Monthly Archives: April 2013

04-25-2013 Humpback Feeding Frenzy Begins, Perfect Conditions

A mother and yearling humpback do a double surface lunge. They did this about every 5 minutes for about two hours. Photo: Sack 04-25-2013.

A mother and yearling humpback do a double surface lunge. They did this about every 5 minutes for about two hours. Photo: Sack 04-25-2013.

Today was really spectacular out on the bay. The humpback whales have entered the bay not too far out from Moss Landing to feed on the extremely plentiful krill.

This is the pallet of a young humpback as it comes surface lunges through a dense patch of Krill. As this photo shows, the pallet is the underside of the upper jaw. Photo: Sack, 04-25-2013.

This is the pallet of a young humpback as it surface lunges through a dense patch of Krill. As this photo shows, the palate is the underside of the upper jaw. Photo: Sack, 04-25-2013.

Fortunately for our lucky whale watchers today the krill was at the surface. This means the whales come up with their huge mouths agape, showing off their baleen, and their massive throats bulging out full of krill-laden seawater.

It was a great day. The seas were as calm as could be. The dolphins were awesome as well. We have space on our 3 pm trips Friday and Saturday and still room on our 10 am trip Sunday.

04-21-2013: More Orcas, Blue Whales Feeding

Blue whale

A blue whale surfaces between feeding dives. Photo: Sack, 04-21-2013

The orcas have been on the hunt in The Bay for the last few days. We have seen at least two different pods working the ledges of the canyons.

Blue Whale

Blue whale surfacing again after a couple of shallow feeding cycles. Photo: Sack, 04-21-2013.


Today they were hard to keep up with as they seemed to be heading to the West at a high rate of speed. We also had a brisk wind and a pesky chop making the going ruff.

Pacific White-sided Dolphin

Pacific white-sided dolphin cruising through the area after we lost the orcas. Photo: Sack, 04-21-2013.


But we did finally catch up to them and they were up to their old tricks. The elusive pod were clearly on the hunt zig zagging in all directions, staying under for almost 10-minutes at a time and then popping up more than a quarter mile away. They were hard to track. We thought that they might slow down when a pod of Pacific White-sided dolphins came cruising through the area. But that’s when we lost them.

We had heard reports of blue whales about a 3-miles from our current position. So we followed the white-sided dolphins as they were heading in the same direction as the blue whale reports.

After about 20 minutes of running we came upon the unmistakeable blast of a blue whale spout. They can blow almost 30 feet up on a good day. But they are usually a challenge to watch because they can have burst speeds of up 30-miles per hour. And they also can stay under for a solid 30-minutes. Luckily, the animal we were with today was feeding in the area and circling around instead of moving out. So we had the animal come about 50 yards off our port side as it surfaced for a breath and then continued feeding. We had a couple of nice sightings as the animal repeated this pattern. What a nice day out there.

Risso's Dolphins

Here’s a shot Dorris was able to get as I was holding a fast course while taking a some wind chops on the beam. I finally had to call the pursuit of because we couldn’t keep up with them. Photo: Welch, 04-21-2013.

On the way in we came across a small pod of fast moving Risso’s dolphins. Very strange behavior. They were carrying on like they were Pacific white-sided or common dolphins. Moving at a high rate of speedĀ  and actually jumping out of the water as they moved along. We call this “porpoising.”

04-20-2013: Today was All About The Orcas


A friendly orcas pays a visit. Photo: Sack, 04-20-2013.

A friendly orcas pays a visit. Photo: Sack, 04-20-2013.

Conditions just won’t seem to clean up for us. It wasn’t as rough as we thought it would be, but not a comfortable ride. The good news is that we had reports of blue whales. The bad news was that because of the conditions we had to make a choice between seeing part of the mighty, elusive blue whale or checking out frolicking, friendly orcas.

We went for the orcas had that was what we spent the whole trip doing. We ended up getting lucky and the pod came right up to the boat and then went under the boat and up on the other side. It’s amazing to have the magnificent animals come up and be within a few feet of you. Really a neat thing to experiece.

04-19-2013: Feeding Humpback Whales, Hunting Orcas


One of the orcas we were with. Photo: Eric Mailander, 04-19-2013.

