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 Categories:
    Bird Watching,    Boat Charters,    Boat Charters,    Deep-Sea Fishing,    Kayaking & Canoeing,    Tours,    Whale Watching,    Whale Watching,    Whale Watching,    Wildlife Tours,

Business Hours:
    Summer: 24/7 -- Winter: 6 am - 7 pm

Payment Accepted:
    Cash,   MasterCard,   Visa,  Debit Card,  

Admittance:
    During normal business hours

Location Type:
    Boat

Languages Spoken:
    English,  

Indoor/Outdoor:
    Outdoor Location

Handicapped Accessible?
    Yes

Smoking?
    Some restrictions

Cell Phones?
    Permitted

Cameras/Recording Equip.?
    Permitted

Pets Allowed?
    No

Gift Certificates?
    Available for Sale

Classes Offered?
    Yes.


 
 Recent News & Buzz!!
6/26/15 - Get on Board!! July 4th Fireworks Cruise on the Condor Express
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Get on board and enjoy Santa Barbara’s 4th of July fireworks show from the decks of the Condor Express. There’s nothing like the view from the Santa Barbara Channel. It’s the best seat in the house! Cruise includes light appetizers and no host full bar.
Presented by ... Condor Express - SEA Landing
Venue ... Condor Express - SEA Landing  Website
6/24/15 - A Great Day in Humpbackland - Rope was there
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We worked the belly of the beast – the mid Santa Barbara Channel. Here we found widely distributed hot spots with humpback whales feeding deep and on the surface. Long-beaked common dolphins were everywhere including two massive megapods. Some hot spots had seabirds among which were sooty shearwaters, western gulls, Heermann’s gulls, and brown pelicans. Notably absent were the elegant terns today.
The conditions were good. There was bright sun all day and a the sea surface ranged from light to moderate chop from the west. Winds started off calm as you might expect, then started to blow, then alternately blew and backed off for a couple of hours. It was a great day for watching cetaceans.
Among the 8 humpback #whales closely watched today (with more spouts in the distance) was our long-standing friend “Rope.” She was with another, even larger, female and moved around the area starting near Habitat and ending about 5 miles south of Santa Barbara Harbor. Rope did that “chomping” at the surface behavior I’ve described in earlier reports, and I think I caught one or two of them with my camera. She still sends up that unique “fire hose” stream from her spouts once every so often.
Mostly the anchovies were below the surface, but we did get into one or two hot spots with bait balls that were up. Pelicans were crashing on these spots and the other birds clambered to gobble the scraps. The humpback whale reaction to these surface bait balls was mystifying. Once or twice there were distant vertical lunges, and, more frequently, that surface “skimming” or “chomping.” But none of the whales hit the bulls eye in terms of lunge feeding in the most dense central regions of the anchovy mass. They completely by-passed the dense spots and swam off to find new areas. Perhaps, as Sally suggested, the whales are stuffing themselves on schools of fish below the surface and thus are not so interested in the surface bait balls. The #dolphins had no such problems and attacked the core of the school with gusto.  Website
6/22/15 - Opera Cruise on the Condor Express -- July 17
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Enjoy a truly romantic evening cruising out along the beautiful Santa Barbara shoreline aboard the Condor Express .... with operatic love songs from tenor Tyler Thompson, soprano Deborah Bertling and pianist Kacey Link. The first ever Opera Cruise departs from the Sea Landing Dock in Santa Barbara Harbor at 6 PM, returning at 8 PM. The $40 boarding pass includes complimentary appetizers and a no host bar. Reservations may be made by calling Sea Landing (805) 963-3564.
For more info on this and other special events go to condorexpress.com/specialty-cruises.
Presented by ... Condor Express - SEA Landing
Venue ... Condor Express- SEA Landing  Website
6/21/15 - The Summer Humpback Whales are Here!
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Captain Dave ran into the middle of the Santa Barbara Channel and found a “mother lode” of at least 20 giant humpback whales and several thousand long-beaked common dolphins spread over the zone between Platforms Charlie and Habitat. It was a nice day, the sun was out and the breezes were light to medium. A moderate chop from winds in the western gently rocked and rolled us.
Among the details of interest we found 2 mother-calf humpback pairs. One of the pairs was noticeably barnacle-encrusted and very active. The calf breached, there was some pectoral fin slapping, and the pair made several close approaches to the boat and their fan club.
