2016 06-06 SB Channel
It was not foggy. The ocean surface was glassy most of the day. The sun kind of shined through the stratus out in The Lanes, and then back in Santa Barbara at the end of the excursion. Captain “Imán de la fauna” Eric, working alongside Deckhand “Ojos de águila” Auggie, put together an amazing adventure in the Channel. So much happened, I’m going to tell you about it chronologically today:
1030 am – Not far off the beach we encountered about 500 long-beaked common dolphins all spread out and chasing anchovies around upside down on the glassy surface. The entire Channel was covered in patches of medium-small purple sailor jellies (Velella velella) from this point on.
1055 am – A mob of 30 or more California sea lions were found rafting close to the Condor Express with many more rafts in the near distance.
1102 am – Our first blue of two sharks on the surface was on the small side, perhaps 4 feet long or so. 1120 am – We had sailed across The Lanes and right away started seeing the very tall and straight up spouts of at least 4 big blue whales with zero wind on the water. They averaged 7 – 8 minutes down and had long circular surface times with great looks to be had.
1155 am – Our first of three ocean sunfish (Mola mola) was fantastic, large and friendly. It, like its cohorts later, did not attack the Velella one by one, but rather, it swam with its mouth open wide and partially out of the water. It was like a short, fat bony basking shark in its filter-feeding habits. Perhaps this is due to the small size and enormous numbers of Velella today.
1205 pm – A large, dark fin whale surface nearby and we saw it several times during the next breathing cycles.
1225 pm – Three huge blue whales surfaced simultaneously and swam towards the Condor Express. One turned to the west and the other two came right up to the bow within 20 yards, crossed in front of all the whale fans, then finally dove deep.
1230 pm – Two additional blue whales surfaced about a half-mile closer to Santa Cruz Island and appeared, based only on size, to be a mother blue with her calf.
1245 pm – The first 8 Dall’s porpoise showed up out of nowhere, came by the boat and kept going. They proceeded to ride alongside and in front of the blue whales that just visited the boat.
1255 pm – The second Mola was not quite as large, and was similarly feeding. A few minutes later Eric put us next to a third large Mola also “filter-feeding.”
130 pm – On the way home we encountered our second blue shark, a larger fish, perhaps 5 – 6 feet long. It, too gave us good looks on the glassy surface.
135 pm – Six more Dall’s porpoise buzzed the boat a couple of times then disappeared.
145 pm – The same small, perhaps yearling, humpback whale that adopted the Condor Express on Saturday showed itself and we watched it through a couple of breathing cycles. This little humpback’s skin is full of pox marks.
You never know what Mother Nature has in store.