Sightings Every Day

San Diego Whale Watching Season Off to a Great Start

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The Inspiration Behind new local Book about Whale Watching in San Diego

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Breaching Gray Whale Photo taken by Michael Roeder on 2/19/14 from Hornblower Cruises Whale Watching.

Michael Roeder and Scotty Schmidt have been aboard Hornblower’s Whale Watching Cruises more often than some of the actual Hornblower Captains! Why? Michael and Scotty just finished a book called “1000 Whales in a Year”. The book is for sale on Hornblower’s Whale Watching Cruises and on almost any given day you can get an autograph from the authors Mike and Scotty and even a photo with the pair of dedicated whale enthusiasts. The book’s goal was to to find one thousand whales in one year on the Pacific Ocean near San Diego. However there is so much more that inspired the book: a band of kindred spirits, people with a common bond(whales in the wild) and each in need of a little special healing.

Scotty says: I’m a US Army combat veteran who experienced many difficulties adjusting back to civilian life. I found myself searching for something for a long time, but I didn’t know what. Now I still find myself searching for something……whales, but they are something I can find! Scotty Schmidt.

Mike says: I’d recently retired and being a bit reclusive anyway, was looking for something social not too threatening. Kim and Dennis invite us on a whale watching cruise, my wife and I bought a season pass on Hornblower, we met Scotty and we joined the gang.* “…our motivation for spending all this time on the water in one year. After some calculations, we found we had spent an average of one hour per whale. Yes its obsessive behavior, we know. We are obsessive people. Whale watching is addictive and if you have an additive personality type you may be drawn in too. We never intended to spend 1000 hours watching, see 1000 whales or write this 100 page book- these evolved as our relationships with each other and the whales, grew.” Michael Roeder

Kim says: We are enthusiastic boaters, with extensive sailing experience as well as having worked with the US Navy and US Coast Guard Auxiliary.  We’ve spent lots of time near or on the water.  When we first started whale watching in February 2013, we saw it as just another opportunity to be on the water.  We were also looking for some peace and quiet after the loss of a service member in our family.   Seeing these majestic whales so close to our shore had an unbelievable positive impact to our life.  We met Scotty on the Hornblower and found a kindred soul.  The whales pulled us up to the rail, brought us out of ourselves and together as friends on a common quest.   Kim and Dennis Usrey.

The book also has an electronic version on the Apple iBook store in case you’d like to get your hands on this gem. Visit their website.

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* Yes you too can “join the gang”. Purchase a season whale watching pass on Hornblower Cruises, for unlimited whale watching cruises during the Gray Whale Watching season from Dec. to April. We look forward to seeing you onboard too!

Hornblower Captain Recognized for Customer Service on San Diego Whale Watching Cruise

Captain TomLove and kindness is indeed in the air at Hornblower! This past Valentine’s weekend Captain Gaetano Balistreri was recognized for his excellent guest relations on board the whale watching cruise on Adventure Hornblower. While boarding the AM Whale Watch trip one of the guests informed Gaetano that her mother who was wheelchair bound was celebrating her 100th Birthday that day on Feb. 17th.  Captain Gaetano escorted them to an accessible area and made sure they were comfortable then went back to boarding. A few minutes later a group of 8- ten- year- old girl scouts boarded the boat and he noticed they were all singing together.  After completing the boarding and getting underway Captain Gaetano called the Girl Scouts up to the pilot house and asked them if they would like to sing to a 100-year-old celebrating on board that day? They were all excited and agreed. So they set them up with 2 microphones and let them sing Happy Birthday over the Public address system on board.  The Birthday Girl was in tears, she was so happy! Crew reported that these girl scouts could really sing! They sounded like a choir!I was there to witness the disembarking of passengers and the Birthday Girl still had tears in her eyes when she thanked Captain Gaetano as she was disembarking! This was truly Hornblower customer service at its kindest and what an Amazing Experience!