The humpback whale population in the Channel has been off the charts all week and there is no immediate end in sight. We all know and love these beasts due to their unpredictable nature, which means two things: first, if you have not made your reservation to get out her for high quality summer whale watching, now is the time.  Website
6/12/15 - Pelagic Red Crabs and a Waterfall at Painted Cave
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Captain Dave and the crew of the Condor Express found 4 humpback #whales in the Santa Barbara Channel with at least 200 long-beaked common #dolphins, then a great trip to the world famous Painted Cave on Santa Cruz Island. The first and last whale sighting was in the same general region south of the oil rigs where Rope and a larger “buddy” humpback were feeding. After the first sighting with good looks Captain Dave headed for the Painted Cave. Two interesting and unique things about today’s Cave penetration: there were pelagic red crabs in the water, and the little waterfall that runs down the fault line was in action (albeit a trickle). On the way home we ran across the same area with Rope and her pal, and 2 other whales had joined them. The spot had gotten hot with lots of sea birds, especially sooty shearwaters, and the whales did some vertical lunge feeding to thrill their fans on the Condor. Although the Channel was covered with a thin overcast, the Island was sunny and bright.  Website
6/9/15 - 2 Late Gray Whales, 2 Humpbacks, and Thousands of Dolphins
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Captain Dave and the crew of the Condor Express took us across the Santa Barbara Channel to the eastern end of Santa Cruz Island, and back again. It was overcast, foggy in spots, but very calm and mostly glassy. A very few sunny spots, or what they call in Alaska “sucker holes” were encountered, although it was nice at the island and along the beach.
Our first sighting included about 100 long-beaked common dolphins which were seen about 3 miles south of Santa Barbara Harbor. We watched for a while and then kept on our southeasterly course.
The second sighting was more robust and included another 100 #dolphins along with many hundred sooty shearwaters. Two long-winded humpback whales came up to breathe once in a while, but the looks were very good. We were about 1 mile south of Hillhouse at the time.
Next up was a massive megapod of long-beaked common dolphins, easily 1,000 animals, about 2 miles east of Habitat. The great abundance of these little cetaceans was marvelous to watch, and they rode the bow, surfed our wake, and did all their tricks.
We continued our southeasterly path and Dave provided good narration as we toured the seacliffs and coves along the eastern end of Santa Cruz Island from Scorpion Anchorage to Pedro Point. Back on track, we headed north to look for more cetaceans. About 30 minutes off the island and as we started up the underwater slope that is attached to the mainland, in 50 fathoms of water, another even more active megapod of at least 1,000 additional #dolphins was encountered. This was an active feeding pod and they were moving at high speeds chasing the anchovy school. Many seabirds were on this hot spot and that included shearwaters, pelicans and a few gulls.
Our final major sighting of the trip was about 1 mile south of Hillhouse and included 2 adult northbound gray whales, along with 50 or so #dolphins. The #whales traveled and dove side by side. There was not much difference between them in terms of size, so we ruled out the mother-calf situation which one might expect to see with these late migrators.  Website
6/4/15 - 9 humpback whales and nearly 3000 dolphins plus turquoise water
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Milky turquoise water color pervaded the nearshore regions and returned to a typical oceanic blue out 4 miles or so. Even so, there were occasional streaks of this discoloration. I suspect it is some species of phytoplankton that is blooming and will attempt to grab a plankton sample tomorrow if all conditions are good. Water temperatures offshore are 62.7F, and today was overcast (again) with only a very slight bump from the west. Little spots of blue sky opened up temporarily here and there as the day progressed.
Just past Platform Alpha we found one slow moving humpback whale and about 50 long-beaked common dolphins. This assemblage was moving west and the whale was all business…no deep dives, no tail flukes, one spout at a time, and 4 or 5 minutes down. We watched for 20 minutes and then moved out towards Platform Habitat. Along the route to Habitat there was another pod of long-beaked common #dolphins numbering around 100.
