Friday, July 20 , 2018, 4:00 pm | Fair 75º

 
 
 
 

Local News

Original Condor Comes to the Rescue to Resume Whale-Watching Tours

The vessel will fill in starting Sunday for the next six to eight weeks while the fire-damaged Condor Express undergoes repairs

(Don Barthelmess video)

The original Condor vessel has answered a captain’s distress calls and will be returning to the Santa Barbara Harbor this weekend to take over whale-watching tours while its younger counterpart, the Condor Express, undergoes repairs after last Saturday’s fire.

The longer, narrower vessel will resume the Condor Express tour schedule beginning at 9 a.m. Sunday for the next six to eight weeks, said Capt. Mat Curto, operations manager for the Condor Express.

“It’s the original Condor coming to save the day,” Curto told Noozhawk on Wednesday.

The Condor has come to the rescue after the wheelhouse of the passenger-less Condor Express vessel caught fire last Saturday afternoon while docked at Sea Landing in the Santa Barbara Harbor.

There were no injuries in the fire, which was knocked down completely within 10 minutes.

Condor Express representatives later said the cause of the fire was “electrical” in nature.

Condor Cruises is facing a $500,000 price tag to have its sole boat repaired in a Ventura boat yard, where the 75-foot vessel was towed Tuesday, Curto said.

That’s when Curto started making calls to try to borrow a boat to resume tours in the interim.

The Condor Express gets towed Tuesday out of the Santa Barbara Harbor to a boat yard in Ventura. The vessel faces $500,000 in repairs after a fire last Saturday. (Don Barthelmess photo)
The Condor Express gets towed Tuesday out of the Santa Barbara Harbor to a boat yard in Ventura. The vessel faces $500,000 in repairs after a fire last Saturday. (Don Barthelmess photo)

The Condor was the original tour vessel built in 1979 by Capt. Fred Benko, a longtime fixture of the Santa Barbara waterfront and founder of Sea Landing and Condor Cruises. Benko died last Thursday at age 73.

Benko sold the Condor with the launch of the Condor Express in 2002 to Scott “Captain Tuna” Miesel, who has been using the vessel as a fishing boat in San Diego.

Miesel agreed to help keep tours going until the Condor Express is ready to return to the sea.

The Condor will arrive in the Santa Barbara Harbor sometime Saturday afternoon with a slightly different look than most remember — instead of being white with blue trim it’s now blue with white trim, Curto said.

“We want to offer whale watching to Santa Barbara,” Curto said. “(Meisel will) be on the boat with us. I’m pretty stoked.”

Noozhawk staff writer Gina Potthoff can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

The Condor, the original tour vessel built in 1979 by Capt. Fred Benko, will resume the Condor Express whale-watching tour schedule on Sunday. Benko sold the Condor in 2002 to Scott “Captain Tuna” Miesel, who has been using the vessel as a fishing boat. (Condor Express photo)
The Condor, the original tour vessel built in 1979 by Capt. Fred Benko, will resume the Condor Express whale-watching tour schedule on Sunday. Benko sold the Condor in 2002 to Scott “Captain Tuna” Miesel, who has been using the vessel as a fishing boat. (Condor Express photo)

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