A Whale of a time…

"The new high speed catamaran whale-watching boats have stadium seating in the front so everyone has a perfect view."

Whales are intelligent, aquatic mammals that breath oxygen, give birth to live offspring, have a complex family and social structure, and migrate together in pods.

Have you ever seen whales swimming in the ocean?

I can’t think of a word to describe the thrill you feel when you see one of those magnificent creatures flying through the air,  and thrashing their tails against the water as they dive back into the ocean right next to the boat where you’re standing gawking.

Mr F and I went on a whale watching cruise earlier this month on one of those rare days in the year where the ocean was literally smooth as glass, and the February sun was hot – with temps in the high 70’s.

Sea gulls followed the boat out of Long Beach harbor.


There is no Highway for Whales, they don’t swim according to set time tables or specific routes, so although the brochures promise *Whales* the boats sometimes return without finding them.

There are two types of whales:

  •  toothed whales include dolphins, porpoises, sperm whales and killer whales.

  • baleen whales which strain their food through large sieve-like baleen in the jaws,  include the blue whale, the bowhead, the right whale, the gray and the humpback.

We were with the overflow crowd who went in Captain Gary’s old style boat without stadium seating.

He took us ten miles out to sea, and close to Catalina Island, we found a pod of  California Gray Whales   swimming a five-mile-an-hour zigzag as they made their way north.

Whales usually give birth in warm waters and migrate to cold water for feeding.

The gray whale may have the longest migration round trip of any animal on earth. It goes 6,000 miles from the Bering Sea in the Arctic to the waters off southern California to breed and then returns to the north. When migrating the whales can cover over a hundred miles in a day in some cases, but do not use their maximum speeds in order to conserve energy.

Because whales have lungs instead of gills they have to come up for air (which they get through a blowhole on the top of their heads).

Mr F. at Sea

Gray Whales can stay under water between four and ten minutes. I don’t think anyone knows what makes them decide when to come up for their next breath.

I have renewed respect for documentary film makers.
Each time I thought I’d pointed my camera in the  direction of the surfacing whales, but my photos were all just blue ocean, and blue sky.
Luckily  for us, Mr F was able to capture the whales with his camera.  Most of the photos in this post were taken by Mr F.

Whale spouting. Photo credit Mr F.

When the whale comes up to breathe, and it blows water out of it’s blow hole up into the air, it’s called a spout. 

On the way back

Navigation information

California Sea Lions


Captain Gary allowed me to photograph the GPS in the wheel room


and we saw these

California Sea Lions

After the boat docked we walked a few miles south along the beach path

to the pier at Belmont Shores.

We ate a very tasty burger with prize winning beer at  Belmont Shores Brew Pub and were entertained by these parrots who were in the trees next to the restaurant.

Parrots in the tree

At the end of the day when we walked back to the car in Long Beach, the sun painted pictures in the sky.

Long Beach harbor

Long Beach harbor is about 10 miles long

[As some of you know, I wrote this post a couple of weeks ago and lost everything when I  pressed *publish*. Oh well… the joys of the internet.]   


About dearrosie

We think we need so much, when all we really need is time to breathe. Come walk with me, put one foot in front of the other, and get to know yourself. Please click the link to my blog - below - and leave me a comment. I love visitors.
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39 Responses to A Whale of a time…

  1. magsx2 says:

    Wow what a great day out you had. Whales are just so beautiful to watch in open waters. The excitement when a whale surfaces is just unreal when you are with a crowd on a boat. 🙂

    Look at all those sea lions, such lovely animals, I have seen them swimming underwater in Marine Parks, through glass, and they look so gracefully.
    Beautiful birds as well, a nice walk along the beach, definitely a wonderful day for you.

    • dearrosie says:

      Hi Mags,
      It was a wonderful day, and a splendid way to celebrate my birthday.

      There are no words to describe the feeling when you stand in the boat and watch something as enormous as a whale flying so gracefully through the air.

      The parrots made such a noise we found the restaurant by looking for the birds.

  2. Sybil says:

    Where’s the snow ? lol

    My chum Lynne (Five Good Things) and I went whale watching in the Bay of Fundy last year. Alas all we saw were harbour porpoises. We need to travel farther down the Bay of Fundy this summer where the viewing is much better.

    Our eyes smarted from staring so hard at the water. Oh look ! Is that ? …. no … Over there ! …. no. Three hours of that and we were bug-eyed.

    Nice shots Mr. F.

