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!!
5/2/16 - Santa Barbara coastal whales
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Mild weather and good crowds had the Condor Express running three excursions out of Santa Barbara today. Here are the details:
9 am ..... One gray whale mother and calf pair were located and followed for a while as they went about their trek to their feeding grounds in Alaska. After the gray whales, Captain Dave and his Whale Scout, Auggie, turned their sights offshore and quickly located 2 humpback whales heading west with 10 minute down times. Good tail flukes were seen by all, and one of the pair was very large.
12 noon ..... After a trip along the kelp superhighway up as far as More Mesa, the Condor Express again turned offshore. Right away a very small, solo humpback whale was seen. It was a humpback we saw a few weeks ago which has skin coloration like a gray whale, and it’s size is like a humpback calf. It appears to have plenty of energy and fluked up on every dive. This excursion ended with a tour of the East Beach Anchorage sea lion habitat.
3 pm ..... The late afternoon adventure located 4 gray whale (2 cow-calf pairs). The first pair was just outside Santa Barbara Harbor where they were dodging the random zig-zags of a Santa Barbara sailboat regatta and eventually went pretty far offshore to find safety. The pair finally turned back to the beach up by the old Lighthouse. Not long after this the second pair of gray whales for the late afternoon were found. Again, lots of swimming and all migration stuff.  Website
4/29/16 - Cow-calf gray whales
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The Condor Express ran one excursion along the beautiful Santa Barbara coast today in search of wildlife in general and gray whale cow-calf pairs in particular. Four gray whales were located; it was two cow-calf pairs. It was a bright and sunny day with a moderate chop from strong northwesterly winds in the far end of the Channel. The morning started with a light breeze and ended up with much heavier winds.
9 am ..... Captain Dave and his crew ran the kelp line nice and slow up the coast as far as UCSB. Around Goleta Bay, near the university, the first pair of cow-calf gray whales were located. The mother was on the small side. Was this her first calf? With winds freshening up quickly, Dave ran east and put the seas astern for a smoother ride. The second cow-calf pair of whales were observed east of the Harbor.  Website
4/27/16 - Mother and Calf Parade
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Oh, my. Sometimes the marine weatherperson gets it wrong. Today was supposed to start out breezy then morph into full gale conditions. Luckily for everyone on the Condor Express today, it started out with a slight breeze and soon went to almost perfect glass calm. All this and plenty of gray whale mothers and calves on both of our excursions…Captain Dave at the helm. Here’s the breakdown:
9 am ..... Soon after departing Santa Barbara and getting around the Princess cruise ship, we located our first 2 gray whales of the 8 we watched on this trip. They consisted of 4 mother-calf pairs. The first ones were picked up at the Yacht club and watched until we round a second pair about half-way up Shoreline going towards Hendry’s. These first whales were moving steady to the west and we had great looks. Around 1030 am Dave accelerated and ran up to the ginormous kelp beds at Isla Vista where 2 more pairs of gray whales, mothers and calves, were traveling and playing in the seaweed. There was lots of kelping, rolling, spy-hopping and changing course from west to east and back again.
12 noon ..... Our noon trip was a private charter full of sea-going Princess cruise ship folks. Now bear in mind their ship had spent 2 of the windiest days we’ve seen in years coming down from SF to SB. And these dedicated whale lovers wanted to get off the big ship and get right back out there on the Condor Express. Three cheers for hearty Princess whale peeps !!
On this afternoon trip, with glassy seas appreciated even more by the cruisers, we located our gray whale pair up at Hendry’s and followed them almost to More Mesa. These were “all business, on track, hoping to reach Alaska quickly” whales. At one point they did have a nice interaction with 4 pesky inshore bottlenose dolphins. We turned east to look for more wildlife.
