All sightings from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Happy Days
I found my first whale of the new year five miles east of the Farallon Islands. An easterly wind pushed us out towards the islands and resisted the western swell, creating heavier seas. We spotted the gray whale's spout from about half a mile away and approached slowly.
The whale spouted a few times, then did long dives of 5-10 minutes. It was travelling south in the direction of its migration path. After a few minutes, we left the whale and continued on towards the Farallons.
It was sunny and teeming with life at the islands. We ducked into Fisherman's Bay where clouds of common murres circled us. On shore dozens of sea lions rested. We floated in the bay, observing them.
Suddenly an avalanche of sea lion pups started to slide down the rocks and into the water, juveniles and adults close behind. They splashed and leaped into the roiling seas, barking loudly.
We made our way around the southeast side of the island. A large wave was breaking in Mirounga Bay.
We spotted several sea nettles and some moon jellies in the water below. We slowly made our way around the north side of the island, spotting sooty shearwaters, surf scoters, and a Cassin's Auklet.
On our way home, a few passengers pointed out some spouts behind us. We turned around in time to notice 2-3 spouts and one fluke, likely from another group of gray whales. We waited for them to surface again but were unsuccessful in relocating them.
After a few more miles of rough weather, the wind was blocked by the land and we had a smooth ride home.