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Today’s Gray Whales Swim Right Up to the Hornblower Boat

San Diego Whale Watching Report for 3/17:

What a glorious day on the water!  The luck of the Irish was with us today for both cruises:  AM:  About 6 miles out, saw one fin whale but it quickly disappeared. The 3 grays heading north – one breached and two cris-crossed the bow of ship several times for close views. Saw about 40 common dolphins coming back into harbor.

PM:  About 7 miles out, saw 4 grays in groups.  Lots of rolling and pectoral fins, indicating mating behavior.  Lots of bottlenose and common dolphins all around the whales.  Three broke off and sped ahead and we stayed and watched the single whale stay on top of water, rolling, spy hopping for about 30 minutes very close to the boat.  Unbelievable sight – one 7 year whaler said she had never seen this previously. About 200 common dolphins and 100 bottlenose dolphins. Report from Kathy Eure, San Diego Natural History Museum Whaler.

From the book, One Thousand Whales in a Year, by Mike Roeder with his partner Scotty Schmidt ride the Hornblower Whale Watching cruise almost daily  ….”They (gray whales) appear as a sparkling, splashing presence that can be seen miles away. Once the boat draws near, they usually approach to play with the boat. Sometimes they are in traveling mode and pay no attention at all. Other times they are feeding and won’t play. But most of the time they swim with the the boat and we really enjoy watching them. From the bow of the Hornblower boat, we look directly downward to see them swimming effortlessly, they are being propelled by water shoved aside by the bow.”  For more 1kin1yr.com
DSC01690 DSC01691 DSC01692 DSC01693 DSC01694 DSC01695 DSC01696 DSC01697 DSC01698 DSC01699Photos by Mike Roeder, Co-Author of the book: 1000 Whales in a Year.

 

 

San Diego Whale Watching Report for 2/27 – 3/5

San Diego Whale Report 2014 Season
February 27 – March 5

Date

Morning Cruise

Afternoon Cruise

Notes

3/05/2014

3 gray whales

1 finback whale, 2 juvenile gray whales

 

 AM:  We saw 3 amazing northbound gray whales preparing to mate.  Everyone was very excited.

PM:  We saw one finback whale up close as well as 2 juvenile gray whales.

3/04/2014

9 gray whales, 6 pacific white sided dolphin

3 gray whales, 6 bottlenose whale

 AM:  We saw 6 gray whales in a group. We soon after came across 3 individual gray whales and one breached 4 times!

PM:  It had been a clear sunny day for both cruises.  We saw 3 gray whales with erratic behavior, diving after one blows, reappearing in zig-zag fashion.  There were also a few sea lions and dolphins out and about.

3/03/2014

1,000-2,000 common dolphin, risso’s dolphin, 7 gray whales and 3 calf’s

4 finback whales, 2 gray whales

 AM:  It was a clear beautiful day on the Pacific Ocean this morning.  It was a little choppy and windy as Captain Bill headed the Adventure out to the 9 mile bank, but it didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of finding a mega-pod of 1,000 to 2,000 common dolphins about six miles out.  There were many mother/calf pairs, and a report of some risso’s dolphin in the mix.  We think we saw blows of Fin whales, because when we got to where we saw the blows there were no whales.  We did finally find a very elusive north bound gray before we had to head back in.

PM:  Was a little choppier and windier making it more difficult to spot blows,  but this time the Fin whales were a little more cooperative.  One of the four we saw put on spectacular show as it swam near us showing off its tall blow and huge back from blowhole to dorsal fin as it came to the surface five separate times.  As we neared SD1 on our return we spotted a south bound grey, and a few minutes later a north bound grey showed up.

3/02/2014

Whale Watching canceled due to weather

3/01/2014

Whale Watching canceled due to weather

2/28/2014

4 gray whales, 1 juvenile

3 gray whales, 2 juvenile

Another great day on San Diego Bay!  Even with the expected bad weather approaching us.

2/27/2014

9 adult gray whales, 1 juvenile and 2 calf’s

3 adult gray whales, 3 juveniles, 3 sea lions, 4 common dolphin

 AM:  Went to mile bank to spot whales and observed a larger group of gray whales that were all north bound.  It was a group of 9 adults, 2 calf and cow/mom pairs, and one juvenile.  We were able to follow this group and observe for quite some time and see one breach!

PM:  We again headed out to nine mile bank and cruised north.  We were able to get fairly close to the two adults and soon saw another single adult fairly close by.  On the way in we saw a juvenile at the one mile buoy area and a couple smaller spouts.  We did see 3 random sea lions roaming around.  One was about 8 miles out which is pretty far off shore for a sea lion.  We also saw two pairs of common dolphins at about 4 miles.

