Posts tagged "gray whale"

Dana Point Gray Whale Watching from a Kayak

September 23rd, 2014 Posted by Local Events, News, Uncategorized, whale watching 0 comments on “Dana Point Gray Whale Watching from a Kayak”

California Gray Whales are amazing creatures. They spend their summers chowing down in Alaskan seas then travel to Baja California to party and have kids in the winter, then travel back to Alaska in the spring. Subsequently, a large number of them pass within kayaking distance of Dana Point Harbor in the late fall through late spring.

The Gray Whale migration has three periods: southbound (late November to late January), early northbound (late January to early April), late northbound (mid April to late May).

During the southbound and early northbound periods, the Gray Whales are looking to get to their destination. The Grays pass outside the kelp beds northwest of the Dana Point headlands. They pass close to the San Juan Rock whistle buoy, then they head offshore, passing close to A Mark on their way south. They follow roughly the same path (just in opposite directions) on the way north.

Look for the Gray Whale’s spout and or their back and tail. They are kind of stealthy as they swim underwater for a couple minutes, then surface for three or four breaths. On the last breath, they often raise there tail out of the water (fluke). After the fluke, they will stay underwater for a couple more minutes. I can usually keep up with two or three of these cycles (3.5 to 4 knots). Gray Whales will also breach, come out of the water and fall sideways, or “spy hop”, come straight out of the water. This is thought to allow the whale to look around for landmarks. They do this a lot around the Dana Point Headland.

The following track has gotten me close to the most Grays during the southbound and early northbound periods. Start at the Dana Point Harbor entrance. Head 210 degrees magnetic to A Mark, approximately one mile offshore. At A Mark, turn right to 330 degrees magnetic. This will take you a couple hundred yards outside the San Juan Rock buoy (about one and a half miles). At the buoy take a slight right turn to 310 degrees magnetic and follow a line a couple hundred yards outside the kelp beds. Continue as far as you feel comfortable (the Ritz Carlton Hotel is about one mile from the buoy, Three Arch Bay is about two miles from the buoy) then turn around and follow the path back to the San Juan Rock buoy. When you get to the buoy, turn toward the mouth of the harbor and head in. This will give you the maximum benefit of going with the swells and wind for the final leg. About eighty percent of the Gray Whales I’ve seen have been within a couple hundred yards of this track.

During the late northbound period, the mother whales (cows) are taking their time with the newborn babies (calves). They swim in pairs and, often, in groups with other cow/calf pairs. They swim much closer to shore and occasionally stop to nurse and, it’s thought, show the calves landmarks that they will use to navigate on their future migrations. It is believed that the Dana Point headland is one of these navigation landmarks. That is why they often breach and or “spy hop” at the point.

The following track has provided lots of good viewing of northbound cows and calves. (Remember don’t get so close that you are harassing the whales.) Start at the mouth of Dana Point Harbor. Head to the green harbor entry buoy, about 1/4 mile to the west of the entry. Follow a line parallel to the harbor jetty, heading toward San Juan Rock. When you start to come across kelp attached to the bottom, you have a choice: 1. Go right and pass by San Juan Rock on it’s left or right, then continue past the Dana Point headland and stay inside the kelp beds as you go up the coast; 2. Go left around the kelp bed and pass close to the San Juan Rock whistle buoy, stay close to the outside of the kelp beds as you continue up the coast.

Often, I will be fishing just outside the kelp beds at the San Juan Rock buoy and the cow/calf groups will pass right by. So the alternative to searching for the northbound Grays is to just go to the buoy and sit. Eventually the whales will come to you. Watch for the whale watching boats and you should be able to tell when the whales are coming your way. If you find yourself directly in the path of a nearby whale, do nothing. The whales know you are there and will either avoid you themselves, or even come by to check you out. If you move you could disturb them more than if you just sit still. Remember, don’t harass the whales.

Note: Back in the commercial whaling days, Gray Whales were known as “Devil Fish” because the cows would so fiercely defend their calves. Now a days it actually seems like the cows want the calves to interact with humans. I’ve had two encounters when, I didn’t see them coming, and the calves swam right under me with the cow near by. Wow!


Whale off our coast tangled in net

July 29th, 2014 Posted by Local Events, News, Uncategorized 0 comments on “Whale off our coast tangled in net”

We have been notifying customers about this situation for the last couple of days. We hope that the whale is quickly located and proper aid can be given. Contact Captain Dave of Dolphin Safari if you happen to see anything on the water in the days to come. You can call them at (949)488-2828.

Dear Dolphin Safari Friends,


If you live in Orange  or San Diego counties we are hoping that you can help us. On Thursday, this small gray whale (about 12 to 20-feet in length) was seen from the Ocean Beach pier heading north. Later that day, about 4 miles away another report come in that a small gray whale approached two surfers (possibly to get help?) and lifted their boards out of the water, rubbing itself against their boards and feet.  The two surfers were thrilled with the close encounter, but noted on Facebook that ‘one bummer was that the whale might be dragging something behind it’.  Other observers have said it has a line near its head and that its only 12 to 15 feet in length.

The whale was seen several times that day, always close to shore and by people on the beach. Because much of the coastline has reefs, rocks, and dense kelp beds, a search by boat will be very problematic.

So we are asking you, our dolphin and whale fans, to keep a sharp eye out for this distressed whale. If you are at the beach, then please look for it.  It may be moving very slowly.  The surfers initially thought it was a rock, and that was from just twenty feet away.

Three disentanglement teams are standing by.  If you see the whale please call the Large Whale Disentanglement Hotline  24/7 at (877) SOS-WHALE (767-9425) or hail the U.S. Coast Guard on VHF CH-16.  We have several trips out today, but as you know, our vessels cannot get that close to shore, so Capt. Dave & I will be out on our inflatable looking. If you see something, you can also call us at 949 488-2828.

We thank you for your help and prayers for this whale.

Warm regards,

Capt. Dave & Gisele

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