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:
   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,  

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    Whale Watching
    Whale Watching
    Whale Watching
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 Recent Buzzes!!
11/23/14 - Clear skies and a fresh breeze
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The fresh breeze which blew from the northwest precluded the Condor Express from returning to the Santa Cruz Island hot spots that we have enjoyed for the past week or two. Not too far out from Santa Barbara Harbor dolphins were visible to the west and watching them leap across the oncoming seas with spray flying all around from the wind was spectacular. Further to the west two spouts were spotted and upon arriving at the scene slowly against the wind and swells, we were fortunate to find a mother humpback whale and her calf. The calf greeted us with a magnificent breach, emphasized and made dramatic by the sea conditions. We had great looks at this pair, until we got ourselves located on an even more massive and spread out herd of long beaked common dolphins. At least 2,000 animals were seen, but it was really impossible to get an accurate count given the waves and spray.
At this point, Captain Dave changed course 180 degrees and we sailed with the winds and seas to the east in hopes of finding more whales off the coast of western Ventura, past the oil rigs. No such luck, although to the east the seas and winds subsided quite a lot, there were no spouts to be found today. We slowly moved back to Santa Barbara Harbor. A special note: regular passengers and readers of this blog know that we stop and put the gaff on mylar balloon debris and remove it from the ocean as a regular habit. Today we spotted a large black lawn and leaf bag on the surface and when deckhand Augie put the gaff on it to haul it out, it weighed a considerable amount. When it finally came on board and was put in a trash barrel, it turned out to be a plastic trash can liner full of oil that some one had dumped into the sea. Such an act is beyond belief.  () -
11/20/14 - Special Santa Barbara Channel vistas and whales too.
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The Santa Barbara Channel was magnificent; slate gray, hardly any wind and spectacular above water vistas. One could see Bony Ridge (Malibu) to Pt. Conception and all four Channel Islands. The day started with a relatively tame common loon that was observed swimming around close to the Condor Express inside Santa Barbara Harbor. Our trip across the Channel was smooth and uneventful, but once we crossed the southbound shipping lane, spouts were seen all around the north face of Santa Cruz and Santa Rosa Island. We closely watched 6 humpback whales, three of which were very friendly and surfaced next to the boat to the surprise and enjoyment of the whale fans. After that gray whale that was sighted near Stern's Wharf yesterday, Captain Dave took a quick peek into the Santa Cruz Channel just in case the pier whale wasn't alone. Finding no extremely early gray whales today, we had a wonderful tour of the west end of Santa Cruz Island and the world famous Painted Cave.
Heading homeward from the Cave there was a massive herd of at least 1,000 long beaked common dolphins that was widely scattered and provided great looks. Next we watched about 20 or so Risso's dolphins in the crystal clear blue water and indirect lighting. This provided better than average photo opps for sure. About this time our second Captain "Eagle Eyes Eric" located a very tall spout and a giant blue whale. Our final cetacean of the day was this magnificent blue creature. The ride home was one of those where everyone wanted to be outside and just enjoy the silver sky and water views. Very special Santa Barbara Channel vistas for sure.
11/17/14 - A Dream Whale Watch Trip - Pinch Me Now!
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It's November 16, 2014 and Captain Eric put it this way: "We had a giant blue whale about 20 yards from our right side and a breaching humpback whale about 20 yards on our left." Take your pick. In all, Eric led the Condor Express team to 3 blue whales, one of which was very friendly as previously described above. Among the 9 humpback whales (with many more spouts in the area), several swam up and down the sides, and rolled upside down under the Condor. Somebody turned on the "get friendly" switch and all the big beasts were drawn to the boat today. Add 100 long beaked common dolphins and you have a dream whale watch trip. Pinch me now!
11/16/14 - Pelagic Expedition a Huge Success!
