A Whale Watch Report

San Diego BLUE Whale Watching 2014 Season

Hornblower Cruises & Events San Diego Whale Watching

blue whale size

July 6, 2014 – August 31, 2014


 # of Blue Whales Spotted

Additional Sightings

 News and Notes

 8/31/14 3 Blue Whales Spotted!  500 Common Dolphins   AM whale watch had 197 guests and we saw 3 blue whales and 500 common dolphins. It was a great way to finish off the inaugural blue whale season.
8/30/14  4 Blue Whales spotted! 40 Common Dolphins  The day was beautiful.  We had cloud cover on the way out so it was not too hot.  In fact it was a perfect comfortable cruise out about 5 miles.  We saw 4 blue whales. One came up literally about 15 feet from our boat! The were feeding it seemed… the were very calm and stayed near the surface. A pod of 40 common dolphin came and rode the wake from the boat. We also saw some 50 jellyfish.


(Blue “By-the-wind sailor” jellyfish, otherwise known by their scientific name Velella velella, have been washing up on West Coast beaches.  Scientists say in the billions—over the last two months, with sightings reported as far north as Oregon and far south as here is San Diego.)

The tourists were from all over the world include some salty sailors that were from the Tall Ships Festival here is San Diego this weekend. – Mike Stewart


4 Blue Whales Spotted!

 150 Common Dolphins

Great day, one blue just swam and swam alongside of us for over 15 min.  Not a bit afraid, great day.  We saw four different blues and probably 150 dolphins, The Captain did a great job!

(Courtesy of Terry Baird)

 8/23/14  4 Blue Whales Spotted!  150 Common Dolphins Saw 4-Blue whales in feeding mood.  Great views, one of them came very close to the boat while we were drifting!  Great show of common dolphins, 3 separate groups 50-150, lots of babies.  A lot of bird life and tons of bait/feed.
 8/17/14  4 Blue Whales Spotted!  1,000 Common Dolphins  Many of the buoys on the way out of the harbor were covered with sea lines, a tease of what was to come.  Sea birds could be seen in large numbers indicating the waters were full of fish.  Just three miles out  we spotted our first blow.  Then another.  Two blue whales close together.  Captain Nick did a great job approaching the two without making them nervous so we were able to stay with them for some time and get some great pictures of the giants.  More spouts could be seen in the distance so we moved further out encountering a small group of 25 common dolphins.  As we continued we encountered another pod of 60 common dolphins but no whales.   As sometimes happens, the whales had moved on.  We did too.  We turned around and returned to the original two whales and encountered two more blues on the way.  Then  the passengers were treated to a wondrous sight – a pod of at least 1,000 common dolphins, some with young.  Our vessel was soon surrounded by the dolphins delighting the children and adults alike.  In their midst was a sea lion jumping through the water chasing fish.  Four blues and 1,000+ dolphins made for a perfect day.(Courtesy of Pam Garcia)
 8/16/14  6 Blue Whales Spotted!  50+ Common Dolphins  Today was a wonderful and clear day.  In total, there were 6 blue whales that were close to the boat and over 50 common dolphins swimming alongside. Guests were thrilled with the sights! The narration along with the friendly staff made it a day to remember.
  8/10/14   8-10 Blue Whales Spotted!  1,000 Common Dolphins   It was a great day on Sunday. In my 5 years as a whaler I haven’t seen anything like what we saw today. We got into a group of about 8-10 blue whales.  They stayed in a group for over an hour.  They were feeding on krill and sardines.  Lunge feeding and rolling over to swallow there food.

Nick needs a bonus for saving fuel.  He put the boat in neutral and just drifted for about 45 minutes.  There was a dozen fishing boats in the area and the whales were having a feeding fest.
Felt sorry for some of the fishermen in small boats (the red one was maybe 20′ if they were lucky.)  After one of the whales came within ten feet they left.
There were probably twenty whales in the area that we stayed in.  We saw lots of blows in the distance besides the whales that we stayed with.
All in all one of the greatest days on the water that I have ever had.
(Courtesy of Terry Baird – Whaler)


