There was plenty of stratus at the start of the excursion into the Santa Barbara Channel today, and some of it was fog on the deck. Luckily, things began to break into some good, clear sunny patches as we came up on our first marine mammals out near The Lanes. The ocean surface was very glassy all day and there was not a trace of wind. A small, long-period southwest was hardly even felt by most whale watchers. Needless to say, there were epic sightings as “the fog monster” was vanquished. What a whale season it has been !
Around 1120 am Captain Eric and the Condor Express reached The Lanes. It took longer than usual due to the fog. But it was worth the wait as we immediately located our first 4 (of 13 total) humpback whales and our first 1,000 (of 3,000 total) long-beaked common dolphins. This first group of dolphins was at a distance from the boat and only a few brave animals came over to greet us. The whales were very nice to watch and had short down times. Eric then continued his southerly course heading. It should be noted that the US Coast Guard was actively broadcasting warnings to mariners to slow down and keep an eye out for whales in the Santa Barbara Channel. One huge container shipping vessel we saw had slowed to only 9 knots. Bravo Coast Guard ! Bravo big ship captains.
At noon a medium-sized, but very friendly, ocean sunfish or Mola mola slowly swam along our port side and looked up at its fan club. It was a very curious fish that seemed to be doing some “people watching.” Excellent! We continued south.
Shortly after our Mola encounter a large, multi-layered and wide spread hot spot zone was found. This included several thousand dolphins, loads of California sea lions, at least 8 humpback whales (more in the distance) and thousands of sea birds especially sooty shearwaters and brown pelicans. We were south of The Lanes and it was a NatGeo or Marlin Perkins kind of sighting. We continued south.
South of The Lanes and about 5 miles north of Santa Cruz Island we entered our second oceanic hot spot of the day. This was a region with numerous giant blue whales. We actively watched 6 blue whales, but there were many tall spouts both east and west of our location. Several of the beasts tale-fluked to the delight of the fans. On the way home another single humpback whale swam by.
You never know what Mother Nature has in store.