Our last marine mammals sighted were in the East Beach “free” anchorage where a dozen or so California sea lions have taken residence on an abandoned old sailboat with a small dinghy tied astern. The boat is leaning heavily from all that flesh, and the dinghy is almost completely sunken. What fun !  Website
4/25/16 - The peak of the mother-calf gray whale migration
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Captain Eric took command of three excursions today and had great cetacean findings on all of them. The day started off with a mild breeze and a bit of chop from the west, and ended with a much stronger wind on top of the bump. Hearty whale watchers were rewarded for their bravery. Here are the stories:
9 am ..... Right out of Santa Barbara Harbor, at Stearns Wharf, the first two gray whales and mother-calf pairs of the day were encountered. (A total of 18 gray whales, 9 mother-calf pairs were found in total for all three trips). The Condor Express followed this first pair up to Shoreline Park where 4 more gray whales (2 mother-calf pairs) were seen in the shallow water kelp forest. These four were rolling in kelp, spy-hopping, and generally behaving the way young mammals of all kinds do. A bit outside of these kelping whales yet another pair were heading west. The gray whales were complimented by sightings of 6 inshore bottlenose dolphins, 200 long-beaked common dolphins, and, a bit further offshore, 2 large humpback whales… one of which was Rope, our old friend.
12 noon ..... Salty whale watchers from the big cruise ship came ashore only to head back out right away on the Condor Express. This group closely watched yet another 2 gray whale mother-calf pairs as they worked their way up the coast towards Campus Point. Four inshore bottlenose dolphins were also watched.
3 pm ..... By departure time, the late afternoon trip was greeted with the strong winds mentioned above in the first paragraph. These winds from the west caused Captain Eric to head “down hill” and run east with the wind and waves behind him. The near shore search for gray whales led him as far east as the Carpinteria Pier where 6 gray whales (3 mother-calf pairs) were located and closely watched.  Website
4/19/16 - Summer in April
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Captain Dave steered the Condor Express on a single, 12 noon, excursion today. We encountered mill pond glassy flat seas and un-seasonably warm air temperatures. Out of the harbor Dave ran a few miles south to find a large herd on long-beaked common dolphins, perhaps 1,200 animals, stretched out over a couple of miles. After a while the first of two humpback whales popped up right next to the boat and swam underneath from one side to the other in clear, blue water. What a sight ! Soon the second whale was up and showed good tail flukes on each dive. Next, Dave ran in towards the coast to see if there were any gray whaless in the corridor. Off Hendry’s he located a mother gray whale and her calf that were slowly moving west, and again that clear blue water made the sighting amazing.  Website
4/14/16 - Kelping Continues
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The Condor Express left the docks twice today and saw almost the same identical things on both excursions: 2,000 long-beaked common dolphins and 12 humpback whales with more in the area. The morning trip also played around with 10 or 12 Pacific white-sided dolphins just outside the harbor breakwater.
9 am ..... Right outside Santa Barbara Harbor we encountered a small feeding group of Pacific white-sided dolphins (Lags) and Captain Dave ran slow circles with them for about 10 minutes. Seabirds were diving in the area which signaled to us these Lags were probably feeding. By 945 am we were sitting alongside Platform Charlie listening to the melodious tones of Dave as he ran the oil in the Santa Barbara Channel down. At about this same time Captain Tasha, doing her deck hand duties today, had a mega-pod of long-beaked common dolphins in her binoculars about a mile or so southeast of our locations. Tall spouts, too, were reported amongst the dolphins. Sure enough, by 10 am we were completely surrounded by common dolphins that seemed to be “on the move,” as opposed to diving and feeding or logging, etc. We were south of Houchin at this point and as we drifted along with the dolphins we soon had estimated at least 12 humpback whales also in this same area, and even more outside of us all around. The cetacean biomass here was huge. Tasha’s favorite humpback of the day, the one with the white tail and a black rim all the way around like a picture frame, took to the air many times. Its first breaches were in the distance, then it let one loose close to the boat a few minutes later. What a trip !
12 noon ..... Dave wasted no time driving the Condor Express back to all that morning marine life. After a brief stop around 1235 pm for a close look and short talk about Platform Houchin, we were back in the dolphin herd by 1255 pm. Again, there were at least a dozen mixed in and around the dolphins, and, as before, more spouts in the periphery. There were two distinct and fantastic humpback whale behaviors on the afternoon excursion that we did not see in the morning. First, there were several humpback whales around the boat, perhaps as many as 4, that had found one of the numerous detached paddies of giant kelp on the surface and went about shredding the salad (or “kelping”). One of these monster veggie destroyers carried on close to the boat and took several full-body seaweed skin treatments right in front of all its fans.
