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.

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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!

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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

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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

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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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09-16-2016: More Killer Whale Action in Front of Moss, Humpback Whales and Risso’s Dolphins

Monterey Bay Killer Whale “Fat Fin” on the prowl just outside of Moss Landing. Photo: Chase Dekker, sanctuarycruises.com 09-14-2016

We are definitely settling into our Fall weather pattern. Warm and sunny with calm, smooth ocean conditions. All day long. And then there are animals. They seem to be coming closer to Moss Landing. At least that was the case this week. Including killer whales on several trips.

Monterey Bay Risso's Dolphin This Risso’s dolphin repeatedly did these head slaps. Photo: Chase Dekker, sanctuarycruises.com 09-14-2016

The humpbacks have still been scattered. But there have been a handful within a few miles of Moss Landing on some trips. Other trips they’ve been a little further out.

Monterey Bay Risso's Dolphin Monterey Bay Risso’s dolphin. Photo: Chase Dekker, 09-14-2016

We have been seeing some occasional humpback surface lunging on anchovies. But the anchovies have also been scattered and not very dense. It’s nice to be out there photographing when it’s so calm. We’ll probably be doing some photo-tours coming up soon.

Peregrine Sailing Monterey Bay The mighty Peregrine under full sail. Join us for a sail sometime. We are now offering sailing tours. Only six passengers at a time. Silently gliding along in comfort. It’s a whole different experience. Call Captain Mike at (831) 239-5504 to book a trip or for more information. Photo: Chase Dekker, sanctuarycruises.com 09-15-2016

Let’s go sailing! We’re now offering naturalist led sailing tours aboard our luxury sailboat. She’s a 48′ Mariner ketch. She is a well-founded and well-equipped world cruising sailboat. Ask about our “Follow the Migration” tours coming up in October. This tour will take you on a multi-day journey departing from the Moss Landing Harbor to Santa Cruz Island off of Santa Barbara. Then to Santa Barbara for a relaxing coastal train ride back up to the Salinas train station and then ground transportation back to Moss Landing. This is tour is for the  serious marine life adventurer. Also offering weekend tours from Channel Islands Harbor to Santa Cruz Island. Or just book a two hour tour out of Moss Landing.

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09-15-16 Orcas hunting right outside Moss Landing Harbor today

These past two days have been magical out here on Monterey Bay for wildlife sightings. Yesterday we had hundreds of active Risso’s Dolphins surrounding the boat for most of the trip, humpback whales and a lone male Orca cruising along on calm, still waters with sunshine. Today we found a few humpbacks within a couple miles of Moss Landing, and then spotted a whole pod of Orcas hunting. They led us right back to Moss Landing where they hunting about for hours, giving really nice viewing and a close swim by to finish the day. The humpback breaching next to the boat really made a grand finale to an awesome day of sunshine and whales aboard Sanctuary Cruises!

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09-11-2016: Humpbacks Starting to Move Closer to Moss Landing, Anchovies Start to Show Up

Moss Landing Killer Whales Orcas on the prowl. Photo: Chase Dekker, sanctuarycruises.com 09-06-2016.

We’re well into our Fall weather pattern. The conditions have been generally good. We’ve still been having some overcast days, so that’s not so great. But the marine conditions have been calm and great for getting out on The Bay. So that’s always nice.

Monterey Bay Humpback Whale A humpback whale shows us it’s tail fluke. Photo: Chase Dekker, sanctuarycruises.com 09-10-2016.

We’ve also had great orca sightings over the last week or so. The humpbacks have been going strong. There have also been blue whales and fin whales further out.

Monterey Bay blue-shark Friendly blue shark hangs at the surface next to the boat. Photo: Chase Dekker, sanctuarycruises.com 09-10-2016.

More anchovies have showed up just outside of the Moss Landing Harbor. I’ve been seeing a lot of surface feeding action going on just outside off the beach. Birds, sea lions, harbor seals.

Monterey Bay Humpback Whale More humpback whale tail-fluking. Photo: Chase Dekker, sanctuarycruises.com 09-08-2016

So hopefully the humpbacks will join in on the action as we get more into the Fall season.

