Thursday, April 26 , 2018, 7:26 pm | Fair 58º


Captain’s Log: Waving In Gray Whales

The annual migration of the gentle giants has begun

The sighting of a gray whale seems to turn us all into cheerleaders. It’s one of those fist-in-the-air, Snoopy dance kinda moments. We can’t help it.

Capt. David Bacon
Capt. David Bacon (Ramona Lisa McFadyen photo)

Sure, I’ve seen thousands of them, but I still act like an excited kid and wave them in. May it always be so!

Get ready to cheer because the annual migration of these gentle giants has begun. We have been seeing good numbers of these whales as they shoot the gaps between the islands on their way down the coast to party in the lagoons of Baja. There, they are in the middle of a mighty long annual swim from the frigid waters of the northern seas to balmy Baja lagoons and other warm water spots. They could use a friendly cheer along their way, and sometimes I think they are happy to see us.

Not all gray whales round Point Conception and head for the gaps between the islands. Some prefer to hug the coast and offer us great whale-watching opportunities even from shore.

We are fortunate to have a number of good shoreside viewing areas. The vista turnout on southbound Highway 101 near the campgrounds up the coast is one good place. Shoreline Park is a great place to watch for whales, and the bluffs of Summerland can offer good vantage points. Bring a picnic basket and plan to spend a few hours waiting, watching and then cheering.

Make an adventure out of it. A number of expedition opportunities await your phone call. One great option is to rent or charter a plane or helicopter and take a flight along the coast. The view is great from the air because so much more of a whale is visible than when viewing from a boat. Plus, you can scan and fly over a very wide area, perhaps including both the mainland and the Channel Islands.

Boat options are fun because you can get within a reasonable distance — although it’s important to give whales a respectable amount of space and never cut across them. Private boaters can launch out of the harbor or use the pier hoists at Goleta and Gaviota when they are open. Most folks buy a ticket and go aboard one of the open-party whale-watch boats operating out of the Santa Barbara Harbor. For a more custom private adventure, charter a boat for just your group.

— Capt. David Bacon operates WaveWalker Charters and is president of SOFTIN Inc., a nonprofit organization providing seafaring opportunities for those in need. Visit to learn more about the organization and how you can help.

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