The eastern portion of the Santa Barbara Channel has enjoyed some fabulous whale watching this year.
We had a grand parade of Grays during the late fall, winter and early spring and now we have Humpbacks and Fin Whales.
We had anchored for lunch at Fagans Lunch yesterday, when we spotted three spouts about a mile south of Anacapa Island. We finished hurriedly and got our anchor up and headed SSE. On the way to the rendezvous, we were rewarded with a number of flukes, though no breaches.
We remained outside 100 yards, killed the engine and sailed parallel to the animal to the south. We think it was our old friend Stubby, who we haven’t seen since the fall of ’08. We’re not 100% it was Stubby and we argued back and forth as to whether this was a Fin Whale or a Humpback. The picture, BTW, is the best one from ’08. Yesterdays pics were taken with a fairly wide angle lens and don’t show much.
We’re 99% sure this was a Fin Whale as it didn’t show much of its body as it swam, nor did it ever show its fluke. We didn’t get close enough to examine its jaw for the two tone coloration that distinguishes this whale. But the fin, that seemed like a giveaway.
A word about Sail Channel Islands whale watching: While we thoroughly enjoy sailing in company with whales, we don’t make it a practice to go after them. Whale watching with us is a passive pursuit, i.e. the whales usually come to us and keep a curious eye on us.
Apparently no one was interested in sailing yesterday, the seas near Channel Islands Harbor were empty. Except for the Wiley crew. And we were very interested by the winds, building seas and record speeds.
My new friends Patti and Vinnie were aboard for an anniversary celebration. Vinnie is a long-time sailor but hasn’t had many opportunities to sail in the past decade or so and was hoping for a challenging run, “rail buried, that’s what I want to see.”
Based on the forecast, that didn’t seem likely; but wishing will sometimes make it so and we headed out into about 12 knots of wind. That’s plenty for a fun day on Wiley, but there was more, as the advertisers say … much more.
We shot out to Anacapa in a bit over an hour and a half.
Vinnie hadn’t sailed in quite a while and was very eager to get his hands on the helm. When the wind filled the sail passing the breakwater, a world-class smile arced across his face. You’d never have known he’d been away from the sport for any time as we shot out towards Gina, Vinnie in total control of the boat and Patti totally unconcerned about the weather or Vinnie’s lack of recent sailing experience.
We hove-to in the lee of Anacapa for a short break and then headed back, completing the run in 81 minutes. We were never under 7 knots and saw 20 minutes or so over 9. Maneuvering, though not surfing, down the front of a big swell we hit 10.1. That’s a non-spinnaker record aboard Wiley.
We didn’t need to reef on the way out and being on a beam reach on the way back were able to keep full sail in play.
It was warm, bright and simply gorgeous. I think this day will live in all our memories.