Condor Express - SEA Landing
301 W. Cabrillo Blvd.
Santa Barbara, CA  93101

(805) 882-0088 (Phone)   |   (888) 779-4253 (Toll Free)   |   (805) 965-0942 (Fax)




Year Founded:
   This all-new, 75 foot, high-speed catamaran is the most comfortable & advanced vessel on the west coast, in the premier Whale Watching & Party/Dinner Cruise venue in California. Crew members are experienced naturalists. Come ride with the experts.
    The Santa Barbara Channel is home to over 30 different species of whales, dolphins, and seals and sealions that visit throughout the year, making these waters some of the most consistent locations found anywhere to view a variety of marine mammals. The Discovery Channel's "Wonders of our National Parks" highlighted the outstanding abundance of marine life in the Santa Barbara Channel and named it "One of the 10 Best Places in the WORLD to View Wildlife."
    From May through November (summer season) our cruising grounds include the nutrient rich waters around Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa and San Miguel Islands. It's this area that is generally considered to contain one of the world's highest concentration of feeding blue whales and humpback whales in the world! In the winter and spring months we visit with the California gray whale herd as it passes by on both their Southern and Northern migration.
    The CONDOR EXPRESS is available for private charters for those who wish to book the entire vessel for any type of function or event, including birthdays, weddings, fundraisers, anniversaries, or a sunset cruise. Groups can be as small as 10 people or up to 149 persons. The CONDOR EXPRESS is just what your group needs for that perfect experience on the water. Its large, luxuriously teak paneled, walk through cabin offers comfortable booth seating for up to 68 people! A complete galley, cocktail bar, buffet hot table and salad bar. And catering is always available from light snacks and hors d'oeuvres to full dinners. We also offer regularly-scheduled Open Party Cocktail/Sunset Cruises along the coast, as well as Adventure Cruises such as Pelagic Bird Trips, Island Kayaking, and much more throughout the year. The CONDOR EXPRESS is also the perfect platform for educational and research trips, as well as marine-oriented film work. It has the speed and stability to work comfortably anywhere your research needs take you, and is well equipped with state of the art navigational equipment, a large working deck, and the ability to work underwater equipment.
Activities Available:
    Birding,  Cruises,  Kayaking,  Tours,  Whale Watching,  Wildlife Tours,  

Business Hours:
    Summer: 24/7 -- Winter: 6 am - 7 pm
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    Leisure & Recreation
    Bird Watching
    Boat Charters
    Boat Charters
    Deep-Sea Fishing
    Kayaking & Canoeing
    Whale Watching
    Whale Watching
    Whale Watching
    Wildlife Tours

    During normal business hours.
    Outdoor Location
Handicapped Accessible?
    Some restrictions
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Cameras/Recording Equip.?
Pets Allowed?
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 Recent Buzzes!!
12/13/14 - 12-13-14 Lovin' the blue whales, humpbacks and dolphins
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The moderate seas and fresh breeze created some spectacular vistas from Pt. Conception to Boney Ridge, and Anacapa Island to San Miguel Island. It was great to get clean sea air into your nostrils. After a bit of rock and roll we found a super cooperative giant blue whale. The #whale had 13 minute down times, but spouted at least 10 times or so on each surfacing. Seeing this beast crashing through the oncoming swells and sending its mighty spout asunder in the wind...all this in bright sunlight conditions....sent chills down my spine and caused my camera shutter to go into rapid fire mode.
After a wonderful long session with the big blue whale, we moved onward to a pair of humpback whales nearby. The two dove together, traveled a considerable distance to the east, spouted once and repeated this cycle. Crafty 'ol Captain Dave anticipated their surface positions with the kind of whale intuition that comes with decades of experience working with these knobby-headed animals. On our way back towards Santa Barbara Harbor we came upon a mega pod of at least 1,000 long beaked common dolphins. Again the high seas and moderate winds made viewing these #dolphins a very special thing. The end of the day featured some overhead squawking that turned out to be crows mobbing a large Osprey. Wow, what a day.