Mega Pods of Common Dolphins Sighted on San Diego Whale Watching Cruise on Hornblower

A report from San Diego Natural History Museum (theNat) Trained Docent and Whaler Ken Shelby from 3/3/14

After 3 days of San Diego’s epic  winter storm, ” it was a clear beautiful day on the Pacific Ocean this morning.  It was a little choppy and windy as Captain Bill headed theAdventure out to the 9 mile bank, but it didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of finding a mega-pod of 1,000 to 2,000 common dolphins about six miles out.  There were many mother/calf pairs, and a report of one Risso’s dolphin in the mix.  We think we saw blows of Fin whales, because when we got to were we saw the blows there were no whales.  We did finally find a very elusive north bound Gray before we had to head back in.

The afternoon cruise was a little choppier and windier making it more difficult to spot blows,  but this time the Fin whales were a little more cooperative.  One of the four we saw put on spectacular show as it swam near us showing off it’s tall blow and huge back from blowhole to dorsal fin as it came to the surface five separate times.  As we neared SD1 on our return we spotted a south bound gray, and a few minutes later a north bound gray showed up.”

More about the Common Dolphin. Photos by Captain Joe Dutra

IMG_6686 JTD_2244

Photos by Captain Joe Dutra.JTD_2324 JTD_2333

Mom Tested: Whale Watching

 

Mom Tested: Whale watching

Is a whale watching adventure with children all it’s cracked up to be?

By Nina Garin

U-T San Diego Photo

U-T San Diego Photo

Whale watching is one of San Diego’s more popular winter activities.

Every year, as the mammals make their way south to Baja, they can be easily spotted just a few miles off the coast. And with so many companies offering tours, you can really get up close to the whales and other sea animals as they swim by.

This certainly sounds like a fantastic activity to do with children — you’ve got a boat ride, they’re learning about sea life and you get several uninterrupted hours of quality family time.

But is it really so fantastic?

Along with the adventure, there’s plenty of potential for disaster, including seasickness and overwhelming boredom.

So in this month’s installment of Mom-Tested, Mom-Approved we go on a 3½-hour Hornblower tour to find out if whale watching is actually all it’s cracked up to be.

Hornblower Cruises Whale Watching Tour

When: 9:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. daily through March 31; 9:30 a.m. April 1 to 27. (April dates may change depending on ocean activity.)

Where: Navy Pier, 970 North Harbor Drive, Embarcadero

Tickets: $37 to $40, with children discounts available

Telephone: (888) 467-6256

Online: hornblower.com

THE DETAILS

Hornblower, as well as many other companies, offers trips that average about $40 per person (kids sometimes ride for half price). The season began in December with whales headed south, and continues through mid-April with the mammals heading back north. Rebecca Milkey, a spokeswoman for Hornblower Cruises, said there’s been a lot of activity this season, with plenty of grays, humpbacks and dolphins spotted almost daily.

PREPARATION

The key to a successful whale-watching trip is to be as prepared as possible. This means pre-ordering your tickets for minimal line waiting, having cash handy for parking and snacks, checking weather conditions to know how many sweaters and jackets you’ll inevitably end up carrying, and stocking up on Dramamine.

You can also temper expectations by checking sandiegowhalewatching.com, a blog that gives detailed accounts of what’s spotted in the ocean each day.

Tip: Read the Dramamine label! The anti-nausea medicine can make you drowsy; even the non-drowsy formula.

Gray whales, seen surfacing off the coast of San Diego, can usually be spotted from December through mid April. u-t file photos

ARRIVAL

While you may be tempted to find metered parking along the Embarcadero, it’s worth the $10 to park in the USS Midway Museum parking lot. It’s an easy walk, mostly away from heavy traffic, to the ticket booth and the boat. And it really pays off when you disembark and want nothing more than to be close to your car.

People begin lining up 30 to 45 minutes before the scheduled boarding time, which translates into a lot of chatty children looking to make new friends.

Meltdown probability: Low to medium — the preboarding excitement helps keep everyone calm.

Rating: 4 out of 5 happy faces

CHOOSING YOUR SPOT

Most people want to sit on the ship’s top, outdoor level. There are plenty of benches and tables there, but on a busy day not everyone will get to sit in that prime location. There are some outdoor spots on the second level, too, but the remaining seats are indoors. Don’t be too disappointed if that’s where you end up, as it’s a long trip and most people move around the boat anyway.

Meltdown probability: Low to medium

Rating: 4 out of 5 happy faces

THE BOAT RIDE

It takes about 30 minutes to get out of the bay and into the ocean, and that’s an easy ride that takes you by various local landmarks, including the Cabrillo National Monument. Once the boat reaches the Pacific, things get more choppy and the boat slows down as it tries to pinpoint whale activity.

The ship’s captain does a good job of explaining what’s going on, and there are really friendly volunteers from the San Diego Natural History Museum on board to talk about whale migration or share fun facts.

Still, the novelty of being on a boat ride eventually wears off, so it’s a good idea to bring crayons, paper, a book or even toys as a distraction. (Unless you’re OK with walking a toddler back and forth for hours, or hearing “I’m bored” a million times.)

Tip: Put your cellphone on airplane mode as the ship may cross into Mexico and you’ll get hit with roaming charges.

Meltdown probability: High. It’s going to happen sometime on the trip. Accept it.