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Captain Dave and Captain Eric steered the Condor Express out of Santa Barbara Harbor around 7am to start a 10-hour pelagic bird (and mammal) expedition. We were initially greeted with moderate chop and swells from winds blowing robustly in the western Santa Barbara Channel. As the day progressed the seas subsided and most of the day was very calm. It was sunny and we had blue clear water almost everywhere. This expedition took us on a circuit which spent a considerable amount of time working large bird and mammal aggregations (hot spots) between the Harbor and the Santa Cruz Channel. We passed through the SC Channel and visited Gull Island and worked along the northern boundary of Santa Cruz Basin. From this point we continued east and ultimately rounded Anacapa Island and Arch Rock. A brief look at Scorpion Rock on Santa Cruz Island was our last look at land before heading back to the Harbor.
Mammals included: Blue whale, several Humpback whales, a couple of Minke whales, Risso's dolphins, long beaked common dolphins, a sea otter (at Gull Island), a juvenile elephant seal, a harbor seal (Gull Is.) and so many California sea lions that it was impossible to count. It was a fantastic day for warm blooded animals without feathers.
Birds (I'm doing my best, the Bird lists will come out later this week): bald eagle (Gull Isl), Peregrine falcons, Pomarine Jaeger, Parasitic jaeger, Cassin's auklets (many), rhinoceros auklets, black vented shearwaters (over 10,000), sooty shearwater, pink footed shearwater, flesh footed shearwater, Bullers shearwater, fulmars, red phalaropes, black oyster catcher, American oyster catcher (Anacapa), pelagic cormorant, Brandt's cormorant, eared grebes, western grebes, Thayer's gull, mew gulls (on sandspit), glaucous winged gull, western gull, Bonaparte's gulls, Heermann's gulls, surf scoter, white winged scoter.
11/15/14 - A great fin whale, a humpback and some dolphins
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The overnight drizzle ended and the clouds gave way to sunny skies in the Santa Barbara Channel. There was a moderate breeze and some chop from the west, but nonetheless Captain Dave and his Crew pushed out to the hot spots near Santa Cruz Island. Out near the Island the epic battle of "whitecaps v whalespouts" was reenacted and our first victory was an adult fin whale which spent a lot of time on the surface pushing through the pervasive seas. One surface interval was very close to the Condor Express and all the whale fans on board got fantastic looks at this second-largest species in the world.
Round two consisted of a lone adult humpback whale speeding ahead to the west with longer dive times and short up times and rapid movement. It was spectacular to see each species working through the wind and swells...awesome power! Earlier in the trip, not far offshore, we played for a short while with 50 or so scattered long beaked common dolphins. As we headed home and got near the coast, the winds dropped off and it was glassy. Hopefully it will stay that way for Sunday's trip.
11/9/14 - Multitudes of humpback whales and more
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There was a moderate breeze blowing in the Santa Barbara Channel today with a little bit of chop here and there as well. It was warm and sunny and there was great above water visibility for spouting whales. El Capitan Dave steered a course for Santa Cruz Island but was side-tracked when second Captain Eric located two humpback whales off More Mesa to the west. So we followed this pair for a while as an hors d'oeuvre for the real show which was to come later near the Island. About 500 or so long beaked common dolphins were scattered throughout the area and at one point we were watching a nursery pod with lots of nice, tiny animals swimming with their mothers. Next, we were off to Santa Cruz.
Across the shipping lanes and near the Island the same mother lode of humpback #whales was located exactly where we left them yesterday. There were, once again, more spouts than anyone could keep track of strung out on a line parallel to the Island as the Condor Express ran west to east, downhill, to minimize the effects of wind and sea. A very conservative and legitimate count of humpback whales watched closely might fall into the area of 14 or so, but there were a multitude more that we could not possibly get close to within our time frame, Along the face of the Island the humpbacks were mixed in with a dispersed pod of a dozen or two Risso's dolphins. After a brief but enjoyable Island tour along the sea cliffs, we headed home.
Not long after we got on our homeward course heading the Crew located a pair of breaching humpbacks in the distance. We slowly approached and found a mother and calf pair that had been breaching, both of them, one after the other. The breaching was followed by some mighty pectoral fin slapping and all of this was marvelous to see with the breeze and blue water and sun. There were a few extra tall spouts in the distance...probably blue whales....but not confirmed.
