04-20-2017: Orcas Show Up, Humpbacks, Gray Whales and More

Monterey Bay Killer Whales Killer whales show up and find something. We’re never saw what they were eating. Photo: Michael Sack, sanctuarycruises.com 04-20-2017

The Spring action continues as The Monterey Bay delivers amazing sightings today in clean conditions.

Monterey Bay Killer Whales They seemed to be feeding on something down there. Photo: Michael Sack, sanctuarycruises.com 04-20-2017.

Monterey Bay Killer Whale Big male orca, Photo: Michael Sack, sanctuarycruises.com 04-20-2017.

Monterey Bay Killer Whales Female circling the area. Photo: Michael Sack, sanctuarycruises.com 04-20-2017.

Monterey Bay Killer Whales Another large male. Photo: Michael Sack, sanctuarycruises.com 04-20-2017.

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04-19-2017: 30-50+ Humpback Whales in the Monterey Bay, Blue Whales, Albatross and More

Moss Landing Humpback WhaleHumpback whales surface lunge-feed on anchovies. Photo: Sack, www.sanctuarycuises.com.

Conditions have been incredible. Today it was calm and glassy for the whole trip with only a light breeze in the afternoon. Many humpbacks have shown up all along the California coast over the last week. Pretty heavy numbers. Particularly right out in front of Moss Landing. Probably between 15-20 humpbacks within 6 miles of Moss Landing. We’ve heard reports of massive amounts of anchovies close in from Marina/Monterey area all the up past the Pajaro as far North as Aptos. Things could be setting up for another year of close in surface feeding humpbacks. For now, we’re back to consistent humpbacks in good numbers within a few miles of the harbor. That’s what I’m talking about. It’s sure thing right now. We might start running some two hour trips for young family’s. Sometimes a four-five hour trip can be a bit much for some. So look for those 2-hour trips in the coming weeks.

Monterey Bay Blue Whale We were stoked to get on these three blue whales. Thanks to Eric Mailander for putting us on them. Here’s one of them. The mighty blue whale. Photo: Michael Sack, sanctuarycruises.com

We have also have been getting reports of other scattered groups of 10-15 humpbacks in various other areas of The Bay. Like Monterey and south to Pt. Lobos. Also up toward Santa Cruz and to the west.

Check out some video from today’s trip:

Monterey Bay Humpback Whale Video with Sanctuary Cruises

So it’s nice to have a choice of which group of whales to hang out with. We also heard reports of dolphins to the south heading north.

Monterey Bay Fur Seal It was nice to run across this fur seal. Photo: Michael Sack, www.sanctuarycruises.com

On Tues. we had nice looks at albatross and a fur seal. The humpbacks have been feeding on both krill and anchovies. We’ve seen both. over the last few days. The Spring humpback stampede is on!

Monterey Bay Black-footed Albatross Black-footed albatross sitting on the water. These remarkable birds fly all the way from Hawaii in search of food. They’re wing span can be over 6-feet widd. Photo: Michael Sack, sanctuarycruises.com

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03-23-2017: Rampant Lunge-Feeding Humpbacks, Common Dolphins

Moss Landing Humpback Whale Lunge-feeding Humpback whale. These things were doing this every few minutes. Photo: Sack 03-23-2017

Epic day on the Monterey Bay. Conditions were questionable early on. We had a pretty solid lump on the water. This can make it difficult for spotting. We have what we call a troft. With a 6′-8′ troft sometimes animals and their blows can be hard to see.

Moss Landing Humpback Whales Lunge-feeding for an hour straight. Photo: Sack 03-23-2017.

But after about 45-minutes of running we came across a few blows and slowed the boat to get a feel for what direction they were heading and what they were doing. So we hung with a couple of different pairs of humpbacks that appeared to be feeding at about 80′-100′. I could see what looked like tailfish marks on the meter. So that was cool.

Moss Landing Humpback whales The humpbacks are back. We’ve only had to got a few miles lately to find whales. It’s nice to be on them within 30-minutes of leaving the harbor. Photo: Sack 03-23-2017.

