All sightings from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat
As we headed out on our first trip, we noticed lots of harbor porpoise around us. We had reports of a whale under the Golden Gate Bridge roughly half an hour before we started out, but didn't locate it on our way out.
We headed out past the Golden Gate Strait and into the shipping lane, stopping and floating outside of Point Bonita for a while to search. When we didn't find anything, we made a huge circle, surveying several miles offshore. We had great weather, and felt that we would have been able to see any spouts that were in the area. We passed many porpoises and murres with chicks, as well as a lone sea lion resting on the shipping lane buoy.
We started to head back in, but I still held out hope that we would find a whale near the bridge. Sure enough, as we got closer in, a container ship captain called us and reported a whale in Diablo Cove. We approached slowly, searching for a spout, when finally I saw it. The humpback was feeding in about 100 feet of water; it had a small spout and back, and was most likely a juvenile. We saw several fluke dives in this area.
I noticed a lot of anchovies on the fish finder in addition to the presence of many fishing boats just west of the whale. Three of these vessels came speeding between us and the whale during the short time we were there. The porpoises were extremely active, and I noticed one with a very distinctive dorsal fin with several prominent notches. Many of the porpoises had calves with them.
On our way back to the pier, we found more porpoises and a sea lion, as well as a black crowned night heron who had been there the whole day.
We had a quick turnaround and headed straight back out into the Golden Gate Strait. This time we located a whale right away at Mile Rock, and we slowed significantly once we were 500 yards away.
Although the weather was still nice in the strait, farther out the fog was starting to solidify. We had a large container ship heading in and another one heading out, so we moved far to the side of the strait to give the whale lots of room to maneuver. Once both ships passed, we slowly approached, stopping 200 yards away from the humpback.
The whale did several fluke dives and seemed to be circling us. At one point it came just within the 100 yard radius, and we floated in neutral until it moved away. At the very end, the whale was positioned west of us, and the westerly wind blew a good whiff of fishy whale breath onto our boat.
Harbor porpoises and harbor seals were very active. There was a lot of bird activity, and I spotted some murres holding anchovies in their beaks.
As we headed back in, the captain pointed out an old military ship being towed out of the bay. It was part of the Mothball Fleet, a group of decaying military and civilian ships that are slowly being scrapped. This article has some great photos of the fleet, along with its fascinating history. It was a ghostly sight in the afternoon light near the Golden Gate Bridge.
All sightings were reported to the Coast Guard and to NOAA via the Whale Alert app.
***If you were on one of these trips and have photos, send them in to email@example.com! I'd love to add them to this post for others to enjoy (with credit to you). Thank you!***