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San Diego Whale Watching Season Off to a Great Start

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Gray Whale Report for the 2014-15 Season


Whale Watching Report for December 14- Present

Gray Whale Season on Hornblower Cruises & Events, San Diego, CA 

Date Morning Cruise Afternoon Cruise Notes
1/27/2015 15 Gray Whales Spotted! 7 Gray Whales Spotted! We had a spectacular morning of whale watching. We stayed with a group of 5 for a long time. They gave us a tremendous show, complete with courting/mating behavior, pectoral and tail slaps and a beautiful breach. We saw at least 15 whales and some dolphins too. Fabulous!

In the Afternoon cruise, we had two separate groups of 3 gray whales. The second group included one juvenile.

1/26/2015 10 Gray Whales Spotted! 3 Gray Whales Spotted! The morning cruise was cloudy and light rain, but that didn’t stop us from seeing numerous gray whales! A total of ten gray whales were seen during the cruise, and what a sight to see!

In the afternoon cruise, we sailed out and saw a gray whale in the distance. Later, there was another pair of greys near Point Loma. There were also over a dozen common dolphins and 15 pacific white sided dolphins!

1/25/2015 4 Gray Whales Spotted! 10 Gray Whales Spotted! The weather was warm, and a light breeze was present. Guests saw a pod of four gray whales just 4 miles off Point Loma!

In the afternoon cruise, just 6 miles off Point Loma, there was a pod of 9 gray whales, plus an additional single whale. There were also several white sided dolphins. Wonderful show!

1/24/2015 3 Gray Whales Spotted! 15 Gray Whales Spotted! AM Cruise – We saw 3 southbound adult gray whales close to the boat and happy to fluke. We also had the good fortune of seeing 125 Risso dolphins – the surrounded the boat.


PM Cruise – We saw 8 whales spouting and fluking in Mexican waters where we could not get close. Then we saw 1 whale breaching several times on our 3 o’clock position. The whale turned shy when we got close. We moved on and soon found 6 whales traveling very close together. They came very close to the boat and crossed back and forth in front of us a couple of times – lots of spouting and fluking by all of them. On the way back in we came upon 50 common dolphins right off the tip of Point Loma.

1/23/2015 4 Gray Whales Spotted! 4 Gray Whales Spotted! In the morning cruise, four whales were seen playing together with dolphins, scattered pods of dolphins, about 500 of them! The whales displayed some sideways moves, showing off their flippers.

In the afternoon cruise, there were three to four bottlenose dolphins in the San Diego Harbor. One was identified as “Patches” by photographs taken by guests. There were also sightings of pacific white sided dolphins.  Finally, we saw one adult gray whale, along with a group of three gray whales traveling together exhibiting courting behavior.

1/22/2015 2 Gray Whales Spotted! 5 Gray Whales Spotted! This morning was clear and brisk. In the morning, we saw a pack of white sided dolphins. Later in the cruise, we came across a pair of 2 Gray whales!

In the afternoon cruise, there were a total of five gray whales seen. We also saw almost a hundred white sided dolphins. An overall wonderful experience!

1/21/2015 12 Gray Whales Spotted! 8 Gray Whales Spotted! Great trip! Twelve gray whales, with several in groups of two. Near the end of the trip, we saw a humpback whale which breached twice making for an exciting finish to the day.

In the afternoon cruise, we had one gray whale early on in the trip. Later in the cruise, we found a group of 5 grays. We finished the cruise with another pair of grays near Point Loma.

1/20/2015 6 Gray Whales Spotted! 7 Gray Whales Spotted! The morning cruise was foggy but calm waters, 6 adults sighted. Afternoon cruise still foggy but excellent view of flat ocean. One cow with calf sighted right out of harbor. Lots of naval activity, including 2 subs. 11 adults in pods of three sighted and 4 Pacific White Sided dolphins. Awesome whaling!
1/19/2015 7 Gray Whales Spotted! 12 Gray Whales Spotted! Today was an extra special day out on the water. Even the Captain commented on numerous occasions that it was a “very good show”! We followed one guy for about twenty minutes and he kept fluking almost every breath.