12/11/14 - Fantastic! Mid-December and the blue whales are still in the Santa Barbara Channel. Wow!
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That's right. It's December 10th and we still have blue whales feeding on the "ledge." And the humpback whale show continues to amaze everyone. Who would have predicted this? Our first cetacean encounter of the trip was a megapod of at least 1,000 short beaked common dolphins. Their behaviors included very little bow or wake riding, but instead the bounded over the oncoming seas and many many of them got airborne and even did a bit of tail-walking. It was an amazing sight and Captain Dave kept us with the #dolphins for quite a while. Next up on the program we watched 3 very animated and friendly humpback whales. When we first approached the area one #whale was on its side and seemed to be snuggling up to a second whale. The 3 whales repeated a behavior cycle several times that included the following: the 3 whales turned from their apparent course and headed straight for the Condor Express; the passed along the port side or swam directly under the boat (one with all white pectoral fins made this especially nice to view); then the whales would head off again; repeat cycle.
Next we took a splendid tour of the West End of Santa Cruz Island with the long period rolling swells washing up the sea cliffs, then forming rivers, large and small, as the seawater rushed back out. Very dramatic ! A great tour. On the way home, not far off the Island, 2nd Captain Eric found us a blue whale and we had some exceptional looks at this beast through a couple of breathing cycles. There were more humpbacks in this area too. We watched one, but several more spouts were seen in the vicinity. I thought I saw a second tall blue whale spout in the distance too, but we had no time to confirm this.
The day was partly sunny and partly cloudy as the leading edge of a major incoming Pacific storm begins to show signs of coming our way. Seas were calm with a very very light chop in some spots. There was a large, building, long-period west swell all day and this was particularly nice when the whales and dolphins were busting through the oncoming seas.
12/9/14 - Another rain event likely later this week
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The most recent forecast is calling for a winter storm that will bring rain and wind to our area Thursday afternoon through Friday. The good news is that the marine weather and sea conditions are supposed to be fantastic tomorrow (Wednesday) and Thursday (before the afternoon rain hits). Our most recent whale watching trips have been fantastic with sightings of blue whales, gray whales, very active humpback whales, Risso's dolpins, bottle-nose dolphins and long-beaked common dolphins. Last year at this time we had 3 great days with killer whales.
Sign up now for a Wednesday or Thursday (or weekend) trip, beat the weather and enjoy the multitude of marine mammal species in our area.
12/8/14 - Gorgeous silver day with cetaceans
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The sun played peek-a-boo with the thin high cloud layer and the cloud layer seemed to win. Right out of the gate we encountered a nice group of around 15 inshore bottlenose dolphins and had great looks. Not long after we had a call and ran 1/2 mile to photograph a "dead Minke whale," which turned out to be a very decomposed Risso's dolphin with a live western gull having some snacks. Then it was off to view living cetaceans and it was a bunch of small scattered groups of long beaked common dolphins. Later in the trip we found a tad larger larger pods of these little torpedoes and the total for the day was over 100.
Their fan club on the Condor Express enjoyed the bow riding and wake surfing contest. Around mid-Channel we slowly approached an area that had two nice spouts and I almost dropped my memory cards as two adult humpback whales came out of nowhere and breached fairly close to the boat sending a thunderous spray plume high in the air. After a few minutes one of the pair performed a small repertoire of pectoral fin slapping in the sun's sparkle zone on the surface.
Our itinerary next found us enjoying the tiny trickle remnants of the waterfall that often flows at the entrance of the world famous Painted Cave on Santa Cruz Island. (The waterfall was running nicely yesterday but was down to a trickle today). Near the Island a third humpback whale was spotted by yours truly but was smoking fast to the west and only taking on breath per surface interval. Nonetheless it was nice to see the all white tail of this beast close to Santa Cruz.
