SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Using the pandemic business break, and some government funding help, the Condor Express whale watching vessel has returned to the Santa Barbara harbor.
It's now out daily with up to three trips of about two and a half hours each..
"They are very low emissions, so no diesel smell, quiet and they are very fuel-efficient," said Condor Captain Dave Beezer.
Extensive work was done nearby in the Ventura Boatyard when it came time to get the new engines.
Beezer said, "We were very lucky to have the professionals there and my crew and all of us and all of us hand in hand got it done."
The Condor Express owner used the COVID-19 business break and an Environmental Protection Agency, Clean Air Act grant.
Each engine costs $125,000 and produces 740 horsepower.
The vessel now has a top speed of 30 knots.
The Condor Express was built in 2002 and had the original engines until this changeover.
Right now, about 60 passengers are on board due to COVID rules. The full capacity is 149.
The recent work provides stability, speed and more reliability.
"Environmentally not only are these engines cost-effective because they burn far less diesel fuel but they are very low emissions so you don't have dirty air coming out of the boat," said Beezer. "We have a lot of speed so we can get further out to the whales cover more distance so it is really a win-win situation."
With that, the Condor Express is on the move to where ever the whales are surfacing in the Santa Barbara Channel between the harbor and the islands.
"We see a lot of gray whales which are migrating through the channel. The humpback whales are showing up now, they are migrating to the channel they will stay with us through the summer, all summer long to the fall. We've got minke whales here. We have lots and lots of dolphins, common dolphins, bottlenose dolphins and soon enough we will have the biggest of them all, the blue whale, will come back," said Beezer.
For more information, visit The Condor Express online.