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)
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Year Founded:
    1973
Description:
   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
Location Type:
    Boat
Payment Accepted:
    Cash,   MasterCard,   Visa,  Debit Card,  
Languages Spoken:
    English,  
General Business Classification:
    Leisure & Recreation
    Categories:
    Bird Watching
    Boat Charters
    Boat Charters
    Deep-Sea Fishing
    Kayaking & Canoeing
    Tours
    Whale Watching
    Whale Watching
    Whale Watching
    Wildlife Tours

Admittance:
    During normal business hours.
Indoor/Outdoor:
    Outdoor Location
Handicapped Accessible?
    Yes
Smoking?
    Some restrictions
Cell Phones & Pagers?
    Permitted
Cameras/Recording Equip.?
    Permitted
Pets Allowed?
    No
Gift Certificates?
    Available for Sale
Classes Offered?
    Yes.
 Recent Buzzes!!
10/18/14 - Fantastic Day but where is Shorty?
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Captain Dave and his crew ran into the eastern Santa Barbara Channel under sunny skies, calm seas with clear water all around. Among the 6+ humpbacks we watched were Top Notch and, later, Scarlet. Scarlet did her now famous sideways, open mouth swim/feed behavior again today. And, yes it was only Scarlet today; her calf Shorty (who was with her as recently as yesterday) was no where to be seen. Has something bad happened to Shorty? Has this juvenile finally separated from its mother? Did it get lost in the night? Time will tell, so keep your eyes open. There was one nice Minke #whale sighting, and at least 800 long beaked common dolphins all around. After a nice visit to the east end of Santa Cruz Island we were on our way home and encountered a decent sized pod of Risso's dolphins in the mid-Channel area. It was another epic Fall wildlife adventure.
10/16/14 - Outstanding weather & wildlife
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Down to the east Santa Barbara Channel the sun was shining bright and the ocean was calm. The ocean was crystal clear and blue again. Captain Dave and his crew found one humpback whale: our buddy Top Notch. Similar to yesterday, Top Notch made a few friendly passes near the Condor Express and delighted its fans. It also showed some nice tail flukes on its deep dives. The anchovy schools in this location seemed to be near the seafloor, so bottom times were in the ten minute range...leaving plenty of time to smell the salt air and enjoy the scenery.
There were more common dolphins today. The crew estimated at least 500 #dolphins were observed in their clear water habitat. Among the cetaceans observed there were 4 Minke whales. One was a giant beast at least 30 feet long! The big Minke gave us some very good looks. The water was so clear and the visibilities above the surface were so nice that the crew reported several "false alarms" where they thought there was a herd of dolphins ahead and it turned out to be flocks of black vented shearwaters diving and re-surfacing and making a lot of splashes. Wow!
10/16/14 - "Top Notch" holds a meet-and-greet
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There was a subtropical breeze and a few warm sprinkles in the Santa Barbara Channel on our way out to the grounds. Along the way we watched a few long beaked common dolphins, and in fact only saw a total of 100 or so for the trip. Soon the breeze subsided and the ocean surface got an oily mirror glass finish. The sun was bright and the ocean water was even bluer and clearer than previously reported...or at least that's how it appeared to my blue eyes. Captain Dave and Augie were our main spotters today and we ended up with 3 humpback whales. But what a fine bunch of #whales they were. First up, we watched the juvenile we call "whitey pects" and its mother. The mother has been identified by Cascadia Research as "CRC-12083 which has been seen since 2005 mostly in the SBC." They are aware of the calf now and we should know its database designation soon.
Later in the trip we found another, older juvenile, the one we've been calling "Top Notch." This whale was spotted 2 or 3 miles away because it breached and then settled into some pectoral flipper slapping for a while. Now here is some curious and potentially coincidental news for you regular readers and humpback whale lovers. Top Notch, as you already know, was named because it has a distinct notch in its dorsal fin, among other features. When I was discussing "whitey pects" with John Calambokidis from Cascadia, he mentioned "The interesting thing is it looks like she [mother of whitey-pects, CRC-12083] had a calf in both 2013 and 2014 which is a little surprising but there is no fluke shot of the calf in 2013 (had a distinct notch in the dorsal fin however)." (I subsequently sent fluke and notch shots back to John). Conclusion: there is a possibility that CRC-12083 is the mother of whitey AND Top Notch ! ...all in the family, eh?
The story of the trip today was all about Top Notch. The short of it is that Topper came over and under the boat several times and lingered around, rolled around, and spouted within a few feet of its loyal fan club on the Condor Express. And as a reminder, all this happened in the clearest blue water we've seen all year.