The trip home was very pleasant and Captain Eric, Deck hand Augie, and Cafe Condor head chef Tasha all agreed that it "felt like winter was coming."
12/7/14 - Cetacean abundance and diversity continues
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It's been a long week with well-needed rain that brought winds and seas to the Channel. Today was pristine, flat and very lake-like. Near mid-Channel a single (but friendly) humpback whale was encountered, and it made a great close approach to the Condor Express. Continuing across towards Santa Cruz Island the mother lode of cetaceans that we had a week ago, before the storms, was still there. One blue whale and at least 8 humpback whales were watched closely prior to our traditional visit to the world famous Painted Cave. The Cave waterfall was running and this is always a marvelous experience that has been so rare this past year or so with the drought. Good to see.
Upon exiting the cave and moving a bit northward, we found humpbacks interacting with about 25 Risso's dolphins. The big #whales were flopping around, and rolling over in response to the bulbous headed dolphins. Amazing stuff. The final piece of great news was that long beaked common dolphins were around all day long, with a few very large least 1,000 #dolphins was the total estimate.
11/29/14 - 5 Blue Whales; 12++ Humpback Whales - Epic conditions
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Captain Dave ran southwest for quite a while to a location where 6 killer whales had been reported 2 hours earlier by the sportfishing vessel Stardust. Unfortunately killer whales can move a great distance in any direction they choose within a 2 hour window, so we never got on the pod. Back at the Island hot spot we closely watched 5 blue whales today...some kind of a record for November 29th. In addition, 12 humpback whales gave good close looks with many more spouts in the area. Among the humpback whale behaviors recorded there was more of that "racing or chasing" high speed surface swimming going on. Our best uneducated guess is that this is some precursory mating behavior. We saw this first last Wednesday. A few nice kelping episodes were also observed where the humpbacks get a skin massage by rolling and gyrating in drifting giant kelp paddies, sending vegetation flying every which way...always a great show.
Schedule update: there is no trip scheduled for tomorrow, Sunday, due to the rough weather forecast by NOAA and NWS. Our next open whale watch will be Wednesday.
11/28/14 - Our first gray whales of the 2015 season !
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Another epic adventure on the Condor Express today. Captain Dave took us through some dense coastal fog for a few miles and then things opened up and were sunny, calm and clear all day long. The humpback whales were in the usual place - same as Wednesday's trip. Again we saw many more spouts than we could get set up on and watch, and we did watch 16 humpbacks closely .... a bunch before our Painted Cave visit, and a bunch more after. The whales spotted leaving the Cave began with an unpredicted, unexpected and therefore (whine whine whine) I did not photograph, a giant double breach with two beasts side by side a few hundred yards west of the boat. However, (the good news) one of the breachers kept it up for another 4 or 5 leaps and I DID get shots of those. Sometimes the best images are go directly from eyes to brain. Out in the wild region of humpback whale land we closely watched two giant blue whales, but we did see at least one (possibly two) more blue whales in the bino's. There were spouts everywhere today. Oh, I almost forgot, as we backed out of the Painted Cave a sharp eyed passenger called out "bald eagle" and it flew almost directly overhead in the sun...a magnificent and majestic sight.
Having not seen a single dolphin (strange as it seems), Dave headed towards UCSB to run along the bottom contour lines and try to get looks and some potential long-beaked common dolphins. No luck with the dolphins. But in the same area our sharp-eyed 2nd Captain, Eric, did spot our first two southbound migrating gray whales of the season ! A bit early, but we'll take 'em. I have been shooting off the Condor Express for just about 9 years now and I've never seen blues, grays and humpbacks all on the same trip. What a day!
11/26/14 - Spectacular weather and off the charts whale watching today.
