1. Get a good night's sleep. Consume little or no alcohol the evening before a morning departure.
2. BBB = a bland boring breakfast. Eat a filling but bland, non-spicy, non-greasy breakfast like fruit, toast, pancakes, hard-boiled eggs, cereal, oatmeal, yogurt. Experts recommend against having a Denny's Grand Slam.
3. Pack warm gear. It can be very cold at sea, especially on a windy day under a heavy marine layer. Don’t select your apparel based on the fact that the weatherman calls for “warm and sunny” inland. Often the weather well offshore (or even just ten miles out at the 9-Mile Bank) is much different than that on land. Dress warmly, in layers. Bring extra clothing and raingear "just in case." Wear shoes or boots with soft “sticky” soles for good traction on damp decks. Many bring gloves, raingear (including rain pants), a warm wool cap, and a hat for sun. There is no predicting what the weather will be like at sea – it can be cold and windy in mid-summer or a broiling 80 degrees in autumn. Dress in layers. Better to have and not want, than to want and not have.
4. Leave early. Allow yourself plenty of time for traffic, finding the landing, finding parking, obtaining your boarding pass, hauling your gear from your car to the boat, presenting identification, and passing through security (you must have a driver's license or passport to board charter boats in San Diego). Pelagic charters board 15-30 minutes prior to departure, depart on time, and do not make on-time passengers wait for late ones. Arrive 45 minutes to an hour prior to departure time. You’ll be glad you did.
What To Bring...
CAMERA. You have not lived until you’ve tried photographing a storm-petrel.
YOUR FAVORITE FIELD GUIDE(S). Perhaps also notebook, pen.
SUN PROTECTION: Sunblock, lip protection, sunglasses, visored hat.
SNACKS and FOOD. Bring your favorite non-greasy snacks. Pretzels, saltines, bagels, Wheat Thins, Ginger Snaps, or Triscuits are favored by many to keep stomachs settled. All SoCal pelagic charter boats (with the exception of the Dana Point trips on Sea Explorer) are equipped with a full galley. Bacon 'n' eggs, breakfast burritos, pancakes, burgers, sandwiches, coffee, water, soda, beer, and snacks are available for purchase.
CASH: for coffee, snacks, and meals. We are often asked for gratuity guidelines for the boat's crew --10% of the trip cost is the usual range. All tips go to the boat's crew. The seabird leaders are happy with a pat on the back and a thank you.
DON'T BRING umbrellas, ponchos, or other billowy rain-gear because they act as sails, hitting people in the face and flinging water on everybody around you. And do NOT bring a scope…..
On The Boat
LEADERS: We always make sure that each trip is fully staffed with at least 6 (and sometimes 8) experienced seabirder leaders and chummers, so participants are never far from a leader! They are on board for one reason: to help you see birds. Please ask them lots of questions. This is your opportunity to tap their knowledge.
HAVE FUN: Our goal is to help you have fun, see lots of seabirds (and marine mammals), and understand the birds you see. To that end, experienced pelagic leaders will be stationed around the boat.
IF YOU SEE A BIRD OR MAMMAL you don’t recognize, call it out! Call loudly. A leader will help with an I.D. Not only will you learn, others around you will benefit. If you spot what turns out to be a desired species, the leader will radio the sighting to the bridge so it can be announced over the P.A. system and everybody on the boat benefits.
BIRD LOCATIONS : We use the “clock” method of describing the location of birds. The bow (front) of the boat is 12 o’clock. Straight out the starboard (right) side of the boat is 3 o’clock. The stern (back) of the boat is 6 o’clock. And so on. We’ll also call out if the bird is low to the water, approximately how distant it is, and the direction it is flying. The more you can incorporate this description into your sighting, the faster a leader will help you identify the bird. For example: “There’s a small dark bird on the water at 8 o’clock at about 100 yards!” will help everyone know where to look. Or, “White bird at 4 o’clock flying right about 200 yards from the boat at the horizon!”
BACKPACKS: Bring a backpack, but don’t wear it on the boat because it makes it very difficult for others to maneuver around you. We'll show you where to hang or store it for easy access throughout the day.
COURSE ALTERATIONS: Conditions alter the route of every trip. The captain may alter the course in high seas to make the ride more pleasant, thereby altering our ultimate destination. We may need to avoid an area due to navy activity. We often change course for water temperature breaks, signs of submarine life, and important sightings such as whales, feeding frenzies, or other spectacular events. The captain will communicate with other fishing captains to learn where rich life zones currently are located. The captain and the leaders combine skills to find and get us on birds. Because weather, sea, and current conditions change from hour to hour, we cannot guarantee that we will absolutely be at any one area at a given time, if at all.
ITINERARY SUBJECT TO CHANGE: Most pelagic trips are planned a year in advance. The itinerary posted in the original trip description is our best guess as to where we will look for birds, but it is subject to change depending on weather, water temperatures, sea conditions, and bird population movements. In the event that unusual or unanticipated species are seen or known about prior the trip, the itinerary will be altered in an effort to record the highest and most diverse species list for the participants.
MOTION WELLNESS - OR NOT
If you have motion-pills or a patch (discuss options with your doctor), use it well before departure. If you wait until you feel queasy, it’s too late. We are going out into the largest ocean on earth -- this is not a harbor cruise -- we will be in the open ocean. If you find that you must offer up your breakfast to the chum-gods, please do so on the stern, at the very back of the boat, over the back rail. Never get sick in the head (restroom) as it makes everybody else who uses the head sick, too. If you have an inside "accident," please report it immediately to any member of the crew.
While on the boat, stay above deck, in the fresh, open air. Stay away from diesel fumes. Focus on breathing the clean fresh air and enjoying the ride. Stay alert and active, searching for birds. Don't think about sea sickness, and don’t talk about it. Much of feeling great out there is psychological, so don’t dwell on how odd you might feel.
Constantly nibble away on your supply of saltines, pretzels, crackers, bread, bagels, or ginger cookies. Sip water or a carbonated beverage. Some seabirders swear by "hard" peppermint candy or peppermint gum to keep gremlins at bay.
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