 8 Blue Whales Spotted! 

  50 Common Dolphins4 Bottlenose Dolphins

 It was a great day out on the water today.  We had guests from Belgium, England, from several states, and a lot of local folks from San Diego.  And the majority of them have never seen a whale in his natural environment, out in the ocean!  Boy were they in for a treat!  We had a slight overcast day, the seas were calm, and the excitement was in the air.As we headed to the nine mile bank, Captain Bill received a call from the navy “Mercy Ship” that was also in the area, that they had a multiple number of Blue Whales near their ship.  So we headed towards their ship.  And on the way, to our surprise, a big Blue Whale popped up right next to our boat, to the delight of everyone!   This was just the beginning of a fantastic day.  As we got closer to the Mercy Ship, all of a sudden we were surrounded with big Blue Whales!  Then the Common Dolphins showed up, then here came a couple of sea lions to entertain us.  You could hear the cameras snapping everywhere.  Today we saw 8 Blue Whales very close to the boat, and several blows in the distance.  We saw a total of about 50 Common Dolphins and 4 Bottle nose dolphins in the bay.  It was a perfect summer day out on the water!


6 Blue Whales Spotted! 1 Mola Mola     400 Common Dolphins Great trip! Saw 6 whales, a couple of Mola Mola, and a couple hundred dolphins. Great day - weather was beautiful.  Overcast and cool all day.  The captain Nick guided to the only blue whale around, we stayed with it for over an hour.  Saw 1 mola, and 300-400 dolphins.  Great weather, and a great crowd.


 Blue Whales Spotted! 550 Common Dolphins6 Mola Mola
The sky was overcast and silver gray, but humid and wonderfully pleasant. The water looked like mercury and very glassy. After heading out towards the 9 mile bank, we spotted 5 Blue Whales. Two kept with the boat, one fairly close, close enough to hear the breath when it surfaced, which is always very exciting. We spotted 6 Molamolas and approximately 550 Common Dolphins at various times. They were on a big feeding frenzy and were clustered very densely at one point surrounding a small boat. Several of them were bow riding and everyone got a big kick out of seeing them up close. A wonderful Brown Booby bird was spotted. Towards the end of the trip we had a squall come through which was tropical and refreshing.  All in all it was another great Hornblower trip!
Credit to: Jan Newell – Whaler


1 Blue Whale Spotted with several other sea creatures  7 Risso Dolphins 150 Common Dolphins                7 Bottlenose DolphinsSeveral Sea LionsMola Mola fish A single blue whale thrilled viewers with several fluke views and many back shots.  The blue stayed fairly close to the boat, surfacing numerous times.  Then another treat – a small pod of 7 Risso dolphins entertained viewers.  Several pods of common dolphins, some with young pups, came to say hi, totaling around 150 common dolphins.  Also a pod of 7 bottlenose.  Three small rafts of sea lions also seen swimming through the ocean. Several passengers saw a mola mola.  A few short showers could not dampen the excitement on the boat at seeing so many sea creatures.
7/26/14 8 Blue Whales Spotted! Captain’s Report: Spotted 8 blue whales today!  The weather was clear and a great cruise overall.  Blue Whale Trivia: Blue whales may be found in all oceans of the world. They migrate to tropical-to-temperate waters during winter months to mate and give birth to calves. They can feed throughout their range, in polar, temperate, or even tropical waters.


 6 Blue Whales Spotted! 150 Common Dolphins  Our guests were excited as we left the harbor, ready to see some Blue Whales!  As we headed out towards the 9 mile bank, we passed a mola mola, then came across a pod of about 150 common dolphins, much to the delight of the passengers.  After being about 8 miles off shore, we saw our first blow of a Blue Whale.  Then we started seeing blows all around us.  As we got closer to the whales, we just cut the engine and drifted.   And we got quite a show.  We got to see about six whales up close and personal.  One of the whales came pretty close to us and we got to see his huge back and then he showed off his fluke, everybody cheered!!  It was a great day on the calm seas and everybody left with a smile on their face as we came back to the dock
 7/19/14 4 Blue Whale Sightings Up Close Plus 15+ Whales on US side of Border Surprised at first by a blue who popped up without warning close to the ship’s bow. We then spent the morning with the magnificent mother and calf as they treated us to close views including a fluke and traveled from one side of the boat to the next. The sea was calm as a lake today and the overhead clouds allowed the easy detection of the blue below the water’s surface. Saw total of 4 blue whales today up close and personal!
7/13/14  6 Blue Whales spotted! 100 Common Dolphins CAPTAIN’S REPORT:  Nick says the water and weather was clear and warm.  The guests had a great day and sighted 6 blue whales!  The passengers also saw common dolphins swimming and jumping towards the bow.Blue Whale Trivia: The largest mammal to ever inhabit the earth, these blue-gray mammoths of the sea average 75-80 feet in length in this hemisphere and weigh in excess of 100 tons!
7/12/14 20 Blue Whales!!!
200 Common Dolphins

