Tuesday, May 22 , 2018, 8:17 pm | Fair 59º


Captain’s Log: Whales Cruise the Island Gaps

Just before the fishing regulations changed at the end of the month, I had a charter group out fishing at Santa Rosa Island for the plentiful red snapper.

We were drift fishing about a half-mile outside of the unnecessary Marine Protected Area at Carrington Point when cheers rang out from all aboard.

A pod of gray whales came up for air a short distance off our starboard beam. They took several deep breaths, then presented their flukes as they dove well beneath the surface and continued their trek southward. That made our day.

We have been seeing large numbers of these gentle giants as they shoot the gaps between the islands on their way down the coast.

They are in the middle of a mighty long annual swim from the frigid waters of the northern seas to the balmy lagoons of Baja California and other warm water spots. They could use a friendly cheer along their way.

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 the southbound 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.

Do you want to make an adventure out of it? A number of good expedition opportunities await your 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.

Boat options are fun because you can get within a reasonable distance, though it is 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 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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