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07-07-2016: More Killer Whales Show Up, Humpbacks Close to Moss Landing

Moss Landing Killer Whales Killer whales on the prowl. Photo: Chase Dekker, sanctuarycruises.com 07-07-2016.

Monterey Bay Killer Whales After giving us a close swim by, this orca threw up it tail and slapped it on the water before going under. Photo: Chase Dekker, 07-07-2016

The action continued today on our 09:00 AM trip. We came across a few humpbacks in the first 30 minutes. So that was nice. We had some nice tail fluke looks before we heard a report of orcas about five miles from our location. So we made a course and we’re on the scene within about 45 minutes. We pretty well stuck with these animals for the rest of the trip.

Monterey Bay Killer Whales Female killer whale cruising with the pod. Photo: Chase Dekker, sanctuarycruises.com 07-07-2016.

At one point we had all seven killer whales do a swim by about three feet off our port side. It’s incredible to see these animals so close in the wild. They seemed to be looking at us as they swam by. Amazing encounter.

Monterey Bay Killer Whales There were about 6-7 animals in this group. Photo: Chase Dekker, sanctuarycruises.com 07-07-2016

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07-06-2016: Summer Action Heats up Two Miles Outside of Moss Landing

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Moss Landing Humpback Whale Breach

This was one of two humpback whales that were repeatedly breaching. Photo: Chase Dekker, sanctuarycruises.com 07-06-2016.

It’s been hit or miss over the last few weeks. We’ve also been hit by strong afternoon winds. So we’ve had to cancel a lot of afternoon trips. But it looks like all the wind and upwelling is starting to pay off. After a slow start to the late Spring and early Summer, the action really kicked into overdrive today.

Moss Landing Humpback Whale

We call this a chin slap. Photo: Chase Dekker, sanctuarycruises.com 07-06-2016

I’ve mainly been working on the sailboat over the last few weeks, so I haven’t been getting out as much. We’ve had captain JJ running. So I haven’t been able to update the Captain’s Log for awhile. But I’m back now and plan on updating daily.

Moss Landing Common Dolphins

These common dolphins were out of there as soon as they realized there was an orca around. Photo: Chase Dekker, sanctuarycryuises.com 07-06-2016

Excellent day today. We were on long-beaked common dolphins within about 10-15 minutes. Conditions were nice early on. That’s why we’ve pushed most of our 10:30 AM trips up to 09:00 AM. It gives us a better calm weather window to get out further if we need to. Because lately, we’ve needed to.

Moss Landing Killer Whale

“Fat Fin” the killer whale on the prowl. Photo: Chase Dekker, sanctuarycruises.com 07-06-2016.

But today was a big change up. About 15-minutes after we left the common dolphins we saw some splashing on the horizon and what looked like a buoy. But we kept looking at the same area. We kept seeing something coming up and going down.

But it was bigger than a dorsal fin and smaller than lunge-feeding humpback. Our photographer / naturalist Chase thought it was an orca and I thought it was lunge-feeding humpback. Turns out Chase was right. I think it was spy hopping when we saw it in the distance.

As we got closer we were clearly on a single, large male orca. We’ve seen this animal before. It’s been frequenting the Monterey Bay over the last few days. We call him “fat fin” on account of the very wide base of his fin where it rises from it’s saddle.

We were as excited as can be. And it was staying up nicely and traveling slowly toward Moss Landing. And we knew there were dolphins in the area. So things were looking interesting.

Sure enough. This single male orca was making it’s way toward a small group of unsuspecting long-beaked common dolphins. Apparently it’s hard for a single male orca to take a common dolphin. We know he tried because these common dolphins took off in a high-speed stampede. But the orca didn’t seem to have been able to get any of them.

As we were tracking the orca, we came across a couple of humpbacks that were closer in to Moss Landing. So it’s feeling like the good ole days of last year. Close in cetaceans. After a while we had some reports of at least three more humpbacks another mile or two to the south. So we made a course for that location. It wasn’t long before this massive, full-size humpback whale launched itself completely out of the water just off our starboard forward quarter.