But then one of the passengers spotted a nice pod of long-beaked common dolphins. Now we’re talking. Dolphins area awesome. They like to follow the boat and bow ride and jump out of the water. It amazing. As they bow ride and jump out of the water alongside the boat, we can hear them “clicking”. This “clicking” sound is the dolphins using an adaptation known as “echo location”. As the dolphins send out a sound wave or “click”, the sound wave will bounce off objects and back to the dolphins lower jaw. Where it’s widely thought that they are able to interpret distance, shape and density of objects within it range.

More Lunge-feeding. Photo: Sack 03-23-2017

After tracking three to four different humpbacks, we noticed another 4-5 humpbacks “lunge-feeding on the inside. Maybe a mile or so from our position. We were on it. Full on feeding frenzy complete with California Brown Pelicans diving, cormorants, long-beaked common dolphins and more.

Moss Landing Loon We’ve been seeing lots of loons. Photo: Sack, 03-23-2017

Incredible trip. The Spring action has begun! As we get closer to April, we should start to see more orcas showing up in The Bay. They’ll be here stalking the gray whale mother calve pairs that will soon be making their way up from the breeding and calving grounds in the warm water lagoons of Pacific Baja. These animals travel over 10,000 round trip.Thought to be the longest migration of any mammal. And they do it without eating. They rely on that blubber layer to get through the 3-4 months they spend in Baja.

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We headed out of the harbor while getting a lot of looks at sea otters eating fat innkeeper worms and many bird species from grebes, buffleheads, loon, pelicans, and more. We traveled out due west and kept scanning the horizon for blows. We got out to about 8 miles when all of a sudden a bull orca emerged only 150 feet off our port side. There ended up being two bull orcas who were patrolling the area as they would head from east to west after every other dive cycle. We followed them for nearly an hour before heading further out west where we found a lone humpback whale feeding with a group of sea lions and thousands of birds. On the way home, we ran into the two bull orcas again who were only 3 miles outside the Moss Landing harbor. Good trip!

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01-29-2017 Gorgeous Conditions, Humpbacks, Grays and Common Dolphins

href=”http://sanctuarycruises.com/captains_log/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/1_28_Gray_Whale-1.jpg”> Gray Whale at Moss Landing Harbor Mouth[/caption]

Today was spectacular out there on Monterey Bay. Sunny clear skies, calm seas and some lovely cetacean sightings. First, we came upon a pod of hundreds of long-beaked common dolphins that played around our bow in clear blue water interacting with the boat and thrilling our passengers for a very long time. Then we spotted a young humpback whale that surfaced and fluked over and over, later being joined by a second young humpback. Finally on our way in, we spotted a single gray whale heading south right past the harbor mouth. Inside the harbor we were greeted by 15 feeding sea otters. What a day!

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01-15-2017: Humpbacks Still Feeding in front of Moss Landing, Common Dolphins, Pacific White-sided Dolphins, Gray Whales and More

Monterey Bay Common Dolphins “Porpoising” long-beaked common dolphins. Photo: Chace Dekker, sanctuarycruises.com 01-15-2017

Another epic day on the bay. It looks like we could have winter feeding humpbacks this year. There were at least 8 out in front of Moss Landing today.

Monterey Bay Common Dolphins More long-beaked common dolphins. Photo: Chace Dekker, sanctuarycruises.com 01-15-2017.

There were also some straggler gray whales passing through. The real action came from the common dolphins. We had 500+ running with along side, behind and in front of us as we moved through the water. Check out the video below:

Monterey Bay Long-beaked common dolphins

They often like to use the energy of our boat moving through the wate and the wake that it creates as they continually leap all around the boat while they move through the water at a high rate of speed. It’s awesome to watch.

Monterey Bay Humpback Whale
Monterey Bay Humpback Whales still feeding in front of Moss Landing. Photo: Chase Dekker, sanctuarycruises.com 01-15-2017.

Moss Landing Great Blue Heron
Moss Landing Great Blue Heron. Photo: Sack

Monterey Bay Common dolphins
Monterey Bay common dolphins. Photo: Sack, sanctuarycruises.com 01-15-2017.

Monterey Bay Whales We had great looks at humpback whales. Photo: Sack, sanctuarycruises.com 01-15-2017.


