By Toni Sieling
My husband and I share a birthday. Through the years we have spent the day doing a variety of things, making each year’s day an adventure. With mid-October’s beautiful weather, and this year being especially clear, sunny and warm, we decided to spend the day whale watching on Monterey Bay.
We settled on riding with Sanctuary Cruises out of Moss Landing. Sanctuary’s vessel is smaller than some of the other operators, and the cruise has a more intimate feel, with the group on board averaging around 25 passengers. We also like that Sanctuary uses clean burning biodiesel made entirely from recycled waste vegetable oil collected from Central California restaurants.
We hit the luck truck on this especially warm and sunny mid-October day, seeing hundreds of humpback whales spouting and flipping their tails in the air, feasting on schools of anchovies in the bay just outside the harbor at Moss Landing. We first saw what looked like a large circle of boiling water, but as we got closer we could see that it was actually hundreds of sea lions surfacing and diving in a feeding frenzy. Then the white spout of airborne water would precede the surfacing of one or more humpbacks in the center of the circle. This scenario played out again and again, throughout the four-hour cruise.
We then cruised about a mile further out and came upon hundreds of Risso’s dolphins, spouting and breaching – flying into the air and crashing back into Monterey Bay. When the engines of the boat were turned off, you could hear the sound of the exhaling spouts and crashing of the breaching dolphins all around the boat and beyond. It was magical.
Our cruise was hosted by Giancarlo Thomae, a friendly and knowledgeable marine biologist who shared many details about the whales, dolphins, sea lions and otters we saw throughout the day. At one point he pulled aboard a large jellyfish and gave an impromptu lesson while we got a close-up view.
You can book your trip on their website at www.sanctuarycruises.com or call (831) 917-1042. The cruises run $50 for adults, $40 for children 12 and under. Reserve an armband, designed by NASA, to ward off seasickness, for $7 per person. These bands are worn on the wrist and emit a vibrational and electronic pulse directly to a pressure point, preventing nausea in 90 percent of their passengers who use them. My husband, who usually experiences seasickness, wore one and miraculously felt just fine.
The trips currently run daily, departing at 10 a.m. from the Moss Landing Harbor, “A” Dock located at 7881 Sandholdt Road, Moss Landing. Check the website’s Captains Log to see what type of marine life has been viewed recently.
All photos by Toni Sieling