The second fantastic behavior consisted of a nice “mugging” by one of the humpback whales. It turned away from what it was doing and made a direct bee-line for the bow of the Condor. When it was only a few yards away, it gently dove and passed under the boat. We look all around for it to pop back up, but we had to wait a little while, as it seemed to us that the beast was “hiding” directly under the boat, perhaps between the two hulls. But pop back up it did, several times, and many humpback whale aficionados on board were anointed several times by very close and fragrant spout spray. On our way home we passed back through that same 2,000-strong dolphin herd.
The morning had a thin marine layer and the ocean surface had a very light chop. By the afternoon trip the slight morning breeze had died, the stratus layer burned off, and the ocean was mostly glassy and smooth. It was one of the best days I’ve had in weeks.  Website
4/9/16 - Minke whales in the rain, and more.
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Just one excursion today, high noon. I guess the rain forecast put a damper on other whale watchers that hoped for dryer viewing. Actually, with a gray, low-hanging mist-filled cloud layer and accompanying gray ocean surface, finding spouts was not possible. We went to searching for tail flukes, dorsal fins…anything that would show up against this monochromatic landscape. The landscape and its cohort, the drizzle-light rain, along with a mirror glass surface, was a surreal and fantastic experience nonetheless.
Details: ..... Captain Dave with Captain Eric sitting alongside, navigated out towards The Flats using radar with quarter mile to one mile visibility and light rain. The first actual cetacean sighting was a fast-moving Minke whale on the north side of Henry. It surfaced twice and was heading west. We were heading east and never saw that particular whale again. Around 1255 pm we were well southeast of Hogan and found two more Minke whales, then three more after that. Most were average size, but one that we kept seeing was huge. Coming into a few small hot spots with cormorants, grebes, common murre and brown pelicans sitting on them, we did see a one-time horizontal lunge by a Minke that was only a few inches below the glass surface. There were many more Minke whales in the area that are not included in the counts above. At 145 pm a single humpback whale was lured into the hot spots and we had several good looks at it. It was on a two-breath, then down 5 minutes, breathing cycle which was not bad for observations. On the way home we passed through a small group of ten or so long-beaked common dolphins.  Website
4/6/16 - Scarlet the humpback whale
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Captain Dave took the wheel for two excursions today, one left at 9 am and the other at 12 noon. Again we found summer conditions with blue skies, warm sun, and glassy seas. The wildlife was also fantastic and the day turned out to be a classic for sure. Here’s the story:
9 am ..... Dave throttled up and we reached the back side of Hogan around 935 am, and after a brief overview of offshore platforms by Dave, he continued to chive onward to the east where the staff photographer had spotted the first tall spouts of the trip. We ended up off of the Rincon with 3 humpback whales. One made a very friendly approach and the on-board whale watchers were starting to get the hang of things. We watched for quite a while and kept seeing additional spouts all around and everywhere we looked. At 1025 am we sighted two Minke whales that surface very close to the Condor Express…great sightings. At 1055 am another humpback whale surfaced and it was our friend Scarlet. We had great looks at Scarlet and she is always friendly. I confess that Scarlet was lookin’ pretty good on that deep blue glassy water today. Three minutes later we came upon 4 additional humpback whales (making a total of 9 for this trip)…the white pectoral flukes of the lead whale glowed blue under the crystal water. By 1107 am we were on our way back to Santa Barbara as we passed close to Houchin. Three minutes later Dave veered off course to not mess up the fine day a large ocean sunfish (Mola mola) was having on the surface. It looked like the same individual we sighted yesterday.
12 noon ..... Once again we returned to the scene of all that humpback whale action, and by 1245 pm Dave had stopped to deliver his now famous monologue on the offshore platforms as we all got good looks at one of the smallest rigs, Henry. As we pulled away from Henry we had our first of 7 humpback whales for this trip. Not long after we had a sighting of 4 more humpback whales, one of which was Scarlet again. As we drifted along watching humpback whale spouts all around the boat, a mega-pod of at least 500 long-beaked common dolphins began to drift along with us. This was siesta time, in my opinion. Dolphins milled around, some of the males pestered some females, speeds were slow and direction of travel was random. As they intersected the boat, they took a leisurely look at the humans with cameras and cell phones taking dolphin-selfies. The last major sighting of the day was of a pair of large humpback whales, close to Hogan, one of which was throwing its tail and making a big fuss. It was a major contrast to the sleepy tone of the afternoon with all the other dolphins and whales.  Website
4/5/16 - A Mola mola close up. A Mola mola close up.
