04-20-2012: Nursery Pod of Risso’s Dolphins, Humpback Whales, Second Day Straight of Incredible Orcas and Another 6.5+ Hour Trip

A young orca spy hops next to the boat to check us out. Photo: Sack, 04-20-2012

Things started O.K. Sunny conditions, tolerable sea state. Pretty routine. But after we got in the zone about 45 minutes into the trip, all we could say to ourselves was “what a difference a day makes.” Yikes.

The next thing we knew we were in thick fog, no more sun and pesky, steep lumps kept the boat rocking and rolling. There was also a bone chilling 10-12 mile per-hour wind getting in the way. At first we were thinking this isn’t going to work. We had a few looks of what we could barely tell were whale blows and tail flukes. It’s hard to tell when you only have about 20 yards of visibility.

One of at least 50-60 breaches we witnessed today from this very active group of orcas. Photo: Sack, 04-20-2012

It was quite something to see how quickly the fog came in and how quickly the weather can change on the Monterey Bay. Within minutes it went from nice sunny conditions to near zero visibility. Somehow we were able to stay with these two humpback whales during brief moments of limited clarity. But they were excellent looks.

Then it cleared enough for us to at least stay with the whales and continue to get some great looks. So after about an hour of hanging with these animals in limited visibility, choppy seas and cold conditions, we decided that was about as much as we could take and moved on to see if we could get out of the fog. We had reports that there was no fog to our west.

Another one of the many "spy hops" we observed today. Photo: Sack 04-20-2012

Sure enough, after about 20-minutes of running, we were out of the fog and on the hunt. There was still a bit of wind and chop. But nothing that would get in the way of our quest for cetaceans.

Then we received a report of orcas about 3-miles from our current position. Game on. It didn’t matter to me that it was almost 2:00 p.m. That puts us into the four-hour time limit that most whale watching boats have. Some are even less than that. We usually don’t have time limits. That’s why when we are with orcas, or other animals that are giving us an incredible show, we don’t go in. We figure for most people, this is a once in a lifetime experience. So why cut it short.

Especially with this particular pod of orcas. Turns out that this is the same pod of orcas we were with yesterday. They are known as the “Friendly Pod.” Not only are they friendly, but they are also quite aerobatic. We had these animals jumping out of the water two and three at a time. Doing multiple, simultaneous “spy hops”. See photograph above to see what a “spy hop” is. They kept coming up to the boat doing swim-by’s and going under the boat back and forth. It’s really hard to explain the incredible experience of being within two to three feet of these magnificent animals. It just leaves you in awe.

I really didn’t want to leave. But for most people, 6.5 hours on choppy seas can be a bit much. Most of the passengers were almost as excited as I was. But not quite. And some were actually sitting in the back not that excited at all. Maybe they weren’t feeling well. I don’t know. But every time I was about to turn the boat and go in, we would have a breach or spy hop or a close-in swim-by. So I had a hard time going in. But I knew we had to go in at some point. So I bit the bullet and headed for port. It’s so hard to leave frolicking orcas.

We finally pulled into the slip just under 7-hours from the time we left. As I usually say when I’m helping the passengers off the boat: “I hope you had a good time, I know I did!”

Captain Mike

About Michael Sack

Boat Captain, Monterey Bay marine life naturalist and guide. Photographer and Videographer.
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One Response to 04-20-2012: Nursery Pod of Risso’s Dolphins, Humpback Whales, Second Day Straight of Incredible Orcas and Another 6.5+ Hour Trip

  1. Mandy says:

    Thank you so much for this INCREDIBLE day of whale watching! I’ve been out whale watching several times and this is probably the most incredible days and my first time to see Orcas. This pod was definitely amazing, friendly and entertaining. Even after 7 hours – I’m with you and didn’t want to go in. We got some amazing shots and videos of this pod. I can’t wait to go out again. ~Mandy 🙂

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