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Glassy seas, no swells, blue water, bright sunshine and vistas from Boney Ridge to Pt Conception including all 4 Channel Islands greeted us as we left Santa Barbara Harbor. On the way out to the Santa Cruz Island hot spots. The first cetaceans of the many spotted today were about 1,000 very friendly long-beaked common dolphins. We played for a while and then resumed our course to the south. We were still many miles off the Island when a plethora of spouts came into view. The spouts were popping up from inside the Santa Cruz Channel all the way to the east. Some were tall, and some spouts were taller still. Immediately obvious was the simultaneous breaching of two adult humpback whales side-by-side about a half mile away. Captain Dave set a slow and careful course for these breechers. On the negative side, many of the humpback whales had 15 minute down times; on the positive side, their corresponding surface times were quite long and included some logging here and there. Unusual scene #1 of the day: very close to the Condor Express one humpback charged another while just under the surface and the race was on. Wow. These beasts can really move. Was this a pre-courtship thing? another form of socializing? It was special to see for sure. One Minke whale was also spotted.
About this time our 2nd Captain Eric got his bino's on one of those "taller still" spouts I mentioned earlier and confirmed the presence of a giant blue whale heading west. We stayed with this giant through several breathing cycles and had fantastic looks....all the while more and more humpback whales were rising up out of the deep. It looks like we are having a possible late season krill explosion over here. Could this be enough to sustain a blue whale for the winter and give us a "resident" beast? Just speculating! After visiting whale after whale, we finally headed over to the northern seacliffs of Santa Cruz and did a tour which included the world famous Painted Cave. Near the cave we had unusual scene #2: a long-beaked common dolphin was observed very close to the boat chasing and "herding" a Risso's dolphin...visible under the clear blue water.
11/24/14 - Mid-Channel Fun Zone
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Captain Eric located a wide swath of cetaceans just about smack dab in the middle of the Santa Barbara Channel today. Winds in the Channel subsided as we heard reports of Santa Ana conditions from Ventura south. Rounding out the fun we watched 6 humpback whales closely (with many more spouts in the area) including one mother and calf pair; 20 Pacific white-sided dolphins, at least 250 long-beaked common dolphins and, for even more fun, 2 Minke whales. It was a sunny day and the looks were outstanding. The amount of both large and small #whales in the Channel continues to raise the bar for late Fall watching.
11/23/14 - Clear skies and a fresh breeze
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The fresh breeze which blew from the northwest precluded the Condor Express from returning to the Santa Cruz Island hot spots that we have enjoyed for the past week or two. Not too far out from Santa Barbara Harbor dolphins were visible to the west and watching them leap across the oncoming seas with spray flying all around from the wind was spectacular. Further to the west two spouts were spotted and upon arriving at the scene slowly against the wind and swells, we were fortunate to find a mother humpback whale and her calf. The calf greeted us with a magnificent breach, emphasized and made dramatic by the sea conditions. We had great looks at this pair, until we got ourselves located on an even more massive and spread out herd of long beaked common dolphins. At least 2,000 animals were seen, but it was really impossible to get an accurate count given the waves and spray.
At this point, Captain Dave changed course 180 degrees and we sailed with the winds and seas to the east in hopes of finding more whales off the coast of western Ventura, past the oil rigs. No such luck, although to the east the seas and winds subsided quite a lot, there were no spouts to be found today. We slowly moved back to Santa Barbara Harbor. A special note: regular passengers and readers of this blog know that we stop and put the gaff on mylar balloon debris and remove it from the ocean as a regular habit. Today we spotted a large black lawn and leaf bag on the surface and when deckhand Augie put the gaff on it to haul it out, it weighed a considerable amount. When it finally came on board and was put in a trash barrel, it turned out to be a plastic trash can liner full of oil that some one had dumped into the sea. Such an act is beyond belief.
11/20/14 - Special Santa Barbara Channel vistas and whales too.
