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Wednesday, January 16 , 2019, 9:33 pm | Overcast 60º


Captain’s Log: Channel Proves Picture-Perfect for Camera Buffs

Views of dolphins and whales provide plenty of fodder for a click-happy pod of photographers

“We want whales,” was the request from a group of five charter passengers armed with a truckload of camera gear. Make that an 18-wheeler kinda truckload. And I thought fisherfolk brought a lot of gear. Pshaw — they’re light packers compared with serious camera buffs!

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

These folks had the good stuff — 18-inch Canon and Nikon cameras with big, heavy batteries and bodies capable of prolonged rapid-fire photography. Each unit weighed six to eight pounds, and each person packed a carrying case chock full of varied lenses, camera bodies and batteries.

Looking about, I couldn’t help but notice a lack of jackets, food and drinks. I asked about all of that. The terse reply was, “Don’t care about being cold. Didn’t come to eat.” Alrighty then. I gave them the boat safety orientation, cast off, cruised out of the harbor, and with a determined set of my jaw, spun the bow of the WaveWalker to a south by southwest heading.

The Channel was calm and comfortable for the first half of the journey toward the islands, but grew windy and bumpy as we progressed. I was current on the latest observations from the NOAA weather buoys so I knew it was not going to get worse. We slowed for the final few miles so we could cruise steadily enough to search for critters.

The first critters we saw were common dolphins — hundreds of them. We turned the boat to parallel them, and soon they were racing in to play on the bow wave and stern wakes. The photographers went to work and limbered up their trigger fingers with a thousand frames of jumping and splashing dolphins. Then off we went in search of bigger game.

The next critters we saw were bigger — Risso’s dolphin. While not as playful as the common dolphins, the Risso’s are bigger and more purposeful in their concerted movements. We stayed with them long enough to photograph them hunting, feeding and cruising. Then off again we went in search of taller spouts.

As we approached the gap between Santa Cruz and Santa Rosa islands, we were in light fog and low, thick marine layer. Way off in the distance I could see tall spouts periodically, but no one else could yet see them — except for Capt. Tiffany, my trusted deckhand.

As we neared, cheers went up as the camera wielders finally spotted their first whale about 200 yards off the starboard bow. As we cruised in that direction and stopped better than a respectful hundred yards away, another spout erupted off our port beam. We shut down the engines and drifted.

We could hear whales surface and exhale with a mighty blast. Before long, whales came closer on their own volition while continuing their feeding activities. During the next two hours, I heard those big cameras blaze like gatling guns as the hooting and hollering photographers went through cavernous storage space on memory cards.

I’m guessing there were 5,000 photos taken that very successful day. Back at the harbor, the smiling camera buffs thanked us heartily and tipped us very well. Then they raced off to download their booty onto their PCs.

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

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