Thursday, February 11, 2021

Whale watching is at its best with San Diego Flagship's Marietta

A grey whale's breech brought gasps and cheers this weeks aboard Flagship's Marietta in San Diego. The family owned company offers a rewarding whale watching experience, with distanced seating and one-fourth capacity, lively commentary and a theme of environmental respect and protection.

Charles navigated, with expert narration by Dale, who
explained the whales' migratory patterns and enhanced our
experience with detailed and lively insights into their life.


GORGEOUS WEATHER, expert narration, smooth seas and the sighting of five grey whales made for a thrilling day on the water this week.
Our outing was aboard Flagship fleet's comfy Marietta, departing San Diego Bay at 9:30 a.m. for a four-hour search for migrating grey whales.
This is "prime whale time," according to my native California partner Keller, an avid, informed, lifelong watcher of whales. 
THE GENTLE giants are heading south now from a feasting orgy in chilly Alaskan waters.  They'll give birth in Baja and tend their young in its secluded lagoons,
Danielle is one of Flagship's attentive naturalist
guides, with helpful brochures and whale
artifacts, including these killer whale teeth.
Check out Ocean 

their territory for centuries. 
Our skilled Flagship team included Charles, Dale, Danielle and Hannah, all expert "spotters," ever respectful of giving the whales breathing room.  They soon found a flisky pair when we were barely into the ocean, past Point Loma, then another pair, and a single playful whale.  We saw breeching, "spy hopping," and the longed for fluke, which appears  before the whale dives deeply beneath the surface.
"Spy hopping" occurs
Seeing the whale's fluke is
a wondrous experience.

when the whales take a look around to get their bearings and see what's out there.
With so few of us on the ship, and strict distancing and masking in force, Flagship offered a splendid five-star tour. The bar was open for early-riser bloody marys and soft drinks, coffee and light snacks.
INTERESTING literature, brochures and whale artifacts are passed around by the naturalist-guides to keep passengers entertained between sightings.
Docents share information and models between
sightings, to keep the action lively.

 When the whales come into view, there's a feeling of charged excitement as we hurry to the railings. One whale might be the width of a basketball court.
Well informed guides point out other sea life
along the way, here this sunbathing seal. 

Our twin sightings may have been mating pairs, but whether they were "romantic" or not, our experts weren't certain.  They were obviously friendly and traveling together. Greys often mate in a trio, so the single whale near journey's end could hook up with one of the pair.
Passengers enjoy plenty of space aboard
Marietta, with room to be safe and enjoy.
 We've seen babies with their mothers in April, heading north. But since the gestation period is 12 months, the ones we see mating these year won't give birth until next year.
Keller took this mother and calf photo
in April, a thrill for both of us. We'll
soon watch the northbound whales.  

EACH WINTER, these beautiful southbound gray whales usually travel in pods of two or three and each year, more than 20,000 gray whales make an impressive 10,000 mile round-trip journey to the southern lagoons.
We lucky San Diegans may watch the journey close-up, so this time of year, look for us on the water -- often on Flagship. Sailor Keller has even piloted our own craft. But it's more fun for him to let someone else do the driving so he play photographer.
We'll be looking again in April for the mothers and calves.
A quintet of a larger pod of dolphin ride the bow wave of our boat
as it pushes through the water in the ocean miles off Point Loma.

Dolphins are also a delight on our whale watching expeditions. They frolic, jump and dive for us, enjoying their captive audience.
The whales know we're nearby and don't seem to mind. Some experts speculate that they are naturally curious and trusting, which could explain their near demise at the hands of ruthless and greedy whalers of yore. These beautiful creatures travel at about five knots (about six miles per hour), so when a boat captain or passenger spots one, we slow down -- usually from five or six miles out, although we've seen them at closer range.
Keller's painterly eye caught this moody reflection as we
pulled out of the harbor, with San Diego's cityscape behind.
We smile, below left, as we motor past the cruise terminal.
Flagship's family owned operation includes  a versatile fleet offering many options including private charters. We've been on the Marietta many times, once for a wedding, and for several celebrations and parties. Her roomy sundeck affords fabulous sightseeing of one of America's prettiest port cities. The indoor reception area is closed now because of COVID-19, but as vaccinations increase and health returns, she'll be open again for indoor receptions, cocktail parties, dancing and romancing.  
THE COMPANY was founded in 1915 and is known for its whale watching as well as harbor cruises and a jet boat thrill ride for the adventurous. The line's popular dinner 

cruise operation is gearing back up soon after a hiatus during COVID-19. Special holiday and, holiday and dinner cruises, and a jet boat thrill ride. Beginning Feb. 18, you can upgrade your next Harbor Tour to a Sunset Cocktail Cruise. The "Sunset Cocktail Package for Two" will be available Thursdays through Sundays on Flagship's 4:15 p.m. full bay harbor tour. Sounds like fun and includes a reserved table, champagne and hors d'oeuvres for two, with a full no-host bar.

As the sail is hoisted, passengers are in for a treat at Triton-Charters,
with a wonderful new yacht and many options for fun on San Diego Bay.

UP NEXT: While we're exploring the high seas, we've found a new yacht in town. It's fun, it's sleek, it's Triton, a spacious, luxurious, sparkling catamaran is the newest yacht in southern California. She's making a big splash cruising San Diego Bay with masking and distancing, and treating lovers of water to a beautiful afternoon. You can rent the yacht for a private party, or join other sailors to cruise in comfort, with a lovely bar, music, a dance floor, and plenty of open-air space to visit, soak up the sights and sun, see San Diego landmarks and cruise yourself into relaxation. Meanwhile, remember to explore, learn and live and catch us each week for a fresh spin on travel, water driven activities, cruising, nature, the arts, family and more:



  1. Pacific Palisades SeafarersFebruary 11, 2021 at 10:26 PM

    Wow. We are big fans of San Diego, whales and precaution i tjese Covid times. Sounds as if Flagship offers all three! Thank you.

  2. Beautiful time of year for us, knowing the whales are headed to safe haven, once again.Thank you for the hopeful story and beautiful photos.

  3. Great idea, being out in the fresh air and open waters in search of beauty.

  4. Minnesota Nature LoversFebruary 18, 2021 at 3:57 PM

    Wonderful piece-- we are in cold Duluth so welcome this upbeat story and photos.