Dense fog that ranged between zero and ¼-mile visibility engulfed the coastal waters and hung around all day. We wonder, then, how it is possible for Captain Dave and the crew of the Condor Express to come away with sighting of 8 gray whales, 600 long-beaked common dolphins, 14 inshore bottlenose dolphins, 1 Stellar sea lion and a bunch of California sea lions too. These totals reflect all the marine mammals seen during 3 excursions today.
Four feeding bottlenose dolphins greeted the Condor Express just outside the mouth of Santa Barbara harbor on the 9am trip. These large dolphins were feeding upside-down and sideways. We had our first glimpse of what would be a huge number of northern anchovy schools that were active in shallow water. Near Hendry’s Beach a single, very friendly, whale was located and during this sighting the whale became friendly. It came over, right next to the boat, rolled on to its side, and took a look at us. Shortly thereafter another single whale, then a pair of whales was watched. The entire area was full of common dolphins that were also feeding on the anchovies.
The noon excursion began when a mother gray whale and her very young calf (born this season) were located in the kelp forest near Leadbetter Beach. The little calf led its mother around, in and out of the kelp. This was our first cow-calf pair of what will soon be many many more. Six bottlenose dolphins located the boat, and soon after that another spread-out feeding group of common dolphins was watched.
The afternoon trip was hit pretty hard by dense, zero-visibility fog. Although four bottlenose dolphins managed to find us, and we found another big area full of feeding common dolphins, it was impossible to locate and find whales. We searched and searched but just could not see well enough.
You never know what Mother Nature has in store.