Lillian Boyd, Dana Point Times

In March, the Food Network’s cable-TV baking show Duff Takes the Cake centered an episode on Dana Point’s Festival of Whales and the work that Donna Kalez and Gisele Anderson had put into securing a trademark to make the city the official “Dolphin & Whale Watching Capital of the World.”

Since then, the novel coronavirus put an abrupt halt to the second weekend of the Festival of Whales’ 2020 festivities and whale watching for nearly three months. But the airing of the episode on Monday, June 15 comes as businesses begin to reopen, offering glimmers of hope.

Festival of Whales Coordinator Andrea Swayne enlisted the help of Dana Point Mayor Rick Viczorek in requesting one of Duff’s epic cakes to present to Kalez (Dana Wharf Whale Watching) and Anderson (Captain Dave’s Dolphin and Whale Watching Safari) to honor their success with trademarking Dana Point as the Dolphin and Whale Watching Capital of the World. Swayne and Viczorek requested the presentation coincide with the celebration of the 49th annual Dana Point Festival of Whales.

Natalie Sideserf specializes in hyperrealistic cakes on Food Network’s ‘Duff Takes the Cake.’ Photo: Courtesy of Natalie Sideserf

The presentation was made aboard the OCean Adventures catamaran on March 14, a combination celebratory cake reveal party and whale watching excursion.

“The artistry and authenticity Duff and his team put into every cake is second to none,” Swayne said. “We knew Donna and Gisele would be blown away. We were so excited and thankful to be able to share this amazing honor with two very deserving women. Duff and crew delivered as usual. It was a whale of a day. The realism of the gray whale depicted in the cake was amazing, but the mini Donna and Gisele sculptures aboard the whale watching cake catamaran were so cute, they nearly stole the show.”

Kalez went into the 2020 year optimistic about celebrating the trademark she had secured with Anderson in addition to the 49th year for the festival. But state directives to close nonessential businesses yielded stark consequences for Dana Wharf Sportfishing and Whale Watching, as well as Capt. Dave’s Dolphin Safari.

Food Network’s ‘Duff Takes the Cake’ celebrated Dana Point as the dolphin and whale watching capital of the world. Photo: Andrea Swayne

Kalez, the manager of Dana Wharf Sportfishing and Whale Watching, had to issue thousands in refunds to hundreds of people and groups who had booked whale watching and fishing trips. Whale watching trips are often dependent on hotel bookings. With hotels having zero occupancy throughout the stay-at-home order, zero reservations meant zero income for the business and having to lay off 42 employees. In June, she brought back 20 employees and is now taking small steps toward normalcy. Dana Wharf is now offering fishing trips and whale watching excursions at a limited capacity with added safety precautions.

Disinfectant solution is available on the vessel for public use. Both passengers and crew members are required to wear face coverings. The crew also washes their hands every 30 minutes and wears gloves when possible. Loading is executed by using space marks, to allow for distancing between guests, thus avoiding crowded lines, and vessel capacities have been limited to avoid large gatherings and to provide social distancing. Indoor areas are monitored to limit the number of people who can be inside at any one time. After each trip, the vessel is cleaned again and sanitized.

Donna Kalez and Gisele Anderson worked together to secure Dana Point as the dolphin and whale watching capital of the world. Photo: Courtesy of Andrea Swayne

“We can’t do music cruises or large fishing trips. The Dana Pride can board 149 people, but we are only allowing 50 right now,” Kalez said. “We were still taking calls (during the stay-at-home order), and anglers were desperate to get out on the water. We’re able to do fishing trips, but it’s taking baby steps.”

Captain Dave’s Dolphin Safari is also taking reservations for whale watching trips. “Super-Safe Safaris,” both public and private, are available. Public Super-Safe Dolphin & Whale Signature Safaris are available to book now aboard the catamaran Manute’a and on the zodiac-style boats, with limited guest capacity for social distancing. Private Super-Safe Single-Family Safaris are available to reserve, too, with limited-time discounted pricing.

“It’s blue whale season, but we are seeing a tremendous amount of humpbacks. We saw six of them during one excursion,” Kalez said. “We’re just happy to be back out on the water. It isn’t under the circumstances we want, but one step at a time.”

Duff Takes the Cake: Baked on the Waterfront first aired on the Food Network on Monday, June 15. Upcoming airings are scheduled for Monday, June 29 at 10:30 p.m. PCT and Tuesday, June 30 at 1:30 a.m. PCT.

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Lillian Boyd Lillian Boyd is the senior editor for Picket Fence Media and city editor for Dana Point Times. She graduated with a degree in journalism from Humboldt State University. Her work experience includes interviewing incarcerated individuals in the Los Angeles County jails, an internship at the Pentagon covering U.S. Army news as well as reporting and anchoring for a local news radio station in Virginia. Follow her on Twitter @Lillianmboyd and follow Dana Point Times at @danapointtimes.

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