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!!
1/28/15 - The "Original" Condor Flies Back Home
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While the Condor Express continues its maintenance in the boat yard, with some delays over getting parts and the usual stuff, the "original" Condor will return to Santa Barbara this week and run whale watch trips. Regular readers should recall that this happened a few years ago, as the Condor Express team does not want anyone to miss out on this epic gray whale migration. Gray whale numbers are way up, even surpassing last year which was itself a record year.
The Condor will run 2 trips a day during its short stay this time in Santa Barbara, one trip departs at 9am and the other 1pm. Each trip will last approximately 3 1/2 hours, and the first trip is scheduled for this coming Saturday, January 31.
1/23/15 - Update from the Boatyard
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Our regular annual boat maintenance continues according to plan. Sanding, grinding, painting, replacing worn out parts (all the normal stuff we do while we are in the yard) is moving along. Things in the boatyard (and perhaps elsewhere in life) seem to take a bit longer sometimes than planned.
This time we had a hard time finding that special hull cleaner that takes off layers of dolphin breath, but we have it and are "on the job." The entire crew of the Condor Express is busy working long days and some weekend days too to get all the little things finished.
I know the marine mammals all miss seeing the twin hulls of the Condor out there in the Santa Barbara Channel every day. And we miss them too! Thank you for being a loyal fan of the Condor Express as we continue with our chores. We'll keep you posted periodically . . . stay tuned!
1/5/15 - Humpback Whales, Gray Whales, Dolphins and So Much More!
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We left the Santa Barbara Harbor entrance buoy and its compliment of 4 California sea lions behind at 1015am heading south. At 1035 we came upon a dinghy/rowboat derelict and drifting in the Santa Barbara Channel. It looked like the painter was completely frayed and the boat had come loose from its mother ship. Captain Dave reported it's CF numbers to Coast Guard sector LA and later we heard that another boat from the harbor had retrieved it. It is always spooky to see a ghost boat at sea, even if it is a very small one. Not far from the dinghy a friendly Pacific harbor seal was on the surface and watched the Condor Express go by. At 1040am a large mob of California sea lions were actively feeding and had air support from a variety of seabirds. Ten minutes later second captain, Eric Eagle Eyes, had spotted a tall spout which turned out to be Scarlet, our local homeguard humpback #whale. Scarlet was all business today and had long down times, so we continued south. Not long after leaving Scarlet, the first batch of an all day parade of long-beaked common dolphins passed by the boat. By the end of the day we estimated at least 750 of these #dolphins were closely watched.
Our luck took an upturn around 1115am as we encountered a mother humpback and her medium-small calf. We followed alongside and had great looks, but like Scarlet, they had long bottom times and were rather business-like. At least 3 more humpback spouts were seen in the same mid-Channel region. As our luck continued to improve, at 12noon we came upon a large female gray whale with a newborn calf. The calf was very tiny, as you can see in the photograph above, and still had the folds across its body from being cooped up in mom's womb for approximately a year. The body was brownish and very smooth without barnacle or amphipod infestations. We had the good fortune to be able to keep a respectful distance but still get fantastic looks at this tiny newborn gray whale. We wondered if we might have been the first people to see this little whale. We only stayed a short while to give the two whales their space, and soon we were off to the seacliffs of Santa Cruz Island and a visit to that wonder of geology: the Painted Cave. The California sea lions were still hauled out on the rocky cliffs inside the mouth of the cave.
As we left Santa Cruz and the cave we spotted 4 adult gray whales traveling together to the east. They looked like they were practicing their synchronized swimming for the cetacean olympics with less than one minute beneath the surface followed by several mighty spouts and then fluking up practically every time. I took a photograph of the ocean surface with all the footprints which looked like some kind of abstract art. On the way home, short on time, we could not stop but did see several other spouts all across the Channel. It was another sunny day with zero swells, it started out glassy and ended with a very light breeze....fantastic! The Condor Express is hauling out this week for its bi-annual Coast Guard maintenance and inspections. Our next whale watch trips start January 23.
1/2/15 - 4 Gray Whales (2+2) and 3 Humpback Whales and Both Species of Common Dolphins
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Captain Dave cleared the Santa Barbara Harbor breakwater at 10:08am and you could see from Boney Ridge near Malibu all the way to San Miguel Island. In a word, it was pristine! What gorgeous conditions to find spouts, both large and small. At 10:58am, on the northern edge of what we call "mid-Channel" we located our first 2 southbound migrating gray whales and had great looks. They meandered here and there but trended east. Anyone who thinks their migration is a straight line hasn't seen these whales.