Conditions were decent but still a bit on the lumpy side. But at least we had nice sun feeding humpbacks. And then there were the orcas. We had early reports of orcas from one of our relief captains who was out doing some fishing and scouting. So after getting some good looks at these humpbacks, we made a course for the orcas reported to be about 3-4 miles away.

They were a slippery bunch. We had a hard time keeping track of them. They were clearly on the hunt. There were about six of them making these zig-zag patterns. Just when we thought there were heading to southwest, the next thing we knew they would pop up 3/4 of a mile in the opposite direction. After about an hour of chasing dorsal fins, we finally got a good look at the group as they made their way southwest again. And then the seas became quite choppy with whitecaps everywhere. That’s all she wrote at that point. It was just too hard to tell what was a white cap and what was a surfacing killer whale.

So we pulled the plug and made an uneventful course for the Moss Landing Harbor.

04-18-2013 Delightful Day aboard Sanctuary

Finally we had some decent weather. It’s been almost two weeks of difficult, windy conditions and lumpy seas. We had a few pesky lumps come through, but there was very little wind good conditions overall.

We had two cooperative humpback whales 30 minutes out the gate. So that was a nice change. We still didn’t see the large amount of krill we were expecting. So we will see what happens today. After two weeks of major wind events with nice sun, we would expect there to be major krill blooms. They may still be further out and it’s just a matter of time before the currents bring them in closer. After all they are plankton. Plankton is an organism or animal that goes with the flow of the currents.

Northern Fur Seal

Northern Fur seal hanging out in The Bay. Photo: Sack, 04-19-2013

We also heard other reports of at least 4-6 more humpback whales further to the south. They all seemed to be heading west. So maybe they know something we don’t. Like larger krill blooms outside. We may consider heading to the outer Bay today just to check things out.

We had some great looks at about 300+ Risso’s Dolphins. They were a lot more active than we usually see. A couple of times I saw two or three of them surfing a swell as they came completely out of the water. We usually only see common dolphins or pacific white-sided dolphins do this. So that was kind of wild. The Risso’s were also doing a lot of breaching and tail slapping.

A massive Steller Sea Lion hanging out in the Moss Landing Harbor with a young California Sea Lion posting up on his back. Photo: Sack, 04-12-2013

A massive Steller Sea Lion hanging out in the Moss Landing Harbor with a young California Sea Lion posting up on his back. Photo: Sack, 04-12-2013

The water was so clear out there that you could see fleets of dolphins charging at us through the swell, their light bodies appearing bluish-green through the translucent swells. Just breathtaking!

Then on the way in we had a great look at a Northern Fur Seal. I always like to these animals. They aren’t afraid of us and sometimes even will come up to the boat.

To top it all off, the huge Steller sea lion was hauled out on the dock at Moss Landing upon our return. Did I mention the calm comfortable conditions and clear skies (i.e. sunshine)? It was a fine day on the bay!

04-17-2013 Winds & Upwelling = Krill and Whales

Finally after a week of howling winds and high seas we will be back out on the bay tomorrow with calm seas predicted. This past week has been a challenge due to the winds. We had to cancel several trips and the ones we did run were exciting rides, but not so great for wildlife viewing. The trips we ran had only brief views of gray whales and some dolphins, so we issued our “whale checks” for complimentary trips. We want all our passengers to get good looks at the whales and dolphins, so will give you another chance if it’s just too brief a peek. Our mantra is “Wind brings Whales” and we sure hope this proves true tomorrow. The wind drives the upwelling which is essential for the whales’ food – krill to bloom in a big way. Fingers crossed!

04-06-2013: More Breaching Humpbacks, Risso’s Dolphins and Calm Conditions

Breaching humpback whale photographed by Sanctuary passenger Darlene Fong. 04-06-2013.

Breaching humpback whale photographed by Sanctuary passenger Darlene Fong. 04-06-2013.

Feeding humpbacks continue to be a sure thing with plenty of breaching humpbacks to go around. We had a full-size humpback launch completely out of the water two times in a row. Just remarkable. It’s usually the sub-adults that do all the breaching. But today we had a massive, full size adult put on quite a show for us.

Thanks to passengers Darlene Fong and Terri Fox for capturing the humpback breaching moment. They both were given a free trip aboard Sanctuary for their efforts.