Then we pursued a ‘pod’ of whales which I think was seven.  At least I counted seven spouts in quick succession . . . but they were intermittent and it may have been more.  And when we got closer to those suddenly we were in an enormous pod of what I thought was hundreds of common dolphins.  You could look off the bow and see dozens and dozens of dorsal fins and jumping dolphins to the left and right and ahead.

Lastly, on the way back in, another pod that the captain said we just didn’t have time to go see, was off to our port and as I watched them, I saw over a dozen spouts in quick succession.  They just kept spouting though so I don’t know if there were more or if by the time the last ones took a breath, the first ones were coming up again . . . I watched for about a minute and there were a constant succession of spouts that just kept happening there.  But . . . it was pretty distant.

Good day for marine life.  Quite a few sea lions and, of course, cormorants, gulls, and pelicans.

1/18/2015 8 Gray Whales Spotted! 7 Gray Whales Spotted! AM – Beautiful morning – calm and clear. We spotted whales quickly. We saw 8 gray whales before the cruise was over – 2 of them up close and personal. A good time was had by all.

PM – Beautiful afternoon – slightly warmer, calm and clear. It took a little longer to spot whales but then we were surrounded. We saw. 7 total. There was a lone juvenile and then 5 in a group that split to either side of us – 2 of them came close to the boat so we saw them up close and personal as well. A great ending to a great day.

1/17/2015 5 Gray Whales Spotted! 4 Gray Whales Spotted! This morning was a clear crystal day to go out on the water.  The passengers were excited and ready to go.  Once we just got past PT Loma, here were 2 adult gray whales.  It was exciting to see them so soon once we got into the ocean.  We stayed with them for a while and then moved on to look for some more whales.  And more whales we found.  We had a total of 5 adult whales and one sub adult gray whale all heading south to Mexico.

In the afternoon cruise, we had a lot of passengers in line with lots of questions and ready to board the boat for the afternoon cruise.  It was so beautiful on the water and it felt like summer!  Once we got past PT. Loma we headed north and came across our first whale of the afternoon.  And he showed us some great views of his fluke.  We stayed with him for a while and spotted another gray whale not too far in the distance and watched him for a little bit.  And decided to head out and search for some more gray whales.  And we found some!  We spotted 3 more gray whales!

Today was a great day to be on a boat, out In the ocean, in the sunshine.

1/16/2015 5 Gray Whales Spotted! 2 Gray Whales Spotted! The morning trip was fabulous! Guests saw a total of 5 gray whales and 40 Common Dolphins! We saw lots of tail flukes, and everyone was excited!

In the afternoon cruise, we saw 2 gray whales. There was one that breached right off the bow of the boat! It was a wonderful day!

1/15/2015 4 Gray Whales Spotted! 7 Gray Whales Spotted! Beautiful weather for a morning Whale Watching cruise! Lots of sun and smooth sailing.  In the morning there were 7 whales which we followed.  One of the whales breached 2 times and 2 came close to the bow.  We could clearly hear the breath and had a close up look at the barnacles.

In the afternoon we saw 8 whales with at least three more blows in the distance.  Once again a whale breached 2 times and then as we were leaving it breached once more.  2 whales also came very close on the starboard side giving all the passengers a very good photo opportunity.

1/14/2015 5 Gray Whales Spotted! 4 Gray Whales Spotted! Narration provided by captain and FO, AM trip 5 gray whales and 20 white sided dolphins, pm 4 gray whales and 15 white sided dolphins and a few common dolphins mixed in as well!

Pm trip we spotted a single with its right fluke missing.

1/13/2015 4 Gray Whales Spotted! 4 Gray Whales Spotted! 4 single gray whales in the morning, and 4 singles in the afternoon as well, on both trips we had good swimming whales and got great looks at them. Long periods on the surface real close by shore. An overall great trip! Narration provided by captain.
1/12/2015 3 Gray Whales Spotted! 4 Gray Whales Spotted! The crew saw 3 greys heading South. They thought the whales were very lethargic. The where slow and lazy in their movements.

In the Afternoon cruise, The day was sunny, The wind was blustery, and there were tourist from all over the world.

We saw 3 or 4 single whales slowly migrating south, one wallowing and heading toward shore sometimes…this one seemed to be just “hanging” around. We had 3 bottlenose dolphins riding our bow for about 20 minutes. The later we saw about 10 Pacific White sided Dolphin that visited us as we were returning home.