Rating: 3 out of 5 happy faces

SNACKS

The top deck of the boat has a snack stand where you can find sodas, candy bars, crackers, sandwiches and salads that range from $1 to $15. There’s also a full bar. Lots of passengers opt to bring their own food, and there are indoor tables on the second level that still offer a full view of the ocean.

Meltdown probability: Medium to high, especially if children spot all those candy options.

Rating: 4 out of 5 happy faces

SPOTTING WHALES

It’s very likely that along the way to finding gray or humpback whales, you’ll run into dolphins. On this particular trip, there were hundreds of them playfully swimming and leaping close to the ship, captivating everyone.

Whales move a lot more slowly and are much harder to spot. And when you finally do see one, you’re either looking at a spout of water or, if you’re lucky, a tail. While adults can appreciate the rarity and excitement of being so close to wild animals, children just want more playful dolphins.

Even though most kids are ready to move on after one or two spottings, the boat stays out for at least another hour.

Meltdown probability: Medium, depending on ocean activity.

Rating: 4 out of 5 happy faces

THE RIDE BACK

It’s feels like it takes forever. The Dramamine drowsy period’s probably kicking in. Everyone is sick of each other. Good thing the Natural History Museum volunteers have a short presentation to take the edge off.

Meltdown probability: Inevitable

Rating: 1 out of 5 happy faces

OVERALL

Even though there’s a lot of waiting and whining, it truly is exciting to see whales up close. Spotting whales takes patience, silence and concentration but the experience (and the investment) is definitely worth it for older elementary school kids to teens. Those with younger families may want to seek out a shorter, 90-minute excursion or wait a few years.

Rating: 4 out of 5 happy faces

San Diego Whale Watching Report for 2/20-2/26

San Diego Whale Report 2014 Season

Date

Morning Cruise

Afternoon Cruise

Notes

2/26/2014

6 gray whales, 40 common dolphin and pacific white sided dolphin

 

5 gray whales, 20 common dolphin around the bay

 

AM:  The morning crew saw 6 northbound gray whales including a mother and calf.  Pacific white-sided dolphins were also seen on the morning cruise and all within 2-3 miles of land.

PM:  The afternoon cruise was just as exciting and we had many passengers who had escaped the “polar vortex” that continues to grip the northern parts of the U.S.  The sun shined brightly on the guests from Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois Michigan, Wisconsin and also Germany and Belgium.  We saw both north and south bound whales in the afternoon and the southbound whales showed us a breach, some spy-hopping and even some “courtship” behavior.  The two northbound whales were on the move to get back to the feeding grounds.  The stop at the bait docks gave passengers views of the sea lions, egrets, cormorants and brown pelicans.  Captain Nick and crew led us back home to the dock and we all had a nice relaxing day on the water.  Calm seas and sunshine.  We are truly blessed.

2/25/2014

 12 gray whales and 100 common dolphin

Pod of 7 gray whales

AM: 12 gray whales and 100 common dolphin

PM:  We had a pod of 7 wonderful huge gray whales coming from Mexico.  We noticed blows in the distance and got close enough to hear them breathe for our entire time out at the 9 mile bank.  Seeing 7 gray whales together, spouting and sometimes fluking, one after another is an exciting sight.  We see large numbers like this much more often on the North-bound migration, which now has definitely started.
They gave us a spectacular showing!

2/24/2014

2 gray whales

3 gray whales, 100 common dolphin

AM:  2 gray whales seen today.  The first was shy, zig-zagging all over heading south.  The second was comfortable with the boat staying near the surface, snorkeling and heading south as well.            .

PM:  A beautiful calm day with fluffy clouds.  A group of at least 30 common dolphins greeted us on the way out to an awesome mating of two gray whales surrounded by 50 bottlenose dolphins which we could clearly hear breathing.

2/23/2014

6 gray whales, 75 common dolphin and pacific white sided dolphin

3 gray whales, 200 common dolphin

Both trips were successful with many whales and many dolphins. We saw some great shows!

2/22/2014

One pair of gray whales, 20 common dolphin

 

5 gray whales

AM:  There were 2 gray whales that swam in all directions.  They appeared to be mating part of the time.  We saw many blows and some tail flukes as they seemed to be swimming in circles.  We also saw about 10 common dolphins that stopped by for a quick play in the bow and stern waves.  The water was calm and everyone enjoyed their views of the whales.

PM:  We came across 5 gray whales that were mating. Lots of great views.  Passengers were very excited.

2/21/2014

2 gray whales, 20 pacific white sided dolphin, 20 common dolphin

6 gray whales, 30 pacific white sided dolphin

AM:  We saw a nice pair of southbound gray whales and later on in the cruise a pair of northbound juveniles.

PM:  We saw 3 pairs of gray whales during this cruise

2/20/2014

No sightings

4 gray whales, 20 common dolphin

AM:  Large swells, no sightings of whales.  Returned to dock early. 

PM:  Great sightings of 2 adults and 2 calves, about 20 common dolphins.