Saturday, August 20, 2016 – The sun broke out around 11 am and stayed out. It was a bit windy, and got windier as we moved west and offshore, but there was no ground swell or “bump” on the water. Translation: conditions were good. Sightings for the day included 200 long-beaked common dolphins, at least 1,000 short-beaked common dolphins, 5 humpback whales (more in the area), and 30 Risso’s dolphins.
The first common dolphins to locate the Condor Express and start playing in our wake were in a nursery pod and many of the young ones were very small indeed. We were only about 5 miles out of Santa Barbara harbor at the time and there were about 100 animals in this group. We did not know at the time that it would be the largest sighting of long-beaked common dolphins for the trip. At the end of this sighting, as we pulled away, a star-shaped, silver Mylar balloon came drifting down from the sky and, as they all do, landed in the water. Deck hand Auggie put the gaff on it and threw it away before it had time to damage any marine life.
Just north of The Lanes and about 30 minutes later, our staff photographer spotted the first of two small pods of Risso’s dolphins riding the small wind swells that were being generated by the breeze. Several of the 15 or so Risso’s dolphins came very close to the boat. There were a few long-beaked common dolphins around the area. A bit later, when we were south of The Lanes, a second pod of Risso’s dolphins with approximately the same number of animals.
Most of the day was spent getting out past The Lanes and then running along The Ledge to the west in search of larger species of mammals. This trek continued until we were about even with Sandy Point, and with time expiring quickly, Captain Dave altered his course and started for the northern Channel. Within minutes of this course change we came upon a mega-pod of short-beaked common dolphins which were engaged in a full-on stampede. This high speed run went on for quite a while and the herd covered a lot of ground.
Soon after the short-beaked Olympic sprint races we started to see lots of tall spouts to the east. This turned out to be five very actively feeding humpback whales with a few common dolphins, lots of sea birds, and several dozen California sea lions. It was a great encounter and the last of the trip.
You never know what Mother Nature has in store.