Beautiful, clear day on the water. Our first encounter was a small pod of bottlenose dolphins.  But soon there was a cry of “There she blows!” as we ventured only about five miles out.  Blue whales spouts began to appear everywhere.  Soon we had blues on the port and starboard sides.  Several swam beneath the boat and emerged with a loud bellow fairly close to the boat, often startling the passengers who shouted in glee.  The passengers were treated to a rare sight of whale poop.  Then to make the day even more perfect, we encountered  two more pods of dolphins as we began our journey back.

7/6/14  6 Blue Whales just five miles offshore! 100 Common Dolphins Last week a small boat was capsized off the SD coast near Tijuana with two passengers on board. No injuries to the whale or passengers occurred. The boat was totaled! See the clip. From the Captains Erik and Bill: We had a stellar day, with 6 blues just 5 miles offshore. Our guests had thrilling views, as a couple if the Big Blues came right near us to wave a big hello. Spectacular views, nice calm seas. Warm summer breeze ” It doesn’t get any better” Bill REPORT: 6 blue whales, close views, 1 tail fluke. 100 Common dolphin. Whale spotters of the day: Riley, Aaron and Miah Alvarez from Oklahoma, spotted today’s 1st blue whales.Judy Lawrence, a seasoned and trained Whaler from the Natural History Museum posted: “Beautiful summer weather and great whales for Adventure’s first blue whale trip.–Pictures and notes from Judy Lawrence.

*If a whale is not sighted during cruise as a courtesy from Hornblower, you will receive a “whale check” good for a 1 or 2 hour Harbor Cruise!

For reservations: http://www.hornblower.com/port/category/sd+tours




San Diego Whale Watching 2014 Season

Hornblower Cruises & Events San Diego Whale Watching



  Whale & Dolphin Watching Adventures

April 18-April 24


Morning Cruise

Afternoon Cruise



2 gray whales, common dolphins

 *whalechecks  During a beautiful day guests enjoyed the trip with 2 gray whale sightings and many common and bottle-nose dolphins.


60 common dolphins, mylar mylar, 2 gray whales

No afternoon cruise

Throughout the day several pods of common dolphins and several bottlenose in the bay. Guest saw bottlenose dolphins in the bay and mother and calf near the end of trip.


4 gray whales, 300 common dolphins

No afternoon cruise

 Guest were treated to 2 pair of mom and calf gray whales plus 500 bottlenose dolphins


2 minke, 50 common dolphins

No afternoon cruise

Good views in clear cool skies guests saw 2 minke plus 50 common dolphins.


3 gray whales, 3 bottlenose

5 gray whales, 6 bottlenose

All went well and guest were happy…..found a large mola-mola out there…on the way back in to the dock we came across some common dolphins who were with a cow/calf pair near the kelp beds.  Some whales zig-zagged through the kelp we managed to give the passengers some good views. Seeing the small fluke prints of the calf was awesome!  Another cow/calf pair came into view on our way back into the bay….we also had some bottlenose dolphin in the bay.


4 gray whales

2 minke whales

It was a great day on the ocean with a gray whale mom and her calf spotted. We had common dolphins feeding along the kelp. In the afternoon we had many fun and exciting passengers on board.  2 minke whales were swimming under and around out boat.


4 gray whales, 300 common dolphins

No afternoon cruise

Gray whale and her calf heading up north were spotted just outside the bay in shallow water. Many common dolphins jumping clear out of the water plus 2 bottlenose in the bay

San Diego Whale Watching 2014 Season



  April 11- April 17


Morning Cruise

Afternoon Cruise



 2 gray whales, 200 common dolphins  No afternoon cruise Mom and Calf provided guests with a great view plus 200 common dolphins


2 gray whales,300 common dolphins

 No afternoon cruise Guests were treated to Amazing morning cruise found a pod of 300 common dolphins and found a mother and calve fin whale that put on the best show.