10/15/14 - 5 Species of Cetaceans in One Trip
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We watched 3 humpback whales closely but there were plenty of other spouts around the area. The bait was near the sea floor and hence the down times were long-ish. The skies were blue and so was the water...so once again the clarity of the ocean enhanced all of the sightings. Wow. We found and played with both species of common dolphins today. The long beaked species was on the coast side, and the short beaked species was close to Santa Cruz. There were at least 1,000 of each species. Per usual, the short beaked common dolphins were highly animated. The did a ton of leaping high and at one point several were tail walking like Flipper did on TV. Most of the black vented shearwaters and other marine birds like the red necked phalaropes were sitting on the water resting. After the long beaked commons and all the humpbacks, we made course for the world famous Painted Cave on Santa Cruz Island. Conditions near the island were spectacular and the Cave was Mill Pond flat and glassy. After a run down the west end, north face of Santa Cruz we headed back across the Santa Barbara Channel. We did not get very far off the island before we encountered a mixed group of those big offshore bottlenose dolphins AND Risso's dolphins together. It was a great sight to see. This gave us a scorecard of 5 different species of cetaceans today. Clear, calm warm and great.
10/7/14 - Clear blue water enhances sightings again
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Captain Eric left Santa Barbara Harbor in fog so thick he could not see Stern's Wharf. Luckily it lifted in time for the #humpback #whale "Top Notch" to show up in crystal clear blue. It was a wonderful sighting, but again the fog was closing in. Eric left the area and headed for the world famous Painted Cave on Santa Cruz Island. Long beaked common #dolphins were abundant all day, and at least 1,000 were closely watched...again the water clarity made the sighting even more spectacular. Our visit to the Cave was good, and the waters around the Island had clear skies, no fog and lots of blue water. An unusual sighting: ONE lone Risso's dolphin was observed near the Island. It was strange to see it swimming solo for sure. The fog is supposed to go away later this week.
10/4/14 - THE Place to Be
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It was lat, calm, sunny, clear skies, clear water, no wind and drop dead gorgeous all day. I have personally never seen so many long beaked common dolphins so concentrated in the north eastern Santa Barbara Channel. There were pods of #dolphins everywhere we roamed. At least 3,000 dolphins were closely watched. Most of these little cetaceans were on hot spots full of sea birds and sea lions to the chagrin of the northern anchovy population. Picture a flat smooth blue ocean with hot spots of activity here and there as far as you can see. A few of these hot spots were robust and active, in fact we found one of our 3 humpback whales joining in on a feeding frenzy on one of them. The one largest hot spot had a gang of several dozen California sea lions and a couple hundred dolphins. Sea birds, especially black vented shearwaters, were flying circles around the spot and diving. It was an amazing sight to see. (See photograph above). Two earlier humpback whales were located farther to the east and had long down times...near 15 minutes on a couple of dives. Three or so Minke whales were also around the active regions. The Santa Barbara Channel is one of the coolest locations around and is definitely THE place to be.
10/2/14 - Mirror and rippled glass ocean full of life
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The adventure began under sunny blue skies and a rippled ocean surface. There was a wind driven swell from the west that hardly anyone noticed, especially when we were riding the waves down hill to the eastern Santa Barbara Channel. There were more pods and larger pods of long beaked common dolphins today. A rough guess of the total is 1,500+ #dolphins, and at least two of the larger groups were nursery pods. Amazing. As the trip progressed and we moved from dolphin pod to dolphin pod, many hot spots were firing off with California sea lions, dolphins and various predatory seabirds. There were larger flocks of black-vented shearwaters today, and the red necked phalarope flocks are growing too. Sea conditions just kept getting better and better until we were riding with the dolphins through mirror glass. After running a search grid over the last known location, we eventually spotted one of the humpback whales we saw yesterday. It was the large one with the rounded, shovel-like dorsal fin that the crew nicknamed "Spade." Spade was all business but did fluke up regularly and also made several close passes by the Condor Express to the delight of its fan club. A few Minke #whales also passed through the hot spots to round out the species counts. It was a very fun and beautiful day.
