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Tuesday, March 19 , 2019, 1:38 am | Fair 53º


Captain’s Log: Flipped-Out Sea Lions Rocket Past Fishing Boat

Classic predator-prey scenario plays out as shark presence is palpable.

When you've spent a lifetime immersed in the food chain, it’s pretty obvious whether a critter is moving from something or toward something.

Sea lions hang out in the sun off the Santa Barbara coast. Click to view larger
Sea lions hang out in the sun off the Santa Barbara coast. (Capt. David Bacon / Noozhawk photo)

My charter passengers and I had a near-encounter with sea lions about a half-mile off East Beach that left us with little doubt what was up.

We were moving between fishing spots in search of a better grade of fish when we saw what at first looked like a fast-moving pod of dolphins.

Those critters can turn on the afterburners when they wish. After watching at a distance for just a few seconds, I could tell this was a group of sea lions moving so fast it seemed like they must have a string of firecrackers tied to their flippers.

Their path intersected ours and as they came close they were suddenly surprised by us, as evidenced by their abrupt veering and saucer-like eyes of surprise.

But those eyes had more in them than surprise. They held terror and they didn’t let our boat slow them for even a second as they blasted below and past us like greased lightning, jetting completely out of the water and re-entering only long enough to propel and launch themselves as fast as they could.

It was as if the water was boiling hot and they wanted out of it.

My passengers looked at me and one asked where the sea lions were going in such a blaze of speed. I told them, “Those critters are not racing to something. They are racing from something with terror in their eyes.”

Everyone said it in unison: “Shark!”

We didn’t see the “landlord,” but I knew it was around today — always wary and looking for a feeding opportunity.

One young passenger asked if it was safe for us to be out there.

I smiled and said, “You’re on top of the food chain, as long as you stay in the boat. If we see that shark, then we can decide if we’re going to need a bigger boat!”

— 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. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

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