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From the Boathouse: Have a whale of a time


Wondering if you should venture outside of the harbor entrance this weekend? I recommend that you go whale watching with your family and friends aboard your boat or book a trip with a commercial operator. The seas will be under four feet, but dress warmly as the daytime air temperatures only will reach into the 60s. Our temperatures are very pleasant when I look at the weather across the nation with severe freezing conditions.


If the conditions allow for smooth cruising in your boat, take a few hours to see if you can spot a gray whale. Grays are the most abundant species you will see off our coast, but you might be lucky enough to spot orcas or other species as well.

Every skipper must remember that there are regulations to protect the whales from overexcited or disrespectful boaters. The federal agency responsible for protecting gray whales is the National Marine Fisheries Service, which falls under the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972. The regulations are necessary to protect the whales from harassment and for safe, nondisruptive whale watching. I hope every boater follows the general rules. You can report someone blatantly disregarding the regulations to the Coast Guard.


When traveling parallel to whales within 100 yards, boaters should not operate at speeds faster than a whale or group of whales, and boaters should maintain a constant speed while parallel to or following whales within 100 yards. Also, boaters should do nothing to cause a whale to change direction. Pilots cannot fly aircraft lower than 1,000 feet when within a 100-yard horizontal distance from a whale.

Swimmers and divers cannot approach whales either, and should never attempt to feed whales. If you are lucky to encounter a rare North Pacific right whale, then the distance is increased to a minimum 500 yards. These endangered species are classified under a different category of the law. Every boater must be considerate to the mammals because, remember, we are playing in their home — the ocean.

Lastly, I am dumbfounded at the frequency that I hear someone call a whale a fish. Whales are warm-blooded, air-breathing mammals that swim in a pod, not a school, so do not make the blunder to refer to whales as fish, especially in front of your friends.

Tip of the week is that I am still on the quest to find the true name and origin of the Santana or Santa Ana winds. I have received emails from my Jan. 17 column, “From the Boathouse: A caution for south of the border,” with responses on both sides.


As published in the letters to the editor, Jim Somers of Newport Beach writes, “You are correct in your piece Jan. 18 in the Daily Pilot. The wind is a Santana. The fact that it generally blows through Santa Ana Canyon is irrelevant. I believe you are also correct that the news media, who which mostly don’t know what it’s talking about, has confused the issue. One needs only ask the Coast Guard and naval weather services to confirm. Santana!”

Very strong argument referencing the weather services to verify the name. However, I recently received a different viewpoint.

“I remember this being mentioned in an old western movie, I think it was a John Wayne film, can’t remember which one. They were discussing the winds and one of the characters said they called them Santa Ana winds because the ‘army of Gen. Santa Anna comes sweeping down from the mountains like a hot wind.’ One more possibility to think about,” from Danny Cashman of Valencia.

Danny and I are curious if anyone can recall this film and if it helped to name the winds or added to the confusion. I am on a voyage to find the answer, so keep sending me your thoughts.


Please be boat smart and boat safe. Lastly, please boat responsibly and look behind you before you turn the wheel at the helm.

Tune in to the No. 1 boating radio talk show in the nation, “Boathouse Radio Show,” broadcasting live coast-to-coast on the CRN Digital Talk Radio syndicated network. See times at, and

Safe voyages!

MIKE WHITEHEAD is a boating columnist for the Daily Pilot. Send marine-related thoughts and story suggestions to or go to