Nominated by Director of Operations, Captain Anthony Sardina.
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San Diego Whale Watching Report for 2/6 -13/14

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Date

Morning Cruise

Afternoon Cruise

Notes

2/13/14

2 grays both juvenile

6 total whales: 4 south bound gray whales, all adult and lots of tail flukes. 2 north bound whales too

AM trip – We saw 2 gray whales both juvenile, guests got some great looks.PM trip we had 121 guests. We saw 4 southbound gray whales ,all adults lots of tail flukes.  We saw 2 northbound grays too! 6 total. Great shows!

2/12/2014

3 gray whales: 2 adult and 1 juvenile. 2 white sided dolphins

1 juvenile gray

AM: 1 juvenile Gray, 2 adult Grays, good views, 2 PWS dolphin. PM: Only brief view of 1 juvenile Gray.

2/11/2014

Fog was so heavy we had to return to dock.

All guests were issued whale checks to come back again.

Morning: fog, had to return to dock.Afternoon:  heavy fog, but found 1 small whale

2/10/2014

3 gray whales, 30 Pacific white-sided dolphins

6 adult gray whales, 2 juvenile, 20 white sided dolphins

Great trip! We saw many dolphins and many gray whales on both trips.

2/9/2014

5 gray whales, 30 pacific white sided dolphin

2 adult gray whales, 1 calf, 100 common dolphin

 

AM: Multiple tail flukes at the same time. Awesome show!

2/8/2014

4 gray whales

8 gray whales

AM: All together we saw 4 gray whales. 1 adult and 1 juvenile gray whale were traveling together.          PM: We saw 5 juvenile gray whale, 1 adult and 1 cow/calf pair.                     It was a beautiful day on the water – sunny clear and calm. We spotted the whales quickly and just kept running into them. The passengers were all excited and asked lots of questions and everyone had a great time.

2/7/2014

5 gray whales

12 gray whales

AM: Very quiet ride.  Saw 5 gray whales, 1 sub returning.

PM: 2-3 pods of 2-4 whales each.  Blows, flukes, and 1 unexpected 11′ high breach!  Spectacular!

2/6/2014

5 gray whales

7 gray whales

AM: We were greeted by a gray whale just outside the harbor at the San Diego Buoy. We stayed with the whale for several rounds of blows and then headed north to find a group of 4 gray whales. We were treated to several flukes.

PM: Captain Nick did a great job of looking for whales. He was able to locate a pair that we stayed with for some time. All of the whales were headed south.

Whale Watching Review on Yelp.com Touts Typical Great Experience

great blow from Gray whaleI had to report this great YELP.com review from Mel C, from Las Vegas, NV from 2/9/14

This review is for their Whale & Dolphin Watching Adventure, not for the awesome dinner cruise.  Thought that I get that out first since the Hornblower is known for their spectacular 3 hour dinner cruises that circle around Coronado. I’ve been to one of those dinners on a previous birthday and I agree with the rest, 5 Stars for the experience.

As for the Whale & Dolphin Watching Adventure, they guarantee whale sightings.  I’ve done this whale sighting tour before and if you don’t see a single whale, you receive what they call a “Whale Check”, which is their form of a rain check.  We just finished the tour this afternoon and Yes, I finally got to see some whales. It started off slow, but after about an hour, I got to see the tail end of a whale’s tail end.  That’s it?  It was for a good 30 minutes, then we found more and even with their babies.  By the end of our tour, we got to experience multiple whale sightings.

What to expect on your tour:
-Whales, of course
-Dolphins and a ton of them.  They’ll put on a show and race side by side with your yacht.
-Sea Lions
-Navy Ships
-Historic Landmarks
-Views of our beautiful city of San Diego
-Views of Mexico’s city of Tijuana
-3 hours on the water
-Wind and Cold:  Come bundled if you’re outside
-Great staff, including the Captain who narrates the tour.
-San Diego’s Natural History Museum Naturalists was also on our tour.  They were available to educate all of us about the whales, why they’re here, what breed they are, etc.  On the way back to port, they give little presentation as well.

I had a great time with my daughter, nephew, and god daughter.  I’m sure that they had a great time too. Keep in mind that this tour is not Sea World.  The whales do not come out and perform at scheduled times. The whales don’t do somersaults.  This is whale watching in their natural habitat, which means you may have to wait and keep looking just to spot one.  Pretty cool to see these beautiful mammals in their own environment. I highly recommend this tour while you’re in San Diego.