2 fin whales, 500 common dolphins  2 gray whales

Guest saw two fin whales and a pod of 500 common dolphins plus two grey whales (cow/calf) they put on a great show for the guests. A Humpback whale was seen a the entrance to the harbor.



1 humpback, 200 common dolphins

In calm seas during the day guests saw one humpback whale and 200 common dolphins.


2 fin whales,500 common dolphins  2 gray whales Guests saw 2 fin whales and a pod of 500 common dolphins, plus a mom and calf.


1 humpback whale, 50 bottlenose dolphins


50 bottlenose dolphins

Guests saw 100 common dolphins and a humpback whale feeding on an abundant supply of fish. On the way out 2 mola-mola fish were spotted as well as 25 bottlenose dolphin.

Visit our Whale Report and Blog: http://www.sandiegowhalewatching.com

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


Humpback Whales being seen on San Diego Whale Watching Cruises on Hornblower





Photos by Ken Shelby, captured these great images of a breaching Humpback Whale just off Mission Bay from the rails of Hornblower on their recent whale watching cruise. Mr Shelby is a frequent cruiser aboard Hornblower Cruises Whale Watching Cruise because he is one of the trained Naturalist from San Diego Natural History Museum. Ken said that this whale breached about

This time of year, Hornblower Cruises sees a variety of whales on their whale watching cruises. In addition to Gray whales, humpback whales, Minke whales, fin back whales and Blue Whales are seen. The Gray Whale watching season ends on April 27th as the last of the migrating mammals travel by the San Diego coast.

Blue Whale watching season will begin on July 5th on Hornblower Cruises. Click to buy a season pass or just a one day admission for this exciting new  cruise being offered by Hornblower Cruises!



San Diego Whale Watching Report for 4/3-present




Whale Watching Report for April 3- April 10


Morning Cruise

Afternoon Cruise



2 fin whales, 200 common dolphins


  During a cool and overcast morning the Captain cruised our about 9 miles viewing 2 fin whales and common dolphins.


4 fin whales, 1 mom & calf gray whale, 200 common dolphins

2 gray whales, and 1 juvenile gray whale

  Great views all day with a mom and calf gray whale and about 200 common dolphins. Guests said they have lots of fun.  The whale sightings were up close and personal with 2 juvenile and 2 adult gray whales.


1 minke whales, 60 bottlenose dolphins, mother and calf gray whale

2 gray whales, 40-60 bottlenose dolphins

The Captain took out our guest to the 9 mile bank for a peek at the elusive minke whale, and then a mother gray whale and her calf were seen at the kelp beds. Two juvenile gray whales then northwest 2 more gray whales were spotted plus bottlenose dolphins.


1 minke, 30 bottlenose dolphins

2 gray whales, 200 dolphins

 The trip was extra special due to guests were able to see “Patches” the spotted dolphin that has been seen along the coast. Guests were thrilled and had wonderful views. Two gray whales came out to play, plus 2000 common dolphins.

500 common dolphins

200 common dolphins

  The dolphins were the star of the show for the day with a total of 500 common dolphins. Guests gave many compliments on the narration.*whalechecks


3 gray whales,800-100 common dolphins

40 bottlenose dolphins, 2500 common dolphins.

Guests witnessed mating, rolling and breaching of 3 gray whales, plus many dolphins during clear weather. 2500 common dolphins came out and gave a great show with about 40 bottlenose dolphins in the mix.


500 common dolphins

1 fin whale

The total on the trips for the day included a Gray whale mom and her calf plus one fin whale and about 500 common dolphins


Reoccuring Sightings of Semi-famous Mottled Dolphin Named “Patches” from Adventure Hornblower

http://youtu.be/MzRu8dOwe10 (see Patches captured by video on youtube.com)!