1/11/2015 5 Gray Whales Spotted! 5 Gray Whales Spotted! This morning’s cruise saw 5 southbound adult gray whales, and no dolphins.

This afternoon’s cruise also saw 5 southbound adult gray whales, as well as about 5 bowriding bottlenose right outside of the bay and about 10 pacific white sided dolphins a little later in the cruise.

The inclement weather did not seem to affect the sightings at all!

1/10/2015 8 Gray Whales Spotted! 10 Gray Whales Spotted! The morning cruise was clam and sunny. Immediately there was a whale spotted which stayed for quite some time. We came across another whale that loved to fluke every time it took a breath. Another whale was speeding along at about 6+ knots but stayed fairly close to the boat. The morning continued with very few minutes without a whale close in site.  In total we saw 8 whales that were all friendly and allowed us to stay with them for long periods of time, displaying lots of flukes.

The afternoon was also met with calm seas. Just outside of the harbor we came across our first whale. We stayed with him/her but decided to find another when a couple more boats arrived. The afternoon continued with a set of two beautiful whales that stayed close enough to hear their exhale.  Another whale, which we thought might be a juvenile fluked at every breath and as soon as we turned away he/she breached two times with a third semi breach. We then a came across a mother and calf. Simply beautiful.

1/9/2015 12 Gray Whales Spotted! 5 Gray Whales Spotted! Gray clouds coming up from Baja California and hardly any swells resulted in a glassy ocean which made spotting the gray whales very easy.  There were 12 whales in the morning with a group of 6 to 8 showing courtship behavior – their rolling around made it hard to be sure just how many there were.  There were 10 Pacific Whitesided dolphins in the morning and 20 common dolphins on the afternoon cruise.  We saw 5 adults whales heading south in the afternoon – everyone had a great opportunity to see and take a picture of the multiple flukes on display.
1/8/2015 14 Gray Whales Spotted! 4 Gray Whales Spotted! The morning cruise saw much action with a total of 14 whales seen! Three breaches were up close and personal. There was also 1 Minke whale spotted and 400 Common Dolphins!

The afternoon saw a total of 4 gray whales, all breaching, and a wonderful sight to see!

1/7/2015 7 Gray Whales Spotted! 11 Gray Whales Spotted! The seas were calm as we departed for the am cruise. There were 4 gray whales close to the boat while there were other blows in the distance. There were a total of 10 common dolphins as well.

In the pm cruise, there were many gray whales seen, some up close while some were farther away. One pair of grays were spyhopping – and guests were taking great pictures of this showing baleen!

1/6/2015 10 Gray Whales Spotted! 12 Gray Whales Spotted! In the morning, we saw ten adult gray whales heading south.  There was possible mating behavior and lots of rolling around.

In the afternoon cruise, there were 12 gray whales spotted on the trip. Lots of flukes to see and there were many whales in the distance. Calm waters and a warm day!

1/5/2015 12 Gray Whales Spotted! 8 Gray Whales Spotted! Wow, what a beautiful morning! The water was calm and the sun was warm. In the morning cruise, guests spotted 5 Bottlenose dolphins and several pods of two, along with single whales, south to the border. There were also 12 White side dolphins by the buoy. Later, we saw a pod of 5 whales just three miles from the boat.

In the afternoon cruise, there were pods of two whales in the west. There were also 60 Common dolphins. What a great sight to see!

1/4/2015 5 Gray Whales Spotted! 15 Gray Whales Spotted! Today was a beautiful day with a cool breeze. In the morning cruise, just two miles off Point Loma, guests spotted a pod of three singles that merged into a triple.  Great show with lots of flukes!

In the afternoon cruise, three miles from the boat, there was a quad pod totaling 15 gray whales! It was a successful trip by far, and guests were very pleased!

1/3/2015 6 Gray Whales Spotted! 5 Gray Whales Spotted! This Morning was a beautiful day out on the water.  The seas were calm, and the sunshine felt good on our faces.  And the passengers were ready to see some whales.  And we were in for a treat!  We saw 4 adult gray whales.  And then we saw 2 different pairs of cows/calfs.  One pair was really too close to the boat, with the calf just a few days old.  It was exciting!  We also saw about 12 Bottlenose dolphins and 30 common dolphins.