Thanks Mel C! We welcome your comments and reviews about the experiences you have aboard Hornblower Cruises and all the products we offer including Whale Watching cruises, Nightly dinner Cruises, Sunday Champagne Brunch, Daily Narrated harbor tours and Sights & Sips Cocktail Cruises! Http://www.hornblower.com/home/sd

best female gray tail

San Diego Whale Watching Report For January 30th-February 2nd 2014

Date

Morning Cruise

Afternoon Cruise

Notes

2/5/2014

11 adult gray whales, 20 pacific white sided dolphins

8 gray whales, including a Mother/ Calf pair

AM: Amazing 1st trip today with 3 different pods of whales, All whales were involved in some sort of mating activity! 2 gray whales from 2 different pods, breaching and spy hopping for a total of 6 breaches, 2 spy hops and a total of 15 gray whales in morning. Captain Rich did an amazing job getting us to all the good stuff!

PM: In the afternoon tour, about 8 total whales, 1 breach, more mating behavior and a mom with her new born calf.

2/4/2014

Cancelled due to high seas

3 gray whales

We saw 3 gray whales, one breached 5 times!

2/3/2014

4 gray whales

7 gray whales

AM: Followed 2 adult gray whales that were surface snorkeling in a straight and steady course for the Coronado’s. Visible just below the surface, only a few fluking, no deep dives. Definitely on a mission. They didn’t appear bothered by our presence, nor by a sailboat which they passed by quite closely. One whale lifted its head out of the water twice as it swam, apparently looking around as it neared the above sailboat.

PM: When returning and nearing the buoy, a juvenile suddenly and unexpectedly breached at 7 PM behind us. It was lovely weather, most people were outside and everyone shrieked with surprise. The juvenile, appearing gray/black, breached five times in a row, then continued on its way. Super!

2/2/2014

18 gray whales

3 gray whales, 3 bottlenose dolphin, 20 common dolphin

AM: 18 southbound whales exhibiting “juvenile” behavior – zigzagging.  There were guests on board from China, Turkey, Mexico, France, Minnesota, Arkansas, Texas and San Diego.  Captain Chad did a great job of taking us to the whales – and, yes, the morning cruise staff believe the whale saw its shadow (Groundhog Day!)

PM: We saw 3 southbound whales. The first whale breached 3 times which was very exciting for our guests to see (and the Whalers too, of course).  We also saw 3 bottlenose dolphins in the bay as we were going out and again as we were coming back in. There were 20 common dolphins out at sea that came to play around the boat.  We had great weather with fairly calm seas and a brisk wind.  Everyone had a good time.  We had a lively group at our presentation who were very interested in the bio facts and had lots of good questions.

2/1/2014

5 gray whales

11 gray whales

AM: We saw 4 adult gray whales and one juvenile. It was a beautiful morning out on the water.

PM: We saw 7 adult gray whales and one juvenile. Out of the 7 adults we saw 5 of them were grouped together, with lots of flukes. And we also saw 3 gray whales blowing in the distance.

1/31/2014

15 adult gray whales, 1 juvenile

10 gray whales

AM: We had 14 gray whales, plus a baby gray whale

PM: We had 10 gray whales, 3 breaches very close to us. Gave our guests a thrill!

1/30/2014

5 gray whales

7 gray whales

AM: We were greeted by a gray whale just outside the harbor at the San Diego Buoy. We stayed with the whale for several rounds of blows and then headed north to find a group of 4 gray whales. We were treated to several flukes.

PM: Captain Nick did a great job of looking for whales. He was able to locate a pair that we stayed with for some time. All of the whales were headed south.

Baby Gray Whale in San Diego Bay and Gray Whale Migration Route

(Video link courtesy of CBS 8 News and reporter Marcella Lee from Jan. 27,2014) A very small and young gray whale has been stuck in the San Diego Bay since January 26th, and according to CBS News 8,  Hornblower Captains and SDNHM Whalers’ daily sightings, the calf is still in San Diego Bay. With the knowledge that a gray whale calf usually nurses for about 7 months, and stays with their mother for up to 9 months, there is definitely a growing concern about the fate of the whale. Everyone hopes this gray whale calf, who is only about 2 weeks old, will find his way back to the migration path.