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The Santa Barbara Channel was magnificent; slate gray, hardly any wind and spectacular above water vistas. One could see Bony Ridge (Malibu) to Pt. Conception and all four Channel Islands. The day started with a relatively tame common loon that was observed swimming around close to the Condor Express inside Santa Barbara Harbor. Our trip across the Channel was smooth and uneventful, but once we crossed the southbound shipping lane, spouts were seen all around the north face of Santa Cruz and Santa Rosa Island. We closely watched 6 humpback whales, three of which were very friendly and surfaced next to the boat to the surprise and enjoyment of the whale fans. After that gray whale that was sighted near Stern's Wharf yesterday, Captain Dave took a quick peek into the Santa Cruz Channel just in case the pier whale wasn't alone. Finding no extremely early gray whales today, we had a wonderful tour of the west end of Santa Cruz Island and the world famous Painted Cave.
Heading homeward from the Cave there was a massive herd of at least 1,000 long beaked common dolphins that was widely scattered and provided great looks. Next we watched about 20 or so Risso's dolphins in the crystal clear blue water and indirect lighting. This provided better than average photo opps for sure. About this time our second Captain "Eagle Eyes Eric" located a very tall spout and a giant blue whale. Our final cetacean of the day was this magnificent blue creature. The ride home was one of those where everyone wanted to be outside and just enjoy the silver sky and water views. Very special Santa Barbara Channel vistas for sure.
11/17/14 - A Dream Whale Watch Trip - Pinch Me Now!
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It's November 16, 2014 and Captain Eric put it this way: "We had a giant blue whale about 20 yards from our right side and a breaching humpback whale about 20 yards on our left." Take your pick. In all, Eric led the Condor Express team to 3 blue whales, one of which was very friendly as previously described above. Among the 9 humpback whales (with many more spouts in the area), several swam up and down the sides, and rolled upside down under the Condor. Somebody turned on the "get friendly" switch and all the big beasts were drawn to the boat today. Add 100 long beaked common dolphins and you have a dream whale watch trip. Pinch me now!
11/16/14 - Pelagic Expedition a Huge Success!
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Captain Dave and Captain Eric steered the Condor Express out of Santa Barbara Harbor around 7am to start a 10-hour pelagic bird (and mammal) expedition. We were initially greeted with moderate chop and swells from winds blowing robustly in the western Santa Barbara Channel. As the day progressed the seas subsided and most of the day was very calm. It was sunny and we had blue clear water almost everywhere. This expedition took us on a circuit which spent a considerable amount of time working large bird and mammal aggregations (hot spots) between the Harbor and the Santa Cruz Channel. We passed through the SC Channel and visited Gull Island and worked along the northern boundary of Santa Cruz Basin. From this point we continued east and ultimately rounded Anacapa Island and Arch Rock. A brief look at Scorpion Rock on Santa Cruz Island was our last look at land before heading back to the Harbor.
Mammals included: Blue whale, several Humpback whales, a couple of Minke whales, Risso's dolphins, long beaked common dolphins, a sea otter (at Gull Island), a juvenile elephant seal, a harbor seal (Gull Is.) and so many California sea lions that it was impossible to count. It was a fantastic day for warm blooded animals without feathers.
Birds (I'm doing my best, the Bird lists will come out later this week): bald eagle (Gull Isl), Peregrine falcons, Pomarine Jaeger, Parasitic jaeger, Cassin's auklets (many), rhinoceros auklets, black vented shearwaters (over 10,000), sooty shearwater, pink footed shearwater, flesh footed shearwater, Bullers shearwater, fulmars, red phalaropes, black oyster catcher, American oyster catcher (Anacapa), pelagic cormorant, Brandt's cormorant, eared grebes, western grebes, Thayer's gull, mew gulls (on sandspit), glaucous winged gull, western gull, Bonaparte's gulls, Heermann's gulls, surf scoter, white winged scoter.
11/15/14 - A great fin whale, a humpback and some dolphins
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The overnight drizzle ended and the clouds gave way to sunny skies in the Santa Barbara Channel. There was a moderate breeze and some chop from the west, but nonetheless Captain Dave and his Crew pushed out to the hot spots near Santa Cruz Island. Out near the Island the epic battle of "whitecaps v whalespouts" was reenacted and our first victory was an adult fin whale which spent a lot of time on the surface pushing through the pervasive seas. One surface interval was very close to the Condor Express and all the whale fans on board got fantastic looks at this second-largest species in the world.