Then another one launched. Then they both launched. Very spectacular. Hopefully we’re just getting started and action will continue. I’ll let you know tomorrow.

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05-29-2016: The Blue Whale Bonanza Continues, More Humpbacks Move in, Reports of Orcas to the South

Monterey Bay Blue Whale

The massive tail fluke of the blue whale can be almost 20′ wide. Photo: Chase Dekker, sanctuarycruises.com.

What a difference a year makes. We definitely have had a change up in the cycle happening this year. The ocean life and the animals we find here can change or cycle out from year to year.

Moss Landing Humpback Whale

This humpback decided to throw itself completely out of the water. This is one of the more spectacular things we see out there. Photo: Chase Dekker, sanctuarycruises.com

For example this year, we have had many storms and wind events followed by all day long sun for weeks at a time. These storms and wind events are what drives the productivity in our local system.  Particularly the massive krill swarms. We didn’t have a lot krill in The Bay last year.

Monterey Bay Blue Whale

Another blue whale tail fluke. Photo: Chase Dekker, sanctuarycruises.com

We also had a very mild Winter and Spring last year. Last year it was all about the anchovies. It was a full-on feeding frenzy with all the animals often feeding on surface anchovies right in the same area. Birds squacking and diving, sea lions yelping and whales blowing and popping their big heads out of the water as they do a vertical surface lunge.

Monterey Bay Blue Whale

Here we see a pair of blue whales on the prowl. Photo: Bob Western, sanctuarycruises.com

Well that was last year. This year there are very few anchovies to be found. The whales seem to be feeding mostly on krill. That little shrimp-like crustacean. Krill is thought to be the main prey item for the mighty blue whale.

Monterey Bay Elephant Seal

This was a very young elephant seal. This one was not much bigger than about three or four feet. Photo: Michael Sack, sanctuarycruises.com

The massive abundance of krill close to mouth of the Monterey Bay is what is bringing a large number of blue whales here. We’ve been seeing at least 20+ blue whales in an area about 2-miles in diameter. At times it seems like there are more than that. It’s hard to count them when they start popping up all around. It’s truly a spectacular experience.

Monterey Bay Big Blue Whales

The blue whales are the  largest animals to have ever roamed the earth. The largest blue whale ever recorded was 110′ long. That was down in Antarctica. Most of the blue whales we see here in the Monterey Bay are likely in the 80′-90′ range on the upper end. We’ve also been seeing more humpbacks moving in. Humpbacks are more versatile in what they eat. They eat krill and small schooling fish like anchovies, sardines and small herring.

Monterey Bay Mola Mola

The only thing that isn’t that great is that the big show is about eight to nine miles from port. So we have to run for just under an hour before we get to big show. We have been coming across the random humpback or two as we make our course for where the blue whales have been. They’ve been in the same area for the last week or so. Hopefully they’ll stay. Or maybe even more will show up. We never know. Early July used to be our best time for blue whales. So they did show up a little early. So we’ll go with it.

Monterey Bay Blue Whale

A nice look at a blue whale tail fluke. Photo: Bob Western, sanctuarycruises.com

We did have to discontinue our two hour trips for now because the whales have been further out and two hours has not been long enough for a proper whale watching excursion if we want to see the blue whales. At least we don’t have to come as far as the boats coming from Monterey. They have to come more like 15 miles or more. Hopefully everything will start to move closer to Moss Landing. But in the meantime, we’re loving the incredible blue whale action.

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05-23-2016: It’s All About the Blue Whales Today, Humpbacks Going Strong

Monterey Bay Blue Whale

This is a massive blue whale. Photo: Chase Dekker, sanctuarycruises.com 05-23-2016.

Today we had blue whales in the Pajaro Hole. That’s straight northwest of the Moss Landing Harbor. We came across a few full-size animals. Had to be 80′ long. Nice conditions and scattered humpbacks most of the trip.

Monterey Bay Blue Whale

Blue whale tail fluke. They don’t always show us their tail fluke. So this was nice to see. :Photo: Chase Dekker, sanctuarycruises.com 05-23-2016

There is a lot krill in the Monterey Bay right now feeding this massive influx of baleen whales arriving from their winter migration.