During the Fall Migration, the pregnant female gray whales take the lead on the southern migration, in a hurry to reach the warm birthing and nursery lagoons. Soon to follow are the males and other adult females. Juveniles, of course join this incredible journey, but some often don’t ever reach Mexico before turning around and heading back north.

Eventually the Northward (Spring) Migration occur. This is usually from January – June. During this migration route, the adult male gray whales and juveniles are the first to head north. The newly pregnant female gray whales, mothers and babies stay in the lagoons a month or two longer than the others so that the babies can gain blubber and strength before making the long journey back north to Alaska.

San Diego Whale Watching Report for January 24 – January 29

Date

Morning Cruise

Afternoon Cruise

Notes

1/29/2014

3 gray whales

3 gray whales, 1 gray whale calf

AM: 3 gray whales, all adults

PM: Several people asked about the stray gray whale calf that had been seen in the Bay. At the very end of the cruise, when we were already headed for the dock, Captain Bill got a radio message that the calf had been spotted off North Island. He turned around, and we did see the calf, which looked really small. No blow, just sticking its head out a few times, and showing its back.

That was exciting, but many people were concerned whether someone would “rescue” and feed the calf.

1/28/2014

7 gray whales, 20 common dolphin, 6 pacific white sided dolphin

7 gray whales, 1 bottlenose dolphin

AM: We followed 3 very active gray whales for some time.  They were slapping, spy hopping, and breached twice!  Also saw 2 rolling around, possibly courtship.  Pacific white-sided dolphins in amongst the whales. Several breaches this morning!

PM: Followed a pod of 5-6 traveling together, heading south – fluking and spouting in sequence.  Saw one rolling at the surface. Awesome!

1/27/2014

2 gray whales

3 gray whales

AM: We followed 2 gray whales for most of the trip. A lot of head splashing, fluking, and spy hopping.

PM: We had the opportunity to see 1 gray whale breach up close, which all the guest got to see. Amazing trip!

1/26/2014

5 gray whales, 200 common dolphin, 2 pacific white sided dolphin, sea lions

Single gray whale

AM: Hazy weather, calm seas. We saw 2 adult gray whales going south. Flukes and snorkeling. 200 common dolphin and 2 pacific white sides were seen. Occasional sea lions and one swimming with a grey whale. Good passenger patronage.

PM: 3 separate gray whale sightings, all heading south–2 juvenile, 1 adult. Snorkeling, one fluke. Lots of boating activity and a low flying hydroplane making the whales cautious. One reported sighting of a juvenile in the bay as we were heading toward the dock.

1/25/2014

11 gray whales

4 gray whales, some pacific bottlenose dolphin

AM: Another fabulous day out on the water, with warm, sunny weather and calm seas. We saw a total of 11 gray whales, including one group of four. Unfortunately we didn’t find any dolphins but everyone had a great time watching our wonderful grays.

PM: The excellent viewing conditions continued into the afternoon. A couple of Pacific bottlenose dolphins escorted us almost to the mouth of the bay, bow-riding on the pressure wave created by the boat’s forward motion. Once we got out on the open ocean, we quickly spotted a group of three adult gray whales traveling together and we spent a considerable amount of time observing them. Turning back to the north, we found a single juvenile gray moving slowly south and watched it for a bit before turning back toward home after another wonderful day out on the water.

1/24/2014

3 gray whales

10 gray whales

AM: Sea was in good form. We saw 2 juvenile gray whales going south and one adult gray whale. We followed them for about 40 minutes.

PM: Followed 2 adult gray whales for about 30 minutes that were seen right away at buoy number 1. Soon after, 2 more adult gray whales appeared. Moved about a mile and found two more. Then moved two miles and found a pod of 4 gray whales. Great show and very close!

(2 were really large female whales, one male and one juvenile)

On the way in we saw about two or three whales in the distance that gave us a show of 10 breaches.  Great finale.