Breaching humpback taken by Sanctuary passenger Terri Fox on 04-06-2013.

Breaching humpback taken by Sanctuary passenger Terri Fox on 04-06-2013.

We also heard multiple reports of other breaching humpbacks from other boats in other parts of The Bay.

And the conditions were absolutely beautiful. Calm and glassy with minimal swell. That makes all the difference.

We have light passenger loads all week. Our next trip is this coming Tuesday. So if you want to join us for a day on The Bay with just a handful of other people on board, book a trip and we’ll give you the personal attention that we’re so well known for. Small groups and longer trips. That’s we’re about.

04-05-2013: Humpbacks Continue To Show Up, Northbound Gray Whales and Dolphins

We continue to come across large surface krill blooms as enjoy the feast. Today started out with foggy conditions. Which makes it almost impossible to find anything. But after about 45-minutes of running we started coming across clearing patches. We also had reports of humpbacks out to the southwest so we made a course.

Humpback whale takes a dive. Photo: Sack

Humpback whale takes a dive. Photo: Sack

As soon as we got on the scene, the fog lifted and sunny skies prevailed. We spent just over an hour with a lone feeding humpback. The animal stayed up nicely with very shallow dives good surface time. Then we noticed a few more blows about a mile outside of us and decided to go investigate.

As we got closer, we realized that there were at three northbound gray whales. So that was good for some variety. We tracked them for a while, but they soon were over the canyon ledge and into the deep. The grays seem to get nervous and become more stealthy as they get over the deep water of the Monterey Bay Submarine canyon. They spend more time under water than on the surface. But we did get some great looks and decided to make our way into shallower water as we headed back toward port.

Then we heard reports of dolphins closer in just outside of Moss Landing and made a course. Sure enough, there they were. The unmistakable splashes of dolphins. This was a mixed pod of Pacific White-sided dolphins and Risso’s dolphins. They appeared to be feeding as they were circling the area, splashing and not heading in any particular direction. So that was a nice way to end the trip.

With all this Krill around, we would not be surprised to see the blue whales to start show up anytime now. Historically we don’t see the blues in large numbers until May or June. But this has not been a normal year. We’ve already had some blues in The Bay during February. We’ll keep you posted.

04-01-2013: Rambunctious Humpbacks, Breaching Gray Whale, 20’+ White Shark and Perfect Weather Conditions

It just keeps getting better and better. The conditions were stellar today. It really doesn’t get much better as far as weather goes. Warm sun, glassy water and no swell.

Just as we were heading out of the harbor mouth I spotted our first blow just north of us not far outside the surf line. Very close in. So I started to make our way over in that direction. After a few minutes we saw the blow again. And eased over in that direction when this yearling gray whale unexpectedly breached. Quite a shocker. Then it did it again. Gray whales don’t breach very often here in the Monterey Bay. So that was a pleasant surprise. But they also seem to be very stealthy when they’re in the shallows. So we spent another 15 minutes trying to locate it and then gave up.

Braching Humpback

Here’s a Breaching Humpback photographed by one our captains. Photo: Eric Mailander, 04-01-2013.

We had some early reports of humpbacks a few miles out in front of Moss Landing. So we made a course and were on them in about 20 minutes. Sometimes I like to play around with this audio recording I have of singing humpbacks recorded in Hawaii. So as we got in the area I was hoping the animals would come up to us so that I could play the recordings over the loud speakers.

Sure enough. The pair we were with popped up about 30 yards from the boat. So I played the recording and they started making their way closer. Then one of them suddenly threw a major tail lob. It was probably just coincidental. Because I’ve done it before with no effect. But it was fun to try. They also gave us a couple of nice surface lunges with their mouths wide open.

After about an hour of hanging with these two feeding humpbacks, we decided to do a little exploring. I headed toward the south ledge of the canyon and as we were cruising along the canyon ledge I noticed something just under the water about 30 yards off our right side. So I stopped the boat the see what we had. It was big whatever it was. At first I though it was a “fluke print” of a whale. It looks kind of like a boil or smooth area with currents mixed in. After about a minute, we looked down right next to the boat and here was this light colored outline of a massive shark about 3′-4′ just under the surface. It ran half the length of our 43′ boat. Pretty intense. We really only got a glimpse and then it submerged. Very cool.