Round two consisted of a lone adult humpback whale speeding ahead to the west with longer dive times and short up times and rapid movement. It was spectacular to see each species working through the wind and swells...awesome power! Earlier in the trip, not far offshore, we played for a short while with 50 or so scattered long beaked common dolphins. As we headed home and got near the coast, the winds dropped off and it was glassy. Hopefully it will stay that way for Sunday's trip.
11/9/14 - Multitudes of humpback whales and more
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There was a moderate breeze blowing in the Santa Barbara Channel today with a little bit of chop here and there as well. It was warm and sunny and there was great above water visibility for spouting whales. El Capitan Dave steered a course for Santa Cruz Island but was side-tracked when second Captain Eric located two humpback whales off More Mesa to the west. So we followed this pair for a while as an hors d'oeuvre for the real show which was to come later near the Island. About 500 or so long beaked common dolphins were scattered throughout the area and at one point we were watching a nursery pod with lots of nice, tiny animals swimming with their mothers. Next, we were off to Santa Cruz.
Across the shipping lanes and near the Island the same mother lode of humpback #whales was located exactly where we left them yesterday. There were, once again, more spouts than anyone could keep track of strung out on a line parallel to the Island as the Condor Express ran west to east, downhill, to minimize the effects of wind and sea. A very conservative and legitimate count of humpback whales watched closely might fall into the area of 14 or so, but there were a multitude more that we could not possibly get close to within our time frame, Along the face of the Island the humpbacks were mixed in with a dispersed pod of a dozen or two Risso's dolphins. After a brief but enjoyable Island tour along the sea cliffs, we headed home.
Not long after we got on our homeward course heading the Crew located a pair of breaching humpbacks in the distance. We slowly approached and found a mother and calf pair that had been breaching, both of them, one after the other. The breaching was followed by some mighty pectoral fin slapping and all of this was marvelous to see with the breeze and blue water and sun. There were a few extra tall spouts in the distance...probably blue whales....but not confirmed.
11/7/14 - Acute Spoutitis Outbreak Today
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I looked up the symptoms for "acute spoutitis" in my Physicians Desk Reference and I think I've got it, along with a boat load of our whale watching brothers and sisters. Symptoms include such things as seeing spouts before your eyes when you get back to the dock and are walking through the Condor Express parking lot, and a sore neck from swiveling the head 180-degrees to observe all the whale spouts everywhere near and far. The PDR describes the cause of spoutitis as the observation of too many whale spouts within a single expedition day. Yup. I think we've got it. Second Captain Eric suggested a preventative measure early in the trip. Don't stand there and swivel your head, just keep your eyes on the whales as you change your stance from facing the bow to facing the stern. Eric also is the first to admit that using his method, you cannot count the same whales twice just because you are facing a different direction and looking over the other shoulder. Great point!
Seriously, the Santa Barbara Channel was chock full of cetaceans today and here's the real story. We left the dock and headed to the eastern Channel feeding grounds. There we found 2 pairs of humpback whale, one pair going east, the other going west. We had great looks and the sea conditions (but not the pinnipeds) were stellar. We were drawn to the area by a massive full body breach followed by a series of pectoral fin slaps by the largest of the four #whales. It was a bright sunny day with nearly no wind and a tiny swell from the southwest. One could see Boney Ridge to the east and Pt. Conception to the west. There were no dolphins to be seen in the eastern Channel. After a great time with the #humpbacks, Captain Dave started heading towards Santa Cruz Island.