San Diego Whale Watching Report: More Newborn Gray Whale Calf Sightings

momma-whale-and-baby-tail 

Photo by Ken Shelby, SDNHM Whaler of Mom and Baby whale tail

baby Whale from Keith Jones

Photo by Keith Jones of Baby Gray Whale Calf

San Diego Whale Watching continues to be successful each day with reports of sightings of tons of whales and dolphins on Hornblower Cruise right off the coast of San Diego. The most exciting reports come directly from the Captains, like Captain Nick Kriesel who has been leading whale watching cruises for years on Hornblower Cruises. Many of his regular crew members say that Captain Nick has excellent “whale karma” since on a majority of his trips he sights spectacular gray whale behaviors. These whale behaviors include breaching and mating.

Here’s Captain Nick’s whale watching report from yesterday 1/22/14:

The a.m. Whale Watching trip on Adventure Hornblower,  we saw three ( 3) gray whales one of them being a newborn gray whale calf, no more than 2-3 days old.  We saw 60 white sided dolphins and common dolphins. It was a great trip.

The afternoon Whale Watching trip on Adventure Hornblower,  we saw seven (7) gray whales, a group of 4 swimming very fast in a south direction at 8 knots! Another great showing!

More info on Gray Whales:

REPRODUCTION
Gray whale breeding occurs mostly in the winter to early spring while near the surface and in warm waters. The gestation period is about 13.5 months and the calf is born head first (unusual for cetaceans) and near the surface of the warm, shallow waters. The newborn instinctively swims to the surface within 10 seconds for its first breath; it is helped by its mother, using her flippers. Within 30 minutes of its birth the baby whale can swim. The newborn calf is about 15 feet long and weighs about 1-1.5 ton. Twins are extremely rare (about 1% of births); there is almost always one calf. The baby is nurtured with its mother’s fatty milk (53% fat) and is weaned in about 7-8 months. The mother and calf may stay together for about a year. Calves drink 50-80 pounds of milk each day. Gray whales reach maturity at 8 years. Growth stops at age 40 years old. Mature females give birth every other year in the warm lagoons off Baja, Mexico.

LIFE SPAN
Gray whales have a life expectancy of 50-60 years.

 

 

San Diego Whale Watching Report For January 15th-January 21

Date

Morning Cruise

Afternoon Cruise

Notes

1/21/2014

2 singles adult gray whales

6 gray whales, 1 mola mola

AM: We saw 2 single adult gray whales that met up and began traveling together. Our 60 plus third graders from Ramona loved it.

PM: Fantastic day! We saw a total of six gray whales and 1 medium sized Mola Mola floating along very close to the boat. The two whales we were following appeared to be juveniles, with small flukes. Captain Chad estimated them to be about 20-25 feet long.  We stayed with them the entire time as they were visible right below the surface, snorkeling steadily along in no hurry, rarely showing a fluke and not diving either.  When they were directly in front of the bow one breached two times in a row to the delight of the crowd, all of whom whooped and clapped for more. Some people captured the breach on camera, Captain Chad encouraged anyone with pictures to send them to the Hornblower website and he would tell them how to do that. Captain Chad was terrific, so nice and helpful, and told some facts I hadn’t heard before about San Diego and other items.

1/20/2014

9 gray whales, 2 pods of 4-5 gray whales, 200 common dolphin

10 gray whales, 100 common dolphin, several pods of gray whales

AM: 9 gray whales with numerous blows in distance. 200 common dolphin.

PM: Shortly after leaving the harbor, a dense fog rolled in and lingered for 20-30 minutes before dissipating. After the fog, the sun reappeared and we saw a group of 3 gray whales. We saw a total of 10 gray whales and numerous blows in the distance all around the ship. All whales seen near the boat were traveling with another whale. We also saw 50 common dolphin. Quite a few first timers and several families from San Diego that had never been whale watching before.

1/19/2014

3 adult gray whales, 6 juvenile, 10-15 white sided dolphin

2 pods of juvenile gray whales

AM: 3 adult gray whales heading south (also 6 juvenile), lots of sea lion activity. We also saw about 10-15 white sided and common dolphin

PM: 2 separate pods of active juvenile gray whales (4 and 2) with light dives and flukes dipping into the water.

