By-the-Wind Sailors Wash Up On Hollywood Beach in Oxnard

By-the-Wind Sailors, Oxnard, California, 2024. Loren Lieb

Blue jellyfish-like blobs known as by-the-wind sailors, or Velella velella, continue to wash ashore by the millions along Southern California’s coast. While it might look like a massive die-off or another catastrophic event, experts say it is natural and normal and colonies of them have washed up along our coastline for years.

By-the-wind sailors are a type of hydrozoa that feed primarily on plankton and closely resemble the Portuguese man o’ war. One of their nicknames is “little sail” since they have a small, stiff sail that catches the wind and allows them to travel great distances across the world’s oceans.

They wash up in large numbers because they’re drifting in the wind and go wherever it takes them … and, right now, that’s the California coast.

The millions that have washed ashore in California recently will either rot away or be pulled back into the ocean by the tide. That’s nature doing “its thing”.

My friends Alan and Loren were on Hollywood Beach in Oxnard and snapped some photos of the palm-sized sailors and posted them on Facebook. They say, “They’re a beautiful inky purple-blue but it’s hard to capture their true colorful iridescence in photographs”.

If you’re lucky enough to see washed up colonies, look but don’t touch and keep pets away too. Velella feed by stinging plankton with barb-tipped cells contained within their tentacles. The venom is considered harmless to human beings, but beachcombers are cautioned not to touch any jelly-like animals found on shore, as some may react more strongly to the venom than others.

If you get a chance, walk our local beaches and maybe you can enjoy viewing this natural phenomenon while it lasts.


7 thoughts on “By-the-Wind Sailors Wash Up On Hollywood Beach in Oxnard

  1. Great shots by Loren and Alan. Interesting essay — I learned something fascinating! Thanks. Marc

  2. Hi Susan, I love living in “beautiful Tennessee,” but do miss the ocean. Gorgeous pictures of interesting sea creatures. I had not heard of by-the-wind sailors, or Velella velella, so I learned something today. Thanks!!

  3. Very interesting and informative. Many years ago, when I was about ten, my cousins and I encountered a beach full of jellyfish one foggy morning near Big Sur. The fog and the jellies made the scene look surreal. Fortunately, we knew better than to try and touch the jellies.

  4. Thanks Susan,
    We saw some of these when walking along Huntington Beach recently. Certainly one of the wonders in our wondrous nature. As you pointed out, they are in some way related to the Portuguese man o’ war creatures that periodically wash up on Florida beaches, and I imagine elsewhere on the Atlantic coast. Although they are much larger and more of a pinkish color with blue highlights. Beautiful, but with long stinging tentacles — really stinging. I ran into one while surfing. The tentacles wrapped around my arm, virtually paralyzing it. Fortunately it was my left arm, so I could still shift gears with my right arm as I drove myself to the doctor.
    So your advice in your post to “not touch” is probably a good idea.

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