SD Natural History Museum Whalers and whale watching regulars like Mike Roerder (author of 1000 Whales in a Year) are out on cruises enough to spot reoccurring animals.  The “regulars” have spotted and photographed a mottled bottle nose dolphin and named him patches for obvious reasons! Diane Cullins wrote: “Went out on the Hornblower Adventure this morning…was so happy to see ‘Patches,’ the piebald bottlenose dolphin again…definitely one of a kind! Offshore bottlenose dolphins  are always a treat to see, as was the Minke whale, the smallest of the baleen whales we see off San Diego.”  

I asked Mike Roeder about Patches because he has been on board Hornblower hundreds of times in doing research for his book One Thousand Whales in a Year.  He said Patches’ “piebald” looks makes her a bit of a dolphin celebrity! He pulled this from wikipedia:
piebald animal is one that has a spotting pattern of large unpigmented, usually white, areas of hair, feathers, or scales and normally pigmented patches, generally black. The colour of the animal’s skin underneath its coat is also pigmented under the dark patches and unpigmented under the white patches. This alternating colour pattern is irregular and asymmetrical. Animals reported with this pattern may include horsesdogsbirdscatspigs, and cattle, as well as snakes such as the ball python. Some animals also exhibit colouration of the irises of the eye that match the surrounding skin (blue eyes for pink skin, brown for dark). The underlying genetic cause is related to a condition known as leucism.
Leucism is a general term for defects in pigment cell differentiation and/or migration from the neural crest to skin, hair, or feathers during development. This results in patches of body surface (if only a subset are defective) lacking cells capable of making pigmentLeucism can cause a reduction in all types of pigment, in contrast to albinism, for which leucism is often mistaken. Albinism results in the reduction of melanin production only.  More common than a complete absence of pigment cells is localized or incomplete hypopigmentation, resulting in irregular patches of white on an animal that otherwise has normal colouring and patterning. This partial leucism is known as a “pied” or “piebald” effect; and the ratio of white to normal-coloured skin can vary considerably not only between generations, but between different offspring from the same parents, and even between members of the same litter. A further difference between albinism and leucism is in eye colour. Due to the lack of melanin production in both the retina and iris, albinos typically have red eyes. In contrast, most leucistic animals have normally coloured eyes. The cells in the eyes have an independent genetic origin, and they are typically unaffected by the genetic cause of leucism.
But I digress…As a consequence of her insecurity, Patches roams up and down the West Coast. Since “coming of age about 4-5 years ago, she has been seen in the company of both bottlenose AND (heaven forbid) common dolphin pods from San Diego to Santa Barbara. So she is thought to be a good communicator with all kinds of animals … and (like J.Lo) she loves to show off her backside.
According to the authoritative One Thousand Whales in a Year, Patches was first seen in 2013 off La Jolla on Aug 17th, 2013, then again on the 19th (page 60). She was with common dolphins.
At that time it was speculated that there were several like her and they had been seen around the West Coast. Or that her mother was “common” and her father “bottlenose”. Those are unfounded rumors. Since then, Diane Cullins (whaler) has forwarded photos of patches to an expert marine biologist friend who said that she is a unique specimen and all sighting are of her. 
Until the trip when the previously-shared photos were taken, Captain Bill from Hornblower Cruises & Events, San Diego, had only heard of her, but never seen her. Now he knows what we were always going on about.We next saw Patches on Oct 16th and 17th in a group of 100 bottlenose dolphins. She reappeared Oct 27th, Nov 3rd and Nov 9th with a similar sized group of bottlenose. Perhaps also in January 2014, but my records are incomplete…
Since she has apparently become a star, she’s become a bit elusive, but this week the paparazzi spotted her out cruising with her pals:
Mike Roeder, One Thousand Whales in a Year Author.

Patches by Diane Cullins DSC02555

San Diego Whale Watching Report through 4/2/14-Last month of Gray Whale Watching!

March 27– April 02


Morning Cruise

Afternoon Cruise





In morning some rain then in afternoon cool and clear


200+ common dolphins


Two elusive  minke whales were spotted plus  1 northbound gray whale in morning tripAfternoon trip was a very good show with 20-40 bottlenose dolphins in a feeding frenzy 


4 gray whales and 1500 common dolphins

3 gray whales

Great show for both trips during rough seas


1000 common dolphins. *whalechecks

Cancelled due to rough seas

Under warm clear light breeze the common dolphins gave a good show for our guests. Our guests gave lots of compliments on narration of migrating whales 


7 gray whales, 1 minke

3000 common dolphins

Whales in the distance were spotted plus guest were treated to ever popular common dolphins show



Fin whale, 50 bottlenose dolphins

Sighting of a rare Fin Whale swimming around the boat for about 45-60 minutes.  The Fin Whale was possibly a blue-fin hybrid juvenile.  Fins and blue whales have been known to interbreed.  We also saw 50 bottlenose dolphins swimming near the bow.