1/18/2014

9 gray whales

5 gray whales

AM: We had a wonderful day on the water watching 7 single gray whales. We then had a great encounter with a mother and new born calf. We saw many of our friendly sea lions out about 5 miles off the coast. 2 pods of common dolphin in the distance.

PM: We followed 3 gray whales and observed mating behavior. Today we had a very bad day with other boats getting too close to the whales. The Captain had to warn one particular boat of the laws they apparently did not know about. Tourists were obviously upset with these other boaters.                                                          ”On any one day, I can’t say enough about the great crowds of people from all over the world that take Hornblower Excursions.”

1/17/2014

10 gray whales, 2 bottlenose dolphin & 25 pacific white sided dolphin

10 gray whales, 2 bottlenose dolphin & 25 pacific white sided dolphin

AM: We saw 10 gray whales heading south, 2 bottlenose dolphin and 25 Pacific White Sided Dolphin. Mating behavior was observed with dolphins around the whales. Lots of tail splashing, flutes and snorkeling. We had passengers from all over the world on this cruise!

PM: We had a beautiful record breaking temperature. An especially beautiful day. We saw 6 gray whales heading south weaving around one another, which we then observed as mating behavior. We also saw many pelicans happily dive fishing together.

1/16/2014

3 gray whales, 70 common dolphin

2 finback whales, 5 gray whales

AM: We saw our first two finback whales of the season! We also had the opportunity to see 5 gray whales and about 100 common dolphins.  Two of the southbound whales were seen with a calf between the two of them.

PM: We saw 7 gray whales.  We first noticed two fins, and eventually 5 gray whales appeared. The last 3 gray’s showed signs of mating and one breached 3 times. The trip was full of excitement! We were able to see multiple breaches, body rolls, upside down whales and pectoral fin slaps! It was a great day with fantastic weather on San Diego Bay!

1/15/2014

12 gray whales

10 gray whales, 30 common dolphin

AM: Many flukes, 1 up close breach

PM: Many tail flukes.

Learn about and track the Gray Whale Migration

Gray Whale Breach

Gray Whale Breach

It’s whale watching season for the Gray Whales in San Diego and the height of the season is this Saturday’s San Diego Big Bay Whale Festival.  In honor of this weekend’s festival, we wanted to share some really cool websites we’ve found about the Gray Whales.

The first one is Journey North’s Gray Whale Sightings.  Journey North is an organization that:

citizen scientists in a global study of wildlife migration and seasonal change. K-12 students share their own field observations with classmates across North America. They track the coming of spring through the migration patterns of monarch butterflies, robinshummingbirdswhooping cranesgray whalesbald eagles— and other birds and mammals; the budding of plants; changing sunlight; and other natural events.

We like their Gray Whale Sightings Map in particular.  Observation posts are highlighted with a yellow stars and actual sightings are denoted with a blue circle.

The second website we really like is National Geographic’s page about the Gray Whales.  National Geographic shares a lot of great information about the species of whales.  They include a map of common areas where gray whales can be found and fast facts about Gray Whales.  Some of the fast facts include:

Type:Mammal

Diet:Omnivore

Size:40 to 50 ft (12.2 to 15.3 m)

Weight:30 to 40 tons (27,200 to 36,300 kg)

Group name:Pod

Protection status:Recovered

Size relative to a bus:

Illustration: Gray whale compared with bus

The third website we enjoy is the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration – Alaska Fisheries Science Center.  NOAA presents a great FAQ about the gray whales, including some very interesting tidbits:

Gray whales used to be known as “devilfish” because they fiercely defend themselves and their calves against whalers.

There are now about 18,000 gray whales in the Eastern Pacific stock.   The eastern North Pacific stock of gray whales was removed from the endangered species list in 1994, however they are protected by the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

The gray whale Western Pacific stock was believed to be extinct until 1925 when a few gray whales were seen off the coast of Siberia. There are still very few sightings of these whales

The last site that we love is our friends and partners at the San Diego Natural History Museum.  They have some great video, which you can also watch below:

 

To learn more about the Gray Whales, visit the San Diego Big Bay Whale Festival on Saturday, January 25 at the Port Pavilion on the Broadway Pier.