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01-14-2016: Humpbacks, mating gray whales, common dolphins, Pacific White-sided dolphins excellent conditions and more.

California Gray Whale One of the three mating gray whales we were with today. Photo: Michael Sack, sanctuarycruises.com 01-14-2017

Incredible day on the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. Sunny conditions and calm seas. Doesn’t get much better for Winter whale watching.

Spy-hopping gray whale. Photo: Michael Sack, sanctuarycruises.com 01-14-2017 Spy-hopping gray whale. Photo: Michael Sack, sanctuarycruises.com 01-14-2017

We came across some common dolphins right outside the harbor. Then we had great looks at a young humpback 20-minutes out the gate. After about 15 minutes we decided to head out further and see what else we could see.

California Gray Whale This is gray whale mating behavior. Notice the pink. That’s the male gray whale’s penis. Photo: Michael Sack, sanctuarycrusies.com 01-14-2017

That’s when we noticed some splashing about a mile from our position. It turned out to be three mating gray whales and about 15 Pacific white-sided dolphins.

California Gray Whale More gray mating behavior. Photo: Michael Sack, sanctuarycruises.com 01-14-2017

It was quite a display of nature. We were with them for almost an hour.

California Gray Whale More spy-hopping. Photo: Michael Sack, sanctuarycruises.com 01-14-2017.

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1-11-17 Stormy Conditions kept us in port, but seas are calming now

Moss Landing Humpback Whale

Moss Landing humpback whale doing a fluke up dive. Photo: Michael Sack, sanctuarycruises.com 07-19-2015

We have not been able to venture out into the bay this year yet, due to stormy seas. We know the gray whales are in full force on their southbound migration through outer Monterey Bay and hope the handful of humpbacks feeding a few miles from Moss Landing harbor are still around. Let’s go find out! Some of our most magical trips have been on calm January days. We are running trips Friday through Monday in January.

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12-15-2016 Humpback Whales and Common Dolphins feeding 3 miles from Moss Landing

The weekend forecast looks calm and clear, and the whales are still here feeding. Conditions were lovely on Wednesday and there were scattered humpbacks feeding within a few short miles of Moss Landing, as well as Common Dolphins. Sunday we had an extended observation of Risso’s Dolphins all around the boat and some really nice viewing of humpback whales.

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12-04-2016: 20+ Humpback Whales Feeding Close to Moss Landing Harbor, 300+ Common Dolphins

Monterey Bay Dolphins About 300 long-beaked common dolphins come up along side of the boat. Photo: Chace Dekker, sanctuarycruises.com 12-03-2016.

We’ve been having some of the best trips of the year over the last couple of weeks. The marine conditions and weather. We’ve also had some great light for photographs. It’s a great time to get out and get some amazing photographs. Not only have we excellent lighting, we’ve also had some very light passengers loads. So if you want a little elbow room, get out there now while the last humpback whale feast before they head south for the winter is on. There seems to be about 20 humpbacks sticking around just a few miles from the Moss Landing Harbor. We’ve also been seeing large numbers of Long-beaked common dolphins.

Monterey Bay Dolphins The common dolphins are very playful and aerobatic. Photo: Chace Dekker, sanctuarycruises.com 12-03-2016

All the Monterey boats have been coming over the the Moss Landing area to see the humpbacks. All the humpbacks are hanging near Moss Landing lately. Who knows, this may be another year where some of the humpbacks stay in the Monterey Bay instead of migrating to their breeding and calving grounds in Southern Mexico.

Monterey Bay Dolphins We often see them search us out and then come along side, behind, and in front of the boat as they use the energy from our wake to surf. Photo: Chace Dekker, sanctuarycruises.com 12-05-2016

It’s somewhat unusual to have this many humpbacks still going strong feeding at this time of year. So who knows? Stay tuned and we’ll keep you updated. Photos: Chace Dekker, sanctuarycruises.com 12-03-2016.

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11-21-2016: Humpbacks Feeding with Sea Lions, Long-beaked Common Dolphins

Long Beaked Common Dolphins

About 300 long-beaked common dolphins were also feeding in the area. Photo: Vicky Stein.