Just south of the shipping lanes things began to heat up. We saw medium tall spouts everywhere and a couple of very very tall spouts too. A megapod of at least 1,000 long beaked common dolphins came over to play. As we slowly worked our way from east to west along the famous sub-surface ridge that parallels Santa Cruz Island, we saw single humpbacks, duets, trios and even a few quartets. The bright sun being at an angle this time of year really emphasizes the spout spray and it was visually magnificent. Soon the reason for the very very tall spouts mentioned earlier became apparent. We got located on a giant blue whale and had some fantastic looks. There was a second tall spout going the opposite direction so I suspect there were several blue whales in the area. Oh, what a fabulous sight this was to behold. Spouts everywhere on a spectacular sunny day in November. Whooo-eee!
Lastly we had to head back towards Santa Barbara Harbor. But wait! Near mid-Channel we found 3 more humpback whales and another fast megapod of at least another 1,000 long beaked commons. One of the 3 humpbacks threw its tail perhaps 20 times or more in a row.
By the time we entered the Harbor quite a bit later than our schedule shows, we had closely watched 23 humpback whales with many more spouts all around. No kidding there must have been over 30 humpbacks all over, on both sides of the Channel today. Add 1 giant blue whale (and probably a second one), plus 2,000 dolphins, and now you know why I came down with acute spoutitis. By the way, there is only one cure for this condition. I'll be back on board the Condor Express tomorrow as we head back to the same hot spots. The weather forecast remains fantastic. Hope to see you on board. I won't post today's photographs online until at least Sunday.
11/5/14 - It's November 5. BLUE WHALE & more today.
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Captain Dave was doing his thang as "Who's THE Man!" today out there. This whole trip was unbelievable, but trust me, I'm not making this stuff up. The day starts off being a Santa Ana summertime day. 85F in Santa Barbara, and very comfy out on the Santa Barbara Channel. Bright warm sun, blue water, no swell, hardly a ripple and you could see from Boney Ridge above Point Mugu all the way west to San Miguel. Translation: no problem spotting spouts. This whole week is supposed to be similar...whoooeee. Dave ran us to the east and smack into a mother lode of humpback whales. There were probably 13 #whales in this eastern area, but we "only" had time to set up and watch 8. The highlights included 3 massive full body breaches and later 3 humpbacks swam a direct line to the Condor Express and two of them turned together for a whole body visible duet in the crystal clear water. I got chills. Common dolphins and sea lions were abundant, but not as abundant as those we would see later near Santa Cruz Island.
In response to customer interest, Dave next steered a course for the western end of Santa Cruz Island. Not far past the shipping lane we encountered another lode of humpback whales...these were a little spread out but our friends Eileen and Michael estimated 9 in the area, and we got reasonable looks at 4. What distracted us from the rest of the humpback whales was NOT the massive megapods of long beaked common dolophins (3,000 for the day), NOR the mob after mob of California sea lions all up on the glassy surface with their pectoral flippers in the sun....none of these factors stopped the humpback sightings. However the presence of a very very tall spout pretty close to the boat DID make us reposition the boat so we could get super great looks at a giant blue whale that stayed on the surface for at least a dozen breaths...bright sun, clear water, no wind....who'd have guessed we'd be seeing a westbound blue whale along the north face of Santa Cruz Island in November? Oh, one more thing, did I mention the 75 - 100 Risso's dolphins very close to the sea cliffs...and our great look inside the world famous Painted Cave?
11/3/14 - 11 Humpback Whales Take Turns With Behaviors
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Captain Eric ran the Condor Express to the southeastern Santa Barbara Channel today and found a "mother lode" of very highly animated humpback whales. There were 11 #whales all together, and if you think this was all about quantity, let me tell you about the quality of the sightings today. Among the 11 humpbacks there were two mother-calf pairs (one pair was Scarlet and Shorty). Even though the youngsters were highly active and went on breaching, rolling, pectoral and tail fin slapping, it was the giant adults today that seemed to follow the lead of the youngsters. One big whale came up out of no where and got airborne very close to the Condor, the whole body was out of the water, and, as Eric tells it, before splashing down the whale spouted mid air, opened its mouth, showed its baleen, and then slammed its chin on the water first...followed by the rest of the 40 ton body. This was repeated 7 or 8 times and I believe our pal Dino posted a video of all this on the Condor Express FaceBook page. Thanks, Dino! All the whales got into the act with breaching, slapping fins, rolling and being friendly with the boat. It was "off the charts" fun. Also in the area we had at least 500 long beaked common dolphins. Wow.
