2018 02-24 SB Coast – Captain Dave ran two highly successful whale watching trips. One left Santa Barbara Harbor at 9am, the other at 12 noon. Totals for the day included: 700 long-beaked common dolphins, 20+ inshore bottlenose dolphins, 7 gray whales and 50 or so California sea lions. Hooray! The breezy conditions which plagued us all week died off and it was calm, glassy, sunny and clear all day.
Things got rolling along nicely when Tasha located a very large aggregation of coastal bottlenose dolphins. There were at least 20, perhaps more, individuals and they were spread-out along the coastal kelp forest for about ½-mile. That’s a lot when you consider the total population is estimated to be between 290 and 340 dolphins. They were foraging in the area and numerous schools of northern anchovies were seen from the boat. At least one mother-calf pair was in the mix. We traversed the aggregation starting at the Boathouse Restaurant to the start of Hope Ranch.
Our next sighting consisted of the much smaller cousins of the aforementioned bottlenose…the common dolphins. A tight pod of around 500 was located about 3 miles offshore. As we watched them slowly follow the boat and ride our bow, the whole pod went into high-speed “stampede” mode for a few minutes, then settled back down with the Condor Express. Fascinating.
The last sighting of the morning was of a pair of gray whales. They were pretty much all business as they headed west along the beach. At one point the two whales interacted. One rolled around and then swam slowly upside-down (on its back), exposing its light colored belly to its fans on the Condor.
The noon trip got under way with a sighting of single, small, somewhat shy, gray whale off SBCC. This led us to finding two more gray whales about 3 miles offshore from the first whale. While watching the pair of northbound whales we passed by a mob of around 25 California sea lions…always fun! A bit further outside of us, 5 miles or so off the beach, yet another whale was located. This one was moving southbound (all the rest were north bound). It also stayed just a few inches beneath the surface as it swam, making it very “watchable.”
Later we moved the boat closer to shore and found a small pod of about 200 common dolphins, and a great sighting was had. Within a few yards of the dolphins, yet another northbound gray whale was spotted. Needless to say we had a fantastic day that was very rich with marine mammals.
You never know what Mother Nature has in store.