Sightings Report: September 7, 2017

All sightings from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat


Our first trip of the day was greeted by some morning rain. This is a very strange occurrence in September. The rain was paired with southerly winds and a relatively warm temperature.

We saw lots of harbor porpoise activity and two harbor seals swimming side by side on our way out into the strait. The tide was coming in as we headed out past the Golden Gate Bridge, through the Golden Gate Strait, and out into the shipping lane. 

The first thing we noticed were California sea lions resting on the shipping lane buoys 5 & 6. Soon we found spouts from three different humpbacks feeding in only 35 feet of water on the south side of the shipping lane. 

There were a few fluke dives in addition to shallower dives. The whales stayed at least 200 yards away from us. We followed slowly and at a distance as they moved across to the north side of the lane. We made sure that Vessel Traffic was aware of their presence so close to the shipping lane. 

There was a lot of harbor porpoise activity on this trip. We left the area slowly, then rode the western swell back to port. 


On our second trip of the day we found the whales in the exact same spot we had left them at shipping buoys 5 & 6. They were in 48 feet of water, the first 17 feet of which were packed with anchovies. Two whales were feeding on several giant bait balls. We could see the surface of the water boiling with anchovies as they leaped into the air in an attempt to escape the predators below, only to land in the waiting beaks of hungry birds. 

We saw the two humpbacks do fluke dives, and had one breach off our stern. There was a single fishing boat nearby. We used the boathook to pick up a piece of trash which turned out to be a wrapper from a container of frozen squid. It was certainly from a fishing boat. 

The whales were elusive and for the most part stayed at least a couple hundred yards away. As we floated near a ball of bait, one whale surfaced within 70 feet of us. Near the end the whales seemed to be moving out, and we eventually lost sight of them. 



On our way back in, we spotted two more humpbacks by the junction buoy outside of Point Bonita. There was a lot of bird activity and quite a few fishing boats in the area. We couldn't stay very long to watch them, so we slowly continued on our way back to the pier. 

Point Bonita.

Point Bonita.


The weather on this trip was the nicest it had been all day. The water was glassy and the wind had died. We headed out towards the junction buoy where we left the whales. We found a huge group of wailing birds and lots of fish, but no whales. 

We moved slowly through the area, hoping to pick up a spout. When we didn't find anything, we continued out to buoys 5 & 6 where we had seen whales earlier. Again, we saw huge bait balls where the water boiled with anchovies, large numbers of feeding harbor porpoises, lots of bird activity and several jellyfish floating by. We searched the area for a while, but even though we saw a lot of life, we didn't see any whales. 

We were searching for our entire trip back. In the strait, we spotted a harbor seal and a leopard shark leaping out of the water. 

Harbor porpoise.

Harbor porpoise.

On this trip we picked up two mylar balloons near a large bait ball just outside Point Bonita. 

All sightings were reported to Vessel Traffic.

If you were on one of these trips and have photos, send them in to! I'd love to add them to this post for others to enjoy (with credit to you). Thank you!