2016 07-07 SB Channel
Goodness gracious we had a great excursion today. Skies were partly sunny with some low stratus in the morning, but gave way to full, warm sun as we got into The Lanes and beyond. There was a wonderful breeze with a tiny wind swell from the west and things were well within the comfort level of most whale watchers on the Condor Express. Total sightings for today included: humpback whales = 3 (more in the distance), blue whales = 5 (lots more all around the zone), long-beaked common dolphins = 300, short-beaked common dolphins = 700, and one big ocean sunfish (scientific name Mola mola).
Any trip that starts off with a very close and friendly Mola mola is going to be a great trip. We saw this beast of a fish when Captain Eric stopped to enjoy a handful of common dolphins about 7 miles south of The Mesa in Santa Barbara. It swam over and then alongside the boat for quite a while before diving. We continued our southwesterly heading (aiming approximately at the west end of Santa Cruz Island).
A few minutes later deckhand ojos del águila Auggie spotted a much larger herd of common dolphins and we stopped again for a good look at all the pandemonium these active cetaceans were causing. In the near distance there were several spouts to be investigated and these turned out to be two humpback whales moving west into the prevailing seas. Down times for the whales were not long at all thus wonderful looks were to be had. Captain Eric continued to push to the southwest.
About 20 minutes past high noon found us a couple of miles south of The Lanes where a “RoRo” had just passed. It was the vessel Georgia Highway and was carrying a load of new automobiles into Port Hueneme. This is where the giants slowly rose to the surface from their deep krill feeding. Eventually we watched 5 big blue whales, two of which showed their tail flukes pretty often when sounding. Speaking of flukes, one blue whale (see photo above) had distinctive white patches on its tail. I was told later by whale connoisseur Alisa that this whale has been seen before and was nicknamed “Bunny.” There were loads of big spouts all around us that we did not have time to explore. It is always great to see that bright blue streak on the water when a blue whale is swimming shallow. A couple hundred short-beaked dolphins were also in this zone.
The final sightings of the day took place on the way home as we saw another humpback whale close to the boat, and several other spouts in the distance. We were about half-way back across the Santa Barbara Channel at that point. Another herd of many hundred short-beaks were here too.
You never know what Mother Nature has in store.