Friday, June 22 , 2018, 8:12 am | Fog/Mist 60º


Captain’s Log: Catch the Top of the Gray Whale Migration Season

Local bluffs serve as great vantage points for watching the whales go by

It’s the season to take to the sea. Besides the recently opened fishing season (groundfish opener was Tuesday), we are at the top of the gray whale migration season.

These kindly behemoths are in the middle of a mighty long swim from the frigid waters of the northern seas to the balmy lagoons of Baja California and other wonderful vacation spots. They could use a friendly cheer.

Tens of thousands travel great distances to gather in a warm climate where the party life is delightful. They are on their way down the coast now and are doing the cetacean version of putting on the party hats. These are social animals and are known to play with people as well as with one another.

You can plan an adventurous trip to Baja for a close-up view of large numbers of whales in cozy lagoons, yet it is plenty satisfying to take a break from work or from the house and head to our local bluffs to watch them go by.

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. The cliff spots where surfers park can be good. 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 cheering.

For a local adventure outing, a number of good expeditions await. One way 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. Yet boat options are wonderful because you can get within a reasonable distance — although it is important to give whales a respectable amount of space and never cut across their course ahead of 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-watching boats (such as the Double Dolphin or Condor Express) operating out of the Santa Barbara Harbor. For a more custom private adventure, charter a boat (WaveWalker Charters) for just your group.

There are plenty of whales close along the mainland coast, often just outside of the kelp beds. Many whales round Point Conception and shoot the gaps between the Channel Islands, making for a great opportunity for a combo trip to see the islands, watch whales and maybe even catch some fish for dinner.

— 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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