We left Morro Bay in the dead of night with the hope of reaching Point Conception in calm conditions in the morning. We pulled up anchor around 12:30am and made our way slowly out the dark channel. We had an extra bit of fun and excitement as the channel markers had all been removed for dredging. So, just try to stay in the middle. Don’t worry, you’ll know if you get too close to the right- you’ll feel the scrape of the sharp rocks on the hull and propeller. Too close on the left, you’ll get stuck in the sand. Just stay nice and straight, right down the middle; no problem at all. We made it without incident down the channel and waved to the bright lights of the dredger as we cruised through the harbor entrance.
Once out in the open water, we were able to breathe a sigh of relief and enjoy the big moon shining down on us. The night was cold but calm and we were on our way!
Since Damien isn’t too keen on sleeping in normal conditions, let alone an exciting time like this, he let me hunker down in the cabin with Bella while he stood watch through the night. He woke me up around 5:45am for the sunrise and it was a beauty. One side of the boat was a burst of bright orange and yellow, the other side had a combination of pink and blue cotton candy pastels. We had made it through our first full night passage (some more awake than others).
We reached Point Conception around 9:30am. Both of us had been a little tense, worrying if we’d have a wild ride around the point. We’ve both heard plenty of horror stories of boats having a hard time navigating this patch of confused seas. And if the waves are large, it becomes more dangerous and uncomfortable. But we didn’t have that! We had confused seas, one tide meeting another and doing a swirling dance before they figured out which direction to go. They would gently push the boat around and we just kept moving through.
Shortly after rounding Point Conception, we saw a commotion of birds about a mile off our starboard bow. Suddenly there were hundreds of dolphins swimming past the boat towards the birds, clearly on a mission. Damien veered off course a bit to see what the hullabaloo was about. Suddenly we were about 80 feet away and we realized there were 6-8 humpbacks in a feeding circle. The birds, dolphins and whales were all working together to enjoy a breakfast buffet. It was incredible. Dolphins kept zipping by to get in on the action. Seals were lounging on the outskirts, keeping a short distance from the feeding frenzy.
We had stopped moving forward, but realized we were much too close to the action. Both of us had been stunned into silence and awe. Damien slowly backed the boat a safe distance away and we watched as the whales and dolphins swam in a large circle together and then the whales dove down and up, gobbling up the fish and creating quite a show. The deep, guttural sounds the whales were making was intense. You could feel it in your chest. We watched this unbelievable show for about 20 minutes until the whales began swimming in different directions; full of fish and ready to start their day. This experience is still one of the major highlights of our trip so far. I never expected to see anything like that. It was a National Geographic show that we were lucky enough to see and feel first hand. It was such a special way to be welcomed to Southern California.
The rest of the ride to Santa Barbara was beautiful, calm and uneventful. But there was a clear change in the sea and the weather. The water became a lighter shade of blue, the sun was out and it was warm! Santa Barbara has a nice marina with a guest side tie, so we tied up and then proceeded to tell anyone who would listen about our whale experience.