1 mile north of Habitat we located a moveable feast. There were 6 humpback #whales in this spot, and around 2,500 common dolphins. The whales made long dives and had short surface times, but there were so many of them on all sides of the Condor Express, that there was plenty of entertainment/education going on. Among the recognizable humpback contingent we saw Scarlet again, and a mother whale with her calf. We also noted a single breach about ½- mile east of our hot spot.
The hot spot was dynamic and whales came and went while the whole amorphous blob moved west then north then east again. At least 2 more “new” humpbacks joined the club. During this phase of the excursion about 100 of the dolphins kicked it into high gear and ran west in a “stampede.” By this time is was getting more sunny and a light breeze was starting up from the west.
The seabird species composition was different today. There were nearly zero brown pelicans even though the elegant terns were crashing on the dolphins and sooty shearwaters were there diving. A few gulls also looked around for easy pickin’s. The magnitude of all this life, all around the boat, all day, was amazing.  Website
6/2/15 - 4 Humpbacks and lots of dolphins
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Before the trip left the docks, I noticed that every boat at Sea Landing had a serious bird perched on top. The Condor Express had a juvenile brown pelican sitting on the windscreen of the flying bridge. The Coral Sea had a black-crowned night heron, and the private yacht next to us had a great blue heron on top of its wheelhouse. Crazy. We left Santa Barbara around 10 am and headed for the oil rigs. About 2 miles north of Hillhouse deckhand Eric spotted some activity. This activity turned out to be a small hot spot with common dolphins (about 1,000) and humpback whales (three). The spot was not too birdy. After about an hour Captain Dave decided to head for the islands while the conditions were still good. Although the low cloud layer was medium thick and the ocean surface was mostly glassy, there was still a wee bit of chill in the air due to the water temperature being 57F I suspect.
Not too far beyond the rigs on our course to the islands we spotted a lone and very shy Minke #whale. Around 1 pm we penetrated the world famous Painted Cave on Santa Cruz Island and found the cave alive with pigeon guillemots flying back and forth. We capped off our island tour with a run along the northwest sea cliffs and little coves where we spotted a pair of peregrine falcons perched way up on top of a cliff.
On the way home another solo humpback was spotted and it was not an easy whale to watch. It had long down times and only spouted once when on the surface. It maintained a straight course to the east and must have been in “travel mode” if such a mode exists.
Finally, about 2 miles south of the harbor we went through an area with a whole bunch of purple sailors (Velella velella).  Website
5/29/15 - 3 Humpbacks and 1,000+ dolphins
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We departed Santa Barbara at 800am this morning and Captain Dave ran southeast in the direction of the Anacapa Arch. Around 915am we located our humpback whales of the day close to Platform Gilda. There were three #whales in the area, two large and one small. About 500 long-beaked common dolphins were also on the scene along with a moderate amount of sooty shearwaters and brown pelicans. Fifteen minutes later we drove past two interacting common murres sitting on the glassy ocean surface.
From this region we set a track for The Ledge where we had #dolphins, humpbacks and blue whales yesterday. At 1000am we were around 3 miles north of Pedro Point and located a second pod of 500 or so common dolphins. Although we attempted to push west to yesterday’s location, the oncoming swells made the ride a slight bit uncomfortable so we changed course and headed more to the north and the Harbor.  Website
5/25/15 - Warm air, Calm seas, Humpback Calf goes Berserk
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Captain Eric and the crew took the Condor Express away from the dock in Santa Barbara and headed east to where the hot spots have been forming for the past week. It was another gorgeous Spring day in the Santa Barbara Channel with only a very light breeze and an almost glassy surface all day. More good news…the water has cleared up and is getting blue again after a 2-week plankton bloom. It was one of those fine days on the water.
The Condor Express started up running southeast along the inside passage, between the rig line and the beach. About a mile north of Hillhouse we had our first long-beaked common dolphins with about 500 in a scattered herd…nice to see in the blue water. Continuing on this track, and about a mile north of Henry, we intersected the path of 3 humpback whales. One of these was Scarlet, our friend. It was not too long until a small hot spot formed-up and Scarlet did a vertical lunge at the surface to prove what a glutton she really is.