10/1/14 - Hot Weather on Land and a Parade of Marine Life on the Ocean
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The beautiful Santa Barbara Channel will be a fantastic place to cool off later this week as temperatures are supposed to soar again. It was hot today, but once the mighty Condor Express got going and we moved offshore to the sea breeze zone, things were marvelous. The sky was blue, the ocean water was clear, and a very very little swell rolled by from the west. Long beaked common dolphins, over 500 individuals, paid us a visit as we looked around for their larger cetacean cousins. I never get enough of watching the #dolphins carrying on in the clear water. Not far to the east we found ourselves in vast regions of predatory sea birds and California sea lions. The black vented shearwaters are still out there, but their numbers are lower. Hundreds of red necked phalaropes were observed today, and not so many squawking elegant terns in the sky. Shearwaters were diving all around us in the blue water. Before long we had racked-up an impressive 5 closely watched humpback whales, with one or two other spouts in the distance. "Scarlet" (the large whale with the deep propeller scar) was on the scene, and her small companion "Shorty" was there too. Sure enough, Shorty took off and breached a couple of times a few hundred yards from the boat, then rolled around and slapped its long pectoral flukes at us. Many of the #whales today came close and paid us a friendly visit...again the experience was enhanced by the crystal waters. A couple of Minke whales popped up and went down, so unless you were looking right at that spot, you missed them.
9/29/14 - Flat Calm Day & Wild Humpbacks
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Captain Eric and his renowned crew left Santa Barbara Harbor with fantastic, dead calm and sunny conditions. Out near the offshore oil rigs the marine hot spots were on fire. Common dolphins, California sea lions, sea birds....were all feasting on northern anchovies. A total of 5 humpback #whales and at least 500 common #dolphins were closely watched, but there were more spouts in the area. Now here's where it gets interesting. Right away we found Scarlet and her juvenile companion Shorty. Scarlet let loose some tremendous tail throws, perhaps in response to a pesky sea lion, and Shorty made a bee-line for the Condor Express. Next to the boat, Shorty rolled around and showed us its ventral grooves and generally put on quite a show. Soon there were two more humpback whales that breached, then logged on the surface, then came over and mugged the boat. A few pectoral slaps were thrown around just for fun. It was a flat calm day and the humpback whale went wild. You gotta see this stuff.
9/26/14 - What a nice Day it was !
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Sun, blue skies, blue water. What a great combination. There was a moderate swell from the winds blowing way out in the far west Santa Barbara Channel. This did not bother the Condor Express, but it did offer some great looks at the long beaked common dolphins surfing the swells all day long. Fun stuff. We estimated nearly 1,500 #dolphins around the boat as a total for the day. Not far south of the offshore oil platforms Captain Dave located the first humpback whale spout. On spout led to another (a good problem to have) and we ended up watching 8 different #humpback whales. Two of the 8 were a mom with her calf. The rest were solitary whales, but for a pair of very large adult whales. One of the adults breached not too far from our position. Humpback whales set a course heading towards the Condor Express several times, and others ran a course alongside...great looks. At one point a pair of whales fluked up together and headed for deep pastures (anchovy schools). It is "prime time" in our neck of the Channel.
9/25/14 - No Fog! Wonderful Adventure Today.
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Captain Dave and his A-Team crew headed to the eastern Santa Barbara Channel under clear skies, warm sun, and calm seas. The "fog monster" that made us work so hard yesterday was not around. We watched 3 individual humpback whales today and one of them was "active." The active #whale breached not too far from the Condor Express, then came closer and threw its tail a few times to show us who was boss. There were long beaked common dolphins around all day, and some pods were actively feeding on the surface with sea lions and various seabirds on "hot spots." Dave estimates at least 2,000 #dolphins today. A couple of Minke whales were also interested in the anchovy hot spots and made themselves visible to all for great sightings. All in all it was a wonderful adventure today.
9/25/14 - A Bit of Fog? Not a Problem!
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A whole bunch of sea faring folks got off the Princess cruise ship and walked directly on to a much smaller Condor Express and headed back out to sea. Aaarrr, Matey ! It was quite foggy as we left Santa Barbara Harbor and we could only see the bow section of the cruise ship anchored just offshore. The fog was thick in spots and thin (almost sunny) in other spots. Later in the trip the whole sky got blue. A Bit of Fog? Not a Problem! The keen eyes of Captain Dave, Deckhand Augie and one of our passengers kept us on the whales and dolphins. Actually, the dolphins seemed to find US, whereas we had to find the whales. In total we watched 3 humpback whales, on of which was (you guessed it) Top Notch. As a coincidence, one of the other whales, a very large one, also had a notch out of its dorsal fin. What are the odds? I don't know, but we photographed the dorsals and the tail flukes and will send the photos on to Cascadia. Towards the later portion of the adventure, we found a very active hot spot with northern anchovy schools at or near the surface. Sea lions, sea birds and long beaked common dolphins had the bait all balled up. Soon two large hungry humpbacks lunged up from below, sent the birds scattering, and gulped down a huge quantity of anchovy biomass. Three Minke whales joined the feast-in-the-East. One Minke came very close to the starboard bow and was in plain view of all the fans. Another Minke did a long horizontal and high speed lunge just inches below the surface and was very dramatic to witness. At the end we estimated at least 1,800 long beaked common #dolphins for this trip. Another fantastic day on the Santa Barbara Channel was enjoyed by all and the fog did not stop us.