11/1/14 - Ooodles of Cetacea on a Silver Ocean
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Light rain is in the forecast for midnight tonight and the clouds moved in making the sky and ocean a brilliant silvery color. There was a very light chop from the south east breeze, but otherwise it was flat calm and a wonderful day for spotting marine mammals. Captain Eric with his keen eyes worked alongside deckhand Augie who manned the binoculars. It was not long past the rig line that we came up on our first hot spot of the trip. Here we found many dozens of California sea lions, long beaked common dolphins, and at least 4 Minke whales all working on an anchovy school. One Minke #whale actually swam alongside the Condor Express for a while. Next we moved to another hot region east of Henry. Again the sea lions and #dolphins signaled that something might be going on below the surface. Before long we had not one, not two but at least 9 giant humpback whales in the vicinity. Deckhand Augie actually spotted this spot because of the repeated breaching by a small humpback whale. The small one turned out to be "Shorty" and this juvenile whale put on quite a show as its mother "Scarlet" went about her feeding activities. Shorty, on the other hand, alternated between series of pectoral fin slapping, tail throws and trying to find its mom Scarlet. Not to be out done, two other humpbacks, both adults, made a bee-line for the Condor, and passed under and around the boat giving us a thorough mugging to the delight of our many happy passengers.
The next phase of the trip took us over for a great visit to the eastern end of Santa Cruz Island. Here we found great shelter from the little southeast breeze and got a wonderful guided and narrated tour from Capt Eric. Finally it was time to head back towards Santa Barbara and we took off to the north. But wait! There's more. Just past mid-Channel we encountered another hot spot with 4 or 5 more humpbacks. When the dust settled and we finally entered the safety of the Harbor, we figured the totals included 8 closely watched humpbacks and another 8 in the immediate vicinity. Add at least 1,000 long beaked common dolphins to the tally as well. Wow! What a day! Now the midnight rain can come and give us that whopping tenth of an inch that NWS promised.
10/29/14 - Humpback Whales Invade the Channel En Masse
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Let me set the stage for you. It was mill pod glass flat most of the day with bright sun and clear blue water. Later in the trip a few ripples showed up. Veteran Captain Dave first took us to that month-after-month productive region east of Henry where we located and watched 6 humpback whales closely. There were spots of anchovies here and there near the surface, so in addition to some short and shallow dives, we had a couple of instances of surface lunge feeding. This area was also full of California sea lions and long beaked common dolphins. Among the 6 #whales we found a cow with a small calf and also our pal "Lucky" that was disentangled back in June. Lucky is looking better every time we see it, and today was much healthier looking than a month or so when it last was watched. At least 2 Minke whales also patrolled this hot zone. Additional humpback behaviors included one beast that stayed in a large kelp paddy for quite a while rolling around and lifting its various fins in the seaweed one at a time. Tail flukes were seen on just about every dive.
The middle phase of the adventure took us over for a short and sweet cruise along the northeastern face of beautiful Santa Cruz Island. Here we saw the Island in all its radiant glory...glassy seas, hot sun, hikers on the cliff tops, kayakers in the sea caves and kelp. What a fabulous day to be anywhere in the Santa Barbara Channel. Finally it was time to head home and around mid-Channel we had another group of at least 7 humpbacks that we closely watched, making the total for the trip 13 with several more spouts in the near distance. More sea lions and dolphins were on the scene of course, and Captain Dave estimated at least 1,500 long beaked common dolphin as a reasonable trip total.
Just when we thought the fabulous sightings were over and we were making the first turn inside Santa Barbara Harbor we encountered a half dozen inshore bottlenose dolphins that were coming out of the harbor as we were going in.
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