Moving on, our next stop was to watch two massive beast humpback whales about 5 miles east of Hogan. One turned out to be our pal Rope, and Rope threw her tail once just to check if we were paying attention. We were. A medium sized ocean sunfish (Mola mola) was patrolling the area too.
Our final, and longest, viewing stop of the day was on a moveable hot spot that was approximately 6 miles southeast of Hogan. Here we watched a 6 more humpback whales (with lots of other spouts all around within visual range), and a mother #whale and her calf were in the mix. There was lots of activity out of this batch of whales including several instances of surface lunge feeding. A couple of these feeding events included three whales vertically lunging simultaneously like you see on Wild Kingdom. This hot spot included an additional 2,500 or so long-beaked common dolphins. The aforementioned calf got a wild hair on its chin and started repeatedly slapping its tail on the water. Our veteran naturalist, Gary, counted 68 slaps, which came in batches of 10 or 12 at a time followed by the calf rolling right-side-up and issuing a trumpet vocalization. As a side note, both mom and the kid had white pectoral fins so it was easy to keep track of them in the clearing water.  Website
5/20/15 - Commodore's Corner
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Summer is fast approaching and all the wonderful things that come with summer - long nights and party cruises. Please check our schedule as we have added many new cruises this year that we are sure you will enjoy. These cruises fill up fast, so please make your reservations early. I look forward to seeing you on board!  Website
5/19/15 - Another Mega-Humpback Day
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About 3 miles or so north of the commercial shipping lanes we encountered the first of our two “hot spots” with common dolphins (1,500), sea lions (hundreds), sea birds (mostly sooty shearwaters and brown pelicans), and about 12 humpback whales. There was not much swell in this area but the wind was moderate and the surface was perhaps a 3 on the Beaufort sea state scale.
En route to the hot spot Captain Dave stopped the Condor Express to look at two medium sized ocean sunfish (Mola mola) in greenish water. As for the humpback whales on this first stop, there were many more spouts in all directions one could add to the dozen we closely watched. Four of these beasts made a very friendly but fast swim right next to the Condor. Wise ol’ Dave had us in neutral and it’s good he did as one of the 4 surfaced right of the bow and scared the bejeebers out of all the loyal fans that had no way of knowing what was coming at them.
We then sailed off towards Santa Cruz Island, still a fair distance away, but seas were getting rougher the farther we went out, so Dave wisely (remember he’s wise) turned our course to the northeast and rode the swells towards Platform Charlie. He gave a great introductory talk about the oil platforms which are described in the oil company brochures as “sky-scrapers of the sea.”
On our way Dave spotted a large Minke whale and we had two nice but fast looks. Continuing north a bit more, deckhand Augie spotted spouts between us and the beach. At this point the spouts were probably about 3½ miles off East Beach. It was another “hot spot” with all the usual animals as previously described. We initially watched 2 humpback whales, then moved north a bit more and found 3 more. We were attracted to these spouts by a prolonged episode of tail slapping starting when we were a few miles away. It included two rest periods during which the beast rolled on its side and slapped its long pectoral fin instead. There were another 500 or so dolphins in this zone as well.  Website
5/15/15 - Biomass Bonanza and Ship Strike Prevention
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Captain Dave ran one of those “see it all” classic whale watch excursions today with a new technological twist that saved whales. In short, we visited with 2 gray whales, 8+ humpback whales, and approximately 3,000 common dolphins and hundreds of California sea lions. And then the saving whales thing.
Heading out of the harbor and the sea lions on both bell buoys, we intended to go up near the Lighthouse and find gray whales we heard about. Instead, this plan was scrapped due to the presence of a mother gray whale and her calf passing the outer bell buoy right in our path. We watched for a while and noticed that mom had a huge white patch on both sides of her mid-dorsal region. The student marine biologists from Santa Barbara High nicknamed her “two spot.” Keep it simple!