11/7/14 - Acute Spoutitis Outbreak Today
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I looked up the symptoms for "acute spoutitis" in my Physicians Desk Reference and I think I've got it, along with a boat load of our whale watching brothers and sisters. Symptoms include such things as seeing spouts before your eyes when you get back to the dock and are walking through the Condor Express parking lot, and a sore neck from swiveling the head 180-degrees to observe all the whale spouts everywhere near and far. The PDR describes the cause of spoutitis as the observation of too many whale spouts within a single expedition day. Yup. I think we've got it. Second Captain Eric suggested a preventative measure early in the trip. Don't stand there and swivel your head, just keep your eyes on the whales as you change your stance from facing the bow to facing the stern. Eric also is the first to admit that using his method, you cannot count the same whales twice just because you are facing a different direction and looking over the other shoulder. Great point!
Seriously, the Santa Barbara Channel was chock full of cetaceans today and here's the real story. We left the dock and headed to the eastern Channel feeding grounds. There we found 2 pairs of humpback whale, one pair going east, the other going west. We had great looks and the sea conditions (but not the pinnipeds) were stellar. We were drawn to the area by a massive full body breach followed by a series of pectoral fin slaps by the largest of the four #whales. It was a bright sunny day with nearly no wind and a tiny swell from the southwest. One could see Boney Ridge to the east and Pt. Conception to the west. There were no dolphins to be seen in the eastern Channel. After a great time with the #humpbacks, Captain Dave started heading towards Santa Cruz Island.
Just south of the shipping lanes things began to heat up. We saw medium tall spouts everywhere and a couple of very very tall spouts too. A megapod of at least 1,000 long beaked common dolphins came over to play. As we slowly worked our way from east to west along the famous sub-surface ridge that parallels Santa Cruz Island, we saw single humpbacks, duets, trios and even a few quartets. The bright sun being at an angle this time of year really emphasizes the spout spray and it was visually magnificent. Soon the reason for the very very tall spouts mentioned earlier became apparent. We got located on a giant blue whale and had some fantastic looks. There was a second tall spout going the opposite direction so I suspect there were several blue whales in the area. Oh, what a fabulous sight this was to behold. Spouts everywhere on a spectacular sunny day in November. Whooo-eee!
Lastly we had to head back towards Santa Barbara Harbor. But wait! Near mid-Channel we found 3 more humpback whales and another fast megapod of at least another 1,000 long beaked commons. One of the 3 humpbacks threw its tail perhaps 20 times or more in a row.
By the time we entered the Harbor quite a bit later than our schedule shows, we had closely watched 23 humpback whales with many more spouts all around. No kidding there must have been over 30 humpbacks all over, on both sides of the Channel today. Add 1 giant blue whale (and probably a second one), plus 2,000 dolphins, and now you know why I came down with acute spoutitis. By the way, there is only one cure for this condition. I'll be back on board the Condor Express tomorrow as we head back to the same hot spots. The weather forecast remains fantastic. Hope to see you on board. I won't post today's photographs online until at least Sunday.
11/5/14 - It's November 5. BLUE WHALE & more today.
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Captain Dave was doing his thang as "Who's THE Man!" today out there. This whole trip was unbelievable, but trust me, I'm not making this stuff up. The day starts off being a Santa Ana summertime day. 85F in Santa Barbara, and very comfy out on the Santa Barbara Channel. Bright warm sun, blue water, no swell, hardly a ripple and you could see from Boney Ridge above Point Mugu all the way west to San Miguel. Translation: no problem spotting spouts. This whole week is supposed to be similar...whoooeee. Dave ran us to the east and smack into a mother lode of humpback whales. There were probably 13 #whales in this eastern area, but we "only" had time to set up and watch 8. The highlights included 3 massive full body breaches and later 3 humpbacks swam a direct line to the Condor Express and two of them turned together for a whole body visible duet in the crystal clear water. I got chills. Common dolphins and sea lions were abundant, but not as abundant as those we would see later near Santa Cruz Island.
