head out of the water eating Purple Sailor Jellies (Velella velella). We followed the big whale for several breathing cycles and then had to run back as we were already late getting to the docks. As we pulled away, another 2 humpbacks spouted and tail fluked just east of our location. It was bright and sunny and full of activity all day long. In total, we close watched 2 humpback whales with more in the area, 5,000+ long-beaked common dolphins, hundreds of sea lions, 1 Mola mola, and perhaps 10,000 or so sooty shearwaters.
You never know what Mother Nature has in store.
I’ll get the photographs from today’s adventure online asap.