All sightings from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Happy Days
We headed out on our first trip of the day with good sea conditions, but with no idea where the whales might be. They have been heading farther out every day as the krill starts to bloom offshore. It can be a challenge to find them, especially before the tide changes and brings some of the food closer to shore.
We started off heading north towards Muir beach. We saw lots of murres and harbor porpoises, but found no spouts. We turned west and went around the potato patch, then turned back east and headed back towards the bridge through the shipping lane. We had just over an hour left of our trip when someone shouted, "Whale!"
We had found a humpback very close to the shipping lane diving in 60 feet of water. The whale seemed small, and didn't do any fluke dives, potentially because the water was so shallow. It seemed to be heading west. California sea lions rested on the shipping lane buoy nearby.
A large ship was eastbound in the shipping lane, and we followed it into the strait, where we saw two more humpbacks fluking by Mile Rock.
On our second trip, we saw spouts while we were still inside the bay. The first one was spotted right under the center span of the Golden Gate Bridge in 350 feet of water. We approached slowly, which was difficult due to a strong tidal pull. The tide pulled both us and the whale 300 yards east at a speed of about 4 knots.
We floated in neutral and were pulled farther in the bay until we saw the whale reappear at Fort Point. It dove under the bridge near the south tower several times before surfacing near the Coast Guard station in Sausalito. Many of these dives were fluke dives.
Harbor porpoises and harbor seals were abundant. We also sighted a pigeon guillemot and a murre with an anchovy clasped in its beak, confirming the whale's food source.
There was a good amount of traffic under the bridge at this time, including a large fuel ship, the Hornblower, and several smaller sailing and fishing boats. We made sure the whale had lots of room to maneuver and stayed especially far away when there were large ships nearby.
All sightings were reported to the Coast Guard via radio and to NOAA via the Whale Alert app.
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