City whale, country whale and a ‘tweener whale.
Captain Mat headed out of Santa Barbara Harbor for regions to the south. The ocean was flat calm and glassy; skies were overcast. It was Fiesta time in Santa Barbara and to celebrate, Captain Mat went to a seabird activity spot about 1/4th mile out from the Harbor. Sooty shearwaters, Brandt’s cormorants, brown pelicans, Heermann’s gulls, and a very few elegant terns were all making a fuss. About 50 common dolphins were also in the mix, feasting on the same food: anchovies. While it is always an impressive sight to visit one of these oceanic hot spots, it is even better when you arrive on the scene and a humpback whale pops up in the midst. This was the city whale. It traveled a bit then headed for a nice sized paddy of drifting giant kelp (Macrocystis pyrifera), then promptly did a rough-and-tumble kelping session which included two very surprising and bold tail throws. I nicknamed this city whale the salad shredder.
On we went, all the way to Santa Cruz Island where the sun was breaking out of the clouds here and there. We visited the world famous Painted Cave and found a little skiff deep inside with two people that had head-mounted lamps and oars. It was fairly calm and nice in the Cave and the 20 or so California sea lions were still hauled out on the rocks on the east side of the entrance.
We left the Cave and Captain Mat was going to put us on a line parallel to the Island where there is a steep drop off and a reputation for whales. Soon he had another humpback whale. The country whale. This whale had unusually long down times, averaging 12 minutes or so, but did come up and throw its tail and make a big splash twice….so we stayed with it as best we could given the long periods hidden below the surface. Perseverance pays off and just as we were going to give up on this country whale, it came right on over to the boat and paid us a friendly visit…in fact it mugged us. Wow!
Time was running a bit thin so Mat put us on a northern heading back towards the harbor. This were pretty uneventful, as they had been on the way over. By now the wind was up to about 12 knots (not too bad) and there was a very light chop with small whitecaps developing. Mat was not asleep on the wheel however, and smack dab in the middle of the Channel he located a third whale…I called it the ‘tweener because it was mid-way between the city (nearshore) and country (island). This humpback was on a mission, smoking to the west. We watched for a short time and then had to make a run for it.
All totaled we had about 1,500 common dolphins and three humpback whales….two of them were amazing.
I’ll post the photos on the web sometime this weekend…asap.
Condor Express Odd Jobs
PS Remember to tell your friends that next Monday, August 5th, our open whale watch is moved to the afternoon, from 1pm to 530pm.