Off we went toward the west end of Santa Cruz Island and across the Santa Barbara Channel which was very flat, no swells, and a light-to-moderate breeze. It was sunny and bright with all the storm clouds past us down to the southeast. The Condor Express was about ¾ths over to the island, and in the commercial shipping lanes, when the BBE-HP (Big Biomass Explosion-Hot Spot) was discovered. Here we found at least 8 adult humpback whales (perhaps more), along with at least 3,000 long-beaked common dolphins, hundreds of California sea lions, and a multitude of sea birds all following bait fish (probably anchovies) down beneath the surface. Among the sea birds were many thousands (maybe 5,000+) sooty shearwaters. They’ve arrived from New Zealand and their great figure-eight loop around the Pacific.
As previously mentioned, all this activity today was, unfortunately, taking place in the middle of the commercial shipping lanes that transit our Channel to provide a safe place for large container ships, tankers and bulk carriers to travel to and from LA-Long Beach harbor. Almost immediately Captain Dave saw a huge container vessel northbound and heading directly as us and, more importantly, the humpback whales. Dave quickly identified this cargo ship using his AIS (Automatic Identification System) and contacted the captain on the radio. The captain of the “NYK Triton” saw the Condor Express on his AIS too, and after Dave explained the abundance of whales and marine life located near us, the captain altered his course to bypass the hot spot. When the 304 meter long and 76,000 ton NYK Triton passed us by, the fearless common dolphins could be seen riding the massive bow wave. Wow. A single humpback surface near the port side of the ship, but not close enough for a collision. Meanwhile we found ourselves absolutely surrounded by cetaceans large and small, and noisy birds all around. It was hard to know which way to point your camera.
A few minutes later: Act 2. Dave saw another container ship, the “Ever Logic” about 8 miles away and, again, riding along in the lanes and on a collision course with the whales. This one was 335 meters long and 99,000 tons. Once again, the combination of AIS, VHF radio, along with courteous and caring big ship captains, prevented a second possible negative encounter. What a day.
After a long and magical time within the hot spot, it was time for the island tour portion of our trip. Dave took us along the northwestern sea cliffs of Santa Cruz Island and a small hauling spot for Pacific harbor seals. He also took the Condor Express deep into the mouth of the world famous Painted Cave. We were hoping last night’s rain would fuel the Cave waterfall, but no luck. The island was so dry it apparently soaked it all up with no runoff.   Website
5/13/15 - Surrounded by Humpbacks and Dolphins
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Hooray! It was our first official trip of the “Island Whale Watch” season for 2015 and it was sensational. Captain Dave was at the help and as we left the sea lions on the entrance buoy in our wake, he set a course up the coast just in case any late season straggling gray whales were there. None spotted. But sharp-eyed Augie did locate a mini-pod of about 50 long-beaked common dolphins off Hope Ranch. We played for a few minutes then Dave turned south and headed for the west end of Santa Cruz island. There were thin stratus clouds overhead but you could see sun at the island and also to the west. Nobody was going too far to the west as strong winds up that way generated some moderate seas for our Santa Barbara Channel crossing. As we approached Santa Cruz the wind really blew and when the whales spouted spray was sent down-wind and asunder.
The west end of the island was awash and no #whales could be found. As we passed Fry’s Harbor, however, we found ourselves in the midst of a mega-pod of at least 2,500 long-beaked common #dolphins. These little cetaceans were traveling in all directions but each of them turned and rode the swells as they passed by from the north. I personally did not see these dolphins feeding, nor did I see bait in the rather green water, but there were several flavors of gulls, cormorants and crash-diving brown pelicans everywhere, and they were actively feeding and creating a massive oceanic hot spot. Sea lions also joined the activity.