In response to customer interest, Dave next steered a course for the western end of Santa Cruz Island. Not far past the shipping lane we encountered another lode of humpback whales...these were a little spread out but our friends Eileen and Michael estimated 9 in the area, and we got reasonable looks at 4. What distracted us from the rest of the humpback whales was NOT the massive megapods of long beaked common dolophins (3,000 for the day), NOR the mob after mob of California sea lions all up on the glassy surface with their pectoral flippers in the sun....none of these factors stopped the humpback sightings. However the presence of a very very tall spout pretty close to the boat DID make us reposition the boat so we could get super great looks at a giant blue whale that stayed on the surface for at least a dozen breaths...bright sun, clear water, no wind....who'd have guessed we'd be seeing a westbound blue whale along the north face of Santa Cruz Island in November? Oh, one more thing, did I mention the 75 - 100 Risso's dolphins very close to the sea cliffs...and our great look inside the world famous Painted Cave?
11/3/14 - 11 Humpback Whales Take Turns With Behaviors
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Captain Eric ran the Condor Express to the southeastern Santa Barbara Channel today and found a "mother lode" of very highly animated humpback whales. There were 11 #whales all together, and if you think this was all about quantity, let me tell you about the quality of the sightings today. Among the 11 humpbacks there were two mother-calf pairs (one pair was Scarlet and Shorty). Even though the youngsters were highly active and went on breaching, rolling, pectoral and tail fin slapping, it was the giant adults today that seemed to follow the lead of the youngsters. One big whale came up out of no where and got airborne very close to the Condor, the whole body was out of the water, and, as Eric tells it, before splashing down the whale spouted mid air, opened its mouth, showed its baleen, and then slammed its chin on the water first...followed by the rest of the 40 ton body. This was repeated 7 or 8 times and I believe our pal Dino posted a video of all this on the Condor Express FaceBook page. Thanks, Dino! All the whales got into the act with breaching, slapping fins, rolling and being friendly with the boat. It was "off the charts" fun. Also in the area we had at least 500 long beaked common dolphins. Wow.
11/1/14 - Ooodles of Cetacea on a Silver Ocean
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Light rain is in the forecast for midnight tonight and the clouds moved in making the sky and ocean a brilliant silvery color. There was a very light chop from the south east breeze, but otherwise it was flat calm and a wonderful day for spotting marine mammals. Captain Eric with his keen eyes worked alongside deckhand Augie who manned the binoculars. It was not long past the rig line that we came up on our first hot spot of the trip. Here we found many dozens of California sea lions, long beaked common dolphins, and at least 4 Minke whales all working on an anchovy school. One Minke #whale actually swam alongside the Condor Express for a while. Next we moved to another hot region east of Henry. Again the sea lions and #dolphins signaled that something might be going on below the surface. Before long we had not one, not two but at least 9 giant humpback whales in the vicinity. Deckhand Augie actually spotted this spot because of the repeated breaching by a small humpback whale. The small one turned out to be "Shorty" and this juvenile whale put on quite a show as its mother "Scarlet" went about her feeding activities. Shorty, on the other hand, alternated between series of pectoral fin slapping, tail throws and trying to find its mom Scarlet. Not to be out done, two other humpbacks, both adults, made a bee-line for the Condor, and passed under and around the boat giving us a thorough mugging to the delight of our many happy passengers.
The next phase of the trip took us over for a great visit to the eastern end of Santa Cruz Island. Here we found great shelter from the little southeast breeze and got a wonderful guided and narrated tour from Capt Eric. Finally it was time to head back towards Santa Barbara and we took off to the north. But wait! There's more. Just past mid-Channel we encountered another hot spot with 4 or 5 more humpbacks. When the dust settled and we finally entered the safety of the Harbor, we figured the totals included 8 closely watched humpbacks and another 8 in the immediate vicinity. Add at least 1,000 long beaked common dolphins to the tally as well. Wow! What a day! Now the midnight rain can come and give us that whopping tenth of an inch that NWS promised.
10/29/14 - Humpback Whales Invade the Channel En Masse
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Let me set the stage for you. It was mill pod glass flat most of the day with bright sun and clear blue water. Later in the trip a few ripples showed up. Veteran Captain Dave first took us to that month-after-month productive region east of Henry where we located and watched 6 humpback whales closely. There were spots of anchovies here and there near the surface, so in addition to some short and shallow dives, we had a couple of instances of surface lunge feeding. This area was also full of California sea lions and long beaked common dolphins. Among the 6 #whales we found a cow with a small calf and also our pal "Lucky" that was disentangled back in June. Lucky is looking better every time we see it, and today was much healthier looking than a month or so when it last was watched. At least 2 Minke whales also patrolled this hot zone. Additional humpback behaviors included one beast that stayed in a large kelp paddy for quite a while rolling around and lifting its various fins in the seaweed one at a time. Tail flukes were seen on just about every dive.