9/24/14 - A Grand Day and even Grander Show!
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There were patches of fog in Santa Barbara Channel be we avoided all of it until we were practically home and safely back inside Santa Barbara Harbor. The sea surface was glassy calm. It was a warm and sunny day - perfect for locating those elusive cetacean spouts. Captain Dave and Deckhand Augie have 4 really sharp eyes between them and they both were "on their game" today. Out of the five humpback whales we watched closely today, one was Top Notch (the young humpback with a notch in its dorsal fin), and two more were "White Pects" (a juvenile with pectoral fins white on both sides) and its mother. Some of the whales had over 12 minute bottom times, and others were around 5 minutes. The stage was set with crystal clear blue water, and before long the ever-acrobatic and energetic "White Pects" took off and breached about a dozen times in a row (I'll count the exact number later when I process the images). One breach was so close to the Condor Express that it rendered my 300mm lens useless (too close) and sent spray on to the lower deck. Luckily the lower deck was populated by some very dedicated ocean loving people and a team of hard core dolphin and whale enthusiasts. For them, this was the spray of a lifetime! Baptism by humpback, sort of. Later it slapped its white pects on the water. On the subject of #dolphins, we watched at least 1,500 individuals in both large and small pods. Again, the water clarity enhanced the sightings and all of the various antics of these smaller cetaceans were visible to all. This was definitely one of the best days we've had so far this season. The parking lot near the launch ramp is full of lobster traps getting ready for the season to open next week.
9/22/14 - Lots of Humpbacks and Dolphins
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Captain Eric ran east, as has been our custom these past few weeks. The day started off calm with overcast skies and ended up calm with sun. At least 1,500 long beaked common dolphins were closely watched throughout the trip and pods were everywhere we went. The first of 7 humpback whales was "Top Notch" who was quite friendly today and breached close to the boat. A bit further to the east, Captain Eric located 6 more humpback #whales and there was evidence of some surface lunge feeding going on. One whale swam directly under the boat. Once again the Fall conditions were spectacular and the cetaceans were both abundant and exciting.
9/20/14 - Another Flat, Calm, Sunny Day in Paradise !
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Ideal sea and weather conditions again permeated the Santa Barbara Channel, eastern region. Most of this trip was spent around Henry. There were long beaked common dolphins around the neighborhood all day long. The first humpback #whale of the four we watched closely (there were at least 2 additional spouts in the distance), was Top Notch. TN came alongside and showed off in the clear water again for a full body view....rostrum to tail flukes.
Another small whale was next on the sightings report. Lots of dolphins, sea birds and sea lions in and around the hot spots. About a mile east of Henry we went over to visit with the calf "with-white-on-both-sides" of its pectorals, and its mother. These two are always fun to see, and the calf did get pestered by some California sea lions and reacted a few times by rolling, waving its white pectorals, and other things that would send chills down the furry brown backs of the pinnipeds.
All in all it was another flat, calm, and sunny day in paradise.
9/10/14 - This Sunday ... Santa Barbara Waterfront History Cruise -- Make your reservations now!
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Come aboard the Condor Express this Sunday afternoon and learn about the intriguing waterfront and coastline landmarks that have contributed to Santa Barbara's color and historical past. Erin Graffy, historian and author of numerous books on Santa Barbara history (including the coffee table book "Santa Barbara Yacht Club: The Waterfront history") will entertain and delight us with a fascinating history of our coast from Hope ranch to Summerland.
As the Condor Express takes you on a comfortable and leisurely late-afternoon cruise along our picturesque waterfront and historical landmarks, you will learn: ..... Where is Santa Barbara's Great White Way, and why does it look that way? ..... When was Stearn's Wharf built and how did it transform Santa Barbara? ..... How did Santa Barbara become the center for Rum Runners during Prohibition, and where did bootleggers land that liquor? ..... Who was Hughette Clark -- the mysterious heiress who recently died at the age of 104? Where is her waterfront estate, and what were her special connections with Santa Barbara?