As we rode down-swell to the east along the north face of the island, Dave gave a great island orientation and quickly located some spouts up ahead. The first pair of spouts belonged to a mother humpback whale and her calf…heading west, into the oncoming swells and wind. Soon there were many other humpback whale spouts, many moving west, but like the cow-calf pair, they all turned east, then north, then south through the same general spot. It was not long before the dolphins caught up with the whales and visa-versa. There was action all around the Condor Express as all the birds, dolphins, sea lions and whales got very active. All this activity was highlighted by the big swells and strong winds which blew spout spray, and features the humpback whales busting head-on through the seas. It was NatGeo all the way. We closely watched at least 8 humpback whales, but there were more spouts in the area we could not get to. One huge humpback had an all white tail and it was spectacular to see moving up and through the waves.  Website
5/7/15 - A Fresh Breeze Deters Neither Gray Whales, Dolphins or the Condor Express
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Captain Dave ran one trip on the Condor Express yesterday, departing scenic Santa Barbara at 12 noon to search for wildlife in the abundant waters of the Santa Barbara Channel. Dave’s “eyes and ears” man, deckhand Augie, quickly spotted a small yet active pod of about 100 long-beaked common dolphins about a half mile east of the harbor and about the same distance offshore from the East Beach anchorage. These #dolphins were spread out and actively engaged in chasing bait fish. Due to the green water in this particular area I could not identify the fish species. Nevertheless we had wonderful time with these small and friendly cetaceans as they moved over to ride the bow quickly before getting back on the hunt.
From here Dave took a direct westerly course to run the outer edge of the near shore kelp forests which we did for quite a few miles. This is a peak time for gray whale cow-calf pairs, but we found ourselves in a “gap” between the migrating beasts until we reached Goleta Bay. Between the pier and UCSB we picked up our first gray whale mother and calf and followed the pair up and around Goleta Point, site of an old shore-based whaling station, but now called “Campus Point” in honor of the thousands of brilliant young minds hard at work on the bluff tops. By this time the afternoon westerly winds had kicked up quite a bit and this slowed our heading-into-the-wind strategy. Dave turned around and put the weather behind us and continued the search to the east.
Down to the east, out front of the Yacht Club, we located a second gray #whale mother and calf heading upstream into the weather and chop. We only had a few minutes with this pair due to time constraints (we stayed out a little late), but when we finally turned around to enter the harbor, there were at least 4 more whales behind us and between us and the harbor entrance. What a great time of year this is!  Website
5/4/15 - 10 Gray Whales + Dolphins too
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Captain Eric reported the following cetacean sightings today: 9am ... 2 Gray whales (mother and calf) + 6 Bottlenose dolphins + 200 Long-beaked common #dolphins. 12 noon ... 2 Gray whales (another mother and calf) + 10 Bottlenose dolphins. 3pm ... 6 Gray whales (3 pairs of mothers & calves).  Website
4/29/15 - Glorious summer-like day full of wild animals
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Captain Dave commanded the Condor Express for a single excursion leaving Santa Barbara Harbor at high noon for a showdown with the wildlife. It was warm and sunny, but things started off pretty windy. Two good things about the wind: it died a lot during the trip and there was not much swell under it. It was a magical day with at least 1,500+ #dolphins, 6 #whales, 50 #sea lions, and clear blue water.
Immediately after leaving our customary visit with the California sea lions on the harbor entrance buoy we spotted 2 gray whales, a mother and calf. They led us west into the wind and their glowing bodies were easy to track in the previously mentioned clear water. Before long our attention was diverted to a mob of at least 25 porpoising sea lions that had just a single Pacific white-sided dolphin in the mix. (Sighting a single white-sider all by itself with a mob of sea lions raises a bunch of questions). Sharp-eyed Augie-the-deckhand found us about 8 coastal bottlenose dolphins traveling west in the kelp along the shore. They made one pass out to the Condor, then resumed their travel.
Up ahead of the bottlenose dolphins there were more tall spouts. This turned out to be 4 more gray whales, you guessed it, 2 mothers each with calves. The four stayed together the whole time, from our initial sighting with them at Hendry’s Beach until we left them at Goleta. Further to the west off the Goleta Pier there was a mega-pod of long-beaked common dolphins scattered across a wide swath of ocean. There were easily 1,500 of these hungry little cetaceans and a bunch more sea lions joining the fun. Before long it was time to go and the course back to the harbor took us past a second group of 20 or so porpoising sea lions.  Website