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Captain Eric (called “Tim” by some) ran a single excursion today departing Santa Barbara at high noon. The conditions were spectacular: sunny, hot, clear blue water, and a glassy surface. The cetaceans and other wild life were also fantastic. Here is the story:
We cleared the harbor entrance buoy and all the sea lions around 1214 pm, and by 1230 we were well on our way east to the edge of The Flats. Second Captain Tasha, who doubled as deck hand but did most of the driving today, spotted spouts way off in the distance. But we had to slow the Condor Express and take a little break at that point to watch a fairly large ocean sunfish (Mola mola) that was very cooperative and swam over to the boat and looked up at its fans. The sighting was enhanced by the pretty darn clear blue water. It is always great to see a Mola mola close up.
Twenty minutes later we slowed down again, this time for 6 long-beaked common dolphins, one of which was a small juvenile swimming with mom. While communing with the dolphins, we came across a single humpback whale and were checked-out by a medium small Minke whale. By 100 pm we were southeast of Hogan, in The Flats, and saw humpback whales and Minke whales in all directions We watched four of the many humpback whales closely as they dove subsurface (to feed ?). Meanwhile, we crossed through an area that was being worked by at least three very very small Minke whales. These had to be less than 10 feet each. Total estimates for the Minke whales was at least 10. Total estimates for the humpback whales was at least 8. One Minke whale rolled and lunged horizontally just a few inches beneath the surface. What a day…starting with that Mola mola and ending with high numbers of whales.  Website
4/4/16 - Four different species of cetaceans.
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Captain Eric found extremely glassy calm conditions as we sometimes do when the fog is upon us. He ran two trips today and the fog lifted a little for the second excursion. Four different species of cetaceans were observed. The Condor Express found about 600 long-beaked common dolphins, 2 Minke whales, 4 humpback whales, and 10 Pacific white-sided dolphins today. Most of the cetaceans were feeding on scattered northern anchovy bait balls. Two of the humpback whales, seen on the second trip, came by the boat and were friendly. Four different species of cetaceans was a good day by any standard.  Website
3/31/16 - Gray Whales and Feeding Humpback Whales
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Two trips left Santa Barbara today, I had the good fortune to be on board for the 12 noon excursion. It was a sunny, clear day with just a trace of wind to make the glassy ocean surface sparkle a little bit. The wildlife was spectacular. Here is the breakdown:
12 noon ... We were heading SXSE when spouts were seen and soon confirmed to be a trio of northbound gray whales. These were medium large animals and they stayed in a tightly packed formation for the 40-minute duration of the sighting. The three were very cooperative with short down times and long surface times. We started the sighting just north of the infamous Platform Alpha and ended north of the Mesa.
Around 135 pm tall spouts were spotted by deck hand Tasha with her magic eyes (and binoculars). This turned out to be a large, widespread area with numerous humpback whales of which we chose the nearest four to watch. The humpbacks had medium long down times, good surface times, and fluked-up many times. Just like the PacLife ad on TV. Two separate groups of about 100 each long-beaked common dolphins meandered past us while we were engaged with the knobby headed big cetaceans. On the way home, just outside the Harbor, we played with about 25 Pacific white-sided dolphins.
