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A Whale Watching Trip…Without Whales (Photos)

We set out yesterday on an adventure. The plan was to head out, on my in-law’s boat, into the Santa Barbara channel in the hopes of seeing some of the whales that have been making their way through our area recently. According to reports from one of the local commercial whale watching fleets, there have been many, many whales spotted in the area in the past few weeks.

We have been lucky enough over the years to have a few very successful whale/marine mammal watching excursions. Dolphins are usually a sure bet, and sea lions are guaranteed. On one trip in 2008 we saw several different groups of humpback whales that each gave us a pretty impressive show*. Not long after, we were surrounded by a pod of several hundred dolphins. The water, as far as we could see, was practically alive with dolphins. It was incredible. But even if it’s not hundreds of dolphins, seeing a smaller pod is always fun and exciting.

Sadly, our trip yesterday was a bust in the whale watching department (although the professional whale watching boat saw 20 humpbacks!). Luckily, though, we were able to spend the morning with good friends, and even a whale and dolphin-less boat trip is still a fun event.

You can check out the photos from yesterday’s trip below, and if you weren’t able to make it out on the water this weekend, you can live vicariously through us!


  • The Tree 1 of 16
    The Tree
    Not as famous as the giant anchor that also marks the entrance to the Harbor, this tree was particularly welcoming today.
  • The View from Here 2 of 16
    The View from Here
    I loved the light that the early morning sun was shining on all of the boats.
  • Close Encounters of the Pelican Kind 3 of 16
    Close Encounters of the Pelican Kind
    This guy decided to make a catch right in front of us. We missed his approach, and the thud he made when he hit the water, and subsequent splash, startled us.
  • Pelican in Flight 4 of 16
    Pelican in Flight
    Dylan grabbed the camera to get a shot of the pelican as he flew away
  • Reflections 5 of 16
    Reflections
    Another photo by Dylan, this one of the of the boat reflections on the water.
  • Getting Ready to Launch 6 of 16
    Getting Ready to Launch
    As Dylan said, he got "a perfect" shot of the boat as it was about to go into the water.
  • Brother or Bird? 7 of 16
    Brother or Bird?
    I'm 99% sure Dylan as trying to get a shot of the bird, but ended up with a photo of his brother instead.
  • The Big Boat 8 of 16
    The Big Boat
    The boys were impressed with the size of the (successful) whale watching boat.
    Photo by Dylan
  • Looking Back 9 of 16
    Looking Back
    As we cruised out of the Harbor, something behind us caught their attention.
  • What Lies Ahead 10 of 16
    What Lies Ahead
    But then they were quick to look in front of us and take in the unique view of our pier, called Stearns Wharf.
  • Places, Everyone 11 of 16
    Places, Everyone
    As we hit open water, and prepared to pick up speed, they took their places on the bow of the boat.
  • Sea Lions! 12 of 16
    Sea Lions!
    There are two buoys just outside the Harbor that are always chock full of sea lions. It certainly doesn't look comfortable, but they often fight for spots up there.
  • NOAA Weather Buoy 13 of 16
    NOAA Weather Buoy
    On our many trips out in the channel, we have never seen the weather buoy before. The children were unimpressed.
  • Giant Freighter 14 of 16
    Giant Freighter
    Not a whale, but everyone thought it was pretty cool to see a giant freighter make its way through the shipping lanes. We were very sure to keep a wide berth.
  • Kayakers 15 of 16
    Kayakers
    On our way back into the Harbor, we had to weave our way through the many kayakers who had made their way onto the water while we were gone.
  • Back to Reality 16 of 16
    Back to Reality
    And ready to do it again...soon!

*The humpback whale video is bound to make you seasick if you are prone to that sort of thing. Proceed with caution!

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