4/27/15 - Mother and Calf, Dolphins, Sea Lions and an Elephant Seal
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Captain Eric and Augie put their best four combined eyes on the job today and their sightings added to an already spectacular day. (Tasha was busy in the Main Salon and Galley) The weekend winds subsided and left us with very light winds at noon, turning absolutely “mill pond” glassy by 12:30. It was warm and sunny and the great blue water clarity has returned to the coast. The stage was set for a wonderful excursion.
Off the lighthouse we encountered a pod of about 100 long-beaked common dolphins. They were friendly and everyone got excited. We were a half mile off the beach at that time so when the encounter ended we headed back to shore. On the way there was a gang of about 25 California sea lions all “porpoising” through the kelp beds. After that, it took us a while but we finally got situated on a mother gray whale and her calf just off the kelp at Coal Oil Point (aka, Counter Point, because the Gray Whales Count volunteers work there). Clear blue water, sunny skies and a mother with her calf. What could be better? We followed at a safe distance up to the Ellwood Oil Pier before our time ran out. Back inside Santa Barbara Harbor we saw the usual Pacific harbor seals on the bait barge, but today we had a special visitor….an elephant seal pup! It was hauled out on the beach near the Condor Express.  Website
4/24/15 - Gray Whales Play in the Surf !
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We ran one trip today departing at 12 noon. Once outside, there were scattered windrows of transparent, dead Purple Sailor jellies (Velella velella) to the west of Santa Barbara Harbor today, and only a few random non-windrow blue and live ones. Such may be the life cycle of Velella velella. The long-beaked common dolphins and gray whales were in much better shape than Velella. Off the Lighthouse we encountered 50 or so #dolphins and had a nice play session with them before proceeding westward. Further up the coast near Ellwood we found 6 gray whales traveling together, three mothers and their calves. At one point, near the Ellwood refinery beach, 4 of the gray #whales made a bee-line to the surf and we watched them ride waves, roll around, show their pectoral and tail flukes and more rarely, lift their heads, in water that must have been less than 10 feet deep. There were plenty of bubble blasts and in the photos you can see sand plumes being kicked up all around the whales. The calves seemed to be the most bold in their penetration of the breakers. It was well worth the trip to the west, that’s for sure. What a show!  Website
4/22/15 - Whales, Dolphins and Abundant Purple Sailors
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Mirror glass conditions persisted for most of the day in the northern Santa Barbara Channel today with only a very slight breeze starting up around 2 pm. There were overcast skies most of the day, with little “sucker holes” through which the sunshine peaked through to tease us all. Dave took the captain’s chair and, with Augie on the binoculars, we covered the entire coast from Rincon up past the Elwood oil pier. It was another fabulous day for wildlife.
Right off the bat Augie spotted a small pod of 4 coastal bottlenose dolphins which were made up of 3 adults and a large calf/ juvenile. The coastal water was a bit green, but we still were able to see these large #dolphins ride the bow. Next we encountered about 500 long-beaked common dolphins chasing little “pinhead” anchovies all around out front of Santa Barbara Harbor and East Beach. There were numerous little calves leaping here and there across the mirror surface and a bunch of California sea lions were in there too. Three Minke whales (2 large, 1 small) patrolled the zone as well.
We continued west up the coast until we located a quad pod that was, you guessed it, made up of 2 mother gray whales and their calves all traveling together near the kelp in front of the Bacara. The overcast marine layer conditions caused the spouts from these #whales to show up nicely and hang in the air forever.
Although we had been seeing scattered By-The-Wind Sailor jellies (aka, Purple Sailors, Velella velella) all day, Captain Dave eventually put the Condor Express on a vast field of these cnidarians north of Platform Hillhouse. There were acres of these little living disks and in some places where the wind did its magic, the animals were packed tightly together to form what looked like a raft of living bubbles. Dave was on the PA and mentioned that ocean sunfish (Mola mola) eat these jellies and a second later a large fish appeared within the raft and was selecting the prime cutlets from the stock. Wow!  Website



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