    • dearrosie says:

      Hi Sybil,
      Oh I’m sorry that you weren’t able to see the whales on your trip in the Bay of Fundy. (I love the sound of the name!)

      Are dolphins similar to porpoises? We usually see dolphins from the shore. One time they swam right next to the beach as I was walking.

      As you well know you can get bad eye strain from staring at the water hoping whales will surface.

      I told Mr F you like his photos. He said, “Thank you.”

  3. i remember the thrill of seeing porpoises swim into “our canal” when my family lived in FL. I can’t imagine the thrill of seeing whales. What a wonderful day you had. You live in such an interesting part of the US.

    • dearrosie says:

      Hi Georgette,
      I love watching dolphins from the beach. It’s so beautiful see how they dive at the same time. I always think of synchronized swimmers when I see them.

  4. How wonderful you got to see whales and sea lions on the same trip! The stadium seating on the new boats sounds like it might be a good idea – it can be exhausting running back and forth across the deck trying to see where the next whale will be breaching. It sounds like you had a lovely time!

    • dearrosie says:

      Hi Barbara,
      We also saw a Leatherback turtle, but it swam by so quickly there wasn’t time to take a photo. I was surprised to see how large it was.

      I think the stadium seating on the new boats are a brilliant idea. We were fortunate because we got spots in the front of the boat so we didn’t have to run from side to side.

  5. souldipper says:

    Oh, Rosie, this brings a great big surge of excitement into my chest! I was doing a contract on the Queen Charlotte Islands (near the Alaska Panhandle) so I took my bicycle. I was pedaling along the coast one Sunday morning – no one was around. Suddenly the biggest “WOOOOSSSH” happened right beside me in the water. A Grey was swimming beside me! A big eye was looking at me! I could not believe it. I pedaled to keep up with it and it kept looking at me when it came up. It didn’t stay down long at all during this stretch.

    I’d been told the Grey Whales would come from California and would come into this harbour to scratch off the barnacles. That’s what they did. The harbour is deep, but the sides are very rocky. So I watched this big one toss and turn in the water. Honestly, I watched through tears. The energy is indescribable. It’s transformative. Who in God’s Name could EVER kill such an obviously conscious and intelligent creature??!!

    Phew…I have to settle my beating heart. Many thanks for this.

  6. Priya says:

    Parrots! Sea lions (and their moustaches)! And the whale spouting! How splendid. And a big thanks to Mr. F’s quick photography.

    I’ve seen these things on television or seen pictures in magazines, but reading your post and seeing the pictures gives me more pleasure because all this was seen by a friend. It makes me that much closer to having seen it all myself! Lovely.

    • dearrosie says:

      Priya we were so fortunate because the water was so calm, and the whales were very generous and spouted several times for us. As I mentioned to Barbara, we also saw seals and a leather back turtle, but unfortunately we didn’t manage to photograph them.

      I’m so glad that our pictures help you feel as if you were out on the boat with us. Being able to share our wonderful day with all of you gives me much pleasure.

      Are the parrots the same as the ones in your trees?

  7. shoreacres says:

    Whales are amazing creatures – every one of them. I’m so glad you were able to have this experience, and shared it with us.

    I’ve never seen a gray (to my knowledge) but when I was cruising Glacier Bay, there were Orcas and humpbacks galore. Being on a sailboat meant we were able to go into undisturbed areas not available to even the smaller cruise ships, and the orcas, particularly, were so close! We had hoped to see humpbacks using bubbles to herd their prey, but we missed that. As on your expedition, what we saw was wonder enough!

    • dearrosie says:

      Where is Glacier Bay? Sounds like Alaska?

      What a marvelous *gift* when your small sailboat comes upon a pod of Orcas and humpbacks in the middle of the ocean, and too, because you were in your own boat you could stay with them all day if you wanted. That’s one of the pleasures of sailing. We had to adhere to the strict timetable of the cruise line and return to Long Beach harbor in time for the next sailing.

      Do they use bubbles from their breath to herd their prey?

      • shoreacres says:

        Yes, it’s south-eastern Alaska. Beautiful country. And yes, they do use the bubbles to “herd”. It’s absolutely amazing – much like watching dolphins make a circle and “capture” the fish. They keep the fish contained, and then one or two at a time, some will go into the circle and eat. Cooperation at its best – except for the fish, of course!

      • dearrosie says:

        Alaska sounds so beautiful and so wild. I’ve never been there.
        I hope the oil drilling companies never get permission to drill there – Shell has been trying to get into Bristol Bay for the past few years.

        Wow must be unbelievable to watch the whales using bubbles to herd and capture their prey.

  8. Ah! You wrote this beautiful post with all those stunning pictures and you lost it? Oh no! Thank you for taking the time to write it again — I am so glad I got to see it.

    I’ve never been on a whale watching tour, however, when we lived in Seattle my husband and I went up to the San Juan islands to go kayaking. Boy! Were we unprepared. The straits were rushing, our kayaks were next to impossible to paddle — it was insane. We were in a group and I swear, we all thought we’d never make it back to shore. Paddling against the strong current was an experience I’ll never forget.

    But — what was amazing — was that we saw so many sea creatures! Seals and sea lions barking away, on the islands all around us. And then, I looked to my right, across the vast expanse of open water, and sighted a whale. I shuddered down to my bones. There I was in a tiny kayak with my husband, exhausted and sun burned, and nothing “guarded” us from the whale. Just open water. It was amazing and terrifying and surreal.

    An adventure of a lifetime — thank you for bringing back that memory!

    • dearrosie says:

      Even if you were in a group there’s no safety in numbers if you were all struggling to paddle back to shore against the strong current…
      And after all that paddling in the hot sun you looked up and saw a whale in the middle of the open water? My god what an amazing experience Melissa. Thanks for sharing it with us.

  9. aFrankAngle says:

    Not only thanks for sharing some of the wonders in nature, thanks for sharing your wonderful day …. and (belatedly) Happy Birthday from a fellow Februarian.

  10. shamasheikh says:

    What a fabulous way to spend any day…being a birthday is just extra icing…Happy belated Birthday Rosie…

    Many thanks for sharing it all and the beautiful pictures…the sheer raw beauty of nature just takes one’s breath away…God bless…

    • dearrosie says:

      Hi Shama
      I’m delighted to know that you could enjoy the day vicariously with us.
      It was one of those days we’ll always remember -perfect in every way, even the ocean obliged.
      Thank you for the birthday wishes.

  11. Mahalia says:

    beautiful! thanks for rewriting to share it with us. what a lovely way to spend a saturday. we who at present have mud and plants only in brown thank you for the colours.

  12. I will add Belated Birthday wishes, too! I am fully onboard with spending time doing the things that bring me enjoyment–I’m good at personal celebrations 🙂 My granddaughters live in San Pedro, so I spend a lot of time in the Long Beach area, and love it. Your pictures are great! Debra

    • dearrosie says:

      Hi Debra,
      Welcome to my blog. Thank you for your birthday wishes.

      If we don’t spend some time doing the things that give us pleasure, what are we living for?

      Have you taken your granddaughters to the Long Beach Aquarium? Mr F and I went there last December for our wedding anniversary. (I wrote a post on that wonderful day)

  13. Hey, did I miss your birthday??? I’m so sorry!!!
    Loved this post and specially the photos .. it IS thrilling beyond description to see a whale … we saw some on our cruise up to Alaska and also off the coast of Big Sur and I’ll never forget that. Looks like you had the perfect day for it — and had yourselves a grand ole time!! Thanks for sharing…

    • dearrosie says:

      Hi Betty,
      It was one of those days we’ll always remember. Whales are so huge but so gentle. We watched them swim right up to one of the boats without tipping it over.

      Did the cruise ship stop when the whales were sighted?

  14. Nandini says:

    OMG, these are so lovely photos. And great too. Varying from the cool shades of the blue, to the varied colors of the trees and birds, and to the duo-tone shades of the sunset… I’m in a trance! 🙂 Loved this post.

    And right now, the bird from the image-19 is staring at me. I’m so glad I can view it in full. Spectacular! 🙂

    Thanks for sharing all this..Rose! 🙂

    • dearrosie says:

      Hi Nandini,
      When a photographer likes yourself enjoys my post and photos it makes my heart sing. A sincere thank you (and thank to this beautiful part of the world where we live).

      That gull in image 19 is looking straight at the camera. A large flock of gulls followed the boat as we left the harbor.

  15. munchow says:

    What a great trip you had. Whales are quite impressive animals, aren’t they? Nothing quite like watching them break the surface. Beautiful pictures you bring to our attention! And I guess I didn’t catch you birthday, so a very Belated Birthday wish from me, too.

    • dearrosie says:

      Hi Otto,
      We were so lucky because everything was *perfect* i.e it was a sunny hot day, the sea was as “calm as glass”, and we saw the whales breaching about half a dozen times. A day we’ll always remember.

      Nice to still be getting birthday greetings. Thank you.

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