The middle phase of the adventure took us over for a short and sweet cruise along the northeastern face of beautiful Santa Cruz Island. Here we saw the Island in all its radiant glory...glassy seas, hot sun, hikers on the cliff tops, kayakers in the sea caves and kelp. What a fabulous day to be anywhere in the Santa Barbara Channel. Finally it was time to head home and around mid-Channel we had another group of at least 7 humpbacks that we closely watched, making the total for the trip 13 with several more spouts in the near distance. More sea lions and dolphins were on the scene of course, and Captain Dave estimated at least 1,500 long beaked common dolphin as a reasonable trip total.
Just when we thought the fabulous sightings were over and we were making the first turn inside Santa Barbara Harbor we encountered a half dozen inshore bottlenose dolphins that were coming out of the harbor as we were going in.
10/24/14 - 5 Humpbacks (including a calf) Mug the Condor Express
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Well, by now you probably heard about all the blue whales out in the shipping lanes yesterday, and so you'll understand when I tell you that Captain Dave laid in a straight course heading for that area today. Sea conditions were even flatter and calmer than yesterday. Dave describes it as "water ski" conditions. (SPECIAL NOTE We do not water ski using the Condor Express and do not approve water skiing as a whale watching method). Beneath the surface things were deep deep blue and crystal clear again. Everything was good. There were long beaked common dolphins all around, large pods everywhere. But no blue #whales today.
The Condor Express ran a comprehensive search pattern and used up considerable time, but no tall spouts and long bodies could be found in the region. From here the Condor Express ran north east to an area that has been good for humpback whales. Again, more common dolphins were around everywhere ... perhaps 2,000 or more were seen in total.
The grande finale: the usual humpback area did not disappoint. Here we encountered 5 humpback whales (which included a mother and calf) that were among the most friendly humpbacks we've seen yet this Fall. Each of the 5 beasts took turns swimming along with us, rolling around and looking up at us, and swimming directly under the boat from side to side just to give their loyal fans a good aerobic workout on the Condor Express decks. All of this, of course, took place in cobalt water ski conditions. Wow!
10/23/14 - Everyone on board had the Blues
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Blue skies. Crystal blue water. At least 6 blue whales (three watched closely). They came out of the blue as we were looking for our humpback whale friends from yesterday in the eastern Santa Barbara Channel. Captain Dave spotted a spout at least 3 miles ahead of the boat. I don't know how he does it. I would have thought the curvature of the earth would come into play for a 6 foot tall Captain, but he was another 30 feet up off sea level on the flybridge. (That's everyone's math lesson for today !) The crystal blue water gave us spectacular looks at these giant cetaceans under the surface. The first #bluewhale even fluked up for us as we got within a half mile or so. Most of the sightings were very close to the boat as these giants seemed to pass close and take a look at us. Very loud breathing noises and tall spouts from all of them. The krill layer must have been deep as the bottom times were proportionally long. We did see one nice humpback whale and a second humpback in the distance. There were also some large herds of long beaked common dolphins and we watched at least 1,500 #dolphins on the trip today.
10/23/14 - Blue skies and blue water with Soooo Many Cetacans
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Not far to the east of Santa Barbara Harbor and out past the "rig line" we encountered a few small but playful pods of long beaked common dolphins. While #dolphin watching, the keen eyes of deckhand Augie spotted a spout a mile or two south of our position. Upon arriving on the scene there were, in fact, three humpback whales each taking a turn at being watched by the fans on board the Condor Express. First up we watched a whale with a circumferential, abdominal entanglement scar similar to both our friends "Rope," and "Lucky," yet it was neither. Looks like we have a new scared whale that is smaller than Rope but larger than Lucky. We did not get great tail flukes, but will keep an eye on doing so the next couple of days and sending them up to Cascadia. For now, Dave has proposed a whimsical, temporary name "Not Rope." Think of the logical naming possibilities this scheme unlocks ! Dave has proven once again that he is The Man. We may not have seen great fluking, but Not Rope did stop to do a little kelping right off the bow of the Condor so we all got great looks at this mix of one of the largest animals on earth playing with one of the largest "plants." Within a few hundred yards of Not Rope, the next whale to pop up was Top Notch. And Topper was giving us short down times of 7 min or so, but was pretty much following a course to the west. A third humpback that proved very elusive was observed shortly around mid-Channel on our way over to beautiful Santa Cruz Island. Several Minke whales, perhaps 3 or 4, were in the mix of birds, dolphins and sea lion hot spots that we found all over the Santa Barbara Channel today.
