They lined up on the pier in Redondo Beach Monday morning. The ship sailed less than two hours into the South Bay.
And with that, the first whale-watching trip of the season got off to a spectacular start.
"This is indications that it's supposed to be an excellent year," said Diane Alps, a volunteer with the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium Whalewatch Program.
Alps said Monday's training trip is meant to give new volunteers a chance to interact with veteran whale-watchers.
"It's an opportunity for veteran naturalists and some of our instructors to give new naturalists an opportunity to see how to be a naturalist on the boat," said Alps.
These volunteers will act as tour guides on daily excursions that will run from now through the end of March, all part of the aquarium's mission to educate and enlighten.
"I've been doing this a long time, and every single time I come out here, first of all, it's an adventure, and also just to see them come up again, it's just great, it is really wonderful," said Larry Fukuhara, Cabrillo Marine Aquarium.
Monday a total of 11 gray whales were spotted as the giant marine mammals start their migration south along California's coastline.
There have already been 134 confirmed whale sightings in the South Bay this month, making it the busiest December in 28 years.
"Every trip is different. Every time, you see something new," said volunteer Bernardo Alps.
For many of the volunteers, they say the payoff is to educate others about what the abundance of wildlife that can be found in their own backyard.
"It's surprising how many people live within a couple miles of the ocean and don't know everything we can see out here," said Bernardo Alps.
Monday's outing also included a close encounter with a fin whale, along with hundreds of dolphins.
"What a great, unbelievable opportunity here in California to really just get out on the ocean," said volunteer Kathleen Cativiela.
Whale-watching trips like these are a great way to pass the time, but organizers of the whale-watch program say they can be so much more.
"It becomes more interesting the longer you do it, I think," said Bernardo.