Complimentary hors d'oeuvres and a full-service no-host bar will add to your cruise enjoyment.
Tickets are just $40 and are available by calling 963-3564 or go to www.condorexpress.com / for reservations or for more information.
Presented by ... Condor Express - SEA Landing
Venue ... Condor Express - SEA Landing  Website
9/4/14 - Humpbacks Sounding Off
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Captain Eric ran to the far east-central portion of the Santa Barbara Channel with flat calm conditions. The faithful Condor Express wildlife fans watched 4 humpback whales very closely, but there were easily another 3 or 4 in the near distance. There were several very close and friendly approaches to the boat as well as some rolling around, high tail fluking, and mixing with the #dolphins. Eric estimates roughly 750 or more common dolphins throughout the grounds, as well as a lone Minke whale.
The unique quality of today's encounter with the knobby headed whales was the continual sound of trumpet blows or calls from these beasts. Most every surface interval was accompanied by a trumpet solo as if we were watching Miles Davis or Freddie Hubbard on stage. Capt E also spotted a blue shark and followed it a while, although the fish kept swimming ahead at 5 or 6 knots and made it a challenge for everyone to get great looks other than seeing the dorsal fin. The adventure also took a run over to the east end of Santa Cruz Island and took a little tour along the majestic sea cliffs. At one point we went inside beautiful Potato Harbor for some sight seeing.  Website
9/3/14 - 4 Humpback Whales Surface Feed & More
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The glassy and windless conditions we had as we departed Santa Barbara Harbor did not last long. By 11 am a moderate breeze and light chop prevailed. Luckily we found our first of many long-beaked common dolphins right away. Later in the day one of the pods was a nursery pod and some of the youngsters were tan/brown color with no stripes yet, and fetal folds were visible. Our sharp-eyed Captain Eric located our first of 5 humpback whale spouts as he steered the Condor Express into the northeastern Santa Barbara Channel and a region affectionately called "The Flats." Soon his one spout became an adult and small juvenile, and then another adult with a juvenile. A 5th whale breached twice in the distance but we could not leave the #whale show with our 4 amazing beasts and were content in knowing there were a lot of humpback whales around the zone.
The big show began when one adult-juvenile humpback pair kicked into high speed and headed directly at the second adult-juvenile humpback pair who were aimed directly at them. It was like a 1950's teen movie with whales instead o f hot rods "playing chicken." Everyone held their breath and trained their eyeballs at the potential impact point. Would the breach? throw their tails? slap their pectorals? or just ignore each other? Answer: As hundreds of shearwaters, cormorants, dolphins and sea lions magically showed up, the whales lunge fed on the surface. Soon their ballooned-out bellies were floating in plain view. The whales repeated their lunges several times. At one point Captain Eric hit the throttle lever and put the Condor Express in reverse. Whaaa? I was thinking. Instantly two fully distended adult humpbacks were on the surface directly in front of our bow with an up close look at the ventral groove blubber. I've said it before, but I'll stand by it: it was a Nat Geo kind of day.
Minke whales were in the area but we did not get great looks. And just outside the Harbor we had about a dozen large inshore bottlenose common dolphins. I'll post the photos sometime tomorrow.  Website
9/3/14 - This Saturday .... have fun!! ..... Hawaiian Cruise Party on the Condor Express
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Saturday September 6 Board the Condor Express for their annual Hawaiian Aloha Cruise Joanie Collins returns from the Islands with special guests including Eric Rozet Tickets are $30 advanced $35 day of cruise Tickets available at Sea Landing 805 963-3564 or visit condorexpress.com/Specialty Cruises  Website
8/29/14 - Humpbacks and Dolphins on a Fine Day
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We ran southeast riding the swells from the wind blowing way out to the west end of the Santa Barbara Channel. Before long Captains Dave and Eric had located a big whale and a smaller whale. I know this sounds like yesterday's report, but these were two different and seemingly unrelated humpbacks. They had fairly long to medium down times and came up next to the boat a couple of times and thrilled the whale watchers on the Condor Express. What a magnificent sight...sunny, warm breezes, clear water and a whale a few dozen yards away. Great stuff. Long beaked common dolphins were, again, all around, all day....perhaps as many as 2,000 or more total. And there was another humpback a few miles to the northeast of our location but we did not get that far. California sea lions cavorted here and there, and there were several very large flocks of black vented shearwaters sitting on the water en masse. This is certainly a prime ticket for escaping the mainland and any woes you may have.  Website
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