Some of the more unusual sightings today included a male California sea lion tearing apart a fish on the surface with the help of several western gulls. A jaeger chased an elegant tern and was tailed by a Heermann's gull, and their aerial dog fighting flight pattern took them near the boat several times. This kind of event is very challenging to photograph, but I am remaining hopeful. Numerous moderately sized mobs of sea lions were found around drifting giant kelp paddies all the way to Santa Cruz Island, and the waters around the western end of the Island were teaming with Risso's dolphins...a very conservative number might be in the 75 - 100 range. Although most of the day had been very calm with light winds, by the time we approached the Island the wind and seas had kicked up to a moderate level making a full entry into the wonderful Painted Cave a bit too dangerous. The seas also made Risso watching a challenge as most of the pods we watched were coming down swell at us and the dolphins took a short ride on the wave faces before diving under us. There was one nice large pod of Risso's dolphins that were traveling alongside the Condor Express for a while and gave us plenty of good looks and nice photo ops.
10/18/14 - Fantastic Day but where is Shorty?
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Captain Dave and his crew ran into the eastern Santa Barbara Channel under sunny skies, calm seas with clear water all around. Among the 6+ humpbacks we watched were Top Notch and, later, Scarlet. Scarlet did her now famous sideways, open mouth swim/feed behavior again today. And, yes it was only Scarlet today; her calf Shorty (who was with her as recently as yesterday) was no where to be seen. Has something bad happened to Shorty? Has this juvenile finally separated from its mother? Did it get lost in the night? Time will tell, so keep your eyes open. There was one nice Minke #whale sighting, and at least 800 long beaked common dolphins all around. After a nice visit to the east end of Santa Cruz Island we were on our way home and encountered a decent sized pod of Risso's dolphins in the mid-Channel area. It was another epic Fall wildlife adventure.
10/16/14 - Outstanding weather & wildlife
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Down to the east Santa Barbara Channel the sun was shining bright and the ocean was calm. The ocean was crystal clear and blue again. Captain Dave and his crew found one humpback whale: our buddy Top Notch. Similar to yesterday, Top Notch made a few friendly passes near the Condor Express and delighted its fans. It also showed some nice tail flukes on its deep dives. The anchovy schools in this location seemed to be near the seafloor, so bottom times were in the ten minute range...leaving plenty of time to smell the salt air and enjoy the scenery.
There were more common dolphins today. The crew estimated at least 500 #dolphins were observed in their clear water habitat. Among the cetaceans observed there were 4 Minke whales. One was a giant beast at least 30 feet long! The big Minke gave us some very good looks. The water was so clear and the visibilities above the surface were so nice that the crew reported several "false alarms" where they thought there was a herd of dolphins ahead and it turned out to be flocks of black vented shearwaters diving and re-surfacing and making a lot of splashes. Wow!
10/16/14 - "Top Notch" holds a meet-and-greet
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There was a subtropical breeze and a few warm sprinkles in the Santa Barbara Channel on our way out to the grounds. Along the way we watched a few long beaked common dolphins, and in fact only saw a total of 100 or so for the trip. Soon the breeze subsided and the ocean surface got an oily mirror glass finish. The sun was bright and the ocean water was even bluer and clearer than previously reported...or at least that's how it appeared to my blue eyes. Captain Dave and Augie were our main spotters today and we ended up with 3 humpback whales. But what a fine bunch of #whales they were. First up, we watched the juvenile we call "whitey pects" and its mother. The mother has been identified by Cascadia Research as "CRC-12083 which has been seen since 2005 mostly in the SBC." They are aware of the calf now and we should know its database designation soon.