*whalechecks Weather conditions in San Diego included rain and wind that causes rough sea conditions for whale watching. Our Captain made good effort to seek out the whales for our guests. Highlight was seeing about 30 false killer whales.The weather conditions remaining the same, guests did see 1 whale in distance and a good look at elephant seal plus 20 white sided dolphins on the trip out.


Visit our Whale Report and Blog: http://www.sandiegowhalewatching.com
*If whale are not sighted during cruise you will receive a “whale check” good for another Whale and Dolphin Watching Adventure or Harbor Cruise
Thank you to Janet Morris, Director of Volunteers from the Natural History Museum who leads the valiant effort to recruit and train the fantastic volunteer “whalers” who interact with our guest everyday on the Whale and Dolphin Watching Cruises. Visit theNat at sdnhm.org.
Brian Slaughters kids on WWWhalers from the Nat whalers group from 2014 whalers whalers-group-from-2014


Whale Watching Report 3/20-3/26/14

March 20– March 26, 2014


Morning Cruise

Afternoon Cruise




minke whale, 4 gray whales

AM: West winds all day, clear visibility with rough seas.* guest received whale checks PM: Amazing trip! minke whale breached 12 times right by the boat for all the guests to see plus 4 full size northbound gray whales.


3 juvenile gray whales, 80-100 common dolphins

40-60 bottlenose dolphins

 AM: The Captain took guests out about 4 miles, a little cool and overcast all day our guests saw 3 juvenile gray whales with several breeching 4 times in a row very close to the boat plus 80-100 common dolphins coming to the boat. PM: Guests cruised with the Captain about 9 miles out to see 40-60 bottlenose dolphins riding the bow and wake waves. Awesome sight! 


5 gray whales, 25 bottlenose dolphins

4 gray whales

 AM: Under cool overcast skies our guests saw 5 gray whales and 25 bottlenose dolphins plus mola mola fish, which is a neat.PM: Afternoon trip included many 1st time whale watchers that mentioned they had a great time while they saw 4 fast moving gray whales with a lot of tail flukes.




3 gray whales, 6 gray dolphins


2 humpback cow and calf, 20 risso dolphins

 AM: Trip was well under clear skies plus during some lite chop while guests saw 3 gray dolphins and 6 common dolphins. PM:  The Crowd on this trip went wild with excitement when 1 humpback and her calf rubbed against the bow causing water to spray everyone in that area. However, the fun continued with breaches and simultaneous tail slaps, plus that is not all…. when coming back in 20 Rizzo dolphins were spotted.  


2 southbound gray whales

1 fin whale and 1 baby gray whale

 AM: Under clear skies our guests were able to see 2 southbound gray whales. PM: 1 Fin whale that appeared to be feeding in a big bait ball of krill. Must have been tasty!   guests on this cruise saw 1 juvenile gray whale that came close to boat. What a treat! 


1 gray whale, 80 bottlenose dolphins


1 gray whale, 1 fin whale

AM: Under clear calm seas our guests saw 1 gray whale and 80 bottlenose dolphins

 PM:  With weather remaining the same, 1 gray whale was spotted, plus 1 fin whale up close!



4 gray  whales, 1 fin whale, 7 bottlenose dolphins, 2 mola mola fish


2 southbound gray whales, 2 juveniles, common dolphins, bottlenose

AM: The Captain took our guests about 9 miles out to sea on a beautiful clear day our guests saw 4 gray whales and possible fin whale also with 7 bottlenose dolphins playing at the bow and 2 unique mola mola fish.

 PM: In the afternoon our Captain went out to about 4 miles with lots of activity delighting guests while they saw 2 southbound gray whales and 2 juvenile gray whales by the buoy. Lots of common dolphins, plus bottlenose dolphins, too.


*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