We had a nice big crowd ready to board the boat and go out and see some whales! We saw one single gray whale just a couple of miles off the tip of PT. Loma, and stayed with him for awhile, he showed us some nice flukes.  Then we saw about 100 common dolphins, then another single gray whale.  As we headed back to port, just about a mile or two from shore we saw three gray whales together and they gave us a great show, close to the boat.  Then a fourth whale joined the group, and then here came a fifth whale.  What a fantastic end to a great day!!

1/2/2015 8 Gray Whales Spotted! 1 Gray Whale Spotted! During the morning cruise, gray whales didn’t seem to mind the cold weather as whale spouts were spotted in all directions. A count of 10 gray whales was agreed on, and the captain made sure the guests had some close glimpses of several different whales. On the trip back, many common dolphins came to swim by the boat.

During the pm trip, because the weather was warmer and the day was beautiful, there were many other boats out, including one submarine. Whales were more difficult to spot however, but determined Captain Eric found a gray to delight the guests. Guests today ranged from Spain, Sweden, Denmark, Czechoslovakia,Germany, Minnesota, Ohio, and Michigan.

1/1/2015 9 Gray Whales Spotted! Amazing day on the water. We first spotted a single whale and then a group of 3 whales. We stayed with the trio of whales for quite some time. We then spotted a group of 6 whales.  By the time we got closer to the group, 3 of the whales had left.  We observed the 3 whales until it was time to head back to the bay. The whales showed us beautiful flukes and blows; close enough for the passengers to hear the sound!  We also saw a minimum of 8-12 additional blows in the distance.
12/31/2014 4 Gray Whales Spotted! 3 Gray Whales Spotted! In the morning there were 4 gray whales and 6 Pacific White sided dolphins.  Seas were much calmer than indicated online.

In the afternoon there were 2 separate pairs of grays. One trio with 2 adults and 1 juvenile.  Lots of flukes and great views of the whales.  Weather was much calmer and more clear than we expected.  Saw common dolphins just before getting back into the bay.

12/30/2014 8 Gray Whales Spotted! 3 Gray Whales Spotted! During the morning cruise, it proved to be a cold, windy, and gray day that turned out the most amazing gray whale sightings! While there were sightings of 8 gray whales, Hornblower guests that ranged from Nebraska, Missouri, Ohio, Japan, Finland and Russia got a treat when Captain Nick brought the boat alongside four gray whales, one of which decided to put on a show, probably for the other whales, but the guests delighted in it as well. He breached about 4 times, showing his head and flippers, and also displayed lunges, spyhops and pectoral slaps. As the whales made their way to Mexico, Captain Nick had to head the boat back to San Diego, right in time to see common dolphins diving alongside the boat.

The weather on the afternoon cruise also proved to be gray with occasional rain and large ocean swells. Captain Nick used his skills to drive through the swells and find 5 gray whales, who were slowly making their way to Mexico. The guests saw some amazing tail flukes before the boat had to make its way back to San Diego port.

12/29/2014 8 Gray Whales Spotted! 11 Gray Whales Spotted! Morning trip had 190 guests.  We saw 8 gray whales, we saw one humpback whale and 200 common dolphins.  Multiple tail flukes and guests had a blast.  PM trip saw 11 gray whales and 200 common dolphins.  Guests were treated to a great day of whale watching!
12/28/2014 1 Gray Whale Spotted! 2 Gray Whales Spotted! Both Cruises were a great show with lots of flukes! In the morning, 2 miles out, there was a single gray whale, along with over 50 Common Dolphins! In the afternoon, 3 miles off PT Loma, were a pair of 2 Gray Whales. Guests were very pleased!
12/27/2014 8 Gray Whales Spotted! 7 Gray Whales Spotted! What a beautiful, clear morning.

Saw 2 groups of 2 gray whales.  And we saw 1 group of 3 gray whales.  And another gray whale a little while later.  With a total of 8 gray whales!  We also saw 10 Common

Dolphins.In the PM we had a huge crowd of over 260 passengers ready to go out and see some whales. We only had to go a couple of miles out in the ocean from the tip of PT. Loma and we spotted our first gray whale of the afternoon.  Much to the delight of the crowd, this whale was proud to show us his fluke several times!  We ended up seeing 7 gray whales by the end of the day.  And as we headed back to the dock, to our surprise, just outside the tip of PT. Loma, a gray whale popped up about 10 feet from our boat!  It was fantastic!  Yes, this was a great day on the water.