Later in the trip we found another, older juvenile, the one we've been calling "Top Notch." This whale was spotted 2 or 3 miles away because it breached and then settled into some pectoral flipper slapping for a while. Now here is some curious and potentially coincidental news for you regular readers and humpback whale lovers. Top Notch, as you already know, was named because it has a distinct notch in its dorsal fin, among other features. When I was discussing "whitey pects" with John Calambokidis from Cascadia, he mentioned "The interesting thing is it looks like she [mother of whitey-pects, CRC-12083] had a calf in both 2013 and 2014 which is a little surprising but there is no fluke shot of the calf in 2013 (had a distinct notch in the dorsal fin however)." (I subsequently sent fluke and notch shots back to John). Conclusion: there is a possibility that CRC-12083 is the mother of whitey AND Top Notch ! ...all in the family, eh?
The story of the trip today was all about Top Notch. The short of it is that Topper came over and under the boat several times and lingered around, rolled around, and spouted within a few feet of its loyal fan club on the Condor Express. And as a reminder, all this happened in the clearest blue water we've seen all year.
10/15/14 - 5 Species of Cetaceans in One Trip
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We watched 3 humpback whales closely but there were plenty of other spouts around the area. The bait was near the sea floor and hence the down times were long-ish. The skies were blue and so was the once again the clarity of the ocean enhanced all of the sightings. Wow. We found and played with both species of common dolphins today. The long beaked species was on the coast side, and the short beaked species was close to Santa Cruz. There were at least 1,000 of each species. Per usual, the short beaked common dolphins were highly animated. The did a ton of leaping high and at one point several were tail walking like Flipper did on TV. Most of the black vented shearwaters and other marine birds like the red necked phalaropes were sitting on the water resting. After the long beaked commons and all the humpbacks, we made course for the world famous Painted Cave on Santa Cruz Island. Conditions near the island were spectacular and the Cave was Mill Pond flat and glassy. After a run down the west end, north face of Santa Cruz we headed back across the Santa Barbara Channel. We did not get very far off the island before we encountered a mixed group of those big offshore bottlenose dolphins AND Risso's dolphins together. It was a great sight to see. This gave us a scorecard of 5 different species of cetaceans today. Clear, calm warm and great.
10/7/14 - Clear blue water enhances sightings again
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Captain Eric left Santa Barbara Harbor in fog so thick he could not see Stern's Wharf. Luckily it lifted in time for the #humpback #whale "Top Notch" to show up in crystal clear blue. It was a wonderful sighting, but again the fog was closing in. Eric left the area and headed for the world famous Painted Cave on Santa Cruz Island. Long beaked common #dolphins were abundant all day, and at least 1,000 were closely watched...again the water clarity made the sighting even more spectacular. Our visit to the Cave was good, and the waters around the Island had clear skies, no fog and lots of blue water. An unusual sighting: ONE lone Risso's dolphin was observed near the Island. It was strange to see it swimming solo for sure. The fog is supposed to go away later this week.
10/4/14 - THE Place to Be
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It was lat, calm, sunny, clear skies, clear water, no wind and drop dead gorgeous all day. I have personally never seen so many long beaked common dolphins so concentrated in the north eastern Santa Barbara Channel. There were pods of #dolphins everywhere we roamed. At least 3,000 dolphins were closely watched. Most of these little cetaceans were on hot spots full of sea birds and sea lions to the chagrin of the northern anchovy population. Picture a flat smooth blue ocean with hot spots of activity here and there as far as you can see. A few of these hot spots were robust and active, in fact we found one of our 3 humpback whales joining in on a feeding frenzy on one of them. The one largest hot spot had a gang of several dozen California sea lions and a couple hundred dolphins. Sea birds, especially black vented shearwaters, were flying circles around the spot and diving. It was an amazing sight to see. (See photograph above). Two earlier humpback whales were located farther to the east and had long down times...near 15 minutes on a couple of dives. Three or so Minke whales were also around the active regions. The Santa Barbara Channel is one of the coolest locations around and is definitely THE place to be.
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