Dave moved us south on a course for Santa Cruz Island, but at 11:20am we stopped for three very showy humpback #whales. The largest was the female we call Scarlet (due her prominent scar which I've described and photographed in previous chapters), and she, along with two more, milled around the southern edge of the "mid-Channel" zone. There were no deep dives or long bottom times today, in fact one of the whales with white pectoral fins tended to take a breath then hang a foot or two beneath the surface until it was time to take another breath. And so on.
Given the clarity of the blue water, this made taking great photographs of this animal a cinch. We were running into small pods of long-beaked common dolphins all morning and some of the pods may have possibly annoyed Scarlet. Out of no where she gave us all a mighty monster tail throw that send seawater flying high and far.
Onward to Santa Cruz Island. About a mile north of the sea cliffs we found 2 more southbound migrating gray whales and their tall spouts were magnified by the backlight of our bright sun. These spouts were framed by the dark sea cliffs and the whole scene was both fabulous and dynamic.
At Santa Cruz we toured the sea cliffs of the western end of the island. Sea conditions were very flat and calm with only a very slight breeze, so very very close and personal looks inside the world famous Painted Cave were possible. About 5 California sea lion pups had scaled up the cliffs inside the cave and were sleeping (until we arrived). Not long after leaving the island our final species of cetacean was observed: a large herd of highly animated short-beaked common #dolphins. We watched for quite a while then headed back to Santa Barbara. What a day! We are running open public whale watch trips like this on Saturday and Sunday, then we are in the boatyard for our annual maintenance and Coast Guard inspections, hoping to be back in full service again on January 23. Hope to see you on board.
1/1/15 - 3 Humpback Whales and at Least 1,000 Dolphins
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Great sea conditions today and it's supposed to get even better the next couple of days. Captain Eric encountered 3 humpback #whales (one was Scarlet) around the same mid-Channel area where they have been feeding the past week or so. Although many of the bottom times were long today, the star of the humpback show was a whale that came directly over to the Condor Express, rolled on its side and hung around in that posture while all of its fans on the boat went crazy. The water was so clear you could see the eye of the beast looking directly up at you. Throughout the day a steady stream of long-beaked common dolphins that played around us and kept all eyes on the water. All in all a great trip for whales and #dolphins too.
Book your trip now while all this cetacean variety is with us in the Channel and great sea conditions persist.
As a reminder, Sunday will be our last open whale watch until approximately January 23, as the boat will be undergoing its annual maintenance and Coast Guard inspection. Hope to see you on board!
12/21/14 - Humpbacks feeding, a Minke whale and lots of dolphins
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Well, it's now 12/21 and the humpback whales are still out here feeding on anchovy schools alongside all the seabirds and common dolphins. Captain Eric headed out of Santa Barbara Harbor and before too long deckhand Augie spotted humpback spouts.
The Condor Express stayed with these animals for more than an hour as the #whales continued to make shallow sub-surface feeding runs. Black-vented shearwaters were also seen diving down in the clear blue water to attach the bait fish. Among the 3 closely watched humpback whales was our pal "Scarlet," a whale with propeller scars. The total number of long-beaked common dolphins was estimated at 250, and we had a Minke whale join the feeding and made some passes close to the boat.
Great looks were had in less than optimal ocean conditions. The winds were blowing from the west against a prevailing current from the east, which caused the surface chop to stand up a bit. An exhilarating day.
Our next public whale watch trip is Friday, December 26.
On behalf of everyone over here at the Condor Express, I wish each and every one of you a happy holiday season.
12/20/14 - Spectacular vistas, dolphins and a nice gray whale
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Offshore winds and a light rain greeted us this morning in Santa Barbara, but the rain passed by quickly and we remained dry for the rest of the adventure. There were, however, larger squalls offshore that formed a basis of the spectacular vistas we enjoyed on this silvery day. The sun broke out around noon.
As we left Santa Barbara Harbor we watched 2 inshore bottle-nose dolphins that were fairly shy but we got a few good looks in before we continued out towards Santa Cruz Island. Around mid-Channel we watched a small pod of long beaked common dolphins, and a few more pods here and thereafter. Perhaps as many as 500 common #dolphins were seen in total.
After a futile search of the humpback and blue whale grounds from last weekend we turned west and ran parallel to Santa Cruz Island until we ventured into the Santa Cruz Channel (between Santa Rosa Island and Santa Cruz Island) looking for spouts.
Just after lunch was served deckhand Augie (or was it Captain Eric?) found a small sized, southbound gray whale moving eastward out of the Sta Cruz Channel and heading for the sea cliffs along the north face of Sta Cruz Island. This small gray had short down times of just a few minutes and good surface/spouting times. Viewing this migrating mammal with the cliffs of the Island in the background was spectacular, and a harbinger of things to come as the number of grays increases every day.
More spectacular vistas were enjoyed as we saw the now green western end of Sta Cruz Island with the east wind-driven clouds spilling over the crests of the mountain peaks.
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 pods....at 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.
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