12/26/2014 15 Gray Whales Spotted! 5 Gray Whales Spotted! What a great day on the ocean for whale watching! The morning cruise saw 15 whales and the afternoon cruise saw 5…some really good views of our beloved greys!
12/25/2014 7 Gray Whales Spotted! Cruise Cancelled Today the seas were choppy, 10 – 12 feet at times, however the whales were out! Saw 7 of them, 6 close ones so that we heard them spout. We saw several flukes without deep dives and some curiosity on their part, not spooked by the boat. All of them looked to be adults heading south. We saw 2 of them lunge out of the water.

The passengers were happy with the sightings. Afternoon boat was canceled.

12/24/2014 2 Gray Whales Spotted! 4 Gray Whales Spotted! Guests had a great day out there today, an awesome way to spend Christmas Eve.  All in all, guests saw 2 grey whales, (1 lunge  fluking), 20 Pacific white sided dolphins, 200 Common dolphins playing with the boats, and 7-9 boobies Birds. In the afternoon cruise, there were 4 great whales with several others in the distance.  One of our whales we dubbed “Sir Flukes-a-lot”.  Saw a couple of White sided dolphins that rode the bow and also a large “nursery” pod of common dolphins with LOTS of really small babies, some as small as 2 feet in length.
12/23/2014 20 Gray Whales Spotted! 6 Gray Whales Spotted! Today, there was very little swell. The weather was clear and nice. The morning excursion was thrilling with seeing whales everywhere! There were pods of 2,3, and several of 4.  Guest also witnessed a White Side Dolphin and one Harbor Seal in the Bay.Gorgeous day and calm seas.  Guests were treated to a pair of active whales right off the bat

We stayed with them enjoying their spouts and flukes until too many boats stirred Captain Rich to leave allowing them some peace.

We headed north where we encountered 2 juvenile’s heading slowly south and then moved on to find 2 more adults.

The day was topped off by the visit of a bottlenose dolphin who stayed with us for all to see.

12/22/2014 2 Gray Whales Spotted! 5 Gray Whales Spotted! The weather was clear all day. The morning trip consisted of seeing 2 grey whales.  In the afternoon trip, guests saw 5 gray whales, along with one White Sided Dolphin.
12/21/2014 1 Whale Spotted! This morning’s cruise saw us get up close and personal with a juvenile whale. We spotted him/her off the kelp beds and followed him south for about 1.5 hours. He fluked many times and was very comfortable with our boat and another whale watching boat. Seas were calm with 3′ swells. Very relaxing cruise. Not much else aside from sea birds; cormorants, pelicans and sea gulls. Lots of sea lions.
12/20/2014 4 Gray Whales Spotted! 4 Gray Whales & 20 Common Dolphins Spotted! On the morning cruise we had wonderful calm seas.  We saw 4 gray whales, and we saw some flukes.  But the big surprise, we saw two breaches!!



On the afternoon cruise we left shore with passengers ready to see some whales. And we did not disappoint.  Just past Point Loma we saw about 20 common dolphins which got everyone excited.  Then about 5 miles out, we saw quite a show.  We saw a total of 4 gray whales heading south.  3 whales stayed very close to us.  And they truly entertained us with their flukes!  They kept diving and showing their flukes over and over again.  Everybody got great photos and had great smiles on their faces.  It was a great day on the water!

12/19/2014 2 Gray Whales Spotted! Glad to see two gray whales! The storm passed by in the morning but there was still a lot of swells and wind.   We still spotted the two grays headed toward the Los Coronados islands.  There were passengers from Texas, Arizona and two groups from Europe who still had a great time.


12/18/2014 2 Gray Whales & 30+ Common Dolphins Spotted! 3 Gray Whales & 80 Common Dolphins Spotted! The seas were calm and the weather was warm. In the morning cruise, there were 2 gray whales we spotted, plus a pod of common dolphins.




In the afternoon trip, we saw 3 gray whales and were very interactive with us! We also encountered a huge pod of common dolphins. Gorgeous weather, and an overall wonderful experience!