3 pm ... The late afternoon excursion took up where we left off with the humpback whales. Now they were feeding humpbacks. There where were 5 of them and some surface anchovy bait balls had formed here and there. A couple of very dramatic vertical surface lunge feeding episodes were seen by the whale fans on board the Condor Express. One of the five whales was our old pal “Scarlet,” who is a large female easily identified by a deep propeller scar across her back that also left spherical tumors or masses of tissue. Other than this physical skin deformity, she has appeared to be very healthy and active over the past years. About 100 long-beaked common dolphins came in to feed toward the end of this sighting.  Website
3/29/16 - Sea Otter Sighted Again & Brants do a Flyby
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Only one trip today: 9 am. Captain Eric took charge and kept us safe, dry and comfortable as we ran west, up the coast. Our first mammal sightings consisted of about 10 Pacific white-sided dolphins along with an equal number of California sea lions. The two species were feeding on small anchovy spots in a circle around the outer harbor buoy, the red and white one. From there we slowly ploughed ahead into the on-coming winds and seas, following the migratory path of the gray whales heading to Alaska this time of year. Three gray whales were located off Goleta Bay, and we tracked alongside until we were west of Sands Beach. Due to the wind and seas these whales kept a low profile and did most of their travels in the calm sub-surface waters. On the way home, down swell and facing the warm sun, we found the same sea otter that we encountered yesterday in that massive kelp bed just off Isla Vista. Everyone on board was thrilled.  Website
3/22/16 - Morning humpbacks, afternoon breaching gray whale
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The Condor Express ran two excursions today, a 9am which was open to the public, and a 12 noon that was a private cruise ship charter. Total sightings for the day included 4 humpback whales, 2 gray whales, 1 Minke whale, 25 Pacific white-sided dolphins, 10 long-beaked common dolphins, 1 open-ocean Pacific harbor seal, and scads of California sea lions. Here is their story:
9 am ..... The morning stratus deck had pulled out and left us with a thin alto cirrus layer and mostly sunny conditions. There was a very light breeze, almost imperceptible, and some small-to-moderate chop from the far western Santa Barbara Channel. Captain Dave headed southeast to a spot beyond Platform Hogan, the scene of yesterday’s massive multi-cetacean-species surface feeding event. No such luck today. Maybe the whales were all full, or maybe they wiped out that northern anchovy bait ball.
After passing by a fearless Pacific harbor seal juvenile that rested on the surface to watch the Condor Express pass by within 20 or 30 feet, we spotted spouts coming at us from the east. This turned out to be two humpback whales that were fairly shy and had long down times. A single Minke whale was on patrol in this same sector. We followed the humpbacks for a while until we found another pair which were a bit more friendly and got great looks.
12 noon ..... As we left Santa Barbara harbor conditions had changed. The wind was starting to freshen up, and would continue to build throughout the afternoon. It caused a few small whitecaps, but otherwise was no big deal. Skies were picking up a thicker layer of clouds. Just off Shoreline Park we found two groups of Pacific white-sided dolphins (aka, Lags), and they were pretty friendly so everyone was thrilled to see these stunning black and white cetaceans.
Around 1235 we got on 2 gray whales. Although we followed them west along the coast for about a hour, they were “stealthy” yearling or juvenile gray whales that did not create large spouts. The often snorkeled. In fact we were going to break off from this pair a couple of times and go explore richer grounds, but then one of the whales would breach. This happened 4 times, and one of the larger (grande finale ?) breaches included a nice high arch and copious water being ejected from the mouth. Makes you wonder. Was it feeding? Was it gargling or cleaning its baleen? Or…
The last major sighting was the smallest, but one of the most dramatic. I had seen three dolphins on a high speed (stampede?) chase off in the distance to the south. It was so far away I could not get decent photographs, and put the event out of my mind. But as we were heading in that direction on our way back to the harbor, we later encountered 3 Lags that were chasing each other at high speeds both underwater and on the surface. As they passed by the boat on several occasions, we quickly learned what this “chase” was all about. There was a single-minded male attempting (and succeeding?) to mate with an adult female who led the trio all around the region at nuclear speeds.  Website
3/19/16 - Lags, grays, commons....
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Captain Dave and his crew ran three 2½-hour excursions today. Total cetacean sightings today included 8 gray whales, 106 Pacific white-sided dolphins, 275 long-beaked common dolphins and several packs of California sea lions. Now for the juicy particulars:
9 am ..... As we left the harbor a thick stratus layer hung over the Santa Barbara Channel, call it May gray, June gloom or April whatever rhymes. Fortunately the layer was up a few hundred feet off the deck and other than creating very flat lighting, it was not too much of a problem spotting cetal fauna. Straight out from the entrance to Santa Barbara Harbor a few miles we encountered a nice sized herd of 50 or so Pacific white-sided dolphins (aka, Lags). Moving west, near Goleta we found another group of 50 Lags. Turning south, moving offshore, it was not long before we encountered about 200 common dolphins. Finally, we had great looks, especially through the clear water, at a single gray whale.
12 noon ..... During the break between trips the stratus layer burned off and the rest of the day was sunny and bright. As we departed the harbor we ran offshore a few miles then settled in behind a trio of westbound gray whales. Two repeatedly made deeper, hard to follow, dives. But the third whale was a shallow diver and made tracking the group easy. Later a group of 75 common dolphins played in our wake and rode the bow.