Monterey Bay Blue Whale

More blue whale tail fluke antics. Photo: Chase Dekker, sanctuarycruises.com 05-23-2016

Blue whales, humpback whales, fin whales are species we are likely to see when we have these massive krill swarms throughout the Monterey Bay. We also heard reports of more blue whales and killer whales further out.

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05-22-2016: Blue Whales Show up In Large Numbers Throughout The Bay, Humpback Whales, Reports of Orcas, Dolphins

Monterey Bay Blue Whale

A blue whale goes down for a dive. A full-sized blue whale’s tail fluke can be 20-feet wide.

The weather has been a challenge over the last week or so. Between the thick fog and heavy winds, it hasn’t been all fun and games. But we’ve managed to find whales and dolphins on days that we’ve been able run.

Moss Landing Gray Whale

This gray whale was photographed from the beach right out in front of the Moss Landing Harbor. Photo: Bob Western.

The blue whales are in the Monterey Bay in numbers that we’ve haven’t seen for a few years.

Moss Landing Puffin

Here is an excellent look at a Tufted Puffin. Photo: Chase Dekker, sanctuarycruises.com

We’ve been able to do most of our morning trips. But even some of the early morning trips have been canceled because of wind and steep swell.

Monterey Bay Risso's Dophin

Here a Risso’s dolphin breaches. Photo: Chase Dekker, sanctuarycruises.com

For the most part we are pretty well into what we would consider a normal Spring weather cycle. That is, somewhat calm conditions in the morning and rough windy conditions in the afternoon.

Moss Landing Sea Lion

Moss Landing sea lion feeds on a nice sized salmon. Photo: Bob Western.

But this windy weather is why we have blue whales in The Bay right now. Blue whales mainly feed on krill. All the wind we’ve been having has been good for productivity and has spawned some massive krill blooms.

Monterey Bay Common Dolphin Calf

Here’s a common dolphin calf trying to keep up with it’s mother. Photo: Bob Western

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05-07-2016: Blue Whales, Humpbacks, Common Dolphin and More

Lunge Feeding Humpback Whale

We’ve been seeing a lot of this sideways lunge-feeding by the humpbacks. They seem to use this technique more often when they are feeding on krill. :Photo: Michael Sack

The Spring action is on. In fact, we’re starting to regularly see blue whales and fin whales now. Usually more of a Summer species. So we’re off to a great start. We are starting to see massive swarms of krill. More than we’ve seen in at least a few years. That’s also why we are starting to see more and more blue whales and fin whales.

Moss Landing Killer Whales

It’s like I always say, the family that eats together, stays together. Photo: Michael Sack.

We had two massive, easy watching blues feeding in the same area as a couple of humpbacks. We had some nice looks at these massive animals. Thought to be the largest animal that has ever roamed the earth. Second only to the fin whale.

Moss Landing Humpback Whale

We’ve also been seeing a lot of breaching. I think they’re all jacked up on krill. Photo: Michael Sack

And their main prey item is the abundant krill we have in the Monterey Bay. At least that is the case this year. Last year we had very little krill. This is mainly due to the wind patterns. We just didn’t get the strong northwesterly winds we normally get in the Spring.

Moss Landing Minke Whale

We even had a few good looks at a Minke whale earlier in the week. Photo: Michael Sack.

This year we seem to be in what might be considered a normal cycle. That is heavy northwesterly winds for days and all day sun. That’s what drives our productivity in The Bay.

Moss Landing Sea Lion

This sea lion nabbed what looks like some kind of eel. Photo: Michael Sack.

We’re also getting regular sightings of killer whales and expect this to continue into June. We heard reports of killer whales today, but they were about 18 miles out when we heard about them during the second part of our trip. Just. That’s almost a two hour run for us. Looks like the Spring action is in full-swing.

Moss Landing Krill

This is a small krill “ball”. Photo: Michael Sack

Moss Landing Humpback Whale

A young humpback does what we call a “tail-lob”. This one was doing this repeatedly for about 30-minutes. Photo: Michael Sack

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