12/17/2014 Cruise Cancelled 3 Gray Whales & 15 Common Dolphins Spotted! The Afternoon cruise was a bit chilly, but worth the trip.  Passengers spotted 3 gray whales and 15 common dolphins. Good views!
12/16/2014 Cruise Cancelled 3 Gray Whales & 15 Common Dolphins Spotted! The Afternoon cruise was a bit chilly, but worth the trip.  Passengers spotted 3 gray whales and 15 common dolphins. Good views!
12/15/2014 Cruise Cancelled 2 Gray Whales & Dolphins Spotted! High Storm Swells
12/14/2014 Cruise Cancelled Cruise Cancelled High Storm Swells


*If whales are not sighted during your cruise you will receive a “whale check” good for another Hornblower Whale and Dolphin Watching Adventure or Harbor Cruise

Scientists Track Gray Whale Migration From Big Sur Bluffs After 7 Year Hiatus

Taken from “A Winter’s Watch: Scientists Track Whale Migration From Big Sur Bluffs” from the Montery Herald website

The census in 2011 estimated the current population to be about 21,000, a number that’s been relatively stable for the past 10 years.

“This year, we want to see a stable population or one that’s slightly increasing,” Weller said.

That would be good news for whale watchers, too. Richard Ternullo, the owner of Monterey Bay Whale Watch, said business has been solid so far this season.

“The weather’s been good, so people have been out,” Ternullo said. “It seems like a pretty normal migration in terms of the number. Maybe it was a little bit early as far as when we started seeing the migrants.”

Detecting shifts in when the whales start arriving — and especially when the peak number goes by — is a secondary goal of the census.

“Every given year it might shift a little bit forward, or a little backward,” Weller said.

Whale biologists are also interested in whether the declining levels of Arctic sea ice will affect migration patterns.

“The receding ice is not necessarily a negative thing in the gray whale case,” Weller said.

That’s because it opens up new habitats, and no one is sure what effects this will have on gray whale behavior. But the biggest mystery is still why the whales migrate at all.

“Some people believe they migrate away from areas where calves are in danger,” Weller said, adding that this is his favored explanation.

Another explanation holds that the demands of giving birth require the whale moms to be in warmer waters for energetic reasons. These questions will require many future studies to decide.

For now, this year’s count is still up in the air.

“We won’t really know until the whole thing is over,” Weller said


Taken in part from this article:

Whales to the left, Whales to the right!

Amazing whale watching cruise this morning!

Hornblower friend and regular cruiser, Mike Roeder, provided the below photos and comments –

“We got on a group of 8 or so whales and we rode alongside them for 2 hours. What a day!
Add in a breach, courting, dolphins, sea lions and tons of birds.
As this lady (below) said “Wednesday I was in Michigan in 17° cold shoveling the driveway and today videoing whales with my phone –      yahoo!”
If you couldn’t get a photo of flukes today you were blind or your camera was broken. Maybe 50 flukes or more?”

San Diego is Top Whale Watching Destination

Now that the gray whales have arrived en masse off the San Diego coastline, Joseph Terzi, President and CEO of the San Diego Tourism Authority believes the time has come for America’s finest city to claim its rightful ranking as the world’s #1 destination for whale watching.

“Eco-tourism has become an increasingly more important component of San Diego’s economy,” Terzi said. Our region’s vibrant, year ‘round whale watching tours are a driving force. No other whale-watching venue can match the diversity of whale and dolphin species that our visitors can encounter throughout the year — against the backdrop of our spectacular geography and world famous climate. So I believe it’s high time that San Diego claims its title as the world’s best whale watching destination.”

Every year over 20,000 gray whales make a 10,000 mile round-trip journey from Alaska to the lagoons of Baja California where the females give birth to their calves. They spend a few months in the warm waters of Baja so their young are able to grow strong enough to begin the long journey back to Alaska in the Spring. It is the longest known distance any mammal migrates on an annual basis. With 70 miles of coastline directly in the migration path, San Diego is an ideal destination to see this impressive parade of gentle giants.

What most people may not realize, however, is that gray whales are only one of the several different species of whales that frequent the waters off the San Diego shores. Local whale watchers frequently encounter blue whales, finback whales, minke whales, humpback whales, and occasionally even killer whales (orcas) at different times throughout the year.