3 pm ..... Three gray whales passed the mouth of Santa Barbara Harbor and had to dodge all the boat traffic. They evaded most boats by altering their course to an offshore track, then settled back to their nearshore route once they rounded Santa Barbara Point. Good looks were had by all. Further to the west we found 6 very friendly boat-surfing Lags, that entertained their fans with their wave riding skills. On the way home, another, smaller, gray whale was found near the harbor, but it was moving eastbound. This whale did a lot of shy stuff like snorkeling as it seemed to move the “wrong direction” for this time of year.  Website
3/14/16 - Grays, Humpbacks, Lags and Commons
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Happy daylight savings time! Captain Eric ran the show today and total sightings included 2 gray whales (more in the distance), 2 humpback whales (more in the distance), 50 Pacific white-sided dolphins, and about 550 long-beaked common dolphins. The morning trip had calm seas, but the afternoon trip ran into a bit of wind and a choppy surface. Here’s the Captain’s story:
9am ... About ½ mile out from Santa Barbara Harbor the Condor Express came into a small hot spot with California sea lions and about 50 Pacific white-sided dolphins all working on a bait ball. After a nice ride-a-long with these “Lags,” we received a call from a commercial work boat indicating a possible humpback whale sighting. So off we went towards Platform C to find a humpback whale that has short up and long down times. Everyone got looks though.
Working to the north, about 2 miles off Summerland, a large pod of at least 500 common dolphins were encountered and they took advantage of every hydrodynamic feature the Condor Express had to offer them. After the dolphin sighting we headed back to the harbor. On the way we found one gray whale heading north. It was a smaller whale, perhaps a juvenile.
12 noon ... After leaving Santa Barbara harbor the wind quickly filled-in from the north west. With the wind the ocean surface became moderately bumpy almost simultaneously. This did not deter finding cetaceans and right away keen-eyed deck hand Auggie located a single gray whale. We had several nice looks at this whale but it was heading west and into the prevailing wind and seas. Captain Eric turned the boat east and provided a prolonged period of much calmer travel.
Near the coast of Carpinteria we located an area with a single humpback whale and about 50 long-beaked common dolphins. It looked like there may have been some sub-surface feeding going on as both species stayed within the same tight radius for quite a while. The trip back home was a bit rocky, but Eric took it slow and easy.  Website
3/10/16 - 5 gray whales, 2 humpback whales and lots of dolphins.
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We ran a single excursion today leaving the dock around noon. Total marine mammal sightings included 5 gray whales, 2 humpback whales (with more in the distance), and around 550 long-beaked common dolphins. Here are the details:
By 12:15 we were already following along behind a trio of northbound gray whales. They continued to plow head-on into the on-coming swells the whole time we watched. After a dozen or so minutes a second group of 2 more gray whales slowly came up and over-took the trio as the trio took a break and logged.
Near 1:00pm our first of two pods of long-beaked common dolphins, about 50 strong, came by the Condor Express and showed off an abundance of little calves of all sizes. This was a proud nursery pod. Twenty minutes later I spotted taller spouts and some nice flukes and we headed out a few miles to locate two humpback whales. These were heading south and had 10 – 12 minute down times. There were several more spouts in the vicinity as well as some distant breaching.
The trip ended as we drifted among a much larger pod of long-beaked common dolphins that numbered around 500 individuals.  Website
3/7/16 - Gray Whale Spyhop during Mating
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Light rain and heavy mist fell on and off all day as two storm systems approach Santa Barbara from the west. Luckily there were lots of “off” periods so everyone could get outside and enjoy the cetacean show. Captain Dave was at the helm and his talented whale-spotting deckhand Auggie was on his A-game again today. We watched a total of 8 gray whales, 3 humpback whales and about 25 long-beaked commons today. Here are the details:
9 AM ..... We had our one and only small pod of long-beaked common dolphins just outside the Santa Barbara Harbor entrance. This was a widely dispersed pod that showed only moderate interest in the Condor Express. Perhaps the multiple northern anchovy hot spots we spotted were more interesting to the hungry dolphins.