Conditions have been gorgeous on the water. Crisp and cool with sunshine, clear blue skies and beautiful puffy white clouds in the background. We have had some windy spells in between excellent Fall conditions, with long period swells and foggy mornings. The long period swells don’t affect us much out on the water. But they sure make for great surf as the swells make their way to the shoreline.


Out front, we’ve had humpback whales feeding with sea lions, flocks of loons, cormorants, shearwaters, gulls, and phalaropes nearby. We’ve also been seeing playful groups of 300-400 long-beaked common dolphins regularly.

Today in particular started out very foggy, but we got lucky with our first two humpbacks who crossed right under the boat. Later on, we found the clear skies and more whales- five different pairs,that gave us some great looks. We were distracted, though, by the friendliest sea lion we’ve ever encountered! It clowned around under our boat for about five minutes, giving everyone on board a look at how graceful these animals are below the water, and how silly they can be above it. The animal probably thought we were a fishing boat. We also stopped to take a look at some of the jellies in the water around us. Since the seas were so clear today, we could see plenty of floating jelly-like creatures, one of which we caught in a bucket for a closer look. When an animal is almost entirely transparent, it can be very difficult to identify, but I think it was a salp. It’s always an adventure out there!

We expect most of these humpbacks start making their way south to their breeding and calving grounds in Southern Mexico and Central America. So we’re starting to see a what we believe is the last feast before they head south, where they don’t eat for 3-4 months. Hopefully, some of these whales may decide the buffet is too good to leave us. We have seen this before. So we’ll keep you updated if some of them decide to spend the winter in the Monterey Bay. We are also keeping our eyes open for the gray whale migration, which ought to be headed south through these waters shortly! We’ve heard reports of gray whales being spotted up the coast. So stay tuned.

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11-12-2016 Gorgeous Conditions, Non-stop surface Lunge-feeding Humpbacks close to Moss Landing plus Dolphins!


Besides all the birds and humpbacks feeding in front of Moss (at least six or seven whales lunging up for a few hours on end), we also had a group of several hundred long-beaked common dolphins feeding about five miles out. Probably anchovies, but we couldn’t be sure. Whatever they were eating was in a thick layer at least 30 ft down. A few of them took a break from their feast to bow-ride with us. Commons are so fun to photograph! An absolutely gorgeous day on the water. Photo: Vicky Stein.

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11-11-2016 Humpbacks are surface lunge feeding in front of Moss Landing now


This was our biologist Vicky Stein’s photo from today, which was a good day but tough for photography. Lots of great lunges, though, and absolute bird chaos. We had pelicans, terns, gulls (Bonaparte’s, Heerman’s, westerns), murres, cormorants, and parasitic jaegers all over the place. This is an indication of the abundance of small schooling fish that both the birds and the whales are feeding on. There were a few different clusters of whales, mostly groups of three vertically lunge-feeding, and not too far out of Moss Landing harbor either! Conditions have been quite nice out on the bay this week and the whales are closer to Moss Landing, as this photo shows.

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10-29-2016: Humpback Feeding Frenzy at Moss with Dolphins & Sea Lions


Though our trip today began with a light drizzle, before long the skies cleared up and we spotted our first humpback whales, only two miles outside Moss Landing Harbor. We hopscotched from those three whales out to a large group of Risso’s dolphins (probably more than 200) that were breaching and socializing around us, before moving on toward a flock of birds and a series of splashes. We discovered a huge group (500+) of feeding common dolphins, which haven’t spent much time around Moss for the past few months! Just beyond the dolphins was a growing group of humpbacks, lunging up out of the water to scoop up gigantic mouthfuls of anchovies. Photos: Vicky Stein

Risso’s Dolphin


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10-18-16 Cetacean Invasion! Humpbacks and Dolphins show up in big numbers.

At least 15 humpback whales and several hundred Pacific White-sided Dolphins showed up today being very active in the Pajaro Hole, a branch of the canyon about six miles NW of Moss Landing. We had a breach, tail lobbing and some vertical surface lunge feeds today and lots of surfacings and tail flukes. It was approaching a frenzy state with many sea lions, lots of birds, so many dolphins and whales all circling a wide area that was abundant with fish. The viewing was excellent, with sunny conditions and a long period swell.

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