All sightings from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Happy Days
We started off our first trip of the day with a swimming sea lion right by the pier and a huge group of pelicans flying over us. We suspected that the whales would be just outside the Golden Gate Strait. We ducked in Diablo Cove to check out the harbor seals and scope out Mile Rock with our binoculars.
We noticed a lot of bird activity near Land's End, so we made our way over, searching for spouts. On our way we got a call from an incoming container ship that they had recently seen whales in the shipping lane. We decided to head out.
Just past Mile Rock was a huge group of birds, mostly composed of pelicans and western gulls, with some cormorants and murres present as well. They were diving, flying, and drifting with the swell. As we passed by, we entered rougher, more exposed water.
Suddenly I spotted a spout from 50 yards away. We were navigating some large swells, and could not immediately and safely put the boat in neutral, but we reduced speed and headed away from it. The whale surfaced 3 more times before doing a dive and showing us a very distinct pattern on its fluke.
We positioned ourselves as best as we could in the rough weather, putting our stern in the swell and allowing it to push us back towards the Golden Gate. We saw several more fluke dives within 150 yards of us, all from the same whale.
When we headed in, it was a smooth ride. Many porpoises surfaced around us as we headed in.
For our second trip, we headed back out to Mile Rock, where the same whale was still diving between Mile Rock and Point Bonita. We floated in water that averaged 100 feet in depth, noting some diving birds.
The humpback spouted once, then did a fluke dive. It repeated this unusual pattern several times. We looked at the fish finder and saw that there was a lot of feed right near the surface.
Two small fishing boats sped between us and the whales; one of the boats was supposed to turn to starboard to avoid us, but did not.
We headed in, accompanied by large groups of birds. The water temperature was 60 degrees - warmer than the air temperature of 56!
All sightings were reported to the Coast Guard and to NOAA via the Whale Alert app.
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