The high point of the day came about a half-hour later when a very active trio of gray whales was observed, through the binoculars, just south of offshore oil Platform Henry. As has been the case so often this past week or so, the trio was engaged in courtship and mating. Among the most popular activities we witnessed was, of course, the spyhop, also seen were lots of head-lifts including head resting on another whale, petting with pectoral fin, dorsal fins in the air, rolling around, and other wild and crazy antics.
We kept our distance, of course, but certainly wondered among the crew what it would be like to see a video of what was actually taking place under the water. Oh, and I almost forgot, Floyd was seen a couple of times. The spyhop was my personal favorite. One small humpback whale completed the species list for the morning excursion.
12 Noon ..... Just outside the harbor we followed a very shy, small gray whale for a while until another trio of gray’s were spotted not too far away. This small triad was heading west and not “messing around” at all. The good news was that they spent the majority of their time on the surface and did not dive deep or long.
On the way back to the harbor Auggie spotted several breaches a few miles ahead of the Condor. This would turn out to be a pair of humpback whales migrating west. Always nice to see.
Towards the end of the noon trip the wind was picking up a little bit and it began to drizzle again. But the afternoon sightings were good and made up for the damp weather.  Website
3/2/16 - Scorecard: Gray whales 6, Humpback whales 2
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The fog lifted a bit and it was both clearer and warmer than yesterday’s fog dance. Captain Dave, with his “Ojos y oídos ,” Auggie, located a total of 6 gray whales and 2 humpback whales on this excursion. Here are the details:
12 noon ... We located our first 3 gray whales just a few miles south of Santa Barbara Harbor. Right away one of the trio when through a breaching spell, perhaps a dozen or so aerial events. Suddenly everyone knew this was going to be a great day on the Channel.
Around 1pm a pair of humpback whales were spotted not far from our northbound migrating gray whales. They had dive times that were mostly short, with a couple of longer dives mixed in. They were regular in their fluking-up which is always nice to see. Soon a third gray whale passed by the humpbacks and the Condor Express en route north.
It was time to head back to the harbor but not long after Dave increased the RPMs and set his course, we came up on two more gray whales. This pair consisted of juvenile (small) whales and they did not spout…they were snorkelers. Since they popped up close to the boat, their lack of spouting did not deter getting wonderful looks at them.  Website
2/25/16 - Nine gray whales - things are heating up !
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Captain Dave along with his extra eyes, Eric, quickly put the Condor Express within good visual range of three (of nine total for the day) northbound migrating gray whales just a few minutes outside Santa Barbara Harbor. This trio of gray whales had long down times but when they surfaced, they looked spectacular given the hot sunny day and blue water conditions.
About 40 minutes later, don’t ask me how, the sharp-eyed crew spotted another gray whale that did not spout at all. It was a small whale, perhaps a yearling. It traveled just beneath the surface and took breaths doing what we call “snorkeling.” The good news was that it was very easy to see and follow this whale at a safe distance. Oh, and it was going south…perhaps a bit late for the party.
A half-hour later we found a single, very shy, northbound gray whale. Soon thereafter the crew spotted another trio of gray whales northbound and spouting regularly and often together on the surface. Finally, we did encounter our #9 gray whale just a quarter-mile or so outside the Harbor on our way home.  Website
2/21/16 - Gray Whales "Socializing"
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Captain Eric and his crew ran two fabulous excursions today with ideal conditions in the Santa Barbara Channel. The good news is the conditions are supposed to only get better during the week ahead. Here’s a summary of today’s adventures:
12 noon ... Not too far offshore 3 adult gray whales were located because there was a lot of action, rolling around, etc. On the scene it quickly became obvious that it was a small mating pod and a lot of gray whale hanky-panky was going on in front of all the whale fans. Captain Eric took an iPhone photo of all this and you can see it above. Long-beaked common dolphins were all around too, and their population was estimated at around 20 individuals.
3 PM ... The afternoon trip left Santa Barbara and headed back to where we left the 3 amorous gray whales from the noon trip. As fate would have it, they were no longer actively mating and had resumed a regular migration back to Alaskan waters. We had good looks and wished them bon voyage about a mile south of the Goleta Pier. Heading east, we ended up back in the east beach anchorage where we had a great sighting of a large male Stellar sea lion, perhaps the same one we saw two days ago out on Platform Henry. About 100 common dolphins kept us company on this excursion.  Website



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