Santa Barbara, California,USA
--We slept very well
on excellent beds in our quiet 4th floor room. With continental
breakfast served from 7 to 10 a.m. and our whale watching tour scheduled
for Noon, we were able to arise slowly and peacefully.
The Continental breakfast was excellent in every way with fresh pastries,
fruit, oatmeal, cereals, coffee, juice, and a friendly and helpful attendant.
Tables for two lined the long entryway between the front door and the hotel
desk making for a pleasant setting for breakfast.
Since Monday was in the high 70s, and today was sunny already, I concluded
that I'd better buy some sun protection for my 'solar panel.' Assuming
it would be cool on the water, I also took a light windbreaker jacket
and headed down State Street, walking, so I could find a hat before the
noon cruise. I left the hotel about 9:30 a.m., finding the stores
not open yet, but window shopping as I went, I saw nothing in the way of
headgear for which to return.
My plan worked, as I arrived at the last store before Cabrillo Blvd.
and the wharf, I found some good candidates for a hat purchase.
Before making my purchase, I backtracked to the next-door store, Mountain
Air Sports, 14 State Street, (805) 962-0040, which was now open, and found
just the thing I wanted. It was 'The Adventure Hat,' lightweight (3
0z.), broad 4" brimmed hat, with "7.5 inch veil for neck and ears"
that could be packed flat in a suitcase without damage, for future outings
like t his. My thoughts that this might be a ladies hat were soon
dispelled when I observed on the label, what my wife later referred to
as a 'male hunk' wearing the same hat. It was made by Sun Day Afternoons,
280 E. Hersey St., Suite 14, Ashland, Oregon (888) 874-2642. (That
is enough verbiage about my hat don't you think!)
The whale watching tour was to board at "Sea Landing" dock, 301 West
Cabrillo Blvd. in the Marina, but I did not know how far that would be
so I casually walked on to the Sea Landing dock. Since it is the
first dock across the open sand from the wharf, I arrived by 10:30.
I communicated with the desk staff, got my ticket, and had time left for
lunch before the noon departure. Directly across the street is the
original Sambos Restaurant ,216 W. Cabrillo Blvd. (805) 965-3269.
It is open for breakfast and lunch until 2:30 in the afternoon. I
chose to sit inside, which turned out to be a mistake since the hostess
was training a replacement and speaking of customers she had seated, both
regular and occasional, about which she had derogatory remarks. Other
than that, the waitress was pleasant enough, though slow to take my order,
and the food was good...a chicken quesadilla. The bus boy quickly
delivered water and 3 mini-muffins upon my being seated. Sam and Bo,
Sam Battistone and Newell Bohnette, opened Sambos here in 1957 with the
name idea from the book, "Little Black Sambo" by Helen Bannerman written
in 1899. A grandson now runs this restaurant as well as Chad's on
Back at Sea Landing, I noticed quite a nice crowd had gathered for
the noon trip and I was early enough to photograph the Condor Express
as it returned from an earlier voyage with upper elementary grade school
children. They had not seen any whales, they reported, but they had
seen many dolphins and sea lions, so they did not seem disappointed.
I felt this was an omen that we might not see a whale either.
What we might see on this March tour.
The two-year old Condor Express, with great maneuverability, started
out to sea. The knowledgeable Captain informed us the Grey Whales
were essentially shallow water animals and we should keep a lookout for
them since they are seen many times near the harbor. Our first wildlife
sighting, other than pelicans and seagulls, were California Sea Lions resting
on a buoy. The flat surface of the buoy was a few feet above water
level and required the sea lions to jump quite high, then actually climb
to an open space, a feat not possible by other species of seals/sea lions.
The California sea lion can actually walk on all 4 flippers if need be.
We powered on out to sea, past the 4 oil platforms in sight from the
coastline. They are aligned along a fault line parallel to the coastline.
Earlier we had seen quick response oil spill handling boats that have been
required of the oil companies since the oil spill here some years ago.
We continued hoping to see some of the 35 to 45 foot long grey whales of
the 26 to 28,000 whales in the California grey whale herd. According
to the information in the tour's brochure, this is the time of year the
grey whales migrate back northward toward Alaska after birthing and breeding
in the warm Mexican waters.
Be sure, no matter how warm it is onshore, to take a jacket, no one
on the tour was hot! We crossed a natural seepage area where you could
smell petroleum and see natural gas bubbling up through the water.
Wildlife did not seem harmed by this age-old process and the Captain said
he had seen whales lounging in this gaseous area, perhaps enjoying the
buoyancy. We soon spotted a lone whale, surfacing, exhaling, and showing
his back and rolling into another dive. These whales usually travel
in groups of three, two males and a female. This would not be the
traveling arrangement this day. His cell phone rang and we immediately
made a "U" turn and headed down the coast. He explained that you
cannot use sonar, nor any other electronic devices to find whales, the best
way to find them is cell phone calls from other boats! We moved then
sat and waited for three adults to reach us, then we followed them for a
while. Finally we turned for the harbor and another three 'youngsters'
came by. All tour participants were more than satisfied with the trip
and the sightings.
Heading west we hit some good waves.
A movie ran of previous sightings on a screen in
Natural gas seepage from below.
Yes, there is/were a whales there, click to see the enlargement.
I walked back to State Street and took the electric trolley north to
our hotel. Once there, I found that State Street had been transformed
into a Farmer's Market with beautiful displays of flowers, vegetables,
fruits, and seafood. To add 'flavor' to the market, there were musicians,
magicians, and other performers every quarter block. A very colorful
and enjoyable experience in the afternoon and early evening. We purchased
a beautiful coral and white, local potted orchid for our hostess.
Tuesday Farmer's Market on State Street until 6 p.m.
We asked the friendly Hotel Santa Barbara staff for restaurant suggestions
for dinner: Holden's Steak and Seafood, Chad's on Chapala, and an
Italian Restaurant on State and Haley, all within walking distance.
We made our way past market booths and ended up at Uncle Rocco's Famous
N. Y. Pizza, 437 State Street, (805) 884-0994, for tasty salads, drinks,
and calzone for $20.28 for the two of us. Flamenco music played over
the speaker system, and the red neon lighted interior illuminated the varnished
wood tables and long bar. One wall had a very large photo of the
Rat Pack playing pool, and an even larger photo of New York City, pre 9/11.
We returned to our hotel, which felt like home by now with the pleasant
staff greeting us each time we entered and left, asking how we were enjoying
our stay and if we needed anything. We borrowed a laptop, and used
the one we brought, and sat in the lobby using the wireless Internet connection
they have for guests. With the excellent connection we were both able
to process online work eliminating the need to deal with it when we returned
home, an excellent feature of the Hotel Santa Barbara, the convenience and
value of which we hadn't anticipated.
Another relaxing night's sleep followed.