Captain’s Log: The whales and dolphins of summer | Outside


It is a wonderful local blessing to have so many whales to watch. With the summer blues, we like to see Humpback whales, which are even more show-offs by nature than the blues. Humpies will break much more often than blues and are generally a bit friendlier.

Every now and then a blue whale will become curious and friendly and socialize on a boat full of happy whale watchers. It’s like they know we want to say hello! They could come up to the boat and roll around halfway to look at us in a friendly manner.

Every once in a while a blue whale hangs around a boat for 10 or 15 minutes and somehow adopts everyone on board, which makes us feel very special.

I count my blessings as I remember all the encounters I had the chance to experience, while taking people on my charter boat to see these magnificent beasts. Most sightings are beaks and backs as they surface during travel, take a few breaths, then glide below the surface for several minutes and sometimes much longer.

They often hesitate after their last big breath, putting that huge cock in the air for a photo moment.

Once, while we were in the middle of the channel, we slowed down my charter boat to observe a cheerful humpback whale that was repeatedly breaching. I think he had an itch, as he swam the 100 yards or so up to us and gently rubbed his back against the hull of the boat. It was a little scary, but the creature was gentle.

Afterward, the humpback whale stuck its head out of the water to look at us and it opened its mouth so wide it must have been a contented yawn.

There we also see dolphins. Not just a few, but hundreds and sometimes even thousands. It takes my breath away to look through the water and see half a mile of water spurt out from jumping dolphins. For each one above the water, there are about 10 more below the surface.

Thankfully I admit dolphins are my personal favorite creatures, and I think they know it, considering how they scurry around to play on the bow waves and stern wake of my boat.

Dolphins are present all year round. The whales will be around until the end of summer, so it is high time to get out there and take advantage of this whale of an opportunity.

We are fortunate to have a variety of whale watching boats available. Landing at sea / Truth Aquatics runs the Condor Express. Santa Barbara Sailing Center leads the double dolphin. Private rental boats are sometimes available in the harbor. It’s good to have options.

– Captain David Bacon operates WaveWalker Charters and is president of SOFTIN inc., a non-profit organization providing boating opportunities to those in need. Visit